Book of Kells

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Mother of God with child
Evangelist Matthew

The Book of Kells ( Irish Leabhar Cheanannais ) is an illustrated manuscript from the eighth or ninth century. It is regarded as the pre-eminent example of island illumination and was declared World Documentary Heritage in 2011 .


There is disagreement about the origin of the Book of Kells. It was very likely made around the year 800 in Iona Monastery off the Scottish west coast and brought to Ireland for security reasons at the time of the Viking invasions . In 1006 it was stolen from Kells Abbey in Kells, County Meath , Ireland , but was found a few months later, but without the legendary golden cover, and remained in Kells until 1654. After it passed through various private hands, it has been owned by Trinity College in Dublin since the 17th century , where the original book can be viewed. Two sides of it are on display under a cabinet in the college library . Other interesting examples from the Book of Kells can be viewed as a facsimile in the library's museum.


The Book of Kells contains the four Gospels along with full-page illustrations of Christ , Mary with Child, and the Evangelists . The typeface is lavishly designed and decorated. In particular, the initials were partially executed with very fine patterns in bright colors. Instead of gold was Orpiment , an arsenic - sulfur - mineral used. The color blue is indigo - dye obtained from woad was extracted. Mixed with white , the result is light blue colors. White was made from plaster of paris. The assumption that blue was made through the use of lapis lazuli has been proven wrong by recent analyzes of the colors. Typical decorations are spiral and wickerwork patterns as well as ornamental human and animal motifs. These patterns are traditional Celtic patterns .

See also




  • Peter Brown : The Kells Gospel Book. A masterpiece of early Irish book illumination . 3. Edition. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1992, ISBN 3-451-22434-8 .
  • Robert G. Calkins: Illuminated Books of the Middle Ages . Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY 1983, ISBN 0-8014-1506-3 .
  • Anton von Euw : The Book of Kells . Badische Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe 1990, ISBN 3-89065-028-7 .
  • Françoise Henry: The Book of Kells. Reproductions from the Manuscript in Trinity College, Dublin . Alfred A. Knopf, New York 1974, ISBN 0-394-49475-X .
  • Bernard Meehan: The Book of Kells. A masterpiece of early Irish illumination in Trinity College, Dublin . Thames and Hudson, London 1995, ISBN 0-500-27843-1 .
  • Bernard Meehan: Book of Kells. The masterpiece of Celtic illumination (translated by Yvonne El Saman). Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2012, ISBN 978-3-451-32563-2 .

Web links

Commons : Book of Kells  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Book of Kells. UNESCO / Memory of the World - Register, 2011, accessed July 30, 2013 .
  2. ^ John O'Donovan: The Irish Charters in the Book of Kells . University College Cork. Retrieved February 29, 2008.
  3. Henry 1974.
  4. Henry 1974, pp. 150-151.
  5. Calkins pp. 30-92.
  6. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, No. 103 / page 42: Many cats and no poet. In: . May 3, 1996, accessed October 13, 2018 .