Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Book of Kells

For historic background on the Book of Kells go to my blog historyscharacters.blogspot.com

The Book of Kells is probably the most famous book of illuminated manuscripts. It is certainly one of the most beautiful. I had the opportunity to see it in person on two occasions. Once, when it was on tour. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was one of the stops. I went and stood on line for at least an hour then got to look at it for about two minutes. Very disappointing. The second time was when I was in Dublin. I went to Trinity College where the Book of Kells is on permanent display. There was no one else there other than a security guard. The book is encased in a glass box and each day they turn the page. Well, since no one else was around, the guard opened the case and let me look at several pages. (That was 30 years ago. I imagine that wouldn't happen nowadays.) It was beautiful.
The colors, the intricate designs are breathtaking. Knots, swirls, fauna and flora, there is so much there that it takes a while to take it all in.
Even the tiniest section is elaborately done.

Thge picture above is the Chi-Rho page. This is the insular of the Book of Matthew. The Greek letters Chi and Rho were often used in Medieval manuscripts to abbreviate the word Christ. The letter chi dominates the page with the rho sort of snuggled underneath.This
There are all these tiny swirls and knots. The entire inner part of the letter is filled. Some pages have have animals or human figures popping up, occasionally fighting or doing acrobatic stunts.There are apostles and angels watching over the manuscript. There is whimsy and humor. yet none of these take away from the script itself.
Some of the pages have no manuscript but are full page representations of the Apostles, Mary,and Christ.
But the images speak for themselves. Here are a few more.