21 Breathtaking Images from the Mysterious Book of Kells

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Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

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:

Superchilum / Wikimedia Commons
Superchilum / Wikimedia Commons

Below are 21 incredible images from this beautiful and mysterious book. You can click on any image to enlarge it.

Enjoy!

[See also: 12 Amazing Christian Sculptures Made Entirely Out of LEGOs]

Chi Rho: the first two letters of “Christ” in Greek

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Four creatures representing the four Gospels

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Jesus Christ enthroned

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The beginning of the Gospel of Matthew

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

A portrait of St. John the Apostle

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Mary holding baby Jesus

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The Eusebian Canons

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Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Text from the Gospel of John

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Luke’s genealogy of Jesus

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Text from the Gospel of Luke

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Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

An up-close view of an illumination

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

A decorative page (called a “carpet page“)

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

From the Gospel of Matthew

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The temptation of Christ

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

From the beginning of the Gospel of Mark

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Some illuminated text

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Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The arrest of Christ

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Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The text of the Beatitudes

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Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of St. Matthew the Apostle

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

From the beginning of the Gospel of John

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

[See also: 6 of the Oldest Images of Our Lord Jesus Christ]