Politically, Ireland is divided into:
The Republic of Ireland, with its capital Dublin. Ireland and "Éire" are the official names of the state - in English and Irish respectively - while the "Republic of Ireland" is its official description. It is colloquially called "the South" or "the Republic" by many residents of Northern Ireland, and sometimes "Southern Ireland" which had been, for a short time, intended as the official name of the state.
Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, is unofficially known as "The North" (by nationalists and residents in the Republic of Ireland), "the Six Counties," by nationalists, and "Ulster," by unionists (although the province of Ulster also includes the counties Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan, which are in the Republic).
Prior to the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and Partition Ireland had been a unified political entity within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland which came into being in 1801 as a result of the Act of Union. From 1541, the Kingdom of Ireland was established by the King of England, though this realm did not cover the whole island till the early 17th century. Up to then, Ireland had been politically divided into a number of different Irish kingdoms (Leinster, Munster, Connacht, Mide, Ulster, and others). Before the advent of the Normans the different kingdoms were augmented by a High Kingship. The extent of power or influence of the High Kings throughout the entire country varied from reign to reign.
Further information: Irish States (1171-present)
In a number of respects the island operates officially as a single entity, for example, in most kinds of sports. The major religious bodies, the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, are organized on an all-island basis. 88% of the population of the Republic of Ireland (2002 census) and about 44% of Northern Ireland are Catholic. Some trade unions are also organised on an all-Irish basis and associated with the Irish Congress of Trades Unions (ICTU) in Dublin, while others in Northern Ireland are affiliated with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in the United Kingdom — though such unions may organise in both parts of the island as well as in Britain. The island also has a shared culture in many other ways. Traditional Irish music, for example, though showing some variance in all geographical areas, is, broadly speaking, the same on both sides of the border. Irish and Scottish traditional music have many similarities.
The island is sometimes referred to as being part of the British Isles. However, notwithstanding the level of acceptance of the term within Northern Ireland, exception is taken by many Irish people to the extension of this nomenclature to include Ireland, as it infers an identity at odds with historical, cultural and political reality . For this reason, "Britain and Ireland" is sometimes used as a more neutral way of alluding to the archipelago of which the two islands are the essential constituents. Another suggestion, although much less frequently used, is the Islands of the North Atlantic (IONA).
A ring of coastal mountains surrounds low central plains. The highest peak is Carrauntuohill (Irish: Carrán Tuathail), which is 1,041 m (3,414 feet) . The island is bisected by the River Shannon, at 386 km (240 miles) the longest river in Ireland . The island's lush vegetation, a product of its mild climate and frequent but soft rainfall, earns it the sobriquet "Emerald Isle". The island's area is 84,412 km²  (32,591 square miles).
Ireland is divided into four provinces: Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster. In Irish these are referred to as cúigí (cúige, "fifth"). Previously there were five provinces - Connacht, Munster, Ulster, Leinster and Meath, comprising the counties of Meath, Westmeath and Longford. These were further divided into 32 counties for administrative purposes. Six of the Ulster counties remain under British sovereignty as Northern Ireland following Ireland's partition in 1922 (the remaining 26 forming present-day Republic of Ireland); since the UK's 1974 reshuffle these county boundaries no longer exist in Northern Ireland for administrative purposes, although Fermanagh District Council is almost identical to the county. In the Republic, the county boundaries are still adhered to for local government, albeit with Tipperary and Dublin subdivided (some cities also have their own administrative regions). For election constituencies, some counties are merged or divided, but constitutionally the boundaries have to be observed. Across Ireland, the 32 counties are still used in sports and in some other cultural areas and retain a strong sense of local identity.
Ireland's least arable land lies in the south-western and western counties. These areas are largely spectacularly mountainous and rocky, with beautiful green vistas.
Geologically, the island consists of a number of provinces - in the far west around Galway and Donegal is a medium to high grade metamorphic and igneous complex of Caledonide (Scottish Highland) affinity. Across SE Ulster and extending SW to Longford and S to Navan is a province of Ordovician and Silurian rocks with more affinities with the Southern Uplands province of Scotland. Further south, there is an area along the Wexford coast of granite intrusives into more Ordovician and Silurian rocks with a more Welsh affinity.
In the SW, around Bantry Bay and the mountains of Macgillicuddy's Reeks, is an area of substantially deformed but only lightly metamorphosed Devonian-aged rocks with a more Cornish affinity.
This partial ring of "hard rock" geology is covered by a blanket of Carboniferous limestones over the centre of the country, giving rise to the comparatively fertile and famously "lush" landscape of the country. The west coast district of the Burren around Lisdoonvarna has well developed karst features. Elsewhere, significant stratiform lead-zinc mineralisation is found in the limestones (around Silvermines and Tynagh).
Hydrocarbon exploration is continuing. The first major find was the Kinsale Head gas field off Cork/ Cobh by Marathon Oil in the mid-1970s. More recently, in 1999, Enterprise Oil announced the discovery of the Corrib Gas Field has increased activity off the west coast in parallel with the "West of Shetland" step-out development form the North Sea hydrocarbon province. Exploration continues, with a frontier well planned north of Donegal for August 2006 and continuing drilling of prospects in the Irish Sea and St Georges Channel.
Overall, Ireland has a mild, but changeable, climate all year. The island is not noted for its extremes. The warmest recorded air temperature was 33.3°C (91.94°F)at Kilkenny Castle, County Kilkenny on 26 June 1887. The coldest air temperature was -19.1°C (-2.38°F) at Markree Castle, County Sligo on 16 January 1881 . Precipitation falls throughout the year, but is light overall, particularly in the east of the country. The west of the country, however, tends to be wetter on average and prone to the full force of Atlantic storms, more especially in the late autumn and winter months, which occasionally bring destructive winds and high rainfall totals to these areas, as well as snow and hail. The regions of North Galway and East Mayo have the highest incidents of recorded lightning annually (5 to 10 days per year. Prolonged snowfall is rare, and tends to be confined to the northern half of the country. There are noticeable differences in temperature between coastal and inland areas. Inland areas are warmer in summer, but colder in winter - there is usually around 40 days of below freezing temperatures (0°C) at inland weather stations, but only 10 days at coastal stations. The temperature difference can be seen in very short distances, for example the average daily maximum temperature in July in Omagh is 23°C (73.4°F), while it is only 18°C (64.4°F) in Derry, just 54.1 kilometres (33.6 miles) away. The average daily minimum temperatures in January in these locations also differ, with only -3°C in Omagh and 0°C in Derry. Ireland is sometimes affected by heat waves, most recently 1995, 2003 and 2006.
Average temperatures in the island vary from -4°C (min) to 11°C (max) in January, and 9°C (min) to 23°C (max) in July.
Flora and Fauna:
Ireland has fewer animal and plant species than either Britain or mainland Europe because it became an island very soon after the end of the last Ice Age, about 8,000 years ago. Nevertheless, it is home to hundreds of plant species, some of them unique to the island. Many different habitat types are found in Ireland, including farmland, open woodland, temperate forests, conifer plantations, peat bogs, and various coastal habitats. The Flora of Ireland
Only 31 mammal species are native to Ireland, again because it was isolated from Europe by rising sea levels after the Ice Age. Some species, such as the Red Fox, Hedgehog, Stoat, and Badger are very common, whereas others, like the Irish hare, Red Deer and Pine Marten are less common and generally seen only in certain national parks and nature reserves around the island. Some introduced species have become thoroughly naturalised, e.g. rabbits and the Brown Rat. See List of Irish Mammals.
About 400 species of birds have been recorded in Ireland, many of which are migratory, either arctic birds who come in the winter, or birds such as the Swallow which come from Africa in the summer to breed. Ireland has a very rich marine avifauna, with many large seabird colonies dotted around its coastline such as those on the Saltee Islands and Skellig Michael. Also of note are Golden Eagles, only recently reintroduced after decades of extinction.
