The Books of Kell, Armagh and Durrow

I went to Dublin in half temrn ans I visited Trinity college.  In the old library there were the book of Kells(hereafter known as BOK), the book of Armagh (BOA) and the Book of Durrow (BOD).

The BOD was written c.700 AD.  It is a copy of the Latin gospels and is decorated with the evangelists.  It has an elaborate opening page for each gospelier( this is the term I denote to a gospel writer-Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).  The opening page for each gospelier bears their symbol- Matthew ,the man; Luke, the calf; Mark the eagle and John, the lion.  However traditionally John and Luke were opposite symbols but they seem to have switched!  It is the oldest extant complete gospel book written in the Insular script (the block capitals of the day).  Some pages have been inserted in the wrong place and rebinding has considerably reduced the page size.  There are 7 carpet pages which are pages of geometric patterns before the gospels.  There are 6, but Matthew doesn’t have one, so it is thought that maybe there were originally 7 and one was lost.  The BOD was thought to have been written in the Scottish Hebrides on the isle of Iona, or in Northumbria.  Iona was the site of an important monastry founded in 563 AD by the monk Columba who was exiled from Ireland for his part in the battle of Cul Dreimhne. No, I don’t know how to pronounce that either but if you do, then can you leave a comment telling me how?! Thanks!

The BOA is the complete new testament in Latin and is the only copy to have survived the medieval period.  I am not sure about that fact!  Maybe it was just in Ireland? As well as containing the new testament, it also contains the biography of St Martin of Tours by a man named Sulpicius Severus.  Any relation to Severus Snape?  No offence Sulpicius Severus, but that biography is kinda stalkerish!  As well a a stalkerish biography it also contains a number of texts relating to St Patrick. The BOA is written in gothic script.  It is quite small compared to the BOK and can easily slip into a pocket. It is more rough and ready than the BOK.

The BOK is actually 4 books, presumably one for eeach gospelier.  It was written on calf-skin, or vellum.  185 calves were needed to write the BOK.  It is thought that 4 scribes wrote BOK in gothic script and a separate artist did all the beautiful decoration in pens made from reeds.  The scribes used pens made from swan or goose feathers.  BOK is decorated in Celtic decoration, using vegetal patterns and animal ornament.  Ghe snake appears a lot because it is the symbol of reincarnation when the snake is ‘reborn’ after shedding its skin.  However it is also the symbol for the fall of man because a snake tempted Eve in the garden of Eden. BOK was written in c.800AD and is famous because it is very old, beautifully decorated and very intricate.ImageThis is a photo of the Book of Kells!


2 comments on “

  1. In your next post, please involve one of the following:
    1. Grapes
    2. Cows
    3. Feet

    If you do you (whichever you choose) I will post on here whatever you ask me to post (nothing rude please)

    If you include all of the above in one post I will agree to start my own blog.

    Ashna, don’t think you’re safe…

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