Book of Kells (detail), late eighth century A.D. (Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland). Like a great stone column crashing across the Continent, Rome's fall buried Europe and scattered civilization like so much dust. It would be 500 years before dazed Europeans began to pick themselves up from the rubble and build a new world. In the meantime, they lived lives of hardship and fear. But learning was kept alive in monasteries, by monks who translated and hand-copied manuscripts.