31 Days of Medieval Manuscripts · Medieval Art and Architecture

The Book of Durrow – Day Seventeen of Medieval Manuscripts

The Gospel of Saint Mark, in the Book of Durrow. 7th century. Trinity College Library, Dublin (MS A. 4. 5. (57)). Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Book of Durrow has always been fascinating to me, probably because it was the first medieval manuscript I studied in college. The Book of Durrow is stylistically related to the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels, both of which I’ve previously discussed, but the Book of Durrow pre-dates the other two. In fact, it is the earliest-known surviving example of an insular (of the British Isles) Gothic manuscript to be completely decorated (1).

A carpet page from the Book of Durrow. 7th century. Trinity College Library, Dublin (MS A. 4. 5. (57)). By Meister des Book of Durrow [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
In other words, all of the elaborate interlace, massive initials, and gilt decoration we’ve been admiring in other early illuminated manuscripts are the children and grand-children of the Book of Durrow. In my opinion, the family relationship between the Book of Durrow and the Book of Kells can be seen quite clearly, as can the development of the style from one to the other. Durrow is the first known manuscript to include illustrations of the four Evangelists’ symbols, a feature we have seen survive in various forms for centuries. (2)

Saint Matthew from the Book of Durrow. 7th century. Trinity College Library, Dublin (MS A. 4. 5. (57)). By Meister des Book of Durrow [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Sources: (1) Bernard Meehan, quoted by the University of North Carolina’s page “Dublin, Trinity College MS A.4.5 (57) – Gospel Book (Book of Durrow)”. (2) Robert Calkins, quoted in ibid.

One thought on “The Book of Durrow – Day Seventeen of Medieval Manuscripts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s