Folio 34r contains the Chi
Rho monogram. Chi and
Rho are the first two letters
ofthe word ‘Christ’ in Greek.
The Book of Kells is the high point of a group of manuscripts in what is known as the Insular style produced from the late 6th through the early 9th centuries in monasteries in Ireland, Scotland and northern England and in continental monasteries with Irish or English foundations.
These manuscripts include the Cathach of St. Columba, the Ambrosiana Orosius, a fragmentary gospel in the Durham cathedral library (all from the early 7th century), and the Book of Durrow (from the second half of the 7th century). From the early 8th century come the Durham Gospels, the Echternach Gospels, the Lindisfarne Gospels (see illustration at right), and the Lichfield Gospels. The St. Gall Gospel Book and the Macregal Gospels come from the late 8th century. The Book of Armagh (dated to 807–809), the Turin Gospel Book Fragment, the Leiden Priscian, the St. Gall Priscian and the Macdurnan Gospel all date from the early 9th century. Scholars place these manuscripts together based on similarities in artistic style, script, and textual traditions. The fully developed style of the ornamentation of the Book of Kells places it late in this series, either from the late eighth or early ninth century. The Book of Kells follows many of the iconographic and stylistic traditions found in these earlier manuscripts. For example, the form of the decorated letters found in the incipit pages for the Gospels is surprisingly consistent in Insular Gospels. Compare, for example, the incipit pages of the Gospel of Matthew in the Lindisfarne Gospels and in the Book of Kells both of which feature intricate decorative knotwork inside the outlines formed by the enlarged initial letters of the text. (For a more complete list of related manuscripts see: List of Hiberno-Saxon illustrated manuscripts.)