If I remember correctly, Kells was the destination of one of my first trips out of Dublin after I moved to Ireland twelve years ago. Having seen the Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin, a friend and I decided to visit Kells. The trip wasn’t well planned and it turned into, well… a bit of a disappointment. Twelve years later I thought that it might be a good time to go there again.
Kells is primarily famous for its monastery and the illuminated gospel book known as the Book of Kells. The monastery is thought to have been founded around 807 A.D. by monks from St Colmcille’s monastery who abandoned their monastery on Iona off western Scotland in the face of Viking attacks. Unfortunately, there isn’t much left of the monastery except a decapitated round tower and a few 9th century high crosses. Nowadays the monastery centres on a 18th century church. The Market Cross, a high cross that used to stand at the entrance of the monastery, now stands outside the Old Courthouse. The interesting feature of this cross is a battle scene on its base as this violent subject was not commonly used in high cross art.
There is a tiny steep-roofed stone oratory (St. Colmcille’s House) beside the graveyard of St. Columba’s church . The structure is a great example of a 9th century church or oratory and is similar to St Kevin’s Kitchen in Glendalough.
Actually, Kells is a much more interesting place than I remembered. However, it’s a great pity that so little of the monastery has survived. It’s definitely worth a visit but a couple of hours is more than enough and I’m glad that I combined it with a trip to Loughcrew (mentioned in one of the previous posts).