As an American going to Ireland I felt the youngness of my own country. Being in a country where buildings were destroyed and rebuilt on the same foundations over and over through out the centuries, nothing ever being torn down really, just fixed and added onto made me think about how young my country really was.
But the magnitude of our youngness really hit me when I walked into the Long Room/Old Library, in Trinity College after seeing the Book of Kells. The Book is one of the first bits of Christian scripture to come to Ireland in the 800’s. The books of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John, that we know were on its pages. The pages are of leather skins written on by quill pen and the writing is very beautiful. This book was very important to them, so they encased it in covers of gold encrusted with jewels. The story goes it was at the monastery at Kells and was stolen in a raid there by the Vikings. They took the book for its gold and jewels. They tore the cover off and threw the rest of the book into the bog. A few months later it was found under the sod. If you drop things into the bog they sink down under the sod and are preserved. They’ve found human remains in the bog that still have their hair and fingernails.
In Ireland the sod is cut and rolled like logs and when its dry they burn it to keep warm. I think it was quite a miracle they ever found the book under the sod. In the mid 1600’s The book of Kells was sent to Trinity College in Dublin for safe keeping and has stayed there ever since. When I read the text of Mathew they had on display I felt a swelling on my heart and tears came to my eyes. To think they read the same Mathew, with a few little changes in the 9th and 10th centuries that I read now, was something to me. The book is well protected. They don’t let you take pictures in the room because the light could hurt the manuscript.
When I was done there I went up a flight of stairs and walked into the Old Library at Trinity College.
WOW! It’s a very long room with walls and walls of books up to the ceiling. Its at least two stories over head. At first I just walked down the hall staring up! But then I started to look at the display cases in the middle of the room displaying books from the 1000’s, 1600’s, 1800’s and more modern. A lot of the very old books were hand written. Then I saw the busts around the room of great writers, and philosophers, Plato, Jonathan Swift, Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare, Socrates, and Homer to name a few, that was very inspiring. There was also a very old and famous harp displayed, the oldest of its kind. They think it was made in the 15th century. That harp is the model for the symbol of Ireland, it was amazing.
Some of the people in our group walked through and thought oh just old books and they were done and out of there, but I walked slowly to the end of that very big room feeling like my heart would burst with the energy of all those books, written for thousands of years, and all in one place. I didn’t want to leave but after about 40 mins I was the last of our group in the library and I had to go. As I left I felt like crying it was so overwhelming. I admit a little tear sneaked out of the corner of my eye. I would have to say it was one of only a few things that have touched me that deeply.