The Book of Kells

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Text of The Book of Kells

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    #

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    * Books produced during Middle Ages, all hand-writing, called manuscripts,contain miniatures.

    * Miniatures, called so not because of their size but rather after the minimum or

    orange leadused in their preparation and in the writing ofred-inkheadingsor

    rubrics. The miniatures may constitute only a small proportion of the ornament inthe manuscript, for frequently the text also contains decoratedletters and penned

    calligraphic flourishes and is surrounded by elaboratedborders.

    * All of these elements are presentedin varying proportions in what is calledan

    illuminatedmanuscript.

    2

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    In the narrow sense the

    term illumination refersto any ornament to

    which gold, silver orbright colours have been

    addded.

    These illuminations

    take on a major

    function, whether as

    symbolic ornament,

    iconic representations

    of holly personages,

    or pictorial narrationaccompanying and

    elaborating the text.

    3

    PurposeThe book had a sacramental, rather than

    educational purpose. A large, lavish Gospel,such as the Book of Kells would have been lefton the high altar of the church, andtakenoff only for the reading of the Gospel during Mass. However, it is probable that thereader would not actually read the text from

    the book, but ratherrecite from memory.

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    Origin: The name "Book of Kells

    is derived

    from

    the Abbey of Kells in Kells,

    County Meath in Ireland,

    which was its home for much of

    the medieval period.

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    Other manuscripts include :

    * the Cathach of St. Columba,

    * the Ambrosina Orosius,* a fragmentary Gospelin, the Durham cathedral library

    (all from the early 7th century),

    * Book of Durow (from the second half of the 7th century).

    From the early 8th century come

    * the Durham Gospel,* the Echternach Gospel,

    * the Lindisfarne Gospel, and

    * the St. Gall Gospel Book and the Macregal Gospel belong to

    the late8th century,as wellasthe

    BookofKells)

    * The Book of Armagh (dated to 807809),* the Turin Gospel Book fragment,

    * the Leiden Priscian,

    * the St. Gall Priscian and

    * the Macduran Gospel

    (all date from the early 9th cen

    tury). 5

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    The Book of Kells (Irish: Leabhar

    Cheanannais)sometimes known as the Book of Columba is an

    illuminated manuscript that is a masterwork ofW

    estern calligraphy and represents thepinnacle ofInsular illumination. Transcribed by Celtic monks ca.800, it contains the four Gospels of the NewTestament in Latin, together with various prefatorytexts and tables. The text of the Gospels is largelydrawn from the Vulgate, although it also includesseveral passage drawn from the earlier versions of theBible known as the Vetus Latina (Old Latin).

    6

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    Iona village

    7

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    The Abbey of Iona

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    St. Columba (St. Columcille, c.521-597) was an Irish monk who founded the a

    monastery o the Iona off the western coast of Scotland in 563 and undertook toconvert the Picts to Christianity.

    10

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    Written on calf vellum, the Book of Kells isa Latin copy of the four Gospels.

    * The text is interspersed with large

    illuminated pages, animated initials, beasts,grotesque figures, and brilliantly coloredornaments.

    11

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    y The Book of Kells is one of the finest examples of

    illuminated manuscripts from the era of greatmanuscripts, 650-800 A.D.

    y Kells bookwas probably started in the monastery on

    the island of Iona in the late 8th century and movedto the monastery at Kells in County Meath in the 11thcentury.

    y The move was provoked bya desire to protect themanuscript from the invading Vikings.

    12

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    It contains the Breves causae (of St. Mathew, Gospel

    summeries) and Argumenta (short biographies of theEvangelists) at the beginning

    * It is supposed to have contained the Novus opus of St. Jerome(Jerome explains the reason of his translation), the letter of Eusebius, and some preliminary decorations.

    Pope Damasuscommisioned St.

    Jerome in 382 toundertake a

    revision of theLatin text from

    Greek.

