All this wearing of the green … eating Irish fare … drinking Irish beer makes me long for the mother country. At the very least, I want to visit Dublin – and Trinity College – and the Book of Kells.
I’ve long wished to see this illuminated manuscript that dates back to the early middle ages. Never have the Four Gospels been displayed in such splendor. And what a labor of love! Just imagine the work the monks had to endure to complete the manuscript. Before they could ever begin writing they had to prepare the vellum – soaking some 185 calfskins in water and lime for weeks, using a pumice stone to remove the hair, stretching, flattening and cutting each folio. They had to mix color pigments and then hunch over the pages for long stretches of time.
Yet they did more than simply copy the words in Latin and add an ornamentation or two. Of 680 individual pages, only a couple lack artistic embellishment. Some of the illustrations are so intricate, you need a magnifying glass to see the detail. They included pages of full illustration and they assigned a symbol to the four evangelists: to Matthew, a man; to Mark, a lion; to Luke, a calf; and to John, an eagle. They did so that people who could not read, might still understand; they did so to convey the beauty of the message.
It is a message that has survived centuries of raids, wars, and thefts – yet still retains its majesty…