An Post issued two stamps featuring illustrations from the Book of Kells this week. The brightly coloured stamps show the profile of the lion, a reoccurring image in the manuscript, symbolising Christ and the resurrection.
Unveiling the stamps at Trinity College Dublin, Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, Jack Chambers, said: “The stamps feature some of our most recognisable and iconic heritage images. As we approach St Patrick’s day, that global celebration of Irish culture, these stamps will carry these beautiful details from the Book of Kells to every corner of the globe.”
Librarian & College Archivist at the Library of Trinity College Dublin, Helen Shenton added: “We are delighted these exquisite images from the Book of Kells will feature in An Post’s Stamp for Ireland series marking St Patrick’s Day. The Book of Kells is an iconic symbol of Irish identity worldwide and it is very fitting that such beautifully illustrated stamps communicate with those living in Ireland and abroad.”
Details of stamp imagery
W – international rate stamp features a detail from the Book of Kells folio 124r (detail of profile lion.) The Physiologus, a 4th-century Greek text describing animals and their symbolic qualities, was a source of inspiration for the Irish monks working on the Book of Kells. According to the Physiologus the lion cub was born dead, but on the third day was revived by the father lion breathing on its face. This was a potent analogy for the resurrection of Christ three days after his crucifixion.
N – national rate stamp features a detail from the Book of Kells folio 114v (detail of profile lion.) The detail of the profile of the lion’s head is taken from a page of display text introducing the passage in which Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives and foretells his abandonment by his disciples and his resurrection. The border of this folio is filled with snakes and dominating it all is the striking profile head of the lion, symbol of Christ and his resurrection.
The First Day Cover envelope features a more sedate image from the manuscript and shows a domestic cat chasing a rat, which has managed to snatch a communion host into its mouth. Cats were kept as pets during the time the Book of Kells was created and the monks may have kept them to help preserve the food stores in the monastery