In this last post about lovely Irish things, I’d like to look at things from the past that still matter so much to those who see them now.
The exciting thing about Irish literature and history is that we are not only still discovering things today, but we are also rediscovering some of the gems of Irish history. What has been discovered? Not many weeks ago, there was an article posted about the restoration of a beautiful Celtic cross from the island of Iona.
Iona is part of Scotland, but was the home of many Irish monks seeking holy refuge from the world. St. Oran’s cross is a massive, stunning piece of stonework engraved all over with beautiful Celtic designs reminiscent of the glorious book that was also supposedly created on that island not long after: The Book of Kells.
The cross is over fourteen feet high and weighs a literal ton, a massive project to begin with and just as massive to restore. The restoration was timed to be completed for the 1,450 year anniversary of Saint Colomba’s arrival on Iona. Go ahead and just ponder that number for a moment. Yes, that many years. And yet, that cross is still here and there are still people willing to spend exhaustive hours lovingly restoring it to its former glory.
The magic of such artefacts is in their ability to travel across centuries and profoundly impact people a millenium and a half later. They are part of history and part of the present, stories without words.
On the other hand, some of these pieces of old magic are filled with words. Not long after St Oran’s cross was constructed, a book was composed. Containing the four Gospels, The Book of Kells has been honored for centuries, treasured and preserved. And now to the intense delight of many who are unable to turn the actual pages, the entire book has been scanned and uploaded.
The Book of Kells, like the cross of St Oran, has abided centuries of change and development. Because of the willingness of generations of scholars, archaeologists, historians, and enthusiasts to put the time and effort into guarding it, and then into updating its availability for a new generation, The Book of Kells belongs to anyone who cares to read it, as the Gospels were always meant to.
I am not a historian, but I am a lover of stories, and the stories tucked away into the corners of history are the ones I find most interesting. It is all the better when those stories are tangible, visible, and knowable, revealed in a beautiful medium that allows them to speak for themselves.