Essay about The Book of Kells by R.A. Macavoy

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The Book of Kells by R.A. Macavoy The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript from the eighth century. It is currently located at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The images and icons in this book of gospels are Christian; however, the style of the work is pre-Christian in origin. Since the illustrations show both Irish and Germanic influences, they are referred to as Hiberno-Saxon art. The Book of Kells is called an insular manuscript, because its script is in a style known as “Insular majuscule,” a style that was common at that time in Ireland (Meehan 9). The Book of Kells represents a high point in the development of Hiberno-Saxon illumination. In the words of the art historian Carl Nordenfalk, the manuscript is a …show more content…
Although the Christian Church came to dominate medieval culture, the techniques of the illuminated manuscripts show a connection to the earlier pagan culture. Thus, ironically, the transformation to Christianity was one of the ways in which some of the features of the earlier culture were preserved.

The size of the Book of Kells is 33 centimeters by 25 centimeters, and it consists of 340 folio pages (Henderson 131). The first 28 pages consist of introductory material; however, some pages were lost. These pages include a list of Hebrew names, summaries of the four gospels, and descriptions of the four evangelists. The introductory pages also include a series of canon tables, which were lists for the purpose of cross-referring to various passages within the gospels (MacCorkill 1997).

There are two main decorative elements found in the Book of Kells. These are the small decorative illustrations that occur throughout the book, and the full-page illustrations which are used introduce important sections. The decorations found throughout the book do not exist merely for the purpose of ornamentation. According to Meehan, these decorative schemes serve to clarify certain sections of text. Thus, “important words and phrases are emphasized and the text is enlivened by an endlessly inventive range of decorated initials and interlinear drawing” (9). Nordenfalk points out

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