Book of Kells

Published in Issue 5 (September/October 2013), Letters, Volume 21

12Sir,—I have read with great interest Roger Stalley’s suggestion (HI 21.3, May/June 2013, ‘Iona, the Vikings and the making of the Book of Kells’) that the practice of exorcism may have been behind the repeated but careful stabbing of the figure of the Devil in the Book of Kells, folio 202v. Something else may also have been at work: Cassiodorus, the great sixth-century monastic writer, commented that ‘each word written is a wound on Satan’s body’ (Michelle Brown, The Lindisfarne Gospels: society, spirituality and the scribe (2003), p. 316). On a page with no words, this may have seemed appropriate to a scribe who commonly would have held a knife in one hand, to excise errors, while holding a pen in the other.—Yours etc.,



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