Some time around A.D. 715, in honour of Saint Cuthbert, patron saint of northern England and revered throughout medieval Europe, the Lindisfarne Gospels were created. Comprising 516 pages of hand painted words and illuminations, 150 calf skins used to make the vellum, and taking ten years to finish, The Lindisfarne Gospels are the oldest surviving English version of the four gospels of the New Testament.
They survived the initial viking attacks in 793 on Lindisfarne island and subsequent attacks throughout the 9th centuries. In 875 however, the Lindisfarne Gospels left their island home and travelled with the Monks and their holy relics, including the body of St Cuthbert himself, around northern England to finally rest at Chester-le-street seven years later. The Gospels stayed here until troubles in the late 10th century meant that the book was on the move again, first to Ripon and then finally resting at Durham, where it stayed until the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry the VIII. From this point on they were kept in private hands until 1753 when they were acquired by the British Library, London.
Now, nearly 1300 years after they were first written, the Lindisfarne Gospels are returning North.
From the 1st July until the 30th September, Durham will host the Gospels in a special exhibition focussing on the history of this national and international treasure. Throughout this time, a number of venues will hold their own celebrations and activities to commemorate this special occasion. For more information on the Exhibition and any other activities planned, visit www.lindisfarnegospels.com
By A H Gray
- Bede, Burials, and Bamburgh: Testing Anglo-Saxon Migration (ahgray.wordpress.com)
- Happy St Bede’s Day (ahgray.wordpress.com)