20 December 2013
Have Your Say
Sense of Place
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The history of The Gospels
This exceptionally beautiful book represents the pinnacle of achievement of Anglo-Saxon Northumbrian art at the end of the 7th century and the beginning of the 8th century. Within its pages it draws together all the varied influences which shaped Christian art of the time, blending styles of writing and decoration from Italian, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon art.
Almost everything that is known concerning the origin of the manuscript is derived from a note written in Anglo-Saxon, believed to be dated between 950 and 970, by a priest named Aldred. He also inserted an addition of a very early Old English translation written between the lines of the original Latin. Aldred also recorded when and where he believed the book was made, and by whom.
Why were the Lindisfarne Gospels made?
According to the 10th century inscription by Aldred, the Lindisfarne Gospels were made at the island monastery to
The Lindisfarne Gospels contain the gospels of Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, concerning the life of Jesus. The book was produced for ceremonial use, as a representation of the splendour of God's word and the Christian religion. It would also have been an important contribution to the cult of St Cuthbert, which turned Lindisfarne into a place of pilgrimage in the late 7th and 8th centuries.
The makers of the Lindisfarne Gospels
Eadfrith, Bishop of the Lindisfarne Church, originally wrote and illustrated this book, for God and for Saint Cuthbert and - jointly - for all the saints whose relics are in the Island. Talented scribes, who
wrote "the Lord’s word", were highly regarded.
Bishop of the Lindisfarne islanders, impressed it on the outside and
covered it - as he well knew how to do. Billfrith, the hermit, forged
the ornaments which are on it on the outside and adorned it with gold
and jewels and also with gilded-over silver - pure metal.
The search for a safer home for the Lindisfarne
1069, the Lindisfarne Gospels spent a short time back at Lindisfarne
to escape the devastating raid on the North mounted by the new Norman
king, William the Conqueror. The
book was then returned to Durham. In 1104, St Cuthbert's body and
other monastic treasures from Lindisfarne were moved to the splendid
new Romanesque cathedral at Durham.
In 1852 a new binding was commissioned for the Lindisfarne Gospels, based on decoration in Eadfrith's pages. In 1973 the Lindisfarne Gospels became part of the British Library.