The Irish have a weakness for puns, and this is as evident in the Book of Kells as it is in Finnegans Wake, although in the former the puns are for the most part visual, for no monk would think to tamper with the Gospel texts….
Thus on the recto of folio 180, a line of text referring to Peter’s denial of Christ incorporates the figure of a hare, an animal known for its timidity.
An even more ingenious leporine dig is spotted by Meehan, with equal ingenuity, on the verso of folio 87. “The hare here, forming the S of Simile, gazes back overleaf to folio 87r, where Peter expresses doubt about following Jesus. It is precisely on the other side of the leaf from the pet of petrus, suggesting a deliberate association, to Peter’s disadvantage, between the words petrus and Simile and the animal, Peter being ‘like to’ a hare.” We should look with indulgence upon these harmless sallies. After all, as James Joyce pointed out, the Church of Rome was built on a pun, when Christ chose Peter (Petrus) as the rock (petra) of its foundation.