Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds Why do almost a million people every year come to look at a 1,200-year-old book? Welcome to this course on the Book of Kells from Trinity College Dublin. I’m Dr. Rachel Moss from the Department of History of Art and Architecture. And I’m Dr. Fáinche Ryan from the Loyola Institute of Theology at Trinity. And together with our colleagues from the library at Trinity, over the next four weeks, we’ll be exploring one of Ireland’s most famous manuscripts. The Book of Kells sits in a darkened room encased in protective glass in the old library here at Trinity College. It’s regarded as one of the greatest cultural treasures of Ireland and described by some as the most famous manuscript in the world.
Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds But why is it so famous? Why do so many people travel from across the world to see it? And why is its artwork reproduced in such varied places as Irish national coinage and tattoos? There is no one answer to these questions. Indeed, a key to understanding the Book of Kells is to remember that, from its very inception, it’s held different meanings for different peoples. At one level, it is a sacred scripture, part of the Christian Bible and it has been prepared or created with such care and attention that one might say its very composition was an act of devotion.
Skip to 1 minute and 37 seconds At another level, it is an artistic masterpiece, the intricacies of which lead the mind and the eyes along pathways of imagination. The Book of Kells is to Dublin what the Mona Lisa is to Paris and the Sistine Chapel ceiling is to Rome. You haven’t been to Ireland unless you’ve seen the Book of Kells. For Irish people, it represents a sense of pride, a tangible link to a positive time in Ireland’s past, reflected through its unique art. It is truly a symbol of Irishness. Over the next four weeks of this course, we’ll be exploring the multiple facets of the Book of Kells. It’s not our intention to provide definitive answers to the many questions that surround it.
Skip to 2 minutes and 22 seconds Rather, we’ll be exploring the manuscript through various perspectives and encouraging participants to think for themselves about the meanings that the manuscript holds.