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Book of Kells

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One of Ireland’s finest and most important national treasures, the Book of Kells (also known as the Book of Columba) is an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament, lovingly handwritten and decorated by at least three scribes in the 9th century. Two of its four volumes are always on permanent display in the library of Trinity College Dublin, which is itself an impressive place to visit. The exhibit can get extremely busy so book tickets in advance to save time on the day of your visit.
Miriam DewamBy Miriam Dewam
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2 tips for visiting the Book of Kells

True treasures of the Long Room | Unsplash: Zach Plank - CC BY 2.0
1
On the trace of the Trinity TrailsThe Trinity Trails take us back to the origins of the Trinity College Dublin, where the Book of Kells is kept. During the 45-minute tour, which can be experienced either individually or guided, you learn more about the history of the college.
Countless books in the Long Room | Unsplash: Zach Plank - CC BY 2.0
2
Combine your tripsNear Trinity College Dublin are the National Gallery of Ireland, the Museum of Literature Ireland and Dublin Castle, where you can immerse yourself even deeper in the culture of Ireland.
The distinctive round arch of the Long Room | Photo: Unsplash, Gabriel Ramos - CC-BY-SA 2.0

Facts and Special Features

The actual origin and creation of the Book of Kells is controversial. Most likely, it was created by monks around 800 AD in the monastery of Iona near the west coast of Scotland. Because of its uniqueness, the Book of Kells was declared as an UNESCO World Documentary Heritage Site in 2011. Every year the Book of Kells attracts 500,000 to the Trinity College Dublin, where it is kept. What story does the book have to tell?

The main piece

The impressive library of Trinity College was built in the 18th century and has an extensive collection of medieval manuscripts. Being one of the Legal Deposits of Ireland, it holds any book copy ever published in Ireland. The impressive, 213,25 ft long (65 m), wood-clad Long Room is the main chamber of the Old Library with its distinctive round arch. Two pages of the book are displayed daily on a rotational basis at one of the library's vitrines.

Glimpses into the past

The Book of Kells consists of text passages as well as illustrations that will leave you spellbound. The medieval Christian artworks are lusciously designed and shine in bright colors. They provide insight into Ireland's early medieval beliefs, history and beliefs at the time.
Bookshelves in the arches of the Long Room | Photo: Unsplash, Zach Plank - CC-BY-SA 2.0

Robbery

Once the cover of the Book of Kells was decorated with gold and jewels. To protect the precious book from the Vikings, the monastic community of Iona fled to Ireland. Unfortunately, the Book of Kells still fell into the hands of the Vikings in 1007 AD, who tore the binding apart, causing irreversible damage to the book.
The busts in the Long Room | Photo: Unsplash, Zach Plank - CC-BY-SA 2.0

Reappearance of the book

After the theft, the pages of the Book of Kells got buried by the robbers but got recovered later. After Archbishop Ussher sold the book to the English army in 1621, it was kept in Dublin Castle until 1661, when it was finally donated to Trinity College by Charles II.

Purely an exhibit?

It is assumed that the richly decorated manuscripts purpose was to be displayed rather than being used for ceremonies in the first place. Clues that support this theory can particularly be found along the text, which is mostly not comprehensible, words are omitted and passages of the text are repeated.

Something is missing

The Book of Kells illustrates each of the four Gospels in the Christian Bible, but there is only a part of the Gospel of John. The blank pages indicate that the book is incomplete. Scientists suspect that the present Book of Kells, which consists of 340 calf parchment leaves, originally featured 30 other texts and illustrations. It was later cut by bookbinders in the 19th century to its current width of 13 inch (33 cm.) The exhibition Turning Darkness Into Light explains in more detail how the book was bound.

Plans for 2023

In 2023, the Old Library's renovation project begins, which will make the imposing Long Room inaccessible for the next three years. During the renovation, however, the Book of Kells exhibit will be temporarily in the college's New Square. The renovation project will achieve structural improvements as well as refurbishment of the facility, led by the architectural studio of Heneghan Peng. A comprehensive digitization program will also take place.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Trinity College Dublin barrier-free accessible?

This sight has is suitable for wheelchairs users. Upon arrival, a staff member is assigned to assist with the use of the elevators. Read more.

Are there any parking facilities?

There are no parking spaces on campus. Read more.

Is it allowed to carry bags and backpacks during the tour?

Only small pieces of luggage may be taken into the Old Library. Unfortunately, there are neither lockers nor storage facilities for large luggage such as suitcases. Read more.

Are the tickets to the Old Library refundable?

Please note that tickets cannot be exchanged or refunded. Read more.

Is there a guided tour for the Book of Kells?

An audio tour is being offered for the the Old Library. By downloading the Visit Trinity App this audio guide can be used for free. Read more.

Is it allowed to take photos and videos of Trinity College Dublin?

For personal purposes, videos and photos may be taken of the Old Library without flash. As the Book of Kells reacts sensitive to light, it may not be photographed. Professional photographic equipment such as tripods are prohibited. Read more.

General information

opening hours

The library is open April to September, Monday to Saturday from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm, Sundays from 9:30 am to 5 pm. From October until March, the Old Library is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm, on Sundays from 12 pm to 4:30 pm. Sunday hours apply on holidays.

tickets

Admission to the Old Library costs €18.50 for adults on site. Children under the age of 12 do not need a ticket for the library. Please note that admission is limited to a 30 minute time-slot.

address

Trinity College Dublin
The University of Dublin
College Green
Dublin 2
Ireland

discounts

Students as well as seniors (over 60 years) receive a reduced ticket at a price of 15 € on site. Students must present a valid student ID upon entry. Additionally, students as well as Trinity College employees may visit the exhibit free of charge and bring up to two additional guests, a reservation is required. No other discounts are available for this attraction.

how to get there

Trinity College Dublin is easy to reach on foot from the center of the city. DART stations Pearse Street, Tara Street, and Connolly Station are all also a short walk away, and the LUAS (Dublin’s tram or light rail system) stops Dawson St. and Trinity, both on the green line, are located at different entrances to the college.
Miriam Dewam
Written byMiriam DewamMiriam is keen on traveling and has a passion for photography, which she can enhance through her cross-media studies. She uses her knowledge as well as first hand experience from diverse travels to help other travellers as a content creator at TicketLens.
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