The St Cuthbert Gospel by Unknown Artist

This manuscript of the Gospel of St John is an almost miraculous survival from the Anglo-Saxon period – a beautifully preserved window into the sophisticated culture that flourished some four centuries before the Norman Conquest.


Details

Medium:
Vellum with goatskin binding
Dimensions:
13.5 x 9 cm
Art Fund grant:
£250,000 ( Total: £8,999,999)
Acquired in:
2011
Vendor:
Private collection

Produced in the late 7th century, probably at the twin monasteries of Wearmouth-Jarrow, it is the earliest surviving intact Western book and is intimately associated with Cuthbert, northern England’s most popular saint. It was evidently buried with St Cuthbert on Lindisfarne (Holy Island) in 698, and was discovered in 1104 in the saint’s coffin in Durham Cathedral after it had been moved there to escape Viking raids. Unlike some larger contemporary manuscripts produced in Northumberland, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels, the pages of the St Cuthbert Gospel contain little decoration. The book’s artistic significance lies in its beautifully worked red binding, which provides an insight into the impact of Coptic, late Antique and early Christian design on Anglo-Saxon culture. The Gospel had been on loan to the British Library since 1979, and the Library launched a fundraising campaign to acquire it when the Society of Jesus, which owned the book, decided to sell. The British Library plans to share the display of the book with institutions in Durham, in recognition of St Cuthbert’s links with northeast England. This work was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.

Provenance

Apparently placed in the coffin of St Cuthbert in 698, discovered in 1104 at Durham Cathedral Priory; the Cathedral Priory dissolved in 1540; Thomas Allen by the early 17th century; George Henry Lee, 3rd Earl of Lichfield by the 18th century; Reverend Tho

Venue details

British Library 96 Euston Road, LONDON London NW1 2DB 020 7412 7332 www.bl.uk

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