Town wants Book of Kells back


TRINITY COLLEGE Dublin has been told the town of Kells in Co Meath “wants the Book of Kells back”.

A new forum comprising local people from the medieval town yesterday started a campaign to have TCD release one of the four volumes of the Book of Kells and allow it to go on display in Kells.

The Book of Kells, an illuminated ninth-century manuscript of the four New Testament Gospels, is one of the top-five tourist attractions in Ireland. Last year some half a million people visited it in the Old Library at TCD.

“We will build a purpose-built centre to properly care for and display it. It is our book, it belongs to us and we want it back,” said Kells Tourism Forum chairman Aidan Wall.

In a strongly worded statement, the group said the book was an early Christian artefact and should be celebrated “in an early Christian setting as opposed to its current ‘profane’ setting”.

“Trinity College does not own the Book of Kells, it is a national treasure and is owned by the people of Ireland,” said Mr Wall.

“Our town is its natural and spiritual home.”

The forum maintains that, when the book was taken from the Church of St Columba in 1653, the town’s “heart” was ripped out “by Cromwellian forces and continues to be done so by Trinity College”.

The forum believes tourism will help lift the country out of recession and “having one volume in Kells would not affect the stream of visitors to Trinity but instead open up further access to the book”.

In 2000, there was a separate unsuccessful campaign to have the book put on display in Kells.

TCD said yesterday the display and storage of the manuscript were “subject to very careful environmental controls and security”.

“Additionally, a team of conservation specialists in the library’s conservation department look after the manuscript’s preservation.”

It added that, since 2000, “it has been the policy of the board of Trinity College on the grounds of security, environmental and preservation concerns to decline such requests. The college regrets the disappointment that this decision may cause.”