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British Library - Mirrors of Their Age: The Codex Amiatinus and the Lindisfarne Gospels

decoration05 Nov. 2018

Why are these manuscripts legendary?

Medieval historian Michelle Brown explores the making, meaning and enduring cultural significance of these two legendary and beautiful manuscripts from the North of England.

The Codex Amiatinus and the Lindisfarne Gospels are amongst the greatest monuments of the Anglo-Saxon age, but also part of a story of international engagement stretching from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, to Rome and to the deserts of the Middle East. 

Discover the journeys these manuscripts have taken, and why they are significant even