College launches new display case for Book of Kells

The engineer has also designed cases for the Mona Lisa and the Crown Jewels

The new Book of Kells Treasury and display case to house the book were revealed today in the Old Library after a period of refurbishment.

The case was designed by Goppion, a display case manufacturer that has previously designed cases for the Mona Lisa, the Crown Jewels, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

The manuscript, which contains four volumes for each of the four gospels of the New Testament and dates from around 800 AD., is to be displayed on a free standing tower. 

Pages are to be shown on a rotational basis, and some pages which have not been displayed for decades will now be available to be seen by the public.

The refurbished treasury also features new wall coverings and lighting.

The currently displayed pages are from the Gospel of St Matthew, of the Virgin and the Child (folio 7v) and Breves Causae (folio 8r), which have not been viewed in 30 years. It contains the only significant illustration of a woman in the entire manuscript, as well as the earliest known depiction of the Virgin and Child in Western manuscript art. 

The redevelopment of the Old Library and the subsequent refurbishment comes as part of Trinity’s Inspiring Generations fundraising campaign. The Old Library project is seeking to conserve the research and manuscripts protected within the library for future generations. 

In a statement, Provost Patrick Prendergast said that safeguarding the Book of Kells is “imperative for the preservation and promotion of European culture and heritage”, speaking specifically to the Old Library’s “unique dual role as a world-class library and a national cultural institution”. 

“The Old Library Redevelopment Project will conserve the Old Library and its world class research collections for the next century and beyond,” he said.

The refurbishment was funded by Fáilte Ireland and donors Carol and Murray Grigor. Orla Carrol, Fáilte Ireland Head of Product Development, said they were excited to “enhance one of Ireland’s best-known tourism experiences”. 

Helen Shenton, Librarian and College Archivist, said that “the Book of Kells has inspired generations of visitors, students and academics and will continue to do so for future generations as we preserve it with the highest conservation standards and the best technology.”

In 2019, Trinity generated almost €13 million from the Book of Kells, a significant revenue stream. 

Earlier this year, a Trinity representative said it was “impossible to know” how much revenue has been lost due to Coronavirus shutdown and dwindling tourism during pandemics. 

The Book of Kells exhibition shut in March alongside the closure of colleges and schools due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in Ireland.

The exhibition reopened on August 10 with mandatory face coverings for visitors, who must book their tickets in advance.

Madalyn Williams

Madalyn Williams is a Deputy News Editor for Trinity News.