There are no snakes and only one reptile native to Ireland, the Common Lizard. There are three amphibians, the Common Frog, the Smooth Newt and the Natterjack Toad. Certain marine turtle species appear regularly off the south west coast but do not come ashore.
Irish Wildlife Manuals is a series of contract reports relating to the conservation management of habitats and species in Ireland. The volumes are published on an irregular basis by Ireland's National Parks and Wildlife Service
Ireland was mostly ice-covered and joined by land to Britain and continental Europe during the last ice age. It has been inhabited for about 9,000 years. Stone age inhabitants arrived sometime after 8000 BC, with the culture progressing from Mesolithic to high Neolithic over the course of three or four millennia. The Bronze Age, which began around 2500 BC, saw the production of elaborate gold and bronze ornaments and weapons. The Iron Age in Ireland is associated with people now known as Celts. They are traditionally thought to have colonised Ireland in a series of waves between the 8th and 1st centuries BC, with the Gael, the last wave of Celts, conquering the island and dividing it into five or more kingdoms. Many scholars, however, now favour a view that emphasises possible cultural diffusion from overseas over significant colonisation. The Romans referred to Ireland as Hibernia. Ptolemy in AD 100 records Ireland's geography and tribes. Native accounts are confined to Irish poetry, myth, and archaeology. The exact relationship between Rome and the tribes of Hibernia is unclear; the only references are a few Roman writings.
In 431 Bishop Palladius ordained and sent by Pope Celestine arrived at the island to shepherd the Irish "already believing in Christ," reports of his progress haven't been found. The exact time of arrival of Patron Saint of the island St. Patrick cannot be fully determined. St. Patrick isn't mentioned on any primary sources either Irish or Continental with the exception of his own writings (two), incidentally the only primary sources we have concerning St.Patrick. The possible mix-up between Patrick and Palladius has been documented among historians and this now seems very unlikely.
The druid tradition collapsed in the face of the spread of the new faith. Irish Christian scholars excelled in the study of Latin learning and Christian theology in the monasteries that flourished, preserving Latin learning during the Early Middle Ages. The arts of manuscript illumination, metalworking, and sculpture flourished and produced such treasures as the Book of Kells, ornate jewellery, and the many carved stone crosses that dot the island. This era was interrupted in the 9th century by 200 years of intermittent warfare with waves of Viking raiders who plundered monasteries and towns. Eventually they settled in Ireland and established many towns, including the modern day cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford.
In 1172, King Henry II of England gained Irish lands by the granting of the 1155 Bull Laudibiliter to him by then English Pope Adrian IV, and from the 13th century, English law began to be introduced. English rule was largely limited to the area around Dublin, known as the Pale, and Waterford, but this began to expand in the 16th century with the final collapse of the Gaelic social and political superstructure at the end of the 17th century, as a result of the Tudor re-conquest of Ireland and English and Scottish Protestant colonisation in the Plantations of Ireland, which established English control over the whole island. After the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Irish Catholics were barred from voting or attending the Irish Parliament. The new English Protestant ruling class was known as the Protestant Ascendancy.
In 1800 the Irish Parliament passed the Act of Union which, in 1801, merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The whole island of Ireland became part of the United Kingdom, ruled directly by the UK Parliament in London. The 19th century saw the Great Famine of the 1840's, during which one million Irish people died and over a million emigrated. Mass emigration became entrenched as a result of the famine and population continued to decline until late in the 20th century. The pre-famine peak was over 8 million recorded in the 1841 census. The population has never reached this level since then.
The 19th and early 20th century saw the rise of Irish Nationalism especially among the poorer Catholic population. Daniel O'Connell led a successful non-violent campaign for Catholic Emancipation. A subsequent campaign for Repeal of the Act of Union failed. Later in the century Charles Stewart Parnell and others campaigned for self government within the Union or "Home Rule". This was also unsuccessful. These failures resulted in the eclipse of moderate nationalism by militant separatism. In 1921, following the Easter Rising of 1916, and the subsequent Anglo-Irish War, a treaty was concluded between the British Government and the leaders of the Irish Republic. The Treaty recognised the two-state solution created in the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Northern Ireland was presumed to form a home rule state within the new Irish Free State unless it opted out. Northern Ireland had a majority Protestant population which feared becoming a minority in a majority Catholic state. Not unexpectedly it opted out of the new state and chose instead to remain part of the United Kingdom. A Boundary Commission was set up to decide on the boundaries between the two Irish states, though it was subsequently abandoned after it recommended only minor adjustments to the border. Disagreements over some provisions of the treaty led to a split in the Nationalist movement and subsequently to the Civil War. The civil war ended in 1923 with the defeat of the Anti-treaty forces.
The Anglo-Irish Treaty was narrowly ratified by the Dáil in December 1921 but was rejected by a large minority, resulting in the Irish Civil War which lasted until 1923. In 1922, in the middle of this civil war, the Irish Free State came into being. For its first years the new state was governed by the victors of the Civil War. However in the 1930s Fianna Fáil, the party of the opponents of the treaty, were elected into government. The party introduced a new constitution in 1937 which renamed the state "Éire or in the English language, Ireland" (preface to the Constitution).
The state was neutral during World War II which was known internally as The Emergency, but offered some assistance to the Allies, especially in Northern Ireland. Indeed, more than 60,000 volunteers from the Republic fought in the British armed forces . In 1949 the state declared itself to be a republic and that henceforth it should be described as the Republic of Ireland. The state was plagued by poverty and emigration until the mid-1970's. The 1990's saw the beginning of unprecedented economic success, in a phenomenon known as the "Celtic Tiger". By the early 2000's, it had become one of the richest countries (in terms of GDP per capita) in the European Union, moving from being a net recipient of the budget to becoming a net contributor during the next Budget round (2007-13), and from a country of net emigration to one of net immigration.
From its creation in 1921 until 1972, Northern Ireland enjoyed limited self-government within the United Kingdom, with its own parliament and prime minister. However the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland each voted almost entirely along sectarian lines, meaning that the government of Northern Ireland (elected by "first past the post") was always controlled by the Ulster Unionist Party. Consequently, Catholics could not participate in the government, which at times openly encouraged discrimination in housing and employment.
Northern Ireland was largely spared the strife of the Civil War in the south but there were sporadic episodes of intercommunal violence between Catholics and Protestants during the decades that followed partition. Although the Irish Free State was neutral during World War II, Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom was not and Belfast suffered a bombing raid from the German Luftwaffe in 1941.
Nationalist grievances at unionist discrimination within the state eventually led to large civil rights protests in 1960s, which the government suppressed heavy-handedly, most notably on "Bloody Sunday". It was during this period of civil unrest that the paramilitary Provisional IRA, who favoured the creation of a united Ireland, began its campaign against what it called the British occupation of the six counties. Other groups, legal and illegal on the unionist side, and illegal on the nationalist side, began to participate in the violence and the period known as the "Troubles" began. Owing to the civil unrest the British government suspended home rule in 1972 and imposed direct rule.
In 1998, following a Provisional IRA ceasefire and multi-party talks, the Good Friday Agreement was concluded and ratified by referendum in both the north and south. This agreement attempts to restore self-government to Northern Ireland on the basis of power sharing between the two communities. Violence has greatly decreased since the signing of the accord. The power-sharing assembly has only operated for brief periods and is currently suspended.
In 2001 the police force in Northern Ireland, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, was replaced by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
On 28 July 2005, the Provisional IRA announced the end of its armed campaign and on 25 September 2005 international weapons inspectors supervised what they currently regard as the full decommissioning of the Provisional IRA's weapons.
