If you are a reader like me, you probably love places that many find boring, like libraries and dusty bookstores where you can dig for relics. It can make traveling in groups very complicated, I know. Still, I bet anyone can cherish the Old Library, which is basically a treasure inside an already bejeweled box.
The Old Library is located inside Trinity College, a super traditional learning and research institution in Dublin, Ireland. As a matter of fact, it is the oldest surviving university in the country, having been established in 1592. You cannot help but feel humble by walking on the cobbled stones by its gardens and elegant ancient buildings, where famous writers like Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and Thomas More have also strolled. No wonder this is a college extremely renowned for its Literature and Humanities fields. The nerdy girl in me that took a one-year course in British Literature was in total awe! For the less nerdy (er…maybe not), Trinity College was founded as a power consolidation of the Tudors in Ireland (any fans of The Tudors tv show out there?). I haven´t sparkled your interest yet? Well, Courtney Love and Jack Gleeson (aka Joffrey Baratheon) went here too.
The prestigious university, which is located in front of another beautiful historic building, the Irish Parliament House, kind of sets in you a nostalgic mood. This feeling is the perfect state of mind to visit the Old Library, one of Ireland´s most visited tourist attractions. No, I didn´t say “Dublin”! It is one of the biggest crowd-drawing places in the c-o-u-n-t-r-y.
The Old Library is actually the name of the oldest library building in the complex, dating back from 1732. The imposing construction contains three very important attractions: the Long Room, the Book of Kells and the Brian Boru Harp. And all are equally gasping material.
The Long Room is exactly what the name suggests – a very lengthy chamber of 65 meters, but with the bonus of being filled with true treasures, holding 200.000 of the Library´s oldest books. Here you will be in the great company of 14 busts of writers and philosophers, as well as extremely rare publications and manuscripts. You will also find one of the few remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. All of this literary richness is accompanied by a dazzling rustic dark wooden decor of the 18th century. The room just screams grandeur, which is also suggested by its super high ceilings. It is so amazing to see it with naked eyes that I don´t think people even tried to come up with a great name to match this chamber – would be impossible. So, everybody settled for The Long Room, which is true but also an understatement.
I might have tricked you a bit in the title….You won´t be able to actually read anything here, sorry! But, for the good old books´fan, being here is already worth it. Apart from housing the Proclamation of the Republic, the Old Library also showcases the Book of Kells and the Brian Boru Harp.
The former is a gospel (Evangelium) manuscript written in Latin, dating back from the 9th century. This is not just an old book, oh no, my friend. This is a work of art, containing complex and ostentatious drawings of Christian icons and Celtic knots, all coming alive in vibrant colors like silver and gold. The colors are so vivid that manuscripts like these are called “illuminated”. Together with the book you can also check out a very nice exhibition that contains explanations about its origins and intricate production procedure. It´s all very…illuminating!
The Brian Boru Harp is located in the Long Room. Also known as the Trinity College Harp, this is an Irish medieval musical instrument dated back from the 14th century. This is the oldest of three remaining Middle Age harps from this region. Brian Boru, an Irish king, was believed to have owned it, though some dispute this information. If the information is false, the harp doesn´t need to have belonged to kings for visitors to admire it anyway….It is, after all, the national symbol of the country and, I bet you have noticed, it is also portrayed in the Guinness beer logo. It is, basically, a celebrity!
To visit the Old Library and all its treasures, you need to buy a ticket online or on the spot. The admission costs 14 euros for adults. Right now the visitation is closed because of COVID-19, but you can check out the normal visiting hours here. My advice is to arrive really early because the lines get outrageous! Another idea is to buy a combined ticket to the Old Library together with a Trinity College Tour costing 15 euros – a super value for money, in my opinion. The tour alone costs 6 euros. If you want to know more about the tours´ schedules and where to buy tickets, click here.
For more information about the Book of Kells, this link here is super interesting!