One of Ireland's greatest cultural treasures, the Book of Kells, can now be viewed in a new state-of-the-art display at Trinity College Dublin.

The ninth-century manuscript is displayed in a freestanding tower manufactured by the Italian company that designed cases for the Mona Lisa, the British Crown Jewels and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The new display case, officially unveiled today, was funded by Fáilte Ireland and a gift from donors, Carol and Murray Grigor.

Librarian and College Archivist Helen Shenton said: "This new display case reflects the importance and beauty of the Book of Kells.

"It has been designed to protect the manuscript while providing an enhanced viewing experience for visitors.

"The Book of Kells has inspired generations of visitors, students and academics and will continue to do so for future generations as we preserve it with the highest conservation standards and the best technology."

The new display case was funded by Fáilte Ireland and a gift from donors
(Courtesy: The Board of Trinity College Dublin)

The Book of Kells features the four Gospels in Latin and is considered to be one of the world's most famous medieval manuscripts due to its lavish and ornate decoration.

The new case will facilitate every single page to be displayed, on a rotating basis.

This will include some of the manuscript's most ornate pages, which have not been on public display for decades.

The selected pages for the opening are from the Gospel of St Matthew, of the Virgin and Child (folio 7v) and Breves Causae (folio 8r), which will be viewed for the first time in 30 years.

This is the only major depiction of a woman in the entire Book of Kells.

It is also the earliest known surviving image of the Virgin and Child in Western manuscript art.

Some of the manuscript's most ornate pages have not been on public display for decades
(Courtesy: The Board of Trinity College Dublin)

Trinity Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast said: "Safeguarding the Book of Kells is imperative for the preservation and promotion of European culture and heritage.

"The Book of Kells is intrinsic to our history and culture and continues to be a source of innovation.

"This beautiful new case displays the manuscript in a way that I have never seen it before. The pages are tilted towards us. You can see the beauty of the pages right in front of you."

Marking the historic occasion, Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht Catherine Martin said: "The opening of the new Book of Kells Treasury and display case is one of the most positive developments for the country’s culture, heritage and tourism sectors this year. It heralds a period of renewal and innovation for cultural organisations across Ireland."

Visitor income from the Book of Kells last year totalled €12.7m, as more than one million visitors paid to view the ancient manuscript.

However, the exhibition was closed in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and only reopened last month.

Trinity has said that tickets must be booked online and face coverings are mandatory for all visitors.

"Because of social distancing, you will have a much more personalised or private visit. It's ironic, but if you are thinking of visiting, now is the time to come," said Ms Shenton.