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The Book of Kells: Exploring an Irish Medieval Masterpiece

Trinity College Dublin via FutureLearn


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Explore the history of Ireland using the remarkable Book of Kells

The Book of Kells manuscript, housed at Trinity College Dublin is world famous - it attracts almost one million visitors a year. But what can this book tell us about Irish history? And what significance is the manuscript in today’s world?

On this course you will use the Book of Kells as a window through which to explore the landscape, history, faith, theology, and politics of early medieval Ireland. You will also consider how the manuscript was made, its extended biography and how it has affected different areas of the contemporary world.

The course is for anyone with an interest in Ireland, medieval studies, history, art, religion and/or popular culture.


  • Meeting the Book of Kells
    • Welcome to our course!
    • Introducing the Book of Kells
    • Social and religious context
    • Reflecting on the first week
  • Making the Book of Kells
    • Manpower
    • Materials
    • Reflecting on the second week
  • The Meaning of the Book of Kells
    • Decorating gospel books in the early medieval period
    • Common themes in the art of the Book of Kells
    • Narrative images
    • Reflecting on the third week
  • The Book of Kells and Modern Life
    • Displaying the Book of Kells
    • The Book of Kells, from nationalist symbol to artists’ muse
    • Reflecting on the final week

Taught by

Rachel Moss


4.5 rating, based on 2 Class Central reviews

4.9 rating at FutureLearn based on 524 ratings

Start your review of The Book of Kells: Exploring an Irish Medieval Masterpiece

  • Nice introductory course combining elements of Irish history and culture. There's a (very brief) summary of manuscript production techniques, and a wonderful examination of the Christian iconography used in the illustrations.
    FMI see post on my personal blog at
  • From the early history of Ireland, to the crafts work in making a manuscript, to the artwork included and finally the role of an ancient treasure in modern culture this course covers it all,

    Those interested in a particular aspect may find this wide scope off putting but for those who want to understand the wider context it is a great strength of this course.

    There is ample background reading and resources provided so you can pick and choose to delve further into your favorite part if you wish.

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