Gaelic football and hurling are the most popular sports in Ireland. Along with Camogie, Ladies' Gaelic football, handball and rounders, they make up the national sports of Ireland, collectively known as Gaelic Games. All Gaelic games are governed by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), with the exception of Ladies' Gaelic Football, which is governed by a separate organisation. The GAA is organised on an all-Ireland basis with all 32 counties competing; traditionally, counties first compete within their province, in the provincial championships, and the winners then compete in the All-Ireland senior hurling or football championships. The headquarters of the GAA (and the main stadium) is located at the 82,300 capacity Croke Park in north Dublin. All major GAA games are played here, including the semi-finals and finals of the All-Ireland championships. All GAA players, even at the highest level, are amateurs and receive no wages.
The Irish rugby team includes players from north and south, and the Irish Rugby Football Union governs the sport on both sides of the border. Consequently in international rugby, the Ireland team represents the whole island. The same is true of cricket, golf, tennis and hockey.
The Irish Football Association (IFA) was originally the governing body for football (soccer) throughout the island. Football was being played in Ireland since the 1860s (Cliftonville F.C. Belfast being the oldest club on the island), but remained a minority sport outside of Ulster until the 1880s. However, some clubs based outside Belfast felt that the IFA largely favoured Ulster-based, Protestant clubs in such matters as selection for the national team. Following an incident in which, despite an earlier promise, the IFA moved an Irish Cup final replay from Dublin to Belfast, the clubs based in the Free State set up a new Football Association of the Irish Free State (FAIFS) - now known as the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) - in 1921.
Despite the new organisation being initially blacklisted by the Home Nations' football associations, the Association was recognised by FIFA in 1923 and organised its first international fixture in 1926 (against Italy in Turin). However, both the IFA and FAI continued to select their teams from the whole of Ireland, with some players earning international caps for matches with both teams. Both also referred to their respective teams as "Ireland". It was not until 1950 that FIFA directed the Associations to only select players from within their respective territories, and in 1953 FIFA further clarified that the FAI's team was to be known only as "Republic of Ireland", and the IFA's team only as "Northern Ireland".
Northern Ireland qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals in 1958 (where they made it to the quarter-finals), 1982 and 1986. The Republic of Ireland made it to the World Cup in 1990 (where they made it to the quarter-finals), 1994 and 2002. The IFA still retains All-Ireland cups and trophies at its Belfast HQ.
Greyhound racing and horse racing are both popular in Ireland: greyhound stadiums are well attended and there are frequent horse race meetings. The Republic is noted for the breeding and training of race horses and is also a large exporter of racing dogs. The horse racing sector is largely concentrated in the central east of the Republic.
Boxing is also an all-island sport governed by the Irish Amateur Boxing Association.
The west-coast of Ireland, and Donegal Bay in particular has some superb surfing beaches; being fully exposed to the fury of Atlantic Ocean beaches such as Rossnowlagh and Bundoran catch any swell going. Surfing in Donegal Bay is big business, as it attracts surfers from all over Western Europe aiming to catch Europe's largest waves. Since Donegal Bay is shaped like a funnel (like the Bristol Channel), the West/South-West winds coming off the Atlantic get funnelled and trapped into a generally short area, therefore increasing the speed and size of the incoming rollers, and creating, especially in winter, some truly fantastic surf. Donegal Bay also boasts good facilities and excellent water quality. In recent years, Bundoran has hosted European championship surfing. The south-west of Ireland, such as the Dingle Peninsula also boasts excellent surf beaches, although Donegal Bay is usually first choice for Ireland's surfing community.
Golf is a popular sport in Ireland and golf tourism is a major industry. The 2006 Ryder Cup was held at The K Club in County Kildare.
Places of Interest:
The Rock of Cashel, Co. Tipperary
The Burren, Co. Clare
Céide Fields, Co Mayo
The Giant's Causeway, Co. Antrim
The Mountains of Mourne, Co. Down
Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim
Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo
The Wicklow Way, Co. Wicklow
Newgrange, Co. Meath
The Glens of Antrim, Co. Antrim
The Book of Kells, Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College, Dublin
Dublin Zoo, Dublin
The Japanese Gardens, Co. Kildare
The Botanic Gardens, Dublin
The Aran Islands, Co. Galway
Emain Macha (also known as Navan Fort), Co. Armagh
Hill of Tara, Co. Meath
Trim Castle, Co. Meath
Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
Blarney Castle, Co. Cork
Clonmacnoise, Co. Offaly
Economy of the Republic of Ireland and Economy of Northern Ireland
In the 1920s and early 1930s, Ireland pursued a low-tax, low-spending policy under the government of W.T. Cosgrave and Cumann Na Gaehael, focused mainly on agriculture, livestock farming being of primary importance. The only notable expense the government went to during this time was for the rural electrification scheme, which saw £5,000,000 being spent (a colossal sum of money) constructing a hydroelectric dam on the river Shannon. During this time, 97% of trade was done with Britain.
Construction plays a huge role in the Irish economyIn 1932, Eamonn De Valera's Fianna Fáil party defeated Cosgrave's party with a solid majority. De Valera focused on Agriculture again, but this time on tillage farming, as this favoured the small farmers, whereas cattle farming benefited the larger farmers. Fianna Fáil abandoned free trade and put up protective tariffs on almost all industries, spurring a long economic war with Britain, who taxed exports to Ireland in retaliation. The war ended in 1938, Ireland securing very favourable bargains.
Fianna Fáil remained in power until 1948, when the first coalition government ousted them from power. To the present day, the two largest parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, have dominated the scene, Fine Gael traditionally being pro-business, low tax and low spending, although with Fianna Fáil's alliance with the Progressive Democrats, it has modified its standpoint to be more pro-business.
The North experienced a boom during WWII and received British support thereafter. In comparison, the Republic did not experience a WWII boom and its situation declined relative to the North. Overall, until the early 1960s, population and economic decline plagued Ireland. In the early 1960s, Sean Lemass became Taioseach and embarked on a programme of economic reform. For the first time in Ireland, second level education was made free and compulsory. The Republic abandoned protectionism and applied to join the European Economic Community, along with Britain, gaining entry in 1973.
Though the 1960s and early 1970s saw a boom and, for the first time since 1842, a rise in population, the late 1970s and the 1980s saw a long recession. There was mass unemployment, with many people with tertiary education working minimum wage jobs or being out of work. Emigration returned to 50,000 per year.
This situation changed dramatically in the early 1990's as the result of a second, more prodigious, economic boom, known as "The Celtic Tiger" (as in tiger economy). In July of 2006, a survey undertaken by Bank of Ireland Private Banking showed that, of the top 8 leading OECD nations, the Republic of Ireland was ranked the second wealthiest, behind Japan and ahead of the UK (which includes Northern Ireland), US, Italy, France, Germany and Spain, showing an average wealth per head of nearly €150,000 (~ $190,000).
Saint Patrick (415–March 17, 493, see below) was a missionary and is regarded as the patron saint of Ireland (along with Saint Brigid and Saint Columba). He is also the patron saint of excluded people, engineers, and Nigeria, which was evangelized primarily by Irish missionaries, especially priests from Saint Patrick's Missionary Society (also known as the Kiltegan Missionaries).
Saint Patrick is sometimes referred to as "Maewyn Succat." Some believe that this was his birth name. He is also known as Patricius and Patrizio.
According to his Confessio, Patrick was born in vico banavem taburniae, somewhere along the west coast of Great Britain or north coast of France. Vico means 'little settlement' or 'village'. Bannavem is the placename. Taburniae is a suffix meaning 'of the Taburnia', probably relating to a tribal group. However, it has been argued that the correct spelling should be Bannaventa Burniae possibly meaning the 'Promontory Hill of the Burnia'.
