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Lindisfarne Gospels... on the radio & in Durham

Saturday, 15 June 2013

size approx 365 x 275 mm (14.3 x 10.8 inches)

Tomorrow evening, Sunday, 19:45 on BBC Radio 3, there is a radio show discussing the Lindisfarne Gospels

The Lindisfarne Gospels are one of the world's greatest books and among the most important works of European art of the first millennium. Created on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne around the year 700, they are normally housed in the British Library in London, but for three months this summer, the Gospels are returning to the North East for a major exhibition in Durham.
David Almond visits the British Library, Durham, Newcastle and Lindisfarne itself - a location he has adored since his boyhood - to explore the meaning of the Gospels to himself and to his fellow North-Easterners.
There's more about the Sunday Feature radio show here 
The Lindisfarne Gospels in Durham site is here

They will be on display in Durham from 1st July to 30th September
At the centre of the exhibition in Durham University's Palace Green Library is the gospel book itself, written in honour of St Cuthbert. In addition many fabulous artefacts from Anglo-Saxon England will be on show including ornate gold objects from the Staffordshire Hoard, intricately carved stone from Lindisfarne and silver from Hexham, alongside some very special medieval manuscripts such as the St Cuthbert Gospel and the Durham Gospels. These items place the Lindisfarne Gospels within a wider context of Anglo-Saxon creativity and show how incredibly complex and elaborate Medieval craftsmanship was.

This also sounds interesting:
There is also a smaller, complementary exhibition entitled Exploring the Lindisfarne Gospels on display in the Wolfson Gallery, also situated in Palace Green Library. This exhibition tells the story of how manuscripts were made and will also be used to display creative responses to the Lindisfarne Gospels made by local artists. 
The British Library blog has more information and you can get a great look at more images on the British Library digitised manuscripts site here

The St Cuthbert Gospel (formerly known as the Stoneyhurst Gospel), the oldest intact European book, is also discussed on the radio show (more about this gospel here)

 size 138 x 92 mm ( 5.4 x 3.6 inches approx)


I often wonder at the scribes who wrote books of old... some, no doubt were merely doing a job, maybe because they were good at writing, or this was simply an assigned task, or maybe because they hated it... sent to the scriptorium as punishment for some other misdemeanour. Sometimes the scribes possibly couldn't even read, just copying the shapes of the letters, often in books that were to be gifted to some noble-person who couldn't read either, but the possession of such a treasure filled with magical marks that few could understand was a symbol of wealth.

The Lindisfarne Gospels though, are filled with passion... colours & patterns are woven together to create so many visually appealing pages. And the St Cuthbert book, written to be entombed with him... surely not written begrudgingly. If they were alive today, would the scribe or artist be sharing their work on blogs & internet... describing each stage or critical design decision? Pondering the use of language or material? Did these men write & paint purely for the glory of God and St Cutbert rather than for self or satisfaction? Would they look at us as being self-indulgent in our ramblings & explorations, or would they be mixed media addicts, just as excited to share? 

In a way, these books are an early version of the internet... one of the early ways of sharing thoughts & information... each page & illustration leading to wondrous new worlds that only hint at the possibilities beyond the words. I hope those ancient scribes will look fondly on us modern ones as we try to convey thought & feeling, no doubt muttering under their breath that we have it so much easier than in their day!


It is David Almond, author of Skellig, Billy Dean & so much more, that will be talking about the Gospels on Radio 3 tomorrow. I love hearing him talk; be sure to watch some of his videos on the site if you have time.

This "meet the author" video talks about his approach to writing & includes a bit about how the Lindisfarne Gospels feature in 'The True Tale of The Monster Billy Dean'... take a peek here 


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