CULTURAL TREASURE: New display case for Book of Kells allows every page to be viewed on rotation
Life & Style

CULTURAL TREASURE: New display case for Book of Kells allows every page to be viewed on rotation

A NEW display case for Ireland’s treasured ninth century manuscript the Book of Kells will allow every page of the historic document to be seen by the public for the very first time.

Designed by world leading engineers Goppion - who designed cases for the Mona Lisa, the Crown jewels, and the Dead Sea Scrolls – the case and its precious contents were unveiled in the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin last week.

It can now be viewed, for the first time, on a plinth in a free-standing tower.

The case also allows every single page of the book to be displayed, on a rotating basis.

This will include some of its most ornate pages which have not been on public display for many decades.

The Treasury housing the manuscript has also been beautifully refurbished - with spectacular wall-covering magnifying the ornate detail of the manuscript, together with special lighting that is also designed to enhance the viewer’s experience.

The Long Room at Trinity College, where their rare manuscripts are kept Photographer: Gillian Whelan

Marking the historic occasion of the recent unveiling, Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, Catherine Martin, said: “The opening of the new Book of Kells Treasury and display case is one of the most positive developments for the country’s culture, heritage and tourism sectors this year.

“It heralds a period of renewal and innovation for cultural organisations across Ireland.”

She added: “Trinity has safeguarded this priceless manuscript with leading technology and preventive conservation, ensuring the optimum environmental conditions, security and visual display.

“The conservation and preservation of our heritage for generations to come is of national importance. It ensures that this global icon will continue to be admired and studied by millions currently and into the future.”

The new display case and Treasury refurbishment was funded by Fáilte Ireland and a gift from donors, Carol and Murray Grigor.

Fáilte Ireland Head of Product Development, Orla Carroll said: “Fáilte Ireland was delighted to invest in this project to enhance one of Ireland’s best-known tourism experiences.

“The Old Library, and the Book of Kells, which has been on display in Dublin since the 19th Century, is one of Dublin’s most popular attractions.

“The enhanced visitor experience unveiled today is a perfect example of how innovative technology and smart orientation can be used to enrich the story of Ireland’s rich culture and heritage so that Dublin can continue to offer a high quality experience to tourists and locals looking to explore their own city, for many years to come.”

A globally recognised cultural icon, the lavishly decorated Book of Kells – which contains the four gospels of the New Testament in Latin - is set apart from other manuscripts of the same period by the quality of its artwork and the sheer number of illustrations that run throughout the 680 pages of the book.

It is bound in four separate volumes, one for each of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Virgin and Child (folio 7v) from the Book of Kells (PIC: The Board of Trinity College Dublin)

On the day of its recent unveiling in Dublin, the pages selected for viewing were from the Gospel of St Matthew, of the Virgin and Child (folio 7v) and Breves Causae (folio 8r) which hadn’t been viewed in 30 years.

This is the only major depiction of a woman in the entire Book of Kells. It is also the earliest known surviving image of the Virgin and Child in Western manuscript art.

The historic tome is chief among the collection of acclaimed Insular manuscripts currently housed in Trinity’s Old Library, which boasts manuscripts and world-class research collections that span millennia and have been viewed by millions of visitors and scholars.

Librarian and College Archivist, Helen Shenton said: “We are delighted to be opening the new Treasury to the public.

“This new display case reflects the importance and beauty of the world-famous Book of Kells with its magnificent artistry and ornamentation, a unique icon admired by millions.

It has been designed to protect the manuscript while providing an enhanced viewing experience for visitors.”

She added: “The Book of Kells has inspired generations of visitors, students and academics and will continue to do so for future generations as we preserve it with the highest conservation standards and the best technology.”

Breves Causae (folio 8r) in The Book of Kells (Pic: The Board of Trinity College Dublin)

Trinity Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast added: “Safeguarding the Book of Kells is imperative for the preservation and promotion of European culture and heritage.

“The Book of Kells is intrinsic to our history and culture and continues to be a source of innovation.

“The opening of the new Treasury is the first phase of Trinity’s ambitious redevelopment plans for the national heritage site of the Old Library in its unique dual role as a world-class library and a national cultural institution.

“The Old Library Redevelopment Project will conserve the Old Library and its world class research collections for the next century and beyond.”