Trinity to shelve Book of Kells for four months

Famous manuscript will be removed from public display until next March to facilitate conservation works

Last year more than one million people visited the Book of Kells. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The Book of Kells is to be removed from public display in Trinity College Dublin for four months from next Monday, due to conservation works required on the famous manuscript's display area.

Last year more than one million people visited the attraction, often a must-see on tourist itineraries for visits to Dublin.

The 9th century manuscript will be removed from public display from November 4th until the start of March 2020.

Housed in the college’s Old Library the book is to be removed due to required “necessary works” on its display area, as part of a wider conservation and preservation plan for the 18th century library.


A spokeswoman for Trinity said the Book of Kells exhibition would remain open despite the book being shelved. A full colour replica will be put on display in its place in the library Long Room, and there will be a 15 per cent discount on exhibition tickets while the manuscript is in storage.

The book is considered to be one of the world’s most famous medieval manuscripts due to its lavish and intricate decoration.

Helen Shenton, the college archivist and librarian, said Trinity "take our role as stewards of this wonderful national treasure very seriously".

“We apologise in advance for the temporary inconvenience caused and look forward to reopening the new display of this magnificent national treasure for the visiting public and our community of students and scholars,” she said.

The manuscript is one of the country’s most important historical documents and features the four Gospels in Latin.

The work on the manuscript’s display area is the first phase of a wider conservation plan for the Old Library building.

In recent years the numbers visiting the city centre campus to see the Book of Kells has increased from 662,679 people in 2014 to more than one million last year, with more than a third coming from the United States.

A spokeswoman for Trinity said the college “purposefully coincided the works with the low season for tourism” to lessen any potential financial impact due to any drop in visitor numbers.

Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle viewed the Book of Kells during their visit to Dublin in July 2018, which the college said led to a subsequent bump in visitor numbers to the campus.

Plans by the college to move the Book of Kells to the basement of the campus Berkeley Library in 2014 were dropped after opposition from some staff members, over fears the library basement was prone to flooding.

In March 2018 Trinity students blocked the entrance to the tourist attraction in protest over the college’s plan to introduce a €450 fee for repeat exams, which the college later abandoned.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times