For most people Kells is associated with the Book of Kells. Kells is a busy market town rich in heritage located on the N52. Kells contains many historic remains including the Round Tower and High Crosses.
Kells first became important when it was used as a royal residence for the High Kings. In 553 AD, St Colmcille established a religious settlement here. In 806 AD, the monks from St Columcille’s monastery in Iona, Scotland settled in Kells. In 1152, a synod was held in Kells to bring the Celtic Christian Church in line with Rome and the monastic church became a cathedral. At the end of the 12th century, Hugh de Lacy was granted the whole of Meath. Under the Anglo-Norman's rule the religious establishments of Augustians and Canon Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem flourished within the town, with the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem just outside the town walls.
As a border town of the Pale, Kells was the scene of many a skirmish between Irish and Anglo - Norman troops. It was also used during Tudor times as a mustering place for soldiers. Oliver Cromwell’s army used the ‘Great Stone Church’ for stabling for their horses. The Kells Tourist Office is located in the Town Hall on Headfort Place and gives and excellent overview of Kells ancient monastic history.
Treasures of Kells:
1. Crosier of Kells
A copy of the Kells Crosier, dating to around 1,000 and which is now in the British Museum, can be seen in the Kells Tourist Office.
2. High Crosses
Three crosses and the base of a fourth cross are located in the grounds of St Columba’s Church. A fifth cross, the Market Cross, is in front of The Courthouse. The shaft is over three metres high and is divided into four sections showing religious scenes.
3. St Colmcille's House
This wonderful ruin is located beside St Columba’s Church of Ireland grounds and was reportedly built in 806 AD by Cellach, Abbot of Iona who came to Kells after the Viking raids.
4. Book of Kells
The Book of Kells is probably the most famous of illustrated manuscripts and is one of the best known books in the world. It is now located in Trinity College Dublin and attracts large numbers of visitors. It is a manuscript of the Four Gospels in Latin. Beautifully decorated with the most painstaking detail, some of the full-page illustrations show a brilliance of colour and skill that could not be equalled today. A perfect copy of the book is located in Kells Tourist Office.
5. The Round Tower
This tower, in the grounds of the Church of Ireland, is well preserved and nearly 35 metres high. The doorway, as usual is raised 3 metres above the original ground level. Inside there is no trace of any original floors, all of which were accessed by ladder. An unusual feature of this tower is that there are five instead of the usual four windows in the top storey. Ordinarily, the windows of round towers face the four compass points. However in this tower, it appears that the five windows faced towards the five ancient pilgrim routes to Kells.
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