Trinity College Library

The first stop on my month-long Euro-trip was in Dublin, Ireland and even though I didn’t have a lot of time to spend on the Emerald Isle, there were a few places that I figured I had to visit. The first of those of course was an Irish pub for some Irish food and obviously a fresh pint of Guinness before checking out a few different locations that the city had to offer.

I had originally planned to visit the Guinness Brewery for a tour but while randomly walking around the Trinity College campus I saw a long line of people and got curious as to what was going on. I’ve been somewhat conditioned over my years of living in Taiwan to always look to find out why people are lining up, because there is usually something tasty involved - so I walked up to the line and saw that they were all lined up to get into the college library.

I figured it was a bit strange for people to line up for a library, but then I noticed a sign that said the library was home to none other than the ‘Book of Kells’ which pretty much cemented the fact that on my last day in the country, I would be visiting the library and not going on a brewery tour.

Growing up, the Book of Kells was always something that was interesting to me and I have fond memories that go back as far as when I first started to learn how to write in school with our teacher giving us handouts that were designed using the art from the book.

Having the chance to see the over twelve-hundred year old book in person was a chance that I couldn’t pass up, so I changed my plans and decided to go take a tour of the Book of Kells exhibition instead - little did I know that I was in store for a much bigger surprise later.

Trinity College Library

Students at Trinity College

The Trinity College Library serves both Trinity College and the University of Dublin and is the largest library in Ireland. The library is not only the permanent home to the Book of Kells but also has over six million volumes and is the only library in Ireland to have ‘legal depository rights’ making it entitled to receive a copy (upon request) of all works published in the United Kingdom.

The library dates back to the founding of Trinity College in 1592 and today consists of several buildings, four of which are on the Trinity College campus. The original library, known today as the “Old Library” is one of the largest buildings on the campus and is well-known for what is known as the “Long Room” where not only thousands of rare volumes are on display but also where tourists can view the Brian Boru Harp, the national symbol of Ireland as well as one of the last remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

The Book of Kells

Liberty Square.

The Book of Kells (Codex Cenannensis) is an over twelve-hundred year old masterpiece of western calligraphy and art that is thought to have been created somewhere in either Scotland or Ireland and is considered to be medieval Europe’s greatest treasure.

To explain it simply, it is an illustrated version of the four Gospels of the New Testament that masterfully combine Christian iconography with Celtic knots, mythical creatures, humans and animals which together produce a text that is said to glorify the life of Jesus Christ and make his message clear and easy to understand.

There is debate about where and when the Book of Kells was created, but most scholars agree that it was created sometime around the year 800AD. Some argue that it was crafted in part on the Scottish island of Iona before being brought to the Monastery of Kells in Ireland by Viking raiders, while others argue that it was completed in Iona before being taken to Ireland.

What we do know is that the manuscript consists of 340 folios bound in four volumes and was crafted on high quality calf vellum (calfskin parchment). The book gets its name from the former Abbey of Kells which was its home for centuries before being re-homed for safekeeping at Dublin’s Trinity College where it has been kept since 1661.

The Book of Kells has been on display at Trinity College since the early 19th Century and attracts over half a million visitors every year.

Unfortunately I can’t provide any photos of the exhibition at the library due to the fact that photography is prohibited and all images of the book are property of Trinity College. If you want to know more about the Book of Kells be sure to check out the College’s Digital Collection where you can view high-res photos of each of the pages.

The Long Room

As I mentioned above, my visit to the Trinity College Library wasn’t actually a part of my original itinerary but it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my trip to the country and what is known as the “Long Room” of the library turned out to be the icing on the cake. 

Truthfully, I had no idea that the Long Room was even a part of the tour - When we bought our admission tickets, we walked directly into the Book of Kells exhibition which was beautifully set up and gave the right amount of information about the history of the books and how they were created and preserved. After a few rooms full of interactive exhibits we got to walk into the room where the books were actually on display.

The display room where you can view the Book of Kells is what I had originally assumed was the end of the tour, so after queuing up for a few minutes to see the books I was getting ready to head to the exit and was thinking about what to eat for lunch.

To my surprise however the only way out led up a set of stairs which we followed and were eventually led into a large open room that was jaw-dropping beautiful. 

The Long Room

The room, which has become known as the “Long Room” is a 65 meter long chamber designed with beautifully coloured stained wooden beams and consists of shelves of books so tall that each stack has a ladder available to allow for university scholars to get access to the books they need.

The building that houses the library was constructed between 1712 and 1732 and is today home to over 200,000 of the library’s oldest collection of books. The library, which was designed by famed Irish architect Thomas Burgh once towered over the university and the rest of Dublin with the Long Room being designed as the main attraction for what later become known as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.

When Trinity College was given legal depository status, the library had to be expanded upon to make room for all the new volumes which were being added to the collection. The original design had a high flat ceiling which had to be remodeled not only to allow for the height of the room to be expanded upon, but also to take into consideration the structural integrity of the building as the weight of the books housed inside was quickly becoming too great for the building to handle.

