March 17, 2013 is officially St. Patrick’s Day. OnTheRoad is celebrating this auspicious event by thumbing through Charles Gidley’s “The Book of Kells,” a remarkable resource for those, like me, who enjoying looking at pictures as they read.
The Book of Kells, often times referred to as the Book of Columba, is Ireland’s greatest national art treasure. It is named after the Abbey of Kells in Country Meath, Ireland, where in the late eighth to early ninth centuries, monks associated with the monastic order of St. Columba created the illuminated manuscript that presents a Latin translation of the Four Gospels and their Preliminaries. The embellishments and richness of its artistry is breathtaking.
Charles Gibley gives a wonderful account of the setting, the painters, scribes and tools. He explains the symbols, icons and themes that intertwine all through the manuscript. The Book of Kells was a communal effort that required scribes and painters to work side by side to ensure continuity between the words and the art.
“The Book of Kells is first and foremost a work of Irish Christian devotional art that was to serve as a Holy object for public display in the church sacristy. No less than the Cross and the Altar, it was designed to inspire awe and reverence in the Kell’s congregants…As such, the Book of Kells represents an indefinable act of faith on the part of those who created it and those who worshipped before it.”
Charles Gidley, The Book of Kells