The Book of Kells was written in Latin, on vellum (calfskin), close to the year 800 AD. This masterpiece of medieval art tells the story of the life of Jesus Christ through the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Gospel of Luke is currently open at folios 201v-202r: LUKE 3. 32-38
The ancestors of Jesus Christ are listed in elegant symmetry across these folios, opening with ‘Who was of Naasson’ at the top left-hand folio and closing with ‘Who was of Adam/ Who was of God’ at the bottom of the right-hand folio.
The text opens with a frieze of five colourful figures forming the initial Q of Qui, meaning ‘Who’. The first four figures clutch each other’s hair, while the fifth man is holding up an olive branch. Can you spot them?
At the mid-point of the third column a small, cloaked figure, holding a chalice, sits above the name Abraham, forefather of Jesus. This may allude to the Old Testament account of Melchisedech, king of Salem, offering bread and wine to Abraham.
A calf, symbol of St Luke, appears at the foot of the folio, as a visual prompt to the reader that this is the Gospel of Luke.