The Book of Kells
By: Steven ForsythThe Book of Kells is considered one of Ireland’s national treasures and it is a religious book that illustrates the gospels of Christ and highlights the history of the Celtic people.
The Irish Monks
This unique manuscript was created during the middle ages around 800 A.D. What makes the Books of Kells such a noteworthy historical time honored prize is the graphic detail that was used to decorate the manuscript.
The Irish monks that collaborated on this project drew exquisite drawings on all of the pages of the text except for two. They used Christian and Irish iconography to help illustrate the story of Jesus Christ to many uneducated Irish people of the time.
Keep in mind that only a select few people were able to read during the Middle Ages and the authors (who were usually monks) had to use a lot of illustrations to get their meaning across.
This book was created at the Abbey of Kells by a few monks that were fortunate enough to work on the piece over many years. The monks from the Abby of Kells had access to an abundance of fine inks and dyes which allowed them to create a multitude of colors and hues for most parts of the book. They also a used a substance called iron gall ink which was commonly used for writing.
Some of the pages of the book have a 3-D like quality about them and they appear to jump right off of the pages of the book. Drawings of people, animals and mythical beasts from Celtic tradition were created by the monks. The book also contains 340 folios which were four-sectioned pages of a book that contained a drawing or picture in each part.
Isular art is the name of the art form that has its origins in the Book of Kells. Insular art means “island art” and this form of art is still inspiring contemporary Irish people with its style and appeal. The Book of Kells is so influential that most of the Irish jewelry that is being crafted today has its roots in the designs and techniques that were used to make this manuscript.
Jewelers look to the pages of the Book of Kells to generate authentic Irish necklaces, rings, broaches and earrings. Any person can immediately tell whether a piece is an authentic Irish creation simply by examining it and comparing it to the style and artwork found within the Book of Kells.
Many of the manuscripts letters, calligraphy styles, unique iconic forms and pictures are displayed on many jewelry pieces. Many jewelers that still hand make their pieces use the Book of Kells to find new ideas and as a source of tradition.
The Book of Kells has so much elaborate artwork and detail that it would take many years to decipher and use each individual artistic creation for making jewelry pieces. The Book of Kells Insular art form a standard for many artists within the nation of Ireland, for Celtic artist all around the world and for Irish jewelers that take their craft seriously.
Did You Know?
The monks used approximately 185 calves skins and handmade inks involving many methods including crushed insects to write and decorate the pages found in the Book of Kells.