Did you know that Dublin’s Chester Beatty Library was Europe’s Museum of the Year in 2002 and its collections have only grown since then? Did you know that this often overlooked gem contains some of the oldest writings of the Bible, including the earliest known book containing all four Gospels, the earliest copy of the letters of St. Paul, and the earliest individual copy of St. John’s Book of Revelation? And, did you know the Chester Beatty Library is right in the heart of Dublin at Dublin Castle? Oh, and it is free to visit! Find out more below and on my podcast featuring Dr. Jill Unkel, Curator of Western Collections for the Chester Beatty Library.
As a traveler, I always try to find some unique finds and exceptional experiences in every place that I visit. As a Christian, I am delighted when I find places or experiences that help me grow and understand my faith better. The Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland, is an extraordinary place to visit to help visitors understand all of the world’s great cultures and faiths, and it holds particular significance to me as a Christian.
For my accompanying podcast, “Dublin, Ireland’s Chester Beatty Library: Overview and Christian Highlights – One Perfect Day in Travel Podcast Episode 25,” I was able to interview Dr. Jill Unkel, Curator of Western Collections for the library. Be sure to listen to the podcast to learn even more about Chester Beatty and the vast collection of artifacts of world significance that he left to the country of Ireland.
Chester Beatty, the Man:
Chester Beatty (1875 – 1968) was an American mining engineer who rose to prominence in his field. While overseeing mining operations in Egypt for the Guggenheim Exploration Company, he began collecting antiquities that went on the market in that part of the world. Over the years, his interest grew in the world’s great religions and cultures grew. He began to collect manuscripts, books, paintings, prints, and other artifacts from across the world.
For the last twenty years of his life, Chester Beatty lived in Ireland. When he died, he left his collection to the country. The Chester Beatty Museum is located in central Dublin, in the Dublin Castle complex. It was named the Irish Museum of the Year in 2000 and the European Museum of the Year in 2002.
Gospel Codex – Until Chester Beatty acquired these Greek writings on papyrus in Egypt, it had only been rumored that there was a codex, or a compilation of books, of the New Testament of the Bible written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John grouped together dating to 200-250 AD. Compilations that were known to exist at the time that Chester Beatty acquired the codex dated to the fourth century. This find is especially meaningful since the first Christians shared the Gospels through word of mouth only, and individual Gospels were not written down until decades later. Chester Beatty worked with an expert at the British Museum in London to validate the early codex, and now it is located in the library.
Paul’s Epistles – The letters of Saint Paul are considered by many to be the library’s greatest collection. While visiting the library you will see some of the over 112 pages of Paul’s Epistles. The Beatty collection includes letters to the Corinthians, Ephesians, and Romans, making up some of the most studied and revered books of the Bible.
Gospel of John – The oldest known copy of the Gospel of John, dating to 150-200 AD, is part of the collection. If it is on display when you visit, you will see a fragment from The Book of Revelation.
Special Tours and Events:
Free public tours of highlights of the collection are offered on Wednesdays at 1 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm and Sundays at 3 pm.
There are additional special tours and special events throughout the year, including workshops and events for children and teens, too. Check the calendar on the website at:
Francisco Goya: The Disasters of War – There is no charge to visit the current special exhibit, Francisco Goya: The Disasters of War. The exhibit is open through January 21, 2018. The collection of 40 prints displays the atrocities of war following Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Spain in 1808. The light and shadows of the etchings and their record of the suffering of war are regarded as predecessors of today’s photo-journalism.
Silk Road Café:
You may want to have a snack or lunch at the museum’s Silk Road Café in the interior lobby of the library. The reasonably priced menu features soups, panini, home-made cakes, breads, mixed berry scones, and baklava.
Address and Opening Times of Chester Beatty Library:
Dublin Castle, Dublin 2
Hours: Monday* through Friday 10 am – 5 pm, Saturday 11 am – 5 pm, Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm
*Closed Monday in winter (November through February), Good Friday, December 24-26, January 1, and Public Holiday Mondays
Don’t forget, for much more information about the library and Chester Beatty, listen to my podcast interview with Dr. Jill Unkel, Curator of Western Collections. We recorded the interview at the library in October 2017.
Until next time, I hope all your travel days are just perfect!