The place has never been identified with certainty. Suggested sites include Dumbarton, Kirkpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway, Urswick  and Birdoswald (Latin: Banna) in Cumbria, Banwen in West Glamorgan, Banwell in Somerset and Norton (Latin: Bannaventa) in Northamptonshire. A further claim is made for Boulogne-sur-Mer, then a part of Armorica
Although Patrick came from a Christian family (his grandfather was a priest), he was not particularly religious before his capture with "many thousands of people" and sold as a slave to Slemish Mountain, which lies in County Antrim. Patrick's enslavement, however, markedly strengthened his faith. In his confession of faith Patrick writes how, "In that strange land (Ireland) the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes."
He escaped, under the direction of God's voice, and after a number of adventures returned home to his parents. One night he dreamed that an Irish friend was begging him to return to Ireland.
Great Britain at this time was undergoing turmoil following the withdrawal of Roman troops in 407 and Roman central authority in 410. Populations were on the move on the European continent, and the recently converted Christian Britain was being colonised by pagan Anglo-Saxons.
His first converted patron was Saint Dichu, who made a gift of a large sabhall (barn) for a church sanctuary. This first sanctuary dedicated by St Patrick became in later years his chosen retreat. A monastery and church were erected there, and there Patrick died; the site, Saul, County Down, retains the name Sabhall (pronounced "Sowel").
Patrick set up his see at Armagh and organized the church into territorial sees, as elsewhere in the West and East. While Patrick encouraged the Irish to become monks and nuns, it is not certain that he was a monk himself. It is even less likely that in his time the monastery became the principal unit of the Irish Church, although it was in later periods. The choice of Armagh may have been determined by the presence of a powerful king. There Patrick had a school and presumably a small familia in residence; from this base he made his missionary journeys. There seems to have been little contact with the Palladian Christianity of the southeast.
One famous story relates that at the annual vernal fire that was to be lit by the High King at Tara, when all the fires were extinguished so they could be renewed from the sacred fire from Tara, Patrick lit a rival, miraculously inextinguishable Christian bonfire on the hill of Slane at the opposite end of the valley. The season was associated with Easter by chroniclers who followed Patrick's own account in his Confession.
Patrick was not the first Christian missionary to Ireland, as men such as Secundus and Palladius were active there before him. However, tradition accords him the most impact, and his missions seem to have been concentrated in the provinces of Ulster and Connaught which had never received Christians before. He established the Church throughout Ireland on lasting foundations: he travelled throughout the country preaching, teaching, building churches, opening schools and monasteries, converting chiefs and bards, and everywhere supporting his preaching with miracles. He threw down the idol of Crom Cruach in Leitrim.
Patrick wrote that he daily expected to be violently killed or enslaved again. His Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus protested British slave trading and the slaughter of a group of Irish Christians by Coroticus's raiding Christian Welshmen, and is the first surely identified literature of the British or Celtic Catholic Church. Patrick gathered many followers, including Saint Benignus, who would become his successor. His chief concerns were the raising up of native clergy, and abolishing Paganism, idolatry, and Sun-worship. He made no distinction of classes in his preaching and was himself ready for imprisonment or death. He was the first writer to condemn all forms of slavery, long before the papacy did so in the late 19th century.
In his use of Scripture and eschatological expectations, Patrick was typical of the 5th-century bishop. One of the traits which he retained as an old man was a consciousness of being an unlearned exile and former slave and fugitive, who learned to trust God completely.
Christian tradition, particularly Catholic, uses a prayer or hymn titled the "Breastplate of St. Patrick," a prayer for protection to God. It exists in an Old Irish text from the 8th century.
One of Patrick's few surviving letters is addressed to Coroticus, a king of Alt Clut, and his soldiers. Coroticus and his army had attacked a band of newly baptized Gaels, killing some and taking the rest as captives to sell as slaves to the Picts. In closing the letter, Patrick requests that his messenger read the letter aloud in the presence of Coroticus and all his people, "so that on no account it be suppressed or hidden by anyone," and expresses the hope that his words would inspire Coroticus and his soldiers to repent and to release their captives.
In his "Confessions of St. Patrick" Patrick discusses some of the various methods he used to convert the native Irish population. In this work, he states that he has never embezzled funds, despite what his enemies in Britain said when his mission was being reviewed, but that he did give money to nobles in exchange for having these nobles taught at monasteries. While Druids also provided education to the children of nobles, this education would have been unappealing when compared to education as offered by the Roman tradition, which would have included Greek science and philosophy and Roman law and rhetoric. Finally, Patrick describes how he used various symbols from Druidism to illustrate Christian ideas and made subtle changes to doctrine. For example, the Sun was associated with the deity Lugh, but Patrick reinterpreted it as certainly being a symbol of a deity, but that deity was the Christian God.
Pious legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from the island, though post-glacial Ireland never actually had snakes; one suggestion is that snakes referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids of that time and place, as shown for instance on coins minted in Gaul (see Carnutes), or that it could have referred to beliefs such as Pelagianism, symbolized as “serpents”. Legend also credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a 3-leaved clover, using it to highlight the Christian dogma of 'three divine persons in the one God' (as opposed to the Arian belief that was popular in Patrick's time). Whether or not these legends are true, the very fact that there are so many legends about Patrick shows how important his ministry was to Ireland. Some Irish legends involve the Oilliphéist, the Caoránach, and the Copóg Phádraig.
Patrick died in AD 493 according to the latest reconstruction of the old Irish annals, a date accepted by some modern historians. Prior to the 1940's it was believed without doubt that he died in 461 and thus had lived in the first half of the 5th century.[verification needed] A lecture entitled "The Two Patricks", published in 1942 by T. F. O'Rahilly, caused enormous controversy by proposing that there had been two "Patricks", Palladius and Patrick, and that what we now know of St. Patrick was in fact in part a conscious effort to meld the two into one hagiographic personality. Decades of contention eventually ended with most historians now asserting that Patrick was indeed most likely to have been active in the mid-to-late 5th century.
The compiler of the Annals of Ulster stated that in the year 553:
I have found this in the Book of Cuanu: The relics of Patrick were placed sixty years after his death in a shrine by Colum Cille. Three splendid halidoms were found in the burial-place: his goblet, the Angel's Gospel, and the Bell of the Testament. This is how the angel distributed the halidoms: the goblet to Dún, the Bell of the Testament to Ard Macha, and the Angel's Gospel to Colum Cille himself. The reason it is called the Angel's Gospel is that Colum Cille received it from the hand of the angel.
The reputed burial place of St. Patrick in DownpatrickThe placement of this event under the year 553 would certainly seem to place Patrick's death in 493, or at least in the early years of that decade, and indeed the Annals of Ulster report in 493:
Patrick, arch-apostle, or archbishop and apostle of the Irish, rested on the 16th of the Kalends of April in the 120th year of his age, in the 60th year after he had come to Ireland to baptize the Irish.
There is also the additional evidence of his disciple, Mochta, who died in 535.
St. Patrick is said to be buried under Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down alongside St. Brigid and St. Columba, although this has never been proven. Battle for the Body of St. Patrick demonstrates the importance of both him as a spiritual leader, and of his body as an object of veneration, in early Christian Ireland.
March 17, popularly known as St. Patrick's Day, is believed to be his death date (according to the Encyclopedia Britannica) and is the date celebrated as his feast day.
For most of Christianity's first thousand years, canonizations were done on the diocesan or regional level. Relatively soon after the death of people considered to be very holy people, the local Church affirmed that they could be liturgically celebrated as saints. As a result, St. Patrick has never been formally canonized by a Pope, but he is still widely venerated in Ireland and elsewhere today.
