The book of Kells: caprice or labor? | Focillon Humane ClubMade with Humane Club

The book of Kells: caprice or labor?

Published Oct 17, 2022
Updated Oct 27, 2022

📍 🇮🇪 The book of Kells: caprice or labor?

How much time do we need to make a book? Well, in c. 800 CE, at Kells, they made their most famous one in 75 years. The process was long and hard. A lot of monks had to work on it. A lot of calves too : it took 150 calves to make the pages of the book.

But who made it ? We were capable of distinguishing two types of workers : The Scribes and The Artists.

The Scribes were at least four. The first one did, the St-John Gospel had a conservative and sober style, he used to leave the decorations to the others. The second one used to enjoy using colored inks such as red and green, he was also the one responsible for finishing certain sections and pages.The two other ones were working on the Gospel of Mattew, Mark and Luke. In many cases, we can suspect that those two may be only one scribe. The initials are decorating the text directly and highlight important passages.

The Artists are composed of three monks. The Goldsmith, as we used to call him, did the most detailed work with yellow, blue and silver suggesting he used metalwork. The Illustrator did “the arrest of Christ” that you may want to check up. The Portraitist was specialized in drawing the holy portraits of Christs and Saints.

“My hand is weary with writing
My sharp quill is not steady
My Slender-breaked pen juts forth
A black draught of shining dark-blue..."

Said a 11th century poem written in honor of the Irish Abbot St-Colum Cille. Such an influence on Europe during the Middle Ages. Our very own Henri Focillon wrote himself : "Interwoven figures, an appearance of caprice but in fact a precise logic, the expression of a deep inner feeling - a feeling that had a great influence on the religious compositions of the European continent in the 9th and 10th centuries..."

____ Sources ____

>>The Book Of Kells, exposition Trinity College, Dublin.

>> Henri Focillon, Art of the West in the Middle Ages, 193

Read more on our socials:
9th century