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The Book of Kells

The small, seemingly stray detail in the lower left margin of the page, standing alone like a medieval afterthought outside of the framed proclamation of the birth of Christ, went unnoticed in scholarly analysis of this page. Then along came technology: the digitisation of the Book of Kells in 2013 changed the way that it could be studied. Where once one could barely discern the base and stem of a blurred object, now the arms and red outline of a processional cross topped with a bird, probably an eagle, came into focus when magnified at high resolution. The red flared tail at the base suggests that this was a cross that could be carried in procession or slotted into a base to stand on the altar. This minor detail, long overlooked, may represent a cross that once stood in the monastery where the Book of Kells was created.

Shelfmark: TCD MS 58 folio 8r

Felicity O' Mahony

Felicity O' Mahony is an Archivist in the Department of Manuscripts & Archives with curatorial responsibility for medieval Latin and Greek manuscripts. She is also interested in early 20th-century Irish literature and Irish photographic archives.