Calling on the Nation to Get Creative!

Trinity College Dublin is calling on the nation to get creative this autumn and be inspired by one of Ireland’s greatest cultural treasures, the Book of Kells. The Trinity Book of Kells Creative competition is a nationwide challenge to people of all ages to get their pens and paint brushes out, and write a poem, short story or create a drawing or painting based on the images of the world’s most famous medieval manuscript.

The monks who illustrated the Book of Kells were Ireland’s earliest painters. Their intricate spirals and interlaces depicting plants, animals and people have inspired generations. The challenge is to look at this work of genius in a fresh, modern way and showcase how the enduring legacy of this manuscript continues to shape and influence our lives today. The animal images of the snakes, peacocks, lions, hares − could be the spark of your creativity.

The Book of Kells is also a story of endurance, having survived Viking raids and treacherous journeys, it remains with us 1200 years later. Trinity wants to celebrate pride in this national treasure. The creative muse is calling on Ireland’s budding writers and artists to get on board.  Joyce called the Book of Kells “the most purely Irish thing we have” claiming that much of his work could be compared to the intricate illuminations*.  Many others have been similarly inspired by the manuscript.  

Today, getting behind the campaign are Laureate na nÓg, author and illustrator, PJ Lynch and Senator Lynn Ruane, formerly of Trinity and advocate for disadvantaged communities. As ambassadors for the competition they are championing the cultural and artistic importance of this initiative.

Laureate na nÓg, author and illustrator, PJ Lynch and Senator Lynn Ruane with Lynn’s daughter, Jaelynne Ruane (aged 10) in fifth class in Scoil Caitlin Maude, Tallaght.

Senator Lynn Ruane in a rallying call said: “This is a great opportunity for people of all ages from all over Ireland, from Tallaght to   Cahersiveen, to reconnect with this amazing national treasure.  The intricate designs of the Book of Kells are awe inspiring.  There are echoes of them all around us today. This is a fabulous opportunity to  take a fresh new look at them,  find hidden patterns and  come up with your take on this illuminated manuscript.  As well as being a lot of fun, you will learn so much about our history and heritage. Get creative! for an enrichening and positive experience for everybody.”

Laureate na nÓg, author and illustrator, PJ Lynch in a similar exhortation said: “I’m so excited that we are having this major creative competition inspired by one of our great cultural treasures, the extraordinary Book Of Kells. Its beautiful colouring and intricate designs have become emblematic of Irish identity and have inspired artists, writers, and designers over many hundreds of years. From when I was a young art student and right throughout my career as an illustrator I have often returned to the Book of Kells for inspiration, and I am really thrilled that we are now saying to the children of Ireland: ‘Have a good look at your Book of Kells, get your pens, pencils and paints at the ready, and get creative! We will be looking for some great design work and stories but I know that we will all have a lot of fun with this competition, and there will be brilliant cartoons and funny stories too. Best of all I know we are in for some big surprises!

The ambassadors along with Trinity academics and the College Librarian and Archivist, Helen Shenton will be on the judges’ panel for the competition.

College Librarian and Archivist, Helen Shenton said:

 “We want to further build awareness about the Book of Kells and reach out to people all over the country about their national treasure. The creative expression that flourished in Ireland in the early medieval period produced the magnificent artistry of this manuscript. It continues to intrigue, challenge and captivate us.   The Trinity Book of Kells Creative Competition is about sharing the beauty of this stunning work with the people of Ireland  to reveal some of its more contemporary secrets.”

The competition is open to everybody of all ages, from children to adults.  In the coming weeks, the competition organisers will be reaching out to primary schools, secondary schools, third level institutions, retirement groups, clubs, societies, cultural interest and community groups  − to get involved. All entry details are available on the Book of Kells Creative website. []

Bank of Ireland and Irish Rail are partners with Trinity on this initiative and will raise awareness of the competition around the country.

Facsimile of Book of Kells used in all photos.

About the Book of Kells

The Book of Kells is one of the world’s greatest medieval treasures. It is a lavishly decorated copy of the four gospels written in Latin with supporting texts. It is set apart from other manuscripts of the same period by the quality of its artwork and the sheer number of illustrations that run throughout the 680 pages of the book.  It was intended for ceremonial use on special occasions such as Easter rather than for everyday use. It is not known exactly when the Book of Kells was written but it is thought that it may have been around 800 AD.  It was written and illustrated by hand by three monks using all of their own handmade materials  including  vellum, inks and pigments. It is believed that the Book of Kells was written in a monastery founded by St Colum Cille on Iona in Scotland. Viking raids were widespread at the time of the creation of the Book of Kells and it became too dangerous for the monks to continue living on the island.  Terrified by the raids, the monks fled from Iona to their sister monastery in Kells, Co Meath, around 806AD. It is not known if the book was written wholly in Iona or if part of it was written in Kells, but we know that it remained in Kells throughout the Middle Ages and eventually, it was placed in the Library of Trinity College by Bishop Henry Jones of Meath in 1661.

Artists and writers who have been inspired by the Book of Kells:

*James Joyce on the Book of Kells: “In all the places I have been to, Rome, Zurich, Trieste, I have taken it about with me, and have pored over its workmanship for hours. It is the most purely Irish thing we have, and some of the big initial letters which swing right across a page have the essential quality of a chapter of Ulysses. Indeed, you can compare much of my work to the intricate illuminations.”



Media Contact:

Caoimhe Ni Lochlainn, College Press Officer | | 353 1 896 2310 / +353 87 995 8014 (out of office hours)