The Central Bank of Ireland celebrates Ireland’s monastic art with the issue of a very special Gold Proof coin. This gold coin is one of the smallest in the world and its design is the work of renowned Irish artist Thomas Ryan.” He says that “the design was inspired by Ireland’s great age of Celtic spiritualism and artistic creativeness as shown in the marvellously illuminated works such as the Book of Kells.” The magnificent collector coin is struck to Proof quality in fine gold .999. The reverse if the miniature gold coin features an evocative portrayal of an Irish Monastic Art by Thomas Ryan while the obverse of the coin bears the Irish Harp. The coin is displayed in a luxurious presentation case and is accompanied by a numbered Certificate of Authenticity. This commemorative coin is strictly limited to only 12,000 pieces. The Book of Kells: As early as the 5th century, Irish monasteries were acknowledged centres of learning that attracted students from as far away as England and Europe to study under their tutelage. Leading a life of prayer, poverty and obedience, the monks devoted their lives to the sanctification of God. Some of the best examples of this deep-rooted veneration can be found in their illuminated manuscripts, the most famous of which is The Book of Kells dating from 800 AD. With its elaborate incipit initials and opulent decoration, painstakingly applied to vellum made from calfskin, this magnificent four-volume magnum opus survives virtually intact, and attracts more than 500,000 visitors each year to Trinity College Dublin where it is on display in the Old Library. Like many of the artistic works produced by monks, illuminated manuscripts were intended as sacramental, rather that educational. Thomas Ryan attended the Limerick School of Art, then the National College in Dublin. In 1957 he first exhibited at the RHA and became an associate member in1968. He has had many commissions for portraits and he is also well known for his Irish historical scenes, especially those of the 1916 Rising, and for his sensitive still-life paintings. He has exhibited at the municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin and was President of the RHA from 1982 to 1993. He has designed a number of significant Irish coins including the Irish £1 coin featuring a red deer, which was introduced in 1990 to replace the £1 note, the 1988 Dublin Millennium 50p coin and in 2008, the gold and silver coins commemorating famous Antarctic explorers Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean. Recently Thomas has also designed the Gold Proof Celtic Cross Coin, celebrating their scale and competence of execution.