Day 2 in Dublin – The Book of Kells

After an exciting first day in Dublin, we were excited to explore some more! We had originally planned to visit Trinity College to see the Old Library and the world famous Book of Kells on Day 2.

But since the walking tour on our first day in Dublin ended at Trinity College, we thought we would be flexible and swap our Day 1 and Day 2 activities around. Unfortunately, they were closed at that time (rumour was they were turning the pages of the Book of Kells), so we had to go with our original plan and return the next day for a proper visit.

We started our second day in Dublin with a brisk morning walk from our hostel to Trinity College.

Trinity College is a world renowned university that was established in 1592. Although admission was quite exclusive in the past – you had to be Protestant and male, now you see female and male scholars of all ethnic groups and religions at Trinity College. Trinity College is home to the Old Library, built in the 1700’s. Within the Old Library are the famous Book of Kells and the gorgeous Long Room.

The Book of Kells is a beautiful illuminated manuscript, containing the 4 gospels of the bible. Every figure and letter on each page was carefully and artistically drawn by hand over 1000 years ago! There are many theories as to how the Book of Kells came to be. The manuscript may have been created completely or partially at a monastery on the island of Iona in Scotland. Then to protect the manuscript from Viking raids, it was taken to the Abbey of Kells in Co. Meath, Ireland. The Book of Kells would remain at the Abbey until it was taken to Dublin for safekeeping in 1654. It was then given to Trinity College in 1661. This precious, beautifully decorated manuscript draws hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly.

Fortunately for us, when we got there on Day 2, the Library was open for visitors. And there wasn’t even a queue!

We paid for our tickets at the door – €10 for an adult ticket. The ticket includes admission to see the Book of Kells, as well as entry to the Long Room in the Old Library. You can also purchase your tickets online ahead of time. These online “Fast-Track” tickets, €13 for an adult ticket, allow you to get in straight away, without waiting in the queue.

We were lucky there was no queue when we went, or we might have been waiting a long while. If you are visiting during high season, it might be worth while to get your fast-track tickets online. This could save you some time and allow you to experience Dublin, instead of spending your time waiting in a queue. But if you don’t buy the fast-track tickets and end up stuck in a queue, get to know your fellow visitors and it will make your queuing time feel shorter and you might come out of it with some new friends! 🙂

Once inside, we walked through an exhibition called “Turning Darkness into Light.” This was a great introduction to the Book of Kells and other similar illuminated manuscripts. Besides just a history lesson, the exhibition’s displays and videos told of the people behind these manuscripts – the lives of the scribes and artists who created these beautiful works of art. It spoke of their art and what they used in their craft – from the vellum (calfskin) to the colourful pigments that they used in their illustrations. It also had on display enlarged photographs of various illustrations from the Book of Kells, along with descriptions and explanations of the figures, meanings and symbolism behind them, which was very interesting and helpful. I don’t think I would have caught all of that on my own.

Finally, we walked into the Treasury and saw 2 of the 4 volumes of the Book of Kells on display. One volume was opened to a major decorated page, while the other was opened to script. It is said that the pages are turned regularly, so the next time you visit, you might be viewing a different page and a different illustration – which I think is pretty cool!

Just looking at the 2 open pages of a volume overwhelmed me with a sense of wonder! The amount of thought and detail that went into every single item on the page astonished me, from the colours and designs of each illustration to each carefully drawn letter on the page. It amazes me to think about how advanced these artists and scribes were – how they were able to accomplish so much with their bare hands and with no “modern” technology to help. I admired their artwork that much more!

Of course, photography was not allowed inside the treasury, so we do not have any photographs to share with you. But with today’s technology, they have scanned and photographed pages of the Book of Kells. This website allows you to browse through the pages of the manuscript and admire the artwork. Zoom in and check out the details, from the Celtic motifs on a border to the expression of a person’s face – it really is amazing! In a way, I think seeing the pages of the Book of Kells online is really cool – you get to see more than just the pages on display and you can zoom in and out to marvel at the illustrations. Having said that though, nothing compares to actually being in the room with this fascinating treasure!

Next up is more on history, literature and books, as we wander upstairs to the Long Room. Stay tuned for more in our next post!

From Vancouver with Love,

Ioana and Natalie

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