The redesign which took place between 1858 and 1860 converted the original flat ceiling to one that had a ‘barrel-vault design’, which allowed for additional supports to run from the floor to the ceiling along the edge of the book stacks. With this design, each of the aisles became instrumental in maintaining the structural integrity of the room while also making the long room look somewhat like a cathedral devoted to scholarly study.

Today the Long Room is a bibliophiles wet dream with old books from floor to ceiling with old ladders, beautiful spiral staircases and marble busts that meet you at the entrance of every stack. The busts are designed in the likeness of not only important historical figures in Irish history but also philosophers, inventors and authors such as Aristotle, Socrates, Newton and Shakespeare.


Although the major attraction for most people who visit the library is the Book of Kells exhibit, you’re also able to find on display one of the last remaining copies The ’1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic’ as well as the ‘Brian Boru Harp’ which is one of the oldest of its kind in Ireland and has become a national symbol for the Irish people with its image appearing on the Irish Coat of Arms, the cover of Irish passports and on Irish Euro coins among others.

Visiting the Long Room turned out to be one of the best parts of my trip to Dublin and was ultimately something that was completely unexpected. Even though visitors are prohibited from taking photos in the Book of Kells exhibition area, its worthwhile to bring your camera with you when you get to the Long Room as its one of those places where you’ll definitely want to get a few photos.

When you visit Europe, you’ll find that the usage of tripods is prohibited in a lot of areas and for me that is quite unfortunate because taking hand-held photos in dark rooms like this can be a bit challenging, but in the end I was quite content with the photos that I was able to get and the experience was one that I would suggest that everyone visiting Dublin makes sure to enjoy.

Getting There

The Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells exhibition is open to the public seven days a week with hours varying by the season. It is generally open between 9:00am and 5:00pm daily with an admission price of €11-14 per person with family and group rates available.

Be sure to check out the website for more details before your visit. 


The Trinity College Campus is in downtown Dublin and is easily accessible from the city centre. If you are relying on public transportation, there are dozens of buses that will take you to campus. I suggest using the Dublin Bus website or downloading the free app to figure out which route is best for you based on where you are travelling from. Here is a list of buses and bus stops in the area around the college. The DART stations of Pearse Street, Tara Street and Connolly Street are also a short walk away.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

When you think of Ireland, I suppose what comes to mind quickest are the things the country is most well known for: The colour green, leprechauns, Guinness and St. Patrick's Day! 

Clearly though, there is much more to Ireland than any of these things and the people of the country are a proud bunch despite living under difficult conditions with political, economic and religious turmoil constantly reading its ugly head. The hardships that have been endured by the Irish people over time are often personified by one of Irish history’s most well-known figures, Saint Patrick who in spite of his own personal suffering was said to remain a humble, gentle man who was totally devoted to god and to improving the lives of the Irish people.

Today, St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday that is celebrated all around the world, thanks in to the influence of the Irish diaspora. For most, March 17th might just be a day to wear green clothes and drink copious amounts of green beer but to the Irish, it is a day to celebrate their cultural identity, their religion, their language and more recently the economic successes of the Irish Republic which is helping to develop the small island nation.

As a bit of a treat for this years St. Patrick’s Day, I’m going to be posting photos not of people getting drunk and celebrating the holiday, but of the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. The eight-hundred year old cathedral which is dedicated to Ireland’s Patron Saint and happens to be one of those 'must visit' places if you find yourself in Dublin. 

St. Patrick 

Even though St. Patrick’s Day or “Lá Fhéile Pádraig” has become an important holiday celebrated all over the world, its important to remember that the man himself, Saint Patrick who is the Patron Saint of Ireland was not a leprechaun, nor did he walk around wearing green with a pot of gold in his arms - He was actually an important figure in Irish history and is considered the founding father of Christianity in Ireland.

Saint Patrick, or Saint Pātricius is thought to have been born with the common name "Maewyn Succat" in Roman Britain sometime in the 5th Century. The history of his life is a bit fuzzy and it is difficult to differentiate historical fact from legend, but it is widely believed that he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at about the age of sixteen where he worked as a shepherd. Even though Ireland was a land of Druids and Pagans at that time, he turned to God and became a Christian while living in captivity. After working for about six years as a slave he was able to escape back to his home (believed to be in Wales) where he rejoined his family.

Legend has it that a few years after his return he had a vision in which he saw a man carrying many letters, which were titled: “The Voice of the Irish People” that requested him to return to Ireland as a servant of god. The vision prompted him to enter the priesthood where he studied for many years in France under the tutelage of St. Germanus, who later ordained Patrick as a Bishop and sent him on a mission to spread the gospel in Ireland.

Patrick is thought to have arrived in Ireland on March 25th, 433 AD and for the next forty years spent his time performing miracles, spreading the word of god, building churches and in his free time banishing snakes from the Island - all the while living in squalor and enduring a consider amount of personal suffering.

