Turismo Prerrománico > LIBRO DE KELLS


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Reference: Trinity Colllege Library (Dublín) Ms 58(A16)9

Dimensions: 330 x 250mm.

340 folios of parchment. most written in semiuncial.

32 Pages minified to full size plus many capitulars and letters at the beginning of the line and on the line.


Picture book of the Book of Kells that our contributor J-L Monneret has cleaned up and commented on. Click on the image to access. All the information available on this manuscript is accessed from the book.

Entorno histórico

Manuscript prepared by the monks of Saint Columba on the island of Iona, Scotland, a very important monastic community because Saint Columba, the evangelizer of Scotland, had used it as his center of activity. But after an invasion of that monastery by the Vikings in 793, part of the surviving monks moved to Monastery in Ireland. Until now it has not been possible to determine if they brought the finished book, if it was still incomplete and they finished it in Kells – the option that is considered the most probable – or if they developed it completely in their new residence, since due to its characteristics it is considered that It was created around the year 800.

There is no doubt about the Irish origin of this work due to the coincidence of its style with the Book of Durrow, created in Ireland a little over a century before, and with other Irish books from the 8th century. It was stolen in 1006 but recovered in the 12th century, although with damage, without its covers decorated with gold and jewels and without the first and last pages. From then on it remained in Kells until Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland in the 17th century and the manuscript was transferred to Dublin. In 1661 it was donated to Trinity College Library along with the Book of Durrow, where it remains despite a request from the City of Kells to return at least some of its volumes, a request that was refused.

The manuscript has undergone modifications throughout its history, one in the 13th century to include the chapters of the Gospels in Roman numerals in the margins of each page, another to number the pages in 1621. It has been rebound several times, the last time in 1953, while in a previous one, in the 19th century, the edges of the pages were trimmed, reducing their size.


The Book of Kells, also known as the “Great Gospel of Saint Columba”, is an illuminated manuscript that contains the four Gospels, and which is considered one of the most important works of European medieval miniature, which has become a national treasure for Ireland. .

It consists of 680 pages on 340 parchment sheets of 330 X 250 cm, all with decoration, 32 of them with full-page images in which up to ten different colors are used, and the the rest with highly decorated drop caps and capital letters and a large number of small miniatures interspersed in the text, written in Latin using the usual handwriting in the best Irish manuscripts: the insular semiuncial capital letter with some lower case letters, in which black ink, red, mauve and yellow

The Book of Kells includes some introductory texts and the complete Gospels according to the Vulgate with some variants, of Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke and, partially, that of Saint John. It is estimated that there were several scribes, at least three, who left the blank spaces for the miniatures according to a planned plan, some of which are still blank.

Various miniaturists worked on it, possibly in different periods, of which four are easily identifiable by their style according to the expert Francoise Henry, of whom two of them are defined as “the goldsmith” and “the illustrator”.

Each Gospel is preceded by three full-page images: the symbol and portrait of its evangelist, and an opening page. In each one, between the text pages it includes two others, the incarnation of Christ and the Crucifixion. In addition, some narrative illustrations were included, of which only three have survived.

True to the style of the Irish manuscripts produced between the end of the 6th century and the beginning of the 9th in monasteries in Ireland and northern Great Britain, the Book of Kells is one of the last to retain its characteristics, such as the shape of the decorated letters or the type of writing. His miniatures are the most beautiful and numerous of all this group of manuscripts.

The oriental influence is evident in its images, mainly those of Coptic art, in which images similar to those of the Virgin and Child are found in manuscripts after the Book of Kells, but based on a tradition originating in the VI. It is also believed that there was a direct connection between early Irish Christianity and Byzantine art from the monasteries of Egypt.

Given its characteristics, its size and the high quality of its images, while the text, very careless and with errors, shows less attention, it is believed that the purpose of the Book of Kells was to be used during the celebration of the mass, but most likely it was not read, but rather shown to the congregation.