    When revising theGospels, St. Jerome

    prefixed the Eusebiancanon tables andincluded his letter to

    Pope Damasus beginning Novus opus,explaining his revision

    and the use the tables. 13

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    Eusebius (of Caesarea)tables

    14

    Or Eusebian canons, at thestart of the Gospels, is thesystem of dividing the four

    Gospels used betweenAntiquity and the Middle Age.

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    Therearedecorations at the startofeachparagraph andwithin somesentences.

    the beginningof the Breves

    causae of

    Luke.

    15

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    * The BookheBook ofKells contain a textbasedupon the Vulgate

    translation, but with numerous variants. Therefore, it is not such a

    pure rendition of Jerome's translation as theBook of Durrow orthe

    Lindisfarne Gospels.

    * Itwassaidthatthisbook wasintendedto serve as a magnificent

    altar book.

    * The book contains portraits of thefour Evangelists,the Virgin

    Mary, Jesus Christ, andscenes from the New Testament, such as

    the Arrest andTemptation.

    16

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    Carpet Pages" were purely decorative, and were so named for their resemblance

    to eastern carpets. This carpet page from the Book of Kells depicts the symbols

    for the four evangelists: Matthew the Man,Mark the Lion, Luke the Calf (or

    Bull),and Johnthe Eagle, derived from the vision ofEzekiel.

    17

    Mathew,

    the Man

    Luke,the Calf

    Mark,

    the Lion

    John, theEagle

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    Giraldus Cambresiss description of the manuscript in 1185:

    18

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    Leafofmanuscript,

    BookofKells

    19

    Genealogyof Christ

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    20

    Leafofmanuscript, BookofKells

    text from

    the Gospel

    of John

    written inInsular

    majuscule

    by the

    scribe

    known as

    "Hand B".

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    The VirginMary

    The decoration combines traditional Christian

    iconography with the ornate swirling motifs of typical of

    Insular art.

    21

    The miniature of the

    Virgin and Child faces

    the first page of textand is an appropriate

    preface to the

    beginning of the

    Breves Causae of

    Matthew, whichbegins Nativitas

    Christi inBethlem (the

    birth of Christ in

    Bethlehem).

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    Book of Kells

    Christ enthroned

    22

    Figuresofhumans,animalsandmythicalbeasts

    togetherwith intricateknotwork andinterlacing

    patternsinvibrantcolours .

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    * T ks rk lls did not

    use old le f, commonly used inmanuscripts of this ki nd, ut they did use

    ultramarine, a color which, ecause of its

    scarcity, was as costlyas old in the 8th-9thcenturies.

    23

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    * The manuscript today comprises 340 folios and since 1953 has been bound in

    four volumes.

    * The leaves are on high quality calf vellum with unprecedentedly elaborate

    ornamentation.

    The ornamentation includes ten full-page illustrations and text pages that arevibrant with historiated initials and interlinear miniatures;

    * it marks the furthest extension of the anti-classical and energetic qualities of

    Insular art.

    Book of Kells contains

    the text "Erat autemhora tercia" ("now itwas the third hour").

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    Buried within the myriad abstract motifs are some suprisingly well-articulated

    animals and figures. Two butterflies or moths appear in the dotted field to theleft of the crossing of the Chi. Below, along the descending arm, are three

    angels. At the bottom two cats crouch facing each other with mice perched ontheir backs. The cats have caught by the tail mice that are nibbling a round

    objects with a cruciform marking, possibly a wafer of the Eucharist. To the right,

    beneath the rho and iota, a black otter has just caught a fish.

    Chi Rho,Book of

    Kells

    Chi Rho arethe first two

    Greekletters for

    Christmonogram

    25

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    The f Kells

    The I ci it t the s el f atthe

    26

    The page consists of only twowords Liber generationis ("The

    book of the generation"). The "lib"of Liber is turned in to a giantmonogram which dominates theentire page. The " er" of Liber is

    presented as interlaced ornamentwithin the "b" of the "lib" monogram. Generationis is brokeninto three lines and contained

    withi