Old Library & Book of Kells


Old Library & Book of Kells review Rate it

'Kelly's Book', as it still gets called occasionally, is Trinity's most famous artefact, but it suffers slightly from Mona Lisa syndrome: it's so endlessly reproduced that it seems underwhelming in real life. The remarkable craftwork and intricate design are highly impressive, but frankly not show-stopping. The book, designed around the ninth century, is an illuminated copy of the Gospels in Latin, lovingly created by early Christian monks; at any one time four pages are on display - two illustrated and two text - inside a bullet-proof glass case. Alongside is the Book of Durrow, an even earlier illuminated manuscript of the Gospels, made in about 675. It disappeared in the 16th century for a century, during which time it was used as a lucky charm by a farmer: he used to pour water on it to cure his cattle. Otherwise, you may be treated to the sight of the Garland of Howth (fragments of the Gospels in ornate Irish majuscule script), which was on display alongside the Book of Kellsduring our last visit.

There's also a multimedia exhibition to take you through the process of creating such texts - for die-hard bibliophiles only - but most people just come to gawp at the texts (if that: peering over a fellow tourist's shoulder is about as good as you can hope for). Still, each summer, an average of 3,000 people a day troop through the Old Library, designed by Thomas Burgh and built between 1712 and 1732. And, although the Long Room is just that, and can accommodate more even than are allowed in at any one time, the vaulted, echoing, dimly lit expanse is definitely best seen as empty as possible. This is the city's most beautiful room: a perfect panelled chamber with rows of double-facing shelves holding about 200,000 lovingly bound old volumes, accessed by antique ladders and guarded by busts of literary giants (and, of course, by actual security guards). Running down the centre of the room is a spine of ten large, climate-controlled glass cases that are reserved for displays of particularly rare or ancient volumes.

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Old Library & Book of Kells details

Trinity College

Area Trinity College & Around

Transport All cross-city buses/Luas Abbey Street/St Stephen's Green.

Telephone 608 2308

Old Library & Book of Kells website

Open May-Sept 9.30am-5pm Mon-Sat; 9.30am-4.30pm Sun. Oct-Apr 9.30am-5pm Mon-Sat; noon-4.30pm Sun.

Admission €8; €7 reductions; €16 family; free under-12s.

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