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The Book of Kells Images from the book of Kells, edited an cropped, in an attempt to highlight some details about the text.

Editing: Lucio Andreetto


Breves causae of Luke Summary of narrated events, chapter contents list.

"An angel appears to Zechariah the priest"

The simbol C, known in Irish manuscripts as "head under the wing" or "turn under the path“, indicates that the words immediately following it are to be read after the end of the next full line.

ZACHA ria sacerdotii appa ruit angelus et adnuntiavit ei filium iohan nen ET idem mariae adnuntiavit angelus filium ihesum C toribus -------:. ET acci Nativitatem ihesu adnuntiat angelus pas pit simeon puerum ihesum ET benedixit deum et de anna profetissa C bat Annorum duodecim ihesus in templo doce Seniores C tismum poeniten Ubi iohannis baptizat populum bap 19v


Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5,3-48

Ego autem dico vobis dilegite inimicos vestros

But I say unto you, Love your enemies


Ego autem dico vobis dilegite inimicos vestros The rod of "g" in "Ego" pierces the neck and comes out of the mouth of man in "E"

Crossed legs and exposed genitals



The simbol , known as "turn under the path“, indicates that the words immediately following it are to be read after the end of the next line.

Auertaris = turn away


In this case, the symbol has the shape of a man who turns his shoulders to the word avertaris, turn away (do not refuse the one who would borrow from you). 44r

48r Matthew

A streaked cat chases a rat fleeing with a consecrated host.


A hare tries to escape a greyhound (male).

57v Matthew

Tradat autem frater fratrem in mortem et pater filium

Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son In the "T" rod in Tradat, there is an animal with a lion's head, snake body, and fish tail. 57v

Non est discipulus ...

Si patrem familias ...


The word "Non" is formed by a lion and a peacock reversed and in contact with the lion underneath in the word "Yes".

The animals emphasize Matthew 10.24 where Jesus says: The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.

62v Matthew

In the “EX� letters of Exeuntes, two lions, one with the torso and the other with a posterior paw, form the "X" (chi), the first letter of the Greek monogram of the name of Christ. 62v


Matthew 14,19:23

Et dimissa turba ascendit in m/ontem solus orare

And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: The lizard makes a "path deflector" for m/ontem (with the final "m" in the vertical) and perhaps also refers to Jesus praying on the mountain. 72r


Matthew 15,22:28

«Quotation marks»


Sentence end point

Tunc respondens Iesus ait ei O mulier magna est fides tua fiat tibi sicut vis et sanata est filia illius ex illa hora Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.


In the “T” of Tunc, a lion looks down, in the last line another lion looks toward the first one, and together they enclose the important phrase.


Matthew 18,21

Tunc accedens petrus ad eum dixit ... Then came Peter to him, and said A lion, in the "T" rod, with a long red tongue around his head to his ear, indicates that while Peter speaks, Jesus, symbolized by the lion, hears him. 83v

87r Matthew 19,28

IHS autem dixit illis And Jesus said to them ...

IHS, an abbreviation for the name of Jesus, is made up of a lion, a peacock and a fish (earth, sky and sea). 87r

89r Matthew

Jesus on a donkey, pointing his foot to the previous page, to the lines that say: Et ascendens Iesus Hyerusoliman (And Jesus going up to Jerusalem).

95r Matthew

In the "ET" a peacock, grapes, and a blond Jesus.

And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said

Et respondens Iesus dixit iterum in parabolis eis dicens



Mark 13:17-22

VAE autem praegnantibus Et


nutriantibus in illis diebus. ORAte autem ut non fiat fuga vestra hime vel sabbato. ERit enim tunc tribulatio magna qualis non fuit ab initio mundi usque modo neque fiet. ET Nisi braeviati fuissent dies illi non fieret salve: omnis caro sed propter elector braeviabuntur dies illi. TUNc si quis vobis dixerit ecce hic Christus aut illic noliti credere SURgent enim saeudo Christi Et saeudo profetae et dabunt signa magna et prodigia ita in errorem movantur si fieri potest etiam



ERit 104r

ET Nisi


In the «T» of «Tunc» a lion looks down to Matthew's text that predicts the arrival of false Christs and prophets.

SURgent 104r


Matthew - Speech on the Mount of Olives

Caelum et terra

Sicut enim

Tunc duo erunt 105v


Matthew - Speech on the Mount of Olives



Ilud autem

Quis nam 106r


Matthew 25,35:36

Aligning the keywords in the discourse of Jesus to the Blessed On the Day of Judgment (Matthew 25: 35-36)


I was thirsty



I was a stranger Naked



In carcere

In prison


Matthew 26,47

In the "A" of Adhuc there are two lions: Jesus and Judas who bites his neck (allusion to the kiss of Judas).

Adhuc eo loquente ecce judas While he was still speaking, here comes Judas 116v

146r Mark

Examples of "Et" on the same folio

Et... Et... Et... Et...

Jesus sends the apostles to preach.

From the tongues at the bottom of the "T" are fruits, those of the missions of the apostles.

Proverbs 15,4: A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

Da questa «Et» esce un calice con frutti: l’eucarestia.



Mark 9:30-36

Jesus foretells his own death and resurrection

ET venerunt


Then they came to Capernaum.

In the “ET” there are: a fish, symbol of Christ, and a snake (with a head like a duck) symbol of resurrection.


At illi tacebant And they were silent Peacocks in the first letter.

ET quicunque (me susciperit) And whoever welcomes Me

A sinuous snake in the rod of the letter “T� flows in the shape of the cross. 158v

159v Mark 9,47

The letters "um" of "regnum", first forgotten, and then added vertically under a back leg of the added lion.

The lion indicates the front page (160r) where, inexplicably, "in regnum" is repeated.

in regnum 160r

171v Mark

In the very square "ET", there are two snakes with similar heads of ducks, which seem to have wings.


179v Mark 14,63

the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ (Greek XPS)

summus sacerdos interrogabat eum et dicit ei tu es Christus

Iesus autem dixit ei ego sum And Jesus said, I am (Latin IHS)


A blond Jesus in the center of the "H", on the sides a lion and a fish, his symbols.

Eight blue crosses: the hill of Golgotha, eight days of passion before the resurrection.

Summus autem sacerdus

scindens vestimenta sua ait

Quid adhuc desideramus testes

audistis blasphemiam eius quid... The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. You have heard the blasphemy. What is your� verdict? And they all condemned Him as deserving of death. 179v

180r Mark 14,68

Et exiit foras ante atrium et gallus cantavit Then he [Peter] went out to the gateway, and the rooster crowed.

In the "Et" there is a hare, shy animal, cast as a negative comment to Peter who had renounced Christ. 180r

Et exiit foras ante atrium et gallus cantavit Then he [Peter] went out to the gateway, and the rooster crowed.

ET exiit


In the "Et" there is a hare, shy animal, cast as a negative comment to Peter who had renounced Christ.

181v Mark 15,12

Pilatus autem iterum respondens ait illis quid ergo vutis ut faciam regi iudeorum And Pilate answered and said again unto them, What will ye then that I shall do unto him whom ye call the King of the Jews?


182r Mark 15,15

A Pilate with his legs spread apart, divided into two, desperately seizes his hair and body. And wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed Him over to be crucified.

Pilatus autem volens pro populo satisfacere dimissit illis barban et tradidit ihm flagellis cessum ut crucifigeretu


188v Start of Luke’s Gospel (1,5)

Fish has been a symbol of Christ since the second century


UIT IN DIEBUS HERO dis regis iudae


In the time of Herod king of Judea,

200r-202r Luke

Genealogy of Jesus

Interlaced lions that bite snakes

QUI . . . QUI . . .

QUI . . . QUI . . .



The half-man and half-fish figure holds the 't' rod in 'Qui fuit iona', son of Iona, but where Iona in Hebrew means dove, and therefore perhaps a reference to Colum Cille (the Dove of the Church) pilgrim who settled in the Isle of Iona in 563.

The man with a chalice is on the last letters of Abracham (Abraham) the ancestor of Jesus who was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac. The chalice represents the sacrifice that Christ makes with his blood, drunk during the Eucharist.

(Winged calf: Luke)


In the «Q» of «QUI», intertwined figures, with legs tucked under their arms, and tongues protruding, in various grotesque positions, they pull each other's hair from behind.



205v Luke 4,31:33

31 Then He went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath He began to teach the people. Et discendit 32 They were astonished at His teaching, because His message had authority. Et stupebant 33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon. He cried out in a loud voice, Et in sinagoga

Et discen/dit Et stupe/bant Et in sina/goga In Luke 4, 31-32-33, three verses related to each other begin with "Et." In each "Et" an eight-petal cross indicates the binding of the verses. 205v

210r Luke

Tongue and mouth of the lion form the letter X (Greek chi), a call to the name of Christ (XPI)


Dicebat 210r

217v Luke 7,28

Blonde head of John the Baptist. In the “D” of “Dico” hi is looking back at the story of what he did.

Dico enim vobis maior inter natos mulierum propheta Iohanne Baptista


For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist

250v Luke

ITA dico vobis

AIT autem

[adulescen] tior


Great interlacement of lions, peacocks and a fish (land, air and sea), plus a snake (letter I in AIT).

253v Luke

Nemo servus potest duobus dominis servire No servant can serve two masters In the “N” of “Nemo” two men pull each other beards. In the "A" below, the servant of the two masters, and a conflict. 253v

255v Luke 17,2:7

Jesus teaches disciples the nature of forgiveness and faith.

The calm figure of Jesus on the saddle of a donkey directed to Jerusalem.

The word "AT" formed by three interlaced lions: the dilemma of the apostles for which they ask Jesus to increase their faith.


Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him

Adtendite A man (white) grabs the lion's throat (green) that bites his chest.


257v Luke 17,32

Memores estote uxoris loth Remember Lot’s wife! Lot's wife portrayed in the “M” of Memores. 257v

260r Luke 18,23

Also the third letter of the word "his" drawn as a weave

His ille auditis When he heard this...

271v Luke


eius The cross-shaped "s" on two elongated words centered on the page to get a visual effect.

273v Luke 22,2:8

Judas's plan to betray Jesus

Three snakes (the third one is Judas?) A cross between snakes

INtravit Intravit autem satanas in iudam Then entered Satan into Judas 273v

An eagle under the word Pascha, Easter in Jewish. 273v


Passion in the Gospel of Luke


Inludebant Inludebant autem ei et milites And the soldiers also mocked him

In the "IN" there are three lions, a first lion (Judas) bites a second lion (Jesus) as in 116v. 283r

Rex iudeorum isolated at the center of the line, and then a recall of the robbers at the sides.

Eucharistic Grapes in the ÂŤxÂť

Two lions, the two thieves

Unus autem de his qui pendebant latronibus And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 283r

309r John

The peacock was associated with heaven and paradise, here it is perched on the phrase of Jesus: "because I descended from heaven“ [not to do my will, but the will of the one who sent me].

Quia descendi de caelo 309r

309v-310r John 6,42:57

Lion with vivifying breath, indicated by the emission of Eucharistic grapes.

Here the lion is also a "path deviator".

Non quia patrem vidit quisquam ďƒ¨ nisi is qui est [a Deo] Not that any man hath seen the Father ďƒ¨ save he which is [of God] 309v

Litagabant The two animals in the letters "Li", with eucharistic grape in the mouth, are the Jews who argue wondering "how can this [Jesus] give us his flesh to eat?"

Some grapes come out from the two ends of a container that is a «path deviator».

cibus et sanguis meus 310r

He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood

311r John 7,2:10

The one who Dicebat (said) in this verse was Jesus, and therefore in the "T" of the "Et" there is a lion with an interlaced tongue.

Et dicebat

314r John 7,37:44

Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Ex illa ergo turba cum audissent hos sermones eius dicebant hic est vere propheta


A dove with an olive branch in the tail of "Ex" perched on the word "prophet".

The initial "Q" with Greek crosses around a cross of St. Andrew, to visual defense against those who want to capture Jesus.

Quidam autem ex ipsis volebant [adprehendere eum sed nemo misit super illum manu]

And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.

xps, abbreviation of Christus. 314r

Image crops and manipulation: Lucio Andreetto for the web site Sources: • Images: web site of Trinity College of Dublin • Bernard Meehan – Il libro di Kells - 2012 • Sir Edward Sullivan - The Book of Kells – 1920 • Margaret Stokes - Early Christian Art in Ireland – 1887 • The web and the Wikipedia

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Notes about "The Book of Kells"  

The Book of Kells, also known as the Book of Columba, is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book, containing the four Gospels of the New Testa...

Notes about "The Book of Kells"  

The Book of Kells, also known as the Book of Columba, is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book, containing the four Gospels of the New Testa...

Profile for luxdoc