The cult of Patrick
Muirchú and Tírechán, the late seventh-century authors of the Life and Times of Patrick and Memoir of Patrick, two books collected in the Book of Armagh, are believed to have contributed to a cult of Patrick. They emphasized (perhaps too strongly) Patrick's associations with Armagh, thereby bolstering the claim of that church of that town to be pre-eminent in Ireland.
St. Patrick is also venerated in the Orthodox Church, especially among English-speaking Orthodox Christians living in the United Kingdom and Ireland and in North America. There are even Orthodox icons dedicated to him. The inclusion of this Western saint in Eastern tradition is not unusual, as all pre-schismatic saints, from East or West, are venerated equally in Orthodox Christianity.
Saint Brigid of Kildare (Brigit, Bridget, Bridgit, or Bride) (Naomh Bhríghde in Irish; fl. 451- 525) is said to have been born at Faughart near Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. According to her hagiography, her parents were Dubhthach, pagan king of Leinster, and Brocca, a Christian Pictish slave who had been baptized by Saint Patrick.
Brigid bore the name of one of the most powerful goddesses of the pagan religion that Dubhthach practised. Brigid was the goddess of fire, whose manifestations were song, craftsmanship, and poetry, which the Irish considered the flame of knowledge. In 468, she converted to Christianity, having been inspired by the preaching of St. Patrick, and she followed St. Mel of Armagh to Meath.
Because of the legendary quality of the earliest accounts of Saint Brigid, there is debate among many scholars and even faithful Christians as to the literal historicity of her life. Some insist that Brigid the goddess was made a saint simply to convert Celtic pagans to Christianity, although most historians say that she was a real person whose life was embellished by imaginative hagiographers. Others point to the relic of her head, which Portuguese pilgrims took from her shrine at Downpatrick and brought back to their homeland some time in the 15th Century; the relic now resides in a chapel consecrated to its veneration at Lumier.
A later vita states that upon reaching maturity, she vexed her father by being overly generous to the poor and needy with his milk, butter, and flour. Finally, she gave away his jewel-encrusted sword to a leper. At this point, it was decided that her disposition was best suited for a nun and she was sent to a convent. The legend does not preserve when or how her hitherto pagan father became amenable to such acts. Other tales likewise exist, and the only agreement between the various stories is that a girl was born to an Irish king named Dubhtach and that her name was Brigid.
Around 470 Brigid founded a Christian double monastery, of nuns and monks, at Kildare (Cill-Dara). Either she converted the pagan sanctuary of Cill Dara or built on unused ground nearby, depending upon the particular story consulted. She founded the scriptorium at the monastery where the famous illuminated manuscript the Book of Kildare was created. She died at Kildare on February 1 and is buried at Downpatrick with St. Columcille and St. Patrick, with whom she is co-patron of Ireland.
Similar to the association between St. Patrick and the shamrock, a tiny cross made of rushes was linked with St. Brigid. Legend has it she made the cross from rushes she found on the ground beside a dying man in order to convert him. Some houses in Ireland have a Brigid's Cross, it is a commonly believed by some that a Brigid's Cross protects the house from fire. A new cross is made each St Brigid's Day, February 1, and the old one is then burned to keep the fire from the house.
Legend has it that, when she was consecrated to the rank of Abbess, St. Mel was elderly and inadvertently read the consecration for a Bishop and that this could not be rescinded, under any circumstances. While the ordination would have been considered illegitimate, it would still be considered valid (in the technical sense of the terms used by the Roman Catholic Church). What is more likely is that a unique administrative status was conferred upon the Abbess of Kildare, since, while there is no record of St. Brigid acting in the liturgical capacity of a bishop, she and her successor Abbesses at Kildare had administrative authority equal to that of a Bishop until the Synod of Kells in 1152.
St. Brigid's feast day is February 1. Many Irish schools, including the High School in Armagh, are called after St. Brigid.
The Blarney Stone:
The Blarney Stone is a legendary block of limestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle, near Cork, Ireland. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of gab (great eloquence or conversation). The stone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446. The Blarney Stone is supposed to be half of the original Stone of Scone.
Today, the word blarney means clever, flattering, or coaxing talk.
The stone was given to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce in 1314 in return for his support in the Battle of Bannockburn.
Queen Elizabeth I wanted Irish chiefs to agree to occupy their own lands under title from her. Cormac Teige McCarthy, the Lord of Blarney, handled every Royal request with subtle diplomacy, promising loyalty to the Queen without "giving in". Elizabeth proclaimed that McCarthy was giving her "a lot of Blarney", thus giving rise to the legend.
"There is a stone that whoever kisses,
Oh! he never misses to grow eloquent
'Tis he may clamber to a lady's chamber,
Or become a member of parliament."
—Francis Sylvester Mahony
The Book of Kells:
The Book of Kells (less widely known as the Book of Columba) is an ornately illustrated manuscript, produced by Celtic monks around AD 800. It is one of the more lavishly illuminated manuscripts to survive from the Middle Ages and has been described as the zenith of Western calligraphy and illumination. It contains the four gospels of the Bible in Latin, along with prefatory and explanatory matter decorated with numerous colourful illustrations and illuminations. Today it is on permanent display at the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland where it is catalogued as MS 58.
The Book of Kells is the high point of a group of manuscripts produced from the late 6th through the early 9th centuries in monasteries in Ireland, Scotland and northern England and in continental monasteries with Irish or English foundations. These manuscripts include the Cathach of St. Columba, the Ambrosiana Orosius, a fragmentary gospel in the Durham cathedral library (all from the early 7th century), and the Book of Durrow (from the second half of the 7th century). From the early 8th century come the Durham Gospels, the Echternach Gospels, the Lindisfarne Gospels (see illustration at right), and the Lichfield Gospels. The St. Gall Gospel Book and the Macregal Gospels come from the late 8th century. The Book of Armagh (dated to 807-809), the Turin Gospel Book Fragment, the Leiden Priscian, the St. Gall Priscian and the Macdurnan Gospel all date from the early 9th century. Scholars place these manuscripts together based on similarities in artistic style, script, and textual traditions. The fully developed style of the ornamentation of the Book of Kells places it late in this series, either from the late eighth or early ninth century. The Book of Kells follows many of the iconographic and stylistic traditions found in these earlier manuscripts. For example, the form of the decorated letters found in the incipit pages for the Gospels is surprisingly consistent in Insular Gospels. Compare, for example, the incipit pages of the Gospel of Matthew in the Lindisfarne Gospels and in the Book of Kells both of which feature intricate decorative knotwork inside the outlines formed by the enlarged initial letters of the text. (For a more complete list of related manuscripts see: List of Hiberno-Saxon illustrated manuscripts.)
The name "Book of Kells" is derived from the Abbey of Kells in Kells, County Meath in Ireland, where it was kept for much of the medieval period. The Abbey of Kells was founded in the early ninth century, at the time of the Viking invasions, by monks from the monastery at Iona (off the Western coast of Scotland). Iona, which had been a missionary centre for the Columban community, had been founded by St. Columba in the middle of the 6th century. When repeated Viking raids made Iona too dangerous, the majority of the community removed to Kells, which became the centre of the group of communities founded by St. Columba.
The date and place of production of the manuscript has been the subject of considerable debate. Traditionally, the book was thought to have been created in the time of Saint Columba (also known as St. Columcille), possibly even as the work of his own hands. However, it is now generally accepted that this tradition is false based on palaeographic grounds: the style of script in which the book is written did not develop until well after Columba's death, making it impossible for him to have written it.
