The Book of Kells is on display in the library of Trinity College, although you aren't allowed to take any pictures inside, of course. Pages of the Book of Kells and the Lindesfarne Bible are on display, with examples of other illuminated manuscripts and bookmaking tools. The exhibit, 'Turning Darkness into LIght' gives an interesting history of the iluminated book.
When the book was written (9th century), there were probably only half a million people in Ireland. The church was fairly isolated, with monks living in monasteries and friaries. They created copies in latin of the four gospels, lavishly illustrated. It was looted by the Vikings, lost its cover and a number o pages along the way, and was eventually returned to Dublin only in 1661.
The book itself is 680 pages (about 30 were lost during its history). It was rebound in 1950 as four separate volumes, and two of them are on display at any time. One shows an illuminated page, another a text page.
Also on display are a few other manuscripts, including the Book of Armagh and the Book of Durrow, as well as small "pocket bibles" containing only parts of the gospels that were carried by mssionaries and hidden in their clothes. The Book fo Durrow is the first illuminated Irish manuscript, from about 650-680 CE.
From these earlier books to the later Book of Kells, you can trace the history of the decorations (spirals and fantastic animal creatures) all in brilliant, sometimes metallic, colors. They are quite faded now, although the gold leaf and blues of the books is still brilliant.
Trinity College is home to the most amazing library I've ever seen -- the "Long Room" is a barrel-vaulted room packed entirely with books, floor to ceiling. It was original much smaller, and enlarged in 1860 to its current configuration. The stacks themselves are off limits (velvet ropes and all). The Long Room is nearly 200 feet long, and contains not only books, but a collection of sculpture and one of the oldest Irish harps on display. There are about 200,000 books here. The rest of the nearly 3 million volume library is stored elswhere. They add a half mile of new shelves every year! Trinity Collge has a right to a free copy of all British and Irish publications since 1801.
The main gate of the college leads to an open square and tower (called a campanile) in the center. It was erected in 1853 and may mark the location of the original priory taht stood here long before the colelge was built. THe rest of the buildings (the chapel on the left and Examination Hall on the right) line the square. The entire squar eis gray, except for the red-brick residence hall, which is one of the oldest surviving buildings.
Another quick jaunt on campus is the Dublin Experience, which is a nice place to spend a few minutes out of the rain. It is a short history of Dublin shown as a multimedia show. One the way out, we grabbed sandwiches in the lobby of the Examination hall. Class was in session, of course, so it's fun to people-watch. College students here look like college students at any other college on the planet.
lost in ireland 2005 travelogue and photos © rfingerson