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Exploring the Book of Kells

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Dee Mc

on 4 June 2014

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Transcript of Exploring the Book of Kells

Book Of Kells

What Is The Book Of Kells?
The Book Of Kells
is an illuminated manuscript.
The book is a rare treasure
because it is so old, and it is filled
with beautiful paintings and writing.
“Books” as we know them…
Before the First Century,
when books were first made
in the shape we know today
‘books’ were rolled up
in a scroll...
Before factories made paper and books,
every page was made and every book was bound by hand…
…and before the printing press was invented
(more than 500 years ago)
every book
was written by hand!
These hand-made, hand-written books
were called
Who Made The Book Of Kells?
In special work rooms or scriptoria...
...many monks spent their whole lives copying manuscripts.
Scribes were trained in the art of
, which means
beautiful writing
Monks were people
who devoted their lives
to worshipping God.
They lived in small settlements
called monasteries.
As well as studying,
each monk had a role in the monastery.
Some made beautiful illuminated manuscripts…
Where Was The Book Of Kells Made?
The Book of Kells was made by monks who lived at the monastery on Iona (Scotland).
This monastery was founded by
the Irish Saint Colm Cille (Columba)…
So who was Columba?
Saint Colm Cille (Columba)
was a missionary monk
who founded monasteries
in Ireland and Scotland
during the 6th Century.
Colm Cille (Columba) lived
from 7 December 521 – 9 June 597 AD
After being ordained as a priest
in 546 AD
Colm Cille was given a hill
covered in oak trees,
where he built his first monastery.
This hill is now the City of Derry…It became known as Doire Cholmcille (Colm Cille’s Oakgrove).
Today, two churches bearing Columba’s name
(St Columb’s Cathedral & St Columba’s Church Long Tower)
stand near the site of his first church
The Book of Kells was created around 800 AD, many years after Colm Cille died.
We believe that the Book of Kells may have been made to mark an anniversary of Colm Cille's death.
When the Book of Kells was made,
Irish monasteries were world famous for being important places of learning.
The book was written at a time when most people including kings could not read!
What Is The Book About?
The book tells the story
of Jesus Christ’s life,
as written in the four gospels
of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
The monks wanted the Gospel
to be very beautiful
because it was so important.
How Was It Made?
The Book of Kells was
written and decorated
by hand.
It took several people
many years
to make the book...
Making The Pages
The monks made the book's
pages from calf skin

This involved soaking,
scraping, flattening
and cutting

the skins.
At least 150 calves were used to make the Book of Kells
Making The Inks
The inks used to write and decorate the pages were made from natural materials like shells, bugs and flowers.
Binding The Book
The book was bound together by:
stacking ‘gatherings’ of the vellum pages in order and sewing them together
Artwork In The Book Of Kells…
The Book of Kells has 680 pages.
All of the pages except two are decorated!
The book is decorated with knots, spirals, patterns, people and creatures.
We think at least three main illustrators
created the main pages in the book…
…and we think three scribes worked on the script.
Celtic Designs
The book is full of beautiful, intricate design. Artists drew patterns, crosses,
vines and serpents
woven together or tied in knots.
The monks used these patterns to decorate full pages of artwork and certain initial and capital letters.
Some of the beautiful designs were inspired by decorated metal objects.
Animals & Creatures
In The Book Of Kells…
Animals are used to decorate the writing
and represent different ideas
and stories from the Bible
Animals found in the book
birds, calves, cats...
....dogs, eagles, fish, goats, hares, lions, lizards, mice, moths, otters, peacocks, serpents, stags and wolves!!!
Figures in The Book of Kells…
Figures found in the book include
God, Jesus, Mary, the four Evangelists,
angels, soldiers ...
Paintings of people are used to tell Bible stories and celebrate the authors of the Gospels.
...and even monks!
Pages with only designs and no text
are often known as 'Carpet Pages'.
"Carpet Pages"
got their name
because they look
like eastern carpets.
The Chi-Rho Page
The Chi-Ro page is probably the most famous page from the Book of Kells. It is a full page of intricate decoration and pattern to celebrate Jesus.
Can you see an X and a P on the page?
‘Chi’(X) and ‘Rho’ (P) are the first two letters of "Christ" in Greek (Christos). Sometimes this is called the Monogram of Christ.
Can you find animals and people on the page?
Mistakes And Damage…

…one whole page was even copied out twice by accident!
Mistakes in the Book of Kells are marked with red dots.
The book has been damaged over the years.

Today, you can find holes, stitches where the pages have been mended and the marks of water damage.
What Was Life Like
When The Book Was Made?
Life was very different in 800 A.D….
Fewer than half a million people lived in the whole of Ireland then.
People lived and farmed in communities
along rivers and waterways.
People had to defend their towns
against raiding tribes.
Communities had three levels of social status: slaves or hostages,
peasants and soldiers,
nobles and tribal kings at the top.
The Journey Of The Book
Viking raids were widespread
when the Book of Kells was made.
The book was moved from Scotland
to the Columban monastery of Kells
in Ireland
when Iona became unsafe
because of Viking raids…
The cover was stolen from the book
in 1006 AD because thieves wanted the cover which was made from gold and jewels!
Today you can go and visit
The Book of Kells
at Trinity College in Dublin!
The knot work is so fine that some
cannot be seen with the human eye.
The book was probably meant sit
on a church altar
and be used for reading of the Gospels
during Mass.
Monks had to make the
whole book including the pages and coloured inks.
All photographs from the Book of Kells
© By kind permission of The Board of Trinity College Dublin
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