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Kells On Line > Things to See > Book of Kells


The Book of Kells

 Celtic Remains

The importance of Kells in the last 1000 years of Irish History is bound up with the various monastic settlements in the town. Most of the noteworthy remains in Kells tend to be from the monastic period in the 10th/11th centuries. Of these, the most famous is of course the illuminated Insular* manuscript known as "The Book of Kells". This magnificent treasure is currently housed in Trinity College, Dublin. There are however three facsimiles (exact copies) on display in the town. One of these is in St. Columba's church and one in the Town Hall and the third in the Kells Community School. No words written here (or digital photographs) can possibly do justice to the book. It is at once a monument to human endeavour and a profound statement of faith. The sheer detail of the book defies imagination. Monks worked for days and days on the illustrations; meticulous effort was poured into each letter of the text. You must see it. The Book was probably compiled on Iona in about the 8th century, (though much of this is controversial) and made its way to Kells in the 11th century The illustration is of St Matthew. It is going to take a while to download, as it did to produce in the first place.

* Insular (Latin = island) refers to the type of Latin script employed in the British isles in mediaeval times.



St Matthew from the Book of Kells.

It's probably the most famous illustration and the most widely copied. Funnily enough, the monks probably just regarded it as something to be done, like mowing the grass. The Book had a somewhat chequered history before being unearthed in a bog. There have been several proposals to return it to the town. Most of these have tended to ignore the great investment required to display and secure the Book adequately.

  The High Crosses are sited in the church yard of St. Columba's.


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