Posted by Jeffrey Tucker
The wonderful film The Secret of Kells (2009) tells the story of the monastic effort to create The Book of Kells, the finest of Ireland’s national treasures, a gorgeous illuminated book of Gospels used for Mass that managed to be preserved all these centuries and is currently on display at the Trinity College library in Dublin. The film sets the forces of light, as represented by the Christian faith and those who practiced it, against the dark forces of Viking invaders who cared not for productivity, beauty, and holiness but instead practiced the more ancient skills of invading, looting, and destroying.
The monks were not satisfied merely to produce books of texts. The conviction was that these books should also be works of art, when possible. It was not too much to spend many years and even several generations to create the perfect book to be light unto all. Words alone would have served the functional purpose but there was more to functionality that mere words. There were also considerations of excellence, skill, and beauty (above all) that must be central to the effort of making a book to be used at Mass. The creation and preservation of that book was worth more than their lives, in their view, because it embodied truth and light and had a longer life than all living people.