The manuscript was never finished. There are at least five competing theories about the manuscript's place of origin and time of completion. First, the book may have been created entirely at Iona, then brought to Kells and never finished. Second, the book may have been begun at Iona and continued at Kells, but never finished. Third, the manuscript may have been produced entirely in the scriptorium at Kells. Fourth, it may have been produced in the north of England, perhaps at Lindisfarne, then brought to Iona and from there to Kells. Finally, it may have been the product of an unknown monastery in Scotland. Although the question of the exact location of the book's production will probably never be answered conclusively, the second theory, that it was begun at Iona and finished at Kells, is currently the most widely accepted. Regardless of which theory is true, it is certain that Kells was produced by Columban monks closely associated with the community at Iona.
Mediæval period- Wherever it was made, the book soon came to its namesake city of Kells. It probably arrived in the early 11th century, and was definitely there by the twelfth.
The evidence for an eleventh century arrival consists of an entry in the Annals of Ulster for 1006. This entry records that "the great Gospel of Columkille, the chief relic of the Western World, was wickedly stolen during the night from the western sacristy of the great stone church at Cenannas on account of its wrought shrine". Cenannas was the medieval Irish name for Kells. The manuscript was recovered a few months later - minus its golden and bejewelled cover - "under a sod". It is generally assumed that the "great Gospel of Columkille" is the Book of Kells. If this is correct, then the book had arrived in Kells by 1006, and been there long enough for thieves to learn of its presence. The force of ripping the manuscript free from its cover may account for the folios missing from the beginning and end of the Book of Kells.
Regardless, the book was certainly at Kells in the 12th century, when land charters pertaining to the Abbey of Kells were copied into some of the book's blank pages. The copying of charters into important books such as the Book of Kells was a wide-spread mediaeval practice, which gives us indisputable evidence about the location of the book at the time the charters were written into it.
Folio 27v contains the four evangelist symbols.The 12th century writer, Gerald of Wales, in his Topographia Hibernica, described, in a famous passage, seeing a great Gospel Book in Kildare which many have since assumed was the Book of Kells. The description certainly matches Kells:
"This book contains the harmony of the four Evangelists according to Jerome, where for almost every page there are different designs, distinguished by varied colours. Here you may see the face of majesty, divinely drawn, here the mystic symbols of the Evangelists, each with wings, now six, now four, now two; here the eagle, there the calf, here the man and there the lion, and other forms almost infinite. Look at them superficially with the ordinary glance, and you would think it is an erasure, and not tracery. Fine craftsmanship is all about you, but you might not notice it. Look more keenly at it and you will penetrate to the very shrine of art. You will make out intricacies, so delicate and so subtle, so full of knots and links, with colours so fresh and vivid, that you might say that all this was the work of an angel, and not of a man."
Since Gerald claims to have seen his book in Kildare, he may have seen another, now lost, book equal in quality to the Book of Kells, or he may have been confused as to his location when seeing Kells.
The Abbey of Kells was dissolved due to the ecclesiastical reforms of the 12th century. The abbey church was converted to a parish church in which the Book of Kells remained.
Modern period - The Book of Kells remained in Kells until 1654. In that year Cromwell's cavalry was quartered in the church at Kells and the governor of the town sent the book to Dublin for safe keeping. The book was presented to Trinity College in Dublin in 1661 by Henry Jones, who was to become bishop of Meath after the Restoration. The book has remained at Trinity College since the 17th century, except for brief loans to other libraries and museums. It has been displayed to the public in the Old Library at Trinity since the 19th century.
In the 16th century, the chapter numbers of the Gospels according to the division created by the 13th century Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton were written in the margins of the pages in roman numerals by Gerald Plunkett of Dublin. In 1621 the folios were numbered by the bishop-elect of Meath, James Ussher. In 1849 Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were invited to sign the book. They in fact signed a modern flyleaf which was erroneously believed to have been one of the original folios. The page which they signed was removed when the book was rebound in 1953.
Over the centuries the book has been rebound several times. During an 18th century rebinding, the pages were rather unsympathetically cropped, with small parts of some illustrations being lost. The book was also rebound in 1895, but that rebinding broke down quickly. By the late 1920s several folios were being kept loose under a separate cover. In 1953, the work was bound in four volumes by Roger Powell, who also gently stretched several of the pages, which had developed bulges.
In 2000, the volume containing the Gospel of Mark was sent to Canberra, Australia for an exhibition of illuminated manuscripts. This was only the fourth time the Book of Kells had been sent abroad for exhibition. Unfortunately, the volume suffered what has been called "minor pigment damage" while en route to Canberra. It is thought that the vibrations from the aeroplane's engines during the long flight may have caused the damage.
Folio 183r from the 1990 facsimile of the Book of Kells contains the text "Erat autem hora tercia" ("now it was the third hour").In 1951, the Swiss publisher, Urs Graf-verlag Bern, produced a facsimile. The majority of the pages were reproduced in black and white photographs. There were, however, forty-eight pages reproduced in colour, including all of the full page decorations.
In 1979, another Swiss publisher, Faksimile verlag Luzern, requested permission to produce a full colour facsimile of the book. Permission was initially denied because Trinity College officials felt that the risk of damage to the book was too high. In 1986, after developing a process which used gentle suction to straighten a page so that it could be photographed without touching it, the publisher was given permission to produce a facsimile edition. After each page was photographed, a single page facsimile was prepared and the colours were carefully compared to the original and adjustments were made where necessary. The facsimile was published in 1990 in two volumes, the facsimile and a volume of commentary by prominent scholars. One copy is held by the Anglican Church in Kells, on the site of the original monastery. A DVD version containing scanned versions of all pages along with additional information is also available.
Description - The Book of Kells contains the four gospels of the Christian scriptures written in black, red, purple, and yellow ink in an insular majuscule script, preceded by prefaces, summaries, and concordances of gospel passages. Today it consists of 340 vellum leaves, called folios. The majority of the folios are part of larger sheets, called bifolios, which are folded in half to form two folios. The bifolios are nested inside of each other and sewn together to form gatherings called quires. On occasion, a folio is not part of a bifolio, but is instead a single sheet inserted within a quire.
It is believed that some 30 folios have been lost. (When the book was examined by Ussher in 1621 there were 344 folios.) The extant folios are gathered into 38 quires. There are between four and twelve folios per quire (two to six bifolios). Ten folios per quire is common. Some folios are single sheets. The important decorated pages often occurred on single sheets. The folios had lines drawn for the text, sometimes on both sides, after the bifolia were folded. Prick marks and guide lines can still be seen on some pages. The vellum is of high quality, although the folios have an uneven thickness, with some being almost leather, while others are so thin as to be almost translucent. The book's current dimensions are 330 by 250 mm. Originally the folios were not of standard size, but they were cropped to the current standard size during an 18th century rebinding. The text area is approximately 250 by 170 mm. Each text page has 16 to 18 lines of text. The manuscript is in remarkably good condition. The book was apparently left unfinished, as some of the artwork appears only in outline.
Contents - The book, as it exists now, contains preliminary matter, the complete text of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and the Gospel of John through John 17:13. The remainder of John and an unknown amount of the preliminary matter is missing and was perhaps lost when the book was stolen in the early 11th century. The extant preliminary matter consists of two fragments of lists of Hebrew names contained in the gospels, the Breves causae and the Argumenta of the four gospels, and the Eusebian canon tables. It is probable that, like the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Books of Durrow and Armagh, part of the lost preliminary material included the letter of Jerome to Pope Damasus I known as Novum opus, in which Jerome explains the purpose of his translation. It is also possible, though less likely, that the lost material included the letter of Eusebius, known as Plures fuisse, in which he explains the use of the canon tables. (Of all the insular gospels, only Lindisfarne contains this letter.)
