Trinity College & the Book of Kells

Book of Kells MadonnaThe Book of Kells represents an Irish and cultural treasure. You will find the book in the Old Library of Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university.

Tim and I made our pilgrimage to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells on our second day in Dublin.


Brief History of the Book of Kells

A group of Irish monks cloistered at St. Colum Cille monastery on the island of Iona penned the 4 gospels contained within the Book of Kells.

In 806, a Viking raid forced the Columban monks to relocate to a new monastery at Kells, County Meath. It is unknown whether they had started their gospel book before or after this raid.

The monks killed 185 calves to create the 340 vellum folios they need for their book. On those vellum pages they transcribed 4 gospels in Latin from the Vulgate text using swan-quill pens.

Book of Kells ChiRho FolioScholars, Catholics, and book lovers celebrate this book for the highly colorful and ornate artwork that the monks used to commemorate the text.

For nearly 8 centuries, the Book of Kells sat atop the high alter of the monastery church at Kells. A monastery priest read from the book during special masses.

In 1654, Oliver Cromwell’s Protestant forces approached the Kells monastery. Fearing that the army might find and destroy this treasure, someone smuggled it out of the monestary and took it to Dublin for safe keeping.

Trinity College came into possession of the book sometime between 1654 and the mid-19th century, when the college first placed the book on display.

In 1953, book conservators rebound the book into 4 volumes to help with its continued preservation.


Trinity College 2Brief History of Trinity College

Queen Elizabeth I founded Trinity College by royal charter in 1592.

Elizabeth established the college to promote a Protestant way of thinking about God.

The most picturesque buildings of the Trinity College campus date to the early to mid-eighteenth century, a time of political stability in Ireland.

Trinity College Old Library 1The Irish Parliament commissioned the construction of several new buildings for the college during the eighteenth century. The first structure Parliament built was a new library (1712-1732).

Parliament followed the library with several other buildings, all of which embodied a classical, romanesque appearance: the Printing House (1733-1734), the West Front (1752-1759), the Dining Hall (1760-1765), and the Provost’s House (1759-1761).

Trinity College TreeBuilt on marshy land, many of these buildings proved prone to flooding. Our student tour guide informed us that the 2 large trees standing in the college green helped to stop the flooding. Although planted as decoration, the 2 trees take enough water out of the land to even out the water table.

The Old Library, home of the Book of Kells, is one of the principal buildings that the trees helped save from frequent flooding.


Old Library Long Room, Trinity College

Trinity Library Long RoomAfter viewing the Book of Kells, the exhibit directs visitors into the Library’s famed Long Room.

As you can see from the pictures, the room is quite impressive.

The Long Room houses some of the Library’s founding book collections.

A second library stores many of its more contemporary collections, although the majority of the College’s 5 million volumes are housed in an off-campus storage facility.

Trinity College has been a copyright library since 1801, a privilege that entitles it to 1 copy of each book published in Ireland and the United Kingdom.


Liz in Long Room Trinity CollegeConclusion

If you love books, art, and eighteenth-century architecture, then you must see the Book of Kells and the Old Library at Trinity College.


Guinness Storehouse

Liz at Guinness GatesGreetings from Dublin! Tim had to travel to Dublin, Ireland for work this week, so I gladly tagged along to take in the sites of Ireland’s capital city.

I thought it would be fun to share some of my adventures with you.


First Stop: Guinness Storehouse

Tim and I arrived in Dublin at about 4:30 am Irish time, which was 11:30pm EST.

We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel, checked in, and got approximately 2 hours of sleep before we rose to tour the city and adjust our circadian rhythms 5 hours ahead.

Needless to say, we spent most of Saturday looking and feeling like zombies.

This made the Guinness Storehouse the perfect first stop.


Arthur GuinnessBrief History of the Guinness Brewery

Arthur Guinness founded the Guinness Brewery at St. James Gate in 1759.

Arthur built his brewery on leased land. He chose the site because of its ability to draw water from the outlying Wicklow Mountains.

The lease terms Arthur signed stipulated that he would lease the land for 9,000 years and that he and his heirs would pay £45/year in rent. (Guinness later nullified its lease by purchasing the land.)

Not long after opening his brewery, a friend sent Arthur a barrel of porter, which was coming into fashion. Arthur developed his stout recipe to appeal to porter drinkers.

By 1868, Guinness became the largest brewery in the world.

Guinness Storehouse Tour

The Guinness Storehouse museum comprises 7 floors of Guinness’ history, products, and food.

The museum occupies the old fermentation plant, which Guinness used between 1902 and 1988.

In the center of this fermentation plant, Guinness built a giant pint glass.

When you begin your self-guided tour, you start at the bottom of the “world’s largest pint” (if filled it would hold 14 million pints of Guinness) and work your way up to the 7th floor Gravity Bar, where you can drink a pint of Guinness and take in breathtaking, panoramic views of Dublin.


Thousands of barrels of Guinness stacked up in the St. James Gate brewery, DublinGuinness Coopers

In my opinion, the highlight of the tour was the cooperage exhibit.

Prior to its conversion to aluminum kegs in 1963, Guinness used to employ 300 coopers who made up to 1,000 barrels a week.

The cooperage exhibit depicts how coopers plied their craft. It contains video clips from 1954, that along with a narrator, provides a step-by-step look at how coopers made barrels.

The most amazing part: Guinness coopers only used 1 tool to measure their work, a compass to ensure a water-tight seal when they built the barrel end. They constructed the rest of the barrel using only their eyes and hands to measure their work.


Guinness Ads 2Guinness Advertising

One floor up from the cooperage exhibit, you will find a floor dedicated to the history of Guinness's advertising.



Tim and I capped off our tour at the Gravity Bar with our complimentary pints.

Much to our surprise, we found that we liked the taste of Guinness.

Guinness Pints