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The book of Kells
The book of Kells: a celtic masterpiece: In a time when the British
Isles were bombarded by raids from the ferocious Vikings of the Scandinavian
Peninsula, many works great works of art were destroyed. Often, beautiful works
were buried underground for safety. However, many were never uncovered. One
amazing work that managed to survive through these tumultuous times was The Book
of Kells. This sacred book has a rich history in Ireland, which does not begin
with the Viking raids, but centuries earlier.
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The book of Kells: a celtic masterpiece
The Book of Kells: A Celtic Masterpiece
In a time when the British Isles were bombarded by raids from the ferocious
Vikings of the Scandinavian Peninsula, many works great works of art were
destroyed. Often, beautiful works were buried underground for safety. However,
many were never uncovered. One amazing work that managed to survive through
these tumultuous times was The Book of Kells. This sacred book has a rich
history in Ireland, which does not begin with the Viking raids, but centuries
In fourth century Ireland, Christianity was seen as a religion of the lower
classes and slaves. The majority of the population, including the aristocracy,
was pagans. It was not until the sixth century that Christianity became
prevalent among the aristocracy. This rise of Christianity in Ireland is partly
due to one of the patron saints of Ireland, Colum Cille, who later became St.
Columba of the Catholic Church.
Colum Cille was born in the year 521, and was destined to be the heir to the
throne of Ireland, for he was blood related to the leaders of the country. But,
he realized that he did not want to be part of the political scene of Ireland.
Instead, he wanted to devote his life to Jesus Christ. Therefore, he fled to the
island of Iona off the western coast of England.
On Iona, there were a few settlements of Irish, and Colum Cille established a
monastery, which became known as the Columban order. His monastery would send
missionaries to the rest of the Isles and to the continent, spreading the word
of Christ to the pagan tribes. It is mostly due to the missionary work of Colum
Cille\'s monastery that Christianity became so prevalent in the British Isles.
But, in the ninth century, the island of Iona came under the attacks of the
violent Norsemen, and the monastery was abandoned. Many of the monks were killed
and the settlements plundered. The remaining monks fled back to the mainland and
established a monastery at Kells, in the County of Meath, which eventually
inherited the prestige that Iona had as the center of the Columban order. It was
here that they sought refuge from the Vikings threats.
Finally, in 878, the abbot of Iona, who was always referred to as "the
successor of Colum Cille", went back to the monastery on Iona to retrieve
the shrine and other valuable items that remained there. Some think that the
book of Kells was one of these "precious objects of Colum Cille" that
were brought back to Kells. Over the next 120 years, Kells fell under the
attacks of the Vikings. The church of the Kells was destroyed and rebuilt
multiple times over this period. How any of the great works that were retrieved
from Iona survived these sackings is still unknown.
The first mention of The Book Of Kells in history was in the monastery
records in 1006, when it was stolen from the Church of Colum Cille in Kells. It
was not referred to as The Book of Kells, though. Instead it was called the
great gospel of Colum Cille, and was considered the most important relic of the
western world. It was also entered in the records that the book was found two
months later, but it had been buried and stripped of its of its gold, jewel
studded cover. After this entry, it is almost as if The Book of Kells had been
forgotten about until 1539, when the monastery was dissoluted.
Upon the dissolution of the monastery, Richard Plunket, the final abbot of
the monastery in Kells, gained ownership of The Book of Kells. Then, it is
believed that The Book of Kells fell into the hands of Geralde Plunket, most
likely a relative of the last abbot. On certain pages, there is writing that is
initialed "GP" and it gives the number of pages that were present,
upon his receiving of The Book of Kells. But, a lot of information is not known
about Geralde Plunket, and
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Book of Kells, County Meath, Scotland in the Early Middle Ages, Trinity College Library, Dublin, Celts, Vikings, Medieval art, Abbey of Kells
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