There are two fragments of the lists of Hebrew names; one on the recto of the first surviving folio and one on folio 26, which is currently inserted at the end of the prefatory matter for John. The first list fragment contains the end of the list for the Gospel of Matthew. The missing names from Matthew would require an additional two folios. The second list fragment, on folio 26, contains about a fourth of the list for Luke. The list for Luke would require an additional three folios. The structure of the quire in which folio 26 occurs is such that it is unlikely that there are three folios missing between folios 26 and 27, so that it is almost certain that folio 26 is not now in its original location. There is no trace of the lists for Mark and John.
Folio 5r contains a page of the Eusebian Canon Tables.The first list fragment is followed by the canon tables of Eusebius of Caesarea. These tables, which predate the text of the Vulgate, were developed to cross reference the gospels. Eusebius divided the Gospel into chapters and then created tables which allowed readers to find where a given episode in the life of Christ was located in each of the Gospels. The canon tables were traditionally included in the prefatory material in most mediaeval copies of the Vulgate text of the Gospels. The tables in the Book of Kells, however, are almost unusable because the scribe condensed the tables into in such a way as to make them confused. In addition, the corresponding chapter numbers were never inserted into the margins of the text, making it impossible to find the sections to which the canon tables refer. The reason these chapter numbers were never inserted is uncertain. It may have been planned to insert them when the decoration was completed, but since the decoration was never completed, they were never inserted. It also may be that it was decided to leave them out so as not to mar the appearance of pages.
Folio 19 contains the beginning of the Breves causae of Luke.The Breves causae and the Argumenta belong to a pre-Vulgate tradition of manuscripts. The Breves causae are summaries of the Old Latin translations of the Gospels. They are divided into numbered chapters. These chapter numbers, like the numbers for the canon tables, are also not used on the text pages of the gospels. However, it is unlikely that these numbers would have been used, even if the manuscript had been completed, because the chapter numbers corresponded to old Latin translations and would have been difficult to harmonise with the Vulgate text. The Argumenta are collections of legends about the Evangelists. The Breves causae and Argumenta are arranged in a strange order: first come the Breves causae and Argumenta for Matthew, followed by the Breves and Argumenta for Mark, then, quite oddly, come the Argumenta of Luke and John, followed by the Breves causae of Luke and John. This anomalous order is the same as is found in the Book of Durrow, although the out of place Breves causae of Luke and John are placed at the end of the manuscript in Durrow, while the rest of the preliminaries are at the beginning. In other insular manuscripts, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Book of Armagh, and the Echternach Gospels, each Gospel is treated as separate work and has its preliminaries immediately preceding it. The slavish repetition in Kells of the order of the Breves causae and Argumenta found in Durrow led the scholar T. K. Abbot to the conclusion that the scribe of Kells had either the Book of Durrow, or a common model in hand.
Text and script - The Book of Kells contains the text of the four gospels based on the Vulgate. It does not, however, contain a pure copy of the Vulgate. There are numerous variants from the Vulgate, where Old Latin translations are used rather than Jerome's text. Although these variants are common in all of the insular gospels, there does not seem to be a consistent pattern of variation amongst the various insular texts. It is thought that when the scribes were writing the text they often depended on memory rather than on their exemplar.
Folio 309r contains text from the Gospel of John written in Insular majuscule by the scribe known as "Hand B".The manuscript is written in Insular majuscule, with some minuscule letters usually "c" and "s". The text is usually written in one long line across the page. Francoise Henry identified at least three scribes in this manuscript, whom she named Hand A, Hand B, and Hand C. Hand A is found on folios 1 through 19v, folios 276 through 289 and folios 307 through the end of the manuscript. Hand A for the most part writes eighteen or nineteen lines per page in the brown gall-ink common throughout the west. Hand B is found on folios 19r through 26 and folios 124 through 128. Hand B has a somewhat greater tendency to use minuscule and uses red, purple and black ink and a variable number of lines per page. Hand C is found throughout the majority of the text. Hand C also has greater tendency to use minuscule than Hand A. Hand C uses the same brownish gall-ink used by hand A, and wrote, almost always, seventeen lines per page.
Luke's genealogy of Jesus (extends over three pages)
There are a number of differences between the text and the accepted gospels.
In the genealogy of Jesus, which starts at Luke 3:23, Kells erroneously names an extra ancestor.
Matthew 10:34b should read “I came not to send peace, but the sword”. However rather than “gladium” which means “sword”, Kells has “gaudium” meaning “joy”. Rendering the verse in translation: “I came not [only] to send peace, but joy”.
Decoration - The text is accompanied by incredibly intricate full pages of artwork, with smaller painted decorations appearing throughout the text itself. The book has a broad palette of colours with purple, lilac, red, pink, green, yellow being the colours most often used. (The illustrations in the Book of Durrow, by contrast, use only four colours.) Surprisingly, given the lavish nature of the work, there was no use of gold or silver leaf in the manuscript. The pigments used for the illustrations had to be imported from all over Europe; the immensely expensive blue lapis lazuli came from Afghanistan.
The lavish illumination programme is far greater than any other surviving insular gospel book. There are ten surviving full page illuminations including two evangelist portraits, three pages with the four evangelist symbols, a carpet page, a miniature of the Virgin and Child, a miniature of Christ enthroned, and miniatures of the Arrest of Jesus and the Temptation of Christ. There are 13 surviving full pages of decorated text including pages for the first few words of each of the gospels. There are many pages where only some of the text on the page is decorated. Eight of the ten pages of the canon tables have extensive decoration. It is highly probable that there were other pages of miniature and decorated text that are now lost. In addition to these major pages there are a host of smaller decorations and decorated initials scattered throughout the text.
The extant folios of the manuscript start with the fragment of the glossary of Hebrew names. This fragment occupies one column of folio 1 recto. The other column of the folio is occupied by a miniature of the four evangelist symbols, now much abraded. The miniature is oriented so that the volume must be turned ninety degrees in order to view it properly. The four evangelist symbols are a visual theme that runs throughout the book. They are almost always shown together so that the doctrine of unity of message of the four Gospels is emphasised.
Folio 2r of the Book of Kells contains one of the Eusebian Canon TablesThe unity of the Gospels is further emphasised by the decoration of the Eusebian canon tables. The canon tables themselves are designed to establish the unity of the Gospels by allowing readers to find corresponding passages from the gospels. The Eusebian canon tables normally requires twelve pages. In the Book of Kells the makers of the manuscript planned for twelve pages (folios 1v through 7r), but for unknown reasons condensed them into ten pages, leaving folios 6v and 7r blank. This condensation caused the canon tables to be unusable. The decoration of the first eight pages of the canon tables is heavily influenced by early Gospel Books from the Mediterranean. It was traditional to enclose the tables in an arcade. (See, for example the London Canon Tables). Kells does this, but with an Insular spirit. The arcades are not seen as architectural elements, but are rather stylised into geometric patterns which are then decorated with Insular motifs. The four evangelist symbols occupy the spaces under and above the arches. The last two canon tables are presented within a grid. This presentation is limited to Insular manuscripts and was first seen in the Book of Durrow.
The remainder of the book after the canon tables is broken into sections with the beginning of each section being marked by miniatures and full pages of decorated text. Each of the Gospels is introduced by a consistent decorative programme. The preliminary matter is treated as one section and introduced by a lavish decorative spread. In addition to the preliminaries and the Gospels, the "second beginning" of the Gospel of Matthew is also given its own introductory decoration.
Folio 7v contains an image of the Virgin and Child. This is the oldest extant image of the Virgin Mary in a western manuscript.The preliminary matter is introduced by an iconic image of the Virgin and Child (folio 7v). This miniature is the first representation of the Virgin in a western manuscript. Mary is shown in an odd mixture of frontal and three-quarter pose. This miniature also bears a stylistic similarity to the carvings on the lid of St. Cuthbert's coffin. The iconography of the miniature may ultimately derive from an Eastern or Coptic icon.
