Sunday, March 10, 2013
The Book of Kells
Hey y’all! Welcome back to Flowers on the Fence country! My visitor today (I’d refer to him as today’s flower but I’m scared to—somehow I don’t think soldiers would much care for the comparison) is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Ireland’s given us a rich heritage and on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone has a touch o’ the Irish. A touch o’ the Irish passed down in part by the Irish monks who produced one of the true artworks of the Middle Ages. Please welcome Stan Hampton, Sr.
Saint Patrick’s Day is here—it is time to celebrate all things Irish. While I appreciate many things Irish there is one thing that always boggles my mind: the Book of Kells. Though many Medieval manuscripts are wonderfully written and illustrated, the Book of Kells, which dates from the 8th century, is an incredibly beautiful work of art on vellum (calfskin) pages that “contains the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and the Gospel of John through John 17:13” <www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells#Medieval_period>. The Book of Kells is located at The Old Library & the Book of Kells Exhibition at Trinity College Library Dublin <www.tcd.ie/Library/bookofkells/book-of-kells/>.
The birthplace of the Book of Kells is said to be a monastery located on Iona, an island located to the west of Scotland. After Viking raids the monks took refuge at the monastery of Kells, County Meath, which also was attacked by the Vikings. The Book survived the many challenges of the Middle Ages until it was taken to Trinity College for safekeeping in the mid-17th century. It has remained there ever since (Wikipedia).
When I think of the Book of Kells I think not so much of the Book itself, but what it took to make such a wonderful testament to the beliefs of the Irish monks, their dedication to writing, and their artistic creativity.
Outside of the monastery the Dark Ages had descended; the world was a dark and fearful time. The Romans withdrew from the British Isles hundreds of years before. Tribes were coming over from the European mainland seeking new homes or to take by force whatever they desired. Life was precarious and often short, and the end sometimes violent. Famines occurred from time to time. The monks who labored over the Book in their scriptorium were a small island of literacy and thought within a greater world of illiteracy and superstition.
Imagine sitting in a scriptorium day after day laboring over vellum pages that was processed from calfskin; that process of removing the hair and meat from the skin and letting it air dry into vellum is lengthy and time-consuming. Afterwards the pages had to be trimmed, quill pens crafted, and ink and colorful paint made from natural materials. The monks ensured their lines were straight and did not meander up and down the page. The artwork (illumination) had to be planned and carefully painted.
This would have taken place within the monastery, within the scriptorium—tolerable during the spring and summer, cold and drafty during fall and winter. Yet the monks toiled on without computers, graphics software, inkjet printers, the Internet, and even central air—and created the Book of Kells.
For those of us in this new and still evolving e-publishing world, whether writer, illustrator, or editor, we follow in the footsteps of a rich heritage. Let us hope that we do the memory of the monks of Iona and Kells, and all of the Medieval scribes, proud.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
Manuscritos Medievais (by Luis Alberto Marcos Peon) <www.youtube.com/watch?v=dL009AticOU&playnext=1&list=PL63D2BC8B347DB43D&feature=results_video>
Medieval Manuscript Reproduction, Part 3a: Writing <www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoTl5KFacBs>
Medieval Manuscript Reproduction, Part 5a: Painting an Illuminated Letter <www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa8gMb0YC68>
Pens, Paint-making, and Illumination – NYPL’s Three Faiths Scriptorium <www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIUQznSEPl0>
How Parchment Is Made – Domesday – BBC Two <www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-SpLPFaRd0>
SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, a published photographer and photojournalist, and a member of the Military Writers Society of America. He is a serving member of the Army National Guard with the rank of staff sergeant, with prior service in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. Second career goals include being an aspiring painter and studying for a degree in photography and anthropology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology. After 12 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters. As of December 2011, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hampton officially became a homeless Iraq War veteran.
Hampton’s Amazon Author Page can be found at:
Hampton’s Amazon.com. UK Author Page can be found at: