Kells Heritage Town
The Monastic World of Saints and Scholars
The circular monastic enclosure protected St Columba's Church, the Round Tower and four of the towns five crosses. From this point, a circular street pattern radiates which is still evident today. Nearby, St Colum Cille's House is strategically positioned at one of the highest points in the town. It is thought that it housed some of the Saint's relics and that the 9th century Book of Kells was completed here. A facsimile copy of the Book of Kells the single most significant artefact associated with the town is on display in the Heritage Centre.
Kells or Ceanannas Mór, meaning Great Fort, was known to be a royal residence before St. Colmcille established a religious settlement in Kells in 550. The monks from his community on the Scottish island of Iona fled to Kells in 806 in order to escape savage Viking raids and it was here that they completed their illuminated manuscript of the Four Gospels, the Book of Kells. While the original is housed in Trinity College, facsimile copies can be viewed in the Kells Heritage Centre and in the Church of Ireland.
The Heritage Council houses a modern multimedia exhibition and tourist information point in the recently restored former courthouse, originally designed by Francis Johnson in 1801. The High Cross of Kells is now located in the grounds of the centre. The cross depicts scenes from the Old and New Testaments and dates from the 8th or 9th century.
The walking trail in the town will bring visitors to numerous monuments in Kells. St Columcille's House, built in the 10th century is a ancient oratory with a step stone roof and early barrel vaulting. St. Columb's Church and HighCrosses are among the finest of the High Christian era. The illustrations on the crosses were probably used to spread the faith. Kells Round Tower dates from Viking times, each of the five windows pointing to one of the town's gates in anticipation of an attack from the Norse raiders.
A monument of more recent times, the Spire of Lloyd is an 18th century folly in the form of a lighthouse erected to the memory of the Earl of Bective by his son.
Nearby, Teltown also know as Tailte in the Gaelic form, was the site of the Aonach Tailteann, an Olympic games type of sport, recitations, music and dancing in honour of pagan gods. Pagan rites, such as swimming horses through the river at dawn were observed as well as an interesting ritual in marriage whereby a young maiden stuck her finger through a hole in a door. If admired by any of the men on the other side, he took hold of it and the maiden became his bride. However the marriage was only valid for a year and a day and if the couple disagreed they were free to return and try their luck at the next festival.
Kells Heritage Centre and Information Point,
Tel: 046 924 7840
Fax: 046 924 7684
The opening times are as follows:
|May to September||October to April|
|Mon-Sat||10am to 5pm||10am to 5pm|
|Sunday & Bank holidays||2pm to 6pm||closed|
Adult: €4.00 OAP/Student/Child: €3.00 Group: 10+ €2.20 each
Family: (2 adults and 4 children under 15 years) €12.00