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The Book of Kells

Also from this era are such masterpieces as the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells in an early Irish illuminated manuscript from the eighth or ninth century. The book is a Latin copy of the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is assumed that it originated in Iona in Scotland, and was completed at the Irish monastery of Kells. The Abbot of Iona and the scribe Connachtach started the book of Kells. The book is very large, which shows that it was more than likely intended to be an altar book. The book does not have any gold decoration, but contains a generous use of yellow to make-up for the lack of gold. Other colors used in the Book of Kells are red, black, purple, and indigo. Many of the decorated initials used in the book fit into the shape of animals. Some examples of the animals used are the following: lions, calves, eagles, snakes, moths, otters, cats, and mice. The contents of the Book of Kells are the texts of the Gospels, the canon-tables, the breves causae (summaries of the Gospels), argumenta (collections of lore and legend concerning the evangelists), genealogy in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, and lists of Hebrew names with interpretations (Englert 1). The designs in the Book of Kells consist of little animals, plants, spirals, and swirls. The designs are Celtic symbols that were used in ornamentation on brooches, mirrors, and on other objects that date from the pre-Christian period in Ireland. Each of the evangelists has a full page illustration of their particular symbol. There are thirty-one pages of full page illustrations (Englert 2). However, the book is incomplete. It is missing several pages either from the loose binding or from thievery (Englert 1).

Use the links below to view actual photos of the Book of Kells:

The Virgin Mother and Child With the Angels
The Beginning of the Breves Causae of Matthew
Symbols of the Four Evangelists
A Portrait of Saint Matthew
Matthew 1:1, Liber generationis
Eight Circle Cross
Chi-Rho Page (Christi autem generatio)
A Page from Saint Matthew's Gospel
The Arrest of Christ
Matthew 26:31
Last updated on 28th November 2000.