Even though St. Patrick lived over 1500 years ago, it isn’t difficult to trace his steps in Ireland today where there are thousands of sites that claim a connection to the historic figure.

Most notably you can visit the Rock of Cashel, St. Patricks Well, The Hill of Slane, Croagh Patrick or Saul Church where the Saint founded his first church and is said to be buried.

Apart from historic sites where Saint Patrick himself travelled, there are a number of churches and cathedrals in the Republic of Ireland as well as in Northern Ireland which are dedicated to the Patron Saint with one of the most important being that of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (Ard-Eaglais Naomh Pádraig)

The historic Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Ireland’s capital city of Dublin dates back to the year 1191 and is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland as well as the largest church in Ireland with its 43 meter tall spire. Today it is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Ireland as well as a popular tourist attraction for people who want to learn about Irish history and culture.

The grounds of St. Patrick’s Cathedral are thought to be the earliest Christian site in Ireland where in the 5th century Saint Patrick baptized converts with water from a well on site but despite some archaeological evidence there is little proof to actually confirm whether or not this is actually true.

When the Normans arrived in Ireland, bringing with them new construction techniques, Archbishop John Comyn made the decision to raise the status of Saint Patrick’s to a cathedral and in 1191 started construction on the building that we see today - replacing the original wooden church that was there. 

The decision to construct a cathedral caused some territorial issues for the small city of Dublin due to the fact that there was no precedence for a city of its size to have more than one cathedral. This caused a bit of friction between the nearby Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patricks which had to endure a period of conflict before signing the ‘Pacis Composito’ agreement in 1300 which clearly defined their roles and acknowledged their shared status.

Even though St. Patrick’s Cathedral is not the seat for the Archbishop of Dublin, it has been designated the national cathedral for the whole of Ireland since 1870 with chapter members from the twelve regional dioceses of the Church of Ireland. Today it serves as the location for state funerals, public ceremonies and memorial days as well as university graduation ceremonies.

Floor Plan of the Cathedral (Wikipedia Commons)

Floor Plan of the Cathedral (Wikipedia Commons)

Like a lot of European cathedrals, the cathedral was designed in “cruciform” shape meaning that the layout was in the form of a cross with the nave being the longest part, the choir area being the top part and the transepts being the arms on either side of the nave.

The building designed in gothic-style has evolved quite a bit over its history with the addition of the Lady Chapel (behind the choir area) and having to undergo several periods of reconstruction and repair thanks to an accidental fire and the hazards of Ireland’s notorious weather.

The period between the 16th and 17th centuries turned out to be a very turbulent time in Irish history and have had lasting effects on the island that are still felt today. In 1536, King Henry VIII of England conquered Ireland, deposed its rulers and enforced a London-style form of centralized government controlled by the monarchy.

At the same time the English reformation was taking place in Britain meaning that the Irish would also be forced to break with Rome and the Catholic Church ultimately leading to centuries of secretariat animosity between Irish Catholics and Protestants.

Ownership of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, like most of Ireland’s cathedrals was transferred to the Church of Ireland, which was independent of the Catholic Church and declared King Henry VIII to be the Supreme Head of the Church on Earth. The change in ownership meant that modifications would have to be made to the cathedral to reflect the theological changes.

A point which fuelled Irish contempt for their English colonizers was that the English wantonly defaced the church, neglected it and even at one point used it as a stable for Thomas Cromwell’s horses. 

The Lady Chapel

By the 19th century the cathedral was in ruins but was lucky to earn itself a very wealthy benefactor in Sir Benjamin Guinness, the richest man in Ireland and owner of the Guinness Brewing Company. 

Guinness donated over £150,000 to restore the building which closed for restoration between 1860-1865. Rather than just investing funds into the cathedral's restoration, Guinness took a leadership role in the project and personally oversaw not only the restoration of the cathedral but a redesign of the interior of the building for which he made significant changes.

Today the cathedral is a not only a busy place of worship but also an important tourist spot for people visiting Dublin. The price of admission for tourists ensures that St. Patrick's is in a constant state of repair so that this important piece of Irish history is available for future generations to enjoy.

Getting There

The Cathedral is open to visitors from 9:00am - 5:00pm every day except for on Sunday when visiting hours are split up in blocks that allow for the cathedral to perform services. The time for visiting changes during the year, so its a good idea to check the website to see what time the cathedral will be open at the time of year you plan to visit.

Admission to the cathedral is €7.00 for adults and €6.00 for students with special family and group rates offered as well. If you would prefer to book a public tour, which are available from Monday to Saturday you can also book that on the website.


The cathedral is located at the junction of Patrick Street and Upper Kevin Street and is easily accessible by foot from the city centre, but if you prefer to take public transportation you can take Dublin Bus 49, 54a, 56a, 77a or 151. I suggest using the Dublin Bus website or downloading the free app to figure out which route is best for you based on where you are travelling from.