Book of Kells

Back to the 18th century

The Book of Kells Exhibition is a must-see on the itinerary of all visitors to Dublin. Located in the heart of Dublin City, a walk through the cobbled stones of Trinity College Dublin will bring visitors back to the 18th century, when the magnificent Old Library building was constructed and which displays the Book of Kells.

When it was written, over a thousand years ago, there were less than half a million people living in Ireland. During this period, people lived and farmed in close communities along rivers and waterways that they had to defend against raiding groups. There were three categories of social standing in a community. There were either slaves or hostages, peasants and soldiers, and tribal kings. These tribes often fought over land and Viking raids were widespread at the time of the creation of the Book of Kells. The monastery at Iona was moved to Kells some two hundred years after St Colum Cille’s death because Viking raids made it too dangerous for the monks to continue living on the island.

Trinity College Library

The Book of Kells is a book of the four gospels. It was written around 800 A.D. nearly 600 years before the invention of moveable printing characters in China and almost 400 hundred years after St Patrick arrived in Ireland. Two monasteries are important to the story of the Book of Kells: the monastery of Iona, an island near the west coast of Scotland, and the monastery of Kells in Co Meath. St Colum Cille (or Columba) was the founder of the monastery at Iona. We believe that the Book of Kells might have been written to honour the anniversary of his death. It is considered one of the world’s greatest treasures because it tells us so much about early medieval life in Ireland and because of the quality of the beautiful artwork.

The Book of Kells resides in Trinity College in a beautiful building known as the Old Library. It has been kept at Trinity since the 1660s. A quarter of a million books are kept here. The Book of Durrow, the Book of Mulling, the Book of Dimma and the Book of Armagh is believed to be the most precious of all the books stored on the ground floor of the Old Library (the exhibition room). Manuscripts are books written and decorated by hand rather than printed. The Long Room upstairs contains books from the 15th to the 19th centuries.

The Library has the longest room in any library in Ireland – some even believe that it is the longest library room in Europe. Three architects worked on the building. The first architect’s name was Thomas Burgh. He began work on the building in 1712 and finished it twenty years later. Then Sir Thomas Deane and Benjamin Woodward were commissioned to alter the ceiling. In 1860 they designed and built the vaulted ceiling that we see today. Inside the Library, old and rare books are stacked in shelves made of oak. A long time ago, scholars used to be able to read at the desks under the windows. Now there is a separate room where students are allowed to read these books.

Trinity College Dublin is right in the heart of Dublin and it is a short walk away from Dublin Citi Hotel.

The exhibition is open 7 days a week

  • Mon-Sat (May-Sept) 08:30 – 17:00
  • Sun (May-Sept) 09:30 – 17:00
  • Mon-Sat (Oct – April) 09:30 – 17:00
  • Sun (Oct – April) 12:00 – 16:30

Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket desk within the exhibition

  • Adults €11 – 14
  • Family €28
  • Concession €12
  • Group €11

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