The miniature of the Virgin and Child faces the first page of text and is an appropriate preface to the beginning of the Breves Causae of Matthew, which begins Nativitas Christi in Bethlem (the birth of Christ in Bethlehem). The beginning page (folio 8r) of the text of the Breves Causae is decorated and contained within an elaborate frame. The two page spread of the miniature and the text make a vivid introductory statement for the prefatory material. The opening line of each of the sections of the preliminary matter is enlarged and decorated (see above for the Breves causae of Luke), but no other section of the preliminaries is given the same level of treatment as the beginning of the Breves Causae of Matthew.
Folio 291v contains a portrait of John the Evangelist.The book was designed so that each of the Gospels would have an elaborate introductory decorative programme. Each Gospel was originally prefaced by a full page miniature containing the four evangelist symbols, followed by a blank page. Then came a portrait of the evangelist which faced the opening text of the gospel which was given an elaborate decorative treatment. The Gospel of Matthew retains both its Evangelist portrait (folio 28v) and its page of Evangelist symbols (folio 27r, see above). The Gospel of Mark is missing the Evangelist portrait, but retains its Evangelist symbols page (folio 129v). The Gospel of Luke is missing both the portrait and the Evangelist symbols page. The Gospel of John, like the Matthew retains both its portrait (folio 291v, see at right) and its Evangelist symbols page (folio 290v). It can be assumed that the portraits for Mark and Luke, and the symbols page for Luke at one time existed, but have been lost. The use of all four of the Evangelist symbols in front of each Gospel is striking and was intended to reinforce the message of the unity of the Gospels.
Folio 29r contains the incipit to the Gospel of Matthew .The decoration of the opening few words of each Gospel was lavish. These pages were, in effect turned into carpet pages. The decoration of these texts is so elaborate that the text itself is almost illegible. The opening page (folio 28r) of Matthew may stand as an example. (See illustration at left.) The page consists of only two words Liber generationis ("The book of the generation"). The "lib" of Liber is turned in to a giant monogram which dominates the entire page. The "er" of Liber is presented as interlaced ornament within the "b" of the "lib" monogram. Generationis is broken into three lines and contained within an elaborate frame in the right lower quadrant of the page. The entire assemblage is contained within an elaborate border. The border and the letters themselves are further decorated with elaborate spirals and knot work, many of them zoomorphic. The opening words of Mark, Initium evangelii ("The beginning of the gospel"), Luke, Quoniam quidem multi, and John In principio erat verbum ("In the beginning was the Word") are all given similar treatments. Although the decoration of these pages was most extensive in the Book of Kells, these pages were decorated in all of the other Insular Gospel Books.
The Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy of Jesus. At Matthew 1:18, the actual narrative of Christ's life starts. This "second beginning" to Matthew was given emphasis in many early Gospel Books, so much so that the two sections were often treated as separate works. The "second beginning" begins with the word "Christ". The Greek letters "Chi" and "Rho" were often used in mediaeval manuscripts to abbreviate the word "Christ". In Insular Gospel Books the initial "Chi Rho monogram" was enlarged and decorated. In the Book of Kells, this second beginning was given a decorative programme equal to the those that preface the individual Gospels. Folio 32 verso has a miniature of Christ enthroned. (It has been argued that this miniature is one of the lost evangelist portraits. However the iconography is quite different from the extant portraits, and current scholarship accepts this identification and placement for this miniature.) Facing this miniature, on folio 33 recto, is the only Carpet Page in the Kells. (The single Carpet Page in Kells is a bit anomalous. The Lindisfarne Gospels has five extant Carpet Pages and the Book of Durrow has six.) The blank verso of folio 33 faces the single most lavish miniature of the early mediaeval period, the Book of Kells Chi Rho monogram, which serves as incipit for the narrative of the life of Christ.
Folio 34r contains the Chi Rho monogram. Chi and Rho are the first two letters of the word "Christ" in Greek.In the Book of Kells, the Chi Rho monogram has grown to consume the entire page. The letter "Chi" dominates the page with one arm swooping across the majority of the page. The letter "Rho" is snuggled underneath the arms of the Chi. Both letters are divided into compartment which are lavishly decorated with knot work and other patterns. The background is likewise awash in mass of swirling and knotted decoration. Within this mass of decoration are hidden animals and insects. Three angels arise from one of the cross arms of the Chi. This miniature is the largest and most lavish extant Chi Rho monogram in any Insular Gospel Books and is the culmination of a tradition that started with the Book of Durrow.
The Book of Kells contains two other Full page miniatures which illustrate episodes from the Passion story. The text of Matthew is illustrated with full page illumination of the Arrest of Christ (folio 114r). Jesus is shown beneath a stylised arcade while being held by two much smaller figures. In the text of Luke there is a full sized miniature of the Temptation of Christ (folio 202v). Christ is shown from the waist up on top of the Temple. To his a right is a crowd of people, perhaps representing his disciples. To his left and below him is a black figure of Satan. Above him hover two angels.
The verso of the folio containing the Arrest of Christ contains a full page of decorated text which begins "Tunc dicit illis". Facing the miniature of the Temptation is another full page of decorated text (folio 203r "Iesus autem plenus"). In addition to this page five other full pages also receive elaborate treatment. In Matthew there is one other full page treatment of (folio 124r, "Tunc crucifixerant Xpi cum eo duos latrones"). In the Gospel of Mark, there are also two pages of decorated text (folio 183r, "Erat autem hora tercia", and folio 187v "[Et Dominus] quidem [Iesus] postquam"). The Gospel of Luke contains two pages of fully decorated text. (folio 188v "Fuit in diebus Herodis ", and folio 285r "Una autem sabbati valde"). Although these texts do not have miniatures associated with them it is probable that miniatures were planned to accompany each of these texts and have either been lost, or were never completed. There is no surviving full page of text in the Gospel of John other than the Incipit. However, in the other three Gospels all of the full pages of decorated text, except for folio 188c which begins the Nativity narration, occur within the Passion narrative. However, since the missing folios of John contain the Passion narrative, it is likely that John contained full pages of decorated text that have been lost.
Almost all of the folios of the Book of Kells contain small illuminations like this decorated initial.The decoration of the book is not limited to the major pages. Indeed all but two pages have at least some decoration. Scattered through the text are decorated initials and small figures of animals and humans often twisted and tied into complicated knots. Many significant texts, such as the Pater Noster have decorated initials. The page containing text of the Beatitudes in Matthew (folio 40v) has a large miniature along the left margin of the page in which the letter "B" which begins each line is linked into an ornate chain. The genealogy of Christ found in the Gospel of Luke (folio 200r) contains a similar miniature in which the word "qui" is repeatedly linked along the left margin. Many of the small animals scattered throughout the text serve to mark a "turn-in-the-path" (that is, a place where a line is finished in a space above or below the original line). Many other animals serve to fill spaces left at the end of lines. No two of these designs are the same. No earlier surviving manuscript has this massive amount of decoration.
The decorations of the Book of Kells can be stunningly complex, as seen in this small detail of the Chi Rho monogram page. (Folio 34r)The decorations are all of high quality. The complexity of these designs is often breath-taking. In one decoration, which occupies one inch square piece of a page, it is possible to count as many as 158 complex interlacements of white ribbon with a black border on either side. Some decorations can only be fully appreciated with magnifying glasses, although glasses of the required power were not available until hundreds of years after the book's completion. The complicated knot work and interweaving found in Kells and related manuscripts have many parallels in the metalwork and stone carving of the period. These design have also had an enduring popularity. Indeed many of these motifs are used today in popular art including jewellery and tattoos.