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The Book of Kells

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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #15 on: March 29, 2010, 01:25:12 pm »

as the Venerable Bede has stated, his most important establishment in that country. He withdrew from his native land to Iona in A.D. 563, which island, afterwards known as Hy-Columkille, became, through the missionary exertions of himself and his successors in the abbatial see, the radiating centre of Christian civilisation in the north of Britain, and the chosen burial place of the Kings of Pictland and Scotland. For this reason it is that Shakespeare, as we are reminded by Sir John Gilbert in his introduction to the "National Manuscripts of Ireland," tells us of King Duncan's body being

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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #16 on: March 29, 2010, 01:25:21 pm »

   carried to Colmekill,
The sacred store-house of his predecessors,
And guardian of their bones.
                               Macbeth, ii. 4.
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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #17 on: March 29, 2010, 01:25:32 pm »

An ancient Irish legend gives the reason why St. Columba left his native land, and shows us, incidentally, a vivid picture of the militant churchman of those early days. During a sojourn with St. Finnan, in Ulster, Columba borrowed his psalter, and copied it furtively in his church, with the aid of miraculous light in the night time. Finnan demanded the copy, but Columba refused to give it up, and the matter was submitted for judgment to Diarmaid, Monarch of Ireland, at Tara. Diarmaid, with the rough and ready justice of a new Solomon, decided that as to every cow belongs her calf, so to
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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #18 on: March 29, 2010, 01:25:41 pm »

every book belongs its copy. A sanguinary battle was the result; but the copy remained with him who made it. It was known in later times as Cathach, from the Irish cath, a battle; and was preserved with much veneration by Columba's kindred. This Psalter is now in the collection of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.
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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #19 on: March 29, 2010, 01:25:52 pm »

However, whether Columba or another was the actual founder ofInvasion of the Norsemen this early centre of Irish Christianity at Durrow, the place does not seem to have attained any great importance until the opening of the ninth century, when the marauders from Northern Europe—Danes, Frisians, Norwegians, Swedes, Livonians, and such like—poured down upon the Irish ecclesiastical colony in Iona,

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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #20 on: March 29, 2010, 01:26:00 pm »

 and the godless hosts
Of heathen swarming o’er the northern sea

drove the community of that island-sanctuary to seek a place of asylum further west.

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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #21 on: March 29, 2010, 01:26:11 pm »

Some time between A.D. 802 and 815, when Cellach, the nineteenth successor of Columba, was Abbot of Iona, he fled for refuge to the monastery at Kells, and with his aid a new town of Colum Cille was erected there; and this, from that time forward, became the chief station of the Columban community—the Abbot of Kells being invariably acknowledged as the legitimate successor of St. Columba. The names of both Columba and St. Patrick are still legible on one of the ancient stone crosses to be seen at Kells. Colum Cille is commemorated as one of the three patron saints of Ireland on June the 9th, the anniversary of his death in the year 597.

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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #22 on: March 29, 2010, 01:26:20 pm »

Whether or not the famous Book of Kells, or as it is often called the Book of Colum Cille, was written and illuminated in the ancient town of Kells is a question still unsolved. The fast few leaves of the Manuscript, which in all probability would have furnished us with full information as to scribe, illuminator, and place of origin, have been missing for many years.

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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #23 on: March 29, 2010, 01:26:31 pm »

Kells in the 9th and 10th centuries.The history of Kells and its Abbey from late in the ninth century to the end of the tenth is a tale of continuous struggle against foreign and domestic aggression. * In 899 the Abbey was sacked and pillaged. In 918 the Danes plundered Kells, and laid the church level with the ground. Rebuilt, it was again spoiled and pillaged by the Danes in 946. Three years later, Godfrey, son of Sitric, plundered the Abbey. In 967 the town and Abbey were pillaged by
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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #24 on: March 29, 2010, 01:26:40 pm »

the King of Leinster's son, supported by the Danes; but the allied forces were assailed and defeated by Domnald O'Neill, King of Ireland. Only a year later the Abbey and town were despoiled by a united force of Danes and Leinster people; while in 996 the Danes of Dublin made yet another pillaging raid on both the town and Abbey. How the Gospels of St. Columba survived this century of violence and spoliation it is impossible to say: we only know that
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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #25 on: March 29, 2010, 01:27:01 pm »

they were preserved in the church at Kells in the year
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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #26 on: March 29, 2010, 01:27:31 pm »

The MS. stolen in 1006,

1006,when, according to the earliest historical reference to the Manuscript itself, "the large Gospel of Colum Cille" in its cover of gold studded with precious stones, "the chief relic of the western world," was stolen by night from the greater church at Kells, and found, after a lapse of some months, concealed under sods, destitute of its gold-covered binding. † It is not unlikely that most of the leaves now missing from the Manuscript disappeared at the same time.
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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #27 on: March 29, 2010, 01:27:42 pm »

Many of the palæographers who have made a study of the Kells Manuscript, agree in thinking that Giraldus Cambrensis has described this identical volume in a passage in his Topographia Hiberniæ. Writing in the twelfth century he gives an account of a wonderful manuscript which was shown to him at Kildare. He records that he had seen nothing more marvellous than the book in question, which, according to information given to him at the time, had been written from the dictation of an angel in the days of the Virgin (St. Brigit). Giraldus undoubtedly has described an illuminated manuscript of great beauty, which, so far as its general contents go, might have been the Book of



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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #28 on: March 29, 2010, 01:27:51 pm »

 Kells. He lavishes the highest praise on its brilliant colouring, on the endless variety of its figures, on the elaborate intricacies of its interlaced ornamentation—all of which, as he tells us, one would be ready to pronounce the work of angelic, and not human skill. Going into minuter detail, he continues: "On one page you see the face of God, drawn in godlike fashion—in another, the forms of the Evangelists with either six, four, or two wings." * When it is remembered that Giraldus spent many years, early and late in life,
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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #29 on: March 29, 2010, 01:28:00 pm »

as a student at the University of Paris, where it is probable he had become acquainted with a more modern type of illuminated miniatures, it seems difficult to believe that he could have been alluding in the last quoted passage to the more or less crude figure representations of the Saviour contained in the Book of Kells. Besides, there are no "forms of the Evangelists" to be found in the Manuscript as it exists to-day that have either six or four wings; † nor, indeed, is there any convincing reason suggested why the
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