The Book of Kells (also known as the “Book of Columba) is one of the great masterpieces of Irish Christian culture.
It’s a copy of the four Gospels in Latin with beautiful, intricate illuminations. But despite its renown, not much is known about its origins.
Most historians date its creation to the late 8th century or so. No one knows exactly who created it, though theories abound. It gets the name “Book of Kells” from the fact that it was kept at a monastery in the town of Kells for a long time in the medieval period. It’s called “Book of Columba” because there’s a legend that it was created single-handedly by St. Columba, who brought the gospel to Scotland in the 6th century.
Aside from its spectacular beauty, another thing that makes the Book of Kells particularly interesting is the symbolism in its illuminations. Its pages are full of strange creatures and signs that historians have reveled in trying to decipher.
And if all of that isn’t cool enough, it’s currently being held in the Old Library at Trinity College in Dublin, which looks like this:
Below are 21 incredible images from this beautiful and mysterious book. You can click on any image to enlarge it.
Chi Rho: the first two letters of “Christ” in Greek
Four creatures representing the four Gospels
Jesus Christ enthroned
The beginning of the Gospel of Matthew
A portrait of St. John the Apostle
Mary holding baby Jesus
The Eusebian Canons
Text from the Gospel of John
Luke’s genealogy of Jesus
Text from the Gospel of Luke
An up-close view of an illumination
A decorative page (called a “carpet page“)
From the Gospel of Matthew
The temptation of Christ
From the beginning of the Gospel of Mark
Some illuminated text
The arrest of Christ
The text of the Beatitudes
Portrait of St. Matthew the Apostle
From the beginning of the Gospel of John
[See also: 6 of the Oldest Images of Our Lord Jesus Christ]