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History Behind
The Lindisfarne Gospels

dMAC Digest
Volume 7   No 1

Duncan MacDonald     
Jakarta  16  January   2017      
Reviewed   18  February   2022      
       The Lindisfarne Gospels is one of the greatest treasures of the British Library. Dating from the end of the 7th century (the years immediately before 699) the book is a magnificent work of art, its pages illustrated with breathtaking illumination and elegant Latin calligraphy. The Book was written and dedicated to Saint Cuthbert  by Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne (Holy Island, England). Its binding was the work of his successor, Ethelwald.

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   Illustrations contained in this e-book are posted on our web site for your consideration.
St Jerome's letter to Pope    [L] Cross-carpet page introducing Saint Jerom's letter to Pope Damasus.
                    [R] Decorated initial page of Saint Jerom's letter to Pope Damasus.

St Matthew    [L] The 3rd in Eadfrith's sequence of arcaded tables. Interlaced birds fill the colums, while simple ribbon knotwork is used on bases & capitals.      [R] Full page miniature of Saint Matthew, with his symbol, a winged man blowing a trumpert and carrying a book. Note the mysterious figure behind the curtain, which may be intended to represent Jesus.

St Matthew initial page    [L] Cross-carpet page introducing Saint Matthew's Gospel.
                    [R] Decorated initial page of Saint Matthew's Gospel.

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4- St Mark    [L] Saint Mark, accompanied by his symbol, a winged lion blowing a trumpet and carrying a book.                     [R] Decorated initial page of Saint Mark's Gospel.

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St Luke    [L] Saint Luke accompamied by his symbol, a winged calf carrying a book.
                                                            [R] Decorated initial page of Saint Luke's Gospel.

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St John    [L] Saint John accompanied by his symbol, an eagle carrying a book.
                                                            [R] Decorated initial page of Saint John's Gospel.

Aldreds gloss
     Aldred's gloss - Old English translation written between the original Latin lines

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Early History

Columba to Iona
 Saint Columba leaving Ireland with his 12 companions to establish Iona monastery in 563 CE.

Saint Columba

Saint Columba, founder of Iona (521–597)   Columba saying farewell to a white horse the day he died   painting by John Duncan

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Oswald Oswy
  [L] King Oswald of Northumbria, with his pet raven    [R] Oswald's younger brother, King Oswy.

   Saint Aidan, 1st Bishop of Lindisfarne (c.590–651)    Modern statue of Saint Aidan on Lindisfarne

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Saint Finan
   Saint Finan 2nd Bishop of Lindisfarne       Abbess Hilda of Whitby

Bishop Coleman
                       Saint Coleman 3rd Bishop of Lindisfarne 661-664

Abbot Coleman
  [L] Synod of Whitby 664: Bishop Coleman with his Celtic monks, Abbess Hilda and King Oswy, listen to Wilfred of Rippon deliver his presentation on behalf of the Church of Rome.

[R] Later, Bishop Coleman was quiet and withdrawn. His beloved Celtic Church was to be no more.  
He resigned his see and travelled back to Iona.  

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Saint Cuthbert
  [L] Saint Cuthbert with the St Cuthbert Gospel   [R] King Ecgfrith meeting Saint Cuthbert to convince him to renounce his hermitage lifestyle and become Bishop of Lindisfarne

7- St Cuthbert

[L] Opening St Cuthbert's grave in 698 CE. (Cuthbert died in 687) The monks display their astonishment at finding his body miracuously undecayed.      [R] St Cuthbert's relics returning to Lindisfarne in 1069.

     St Cuthbert's relics were moved from Lindisfarne in 875, eventually residing in Chester-le-Street (County Durham). They were moved a century later to Durham cathedral. In 1069 the relics were carried back accross the sands to Lindesfarne to escape the wrath of William the Conqueror.
St Cuthbets coffin      Saint Cuthbert's coffin lid with symbols of Matthew & Mark [L]         Luke & John [R]

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St Cuthbert Gospel

          St Cuthbert gospel
     St Cuthbert Gospel retains its original binding and is the oldest intact European book. Made in the early 8th century(700 - 730 CE), it contains a copy of the Gospel of John.
     The Gospel is intimately connected with St Cuthbert. Cuthbert was re-interned at Lindisfarne in 698. His coffin was removed following the second Vikings raid in 875. It was eventually taken to Durham, where it was opened in September 1104. Again his body was found to be uncorrupt, still flexible and smelling like a rose. The Gospel was discovered lying next to his head in pefect condition.
     It was aparently produced at Wearmouth-Jarrow by a local scribe in the early 8th century.
     Cuthbert's body remained at Durham cathedral until 1537 when Henry VIII sent emissaries to loot and destroy the saint's tomb. They too found his body uncorrupt, but that didn't deter them from stealing the jewels and ornaments buried with him, including the gospel.
     The book, then over 850 years old, passed into private hands. In 1769 it was given to the English Jesuit College at Liege. The Jesuits brought it with them to England when the Leige college was moved and renamed Stonyhurst College. In 1979 the Society of Jesus loaned the gospel to the British Library, where it has been on display ever since.
     In 2011 the Jesuits decide to sell the pocket-sized book and use the funds to repair church buildings. The British Library raised the purchase price of 9 million pounds ($14.5 million). The gospel will be shared between the British Library and the Durham World Heritage Site. Durham is thrilled at the prospect of its homecoming.

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The Venerable Bede

          The Venerable Bede (673-735), dictating to a scribe at Jarrow monastery.

Bedes commentary
                    Bede's commentary on Proverbs 10

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The Vikings

Viking raid    The Viking raid on the Lindisfarne Monastery on 8 June 793 caused great alarm throughout the Christian world. It is generally considered the beginning of the Viking Age.

Viking raid on monasteries
   The Vikings realised the most lucrative targets were Monasteries, which were undefended and contained much plunder. Monks in Lindisfarne, Iona and other British and Irish monasteries were forced to relocate their valuable documents and treasure to more inland locations. Even this failed to protect them over the next 200 years from the predators.

Viking settlements

Viking Settlements

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Modern Lindisfarne
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne causway                        Incoming tide at Lindisfarne causway  7 August 2016

Lindisfarne                Lindisfarne Priory with Beblowe Craig in the distance

Shinta Frank Lindisfarne

Frank (Errol) Tait, of North Berwick/Jakarta,  Shinta MacDonald of Jakarta,  at Lindisfarne Priory
7 August 2016

Lindisfarne                  Lindisfarne village  7 August 2016

Lindisfarne                     Lindisfarne with the English mainland on the horizon

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That's Life

Lindisfarne gospel

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Lindisfarne This Digest volume can be downloaded as an e-book on Smashwords.
Available on iPad / iBooks, Kindle, Nook, Sony, & most e-reading apps including Stanza & Aldiko.
Just click the following link     >> download this free e-book   dMAC Digest Vol 7 No 1

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      Jakarta Journal #2                                             Risk History Next

     >> view illustrations for Culann, Celtic Warrior Monk - Book 1


Saint Matthew
Saint Mark
Saint Luke
Saint John

Early History
Saint Columba
King Oswald
Saint Aidan
Saint Finan
Abbot Coleman
Saint Cuthbert
Venerable Bede

Modern Lindisfarne
That's Life

1.Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons), Geoffrey of Monmouth , Cambridge Library, Cambridge c829

2.Bede The Venerable, translated by Dom David Hurst, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo USA 1985

3.The Lindisfarne Gospels, Janet Backhouse, The British Library, London 1995

4.The Vikings, Julian D. Richards, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1995

5.The British Library, Treasures in Focus, The Lindisfarne Gospels, Michelle P. Brown, The British Library, London 2006

6. The Lindisfarne Gospels, Richard Gameson, Third Millennium Publishing, London 2013

7.The Lindisfarne Gospels, Janet Backhouse, Phaidon Press Ltd, London 2014

8. www.lindisfarne.org.uk/Little-known Saints of the North, Reverend Canon Kate Tristram

   Britannia Bulletin   Illustrated Historical Novel: Roman Britain in the 1st century CE
  Roman Britannia Bulletin #1   >>Download this free e-book