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Lara’s Travels: Trinity College Library, Dublin

A look at Trinity College Dublin's historic Old Library and the Book of Kells

Since this site was launched in March 2013, my Lara’s Travels feature has explored some of the cities and ancient sites seen in the Tomb Raider games, such as Prague’s Strahov District (Angel of Darkness), Zapadnaya Litsa in western Russia (Chronicles), and the tomb KV5 in Egypt (Last Revelation). And although the locations featured in the games and films are the ones that often stand out in most people’s memories, it would be remiss of me to say that the comics were lacking in memorable venues.

Take, for example, the old Trinity College Library in Dublin, which made a brief appearance in Tomb Raider #2.

Trinity College, Dublin, as seen in Tomb Raider #2

Trinity College, Dublin, as seen in Tomb Raider #2 (Image credit: Dark Horse Comics)

 Lara travels to Dublin to call on an old family friend,  Professor Cahalane,  and seek advice on a golden artefact that’s come into her possession under mysterious circumstances. The two meet up at the Old Library, the “garden of knowledge” that happens to be Lara’s favourite place in the world as well as one of Dublin’s most popular tourist attractions.

And that honour is well deserved. Originally designed by the Irish military engineer and architect Thomas Burgh, the Old Library is home to over 200,000 books (including some extremely rare volumes) and a visit to the library’s Long Room rarely fails to impress. With its towering oak bookcases, spiral staircases, marble busts of some of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers, medieval Brian Boru harp (the country’s national symbol), and display cases containing ancient papyri, Byzantine oil lamps, and Egyptian ushabti figures, it’s easy to lose yourself in this shrine to education.

But then, the countless visitors streaming past you are a stark reminder that you’re really just a tourist in 21st century Ireland

One of the most prized books in the library’s collection is the Book of Kells (or Leabhar Cheanannais), a lavishly decorated illuminated manuscript produced by Columban monks that dates back to late 8th or early 9th century and contains the four Gospels of the New Testament as well as some prefatory texts and canon tables.

Historians have found it difficult to ascertain exactly where or when the Book of Kells was written but it’s thought that the manuscript was brought from Iona, an island in the Inner Hebrides and spiritual home of the Columban monastic community, to the Abbey of Kells in Ireland’s County Meath during the Viking invasion of Scotland’s western coast.

This sacred manuscript somehow survived a number of Viking raids on Kells but was eventually stolen from the abbey one night in around 1007. Thankfully, it was found just a couple of months later – buried under a sod and missing its gilded, bejewelled cover – and was returned to the Abbey of Kells, where it remained until the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in the 1650s. Concerns for the safety of this priceless (and irreplaceable) manuscript led the town’s governor to have it sent to Dublin for safekeeping and in 1661, the new bishop of Meath presented the Book of Kells to Trinity College, where it remains to this very day.

Today, visitors to the Old Library have the chance to admire some of the manuscript’s stunning art work and learn more about this great cultural treasure at the Book of Kells “Turning Darkness into Light” exhibition. Sadly, a ban on photography in the exhibit area means I have no photographs of the pages I saw on display during my visit to Trinity College Dublin in June 2013 but thanks to the university’s Digital Resources and Imaging Services, you can view the Book of Kells in its entirety over on their website.

And should you find yourself at the Old Library and somehow succumb to “book fatigue”, just head back outside and take a gentle stroll through the university’s campus and beautiful gardens, walk along its cobblestone paths and across its spacious quadrangles to admire the old university buildings, and maybe even stop to pose for photos in front of the university’s iconic bell tower, the Campanile.

The Campanile of Trinity College, Dublin

She may not have been a student there but, even on a wet and gloomy summer’s day, it’s not hard to see how this centuries-old university made such a deep impression on a young Ms Croft…

Sources & Further Reading:

** All of the photos above are copyright of Kelly M **


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About Kelly M (396 Articles)
A Gibraltarian-born blogger, gamer, and archaeology enthusiast with a passion for languages and wildlife conservation. Tweets under the username @TombRaiderArch and runs the official fansite, The Archaeology of Tomb Raider.

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