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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Irish Eyes are Smiling

Since it is March, and so close to St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I would share an ancient Irish treasure with you. As a homeschooler, it almost goes without saying that books are dear friends. I say almost because I *have* come across a few that don’t tend to think that way. However, for those of us who would find a trip to oh, say, the British Library, an almost spiritual experience, this might just be for you.

I had the privilege of viewing Trinity College’s ancient manuscript, the Book of Kells. There are some beautiful close-up photos of it on Wiki here

I have an special affinity for hand-written manuscripts, but especially so for ones with a great story. It is understood that Irish Columban monks living on the remote Scottish island Iona, created this manuscript around the year 750. Iona was the center of St. Columba’s influence, and was where his church was located. The Book of Kells contains the four gospels, a section of Hebrew names, and the Eusebian canons, and it is also known as the “Book of Columba.” In 878 “The Annals of Ulster record that following another Viking attack, the shrine of Colm Cille and 'other relics' are taken to Ireland.” How can it get worse than to be plundered by Vikings? (It can!) In 1066 "The Book is stolen for its cover of gold, inset with precious stones. Months later it is found buried under sods of earth in a bog, without its cover." After this point it was evidently kept fairly together, but the final restoration and binding did not happen until 1953!

A description of the Kells that follows describes the amazing details and unbelievable talent the artists had in making it:

Almost equally characteristic are the zoomorphic interlacements, coloured representations of fanciful beings, or of men, animals, birds, horses, dogs, and grotesque, gargoyle-like human figures, twisted and hooked together in intricate detail. Other frequently occurring designs are a system of geometrical weaving of ribbons plaited and knotted together, and a simpler ornamentation by means of red dotted lines. The versatility and inventive genius of the illustrator surpasses all belief. Lines diverge and converge in endless succession, and the most intricate figures, in lavish abundance and with astounding variety of ornament, are combined and woven into one harmonious design. In spite of the extent of the work and its thousands of exquisite initials and terminals, there is not a single pattern or combination that can be said to be a copy of another. (Found here.)

I find this last fact simply amazing. Those Irish really knew what they were doing and I am so glad they were removed from underneath that bog!

I hope you enjoy.
Kate

5 comments:

Circle of Quiet said...

Lovely, Kate. And finally blogger is letting me tell you so (how dare they say your blog does not exist. The nerve.

DI

Anonymous said...

Dear Kate,
How fun to catch up and read about your extraordinary experiences in the U.K as well as your nature loving courtship. I am reading a book right now called Woodswoman by Ann LaBastille. She lived in a log cabin in a remote part of the Adirondack mountains. It really makes me miss the trees and rivers of my home.
Love
esperanzavallero

Kim said...

Kate, as you know, this post was a pleasure to read for me. In honor of St. Patrick's day approaching, I've been reading a biography about St. Patrick. I'm hoping to post a blog about it.

I think you, Diane and I all ought to go to Ireland, and you can show us around!

Kim said...

Kate, as you know, this post was a pleasure to read for me. In honor of St. Patrick's day approaching, I've been reading a biography about St. Patrick. I'm hoping to post a blog about it.

I think you, Diane and I all ought to go to Ireland, and you can show us around!

Karen said...

Thanks for sharing a wee bit of history about the Book of Kells. :-) We looked at it as we studied illuminated texts this year.

Hmm, I thought the Vikings lived peacefully in Ireland and England (I'm just joking if you read this Nadia :-)