Around the year 750, Irish monks laboring in isolation on a tiny island of Iona off Scotland's west coast-
began work on a book that would outlast empires, a book that many say may be the greatest illustrated version of the Gospels ever made. Well, it wasn't quite a book really. It was a codex--the first step up from a scroll and toward a modern bound and printed book. Codex salesmen were quick to tout the advantages: you can open a codex to any page (try that with a scroll), you can write on both sides of the parchment or (in the deluxe model) vellum, and you can bind together long works. For more than a century, the small monastic community on the tiny island had been laboring faithfully to copy and preserve classical and biblical texts that few in Europe even knew existed. It wasn't an easy life. The monks lived and worked in beehive-like stone structures with few creature comforts. But their art has been called the work of angels. The Book of Kells was to be their masterwork: the four Gospels of the Christian faith laid lovingly onto the page in Latin and brought to life by the best and most colorful art of the age. For the monks who labored over every figure, it wasn't simply a book. It was the Word of God made manifest, and a devout and passionate prayer offered to the Word's source.
The Book of Kells features a Latin version of the Four Gospels and highly ornate drawings of the Apostles and other Biblical figures that resemble stained-glass window images. The book was completed circa 800 A.D Portions of the 600-page text remain on display in Dublin's Trinity Library. As pages of the text and drawings are shared with viewers on camera, the narrator explains why so many experts believe The Book of Kells is an incredibly rare and valuable work of Irish art.
Music by Michael McGlynn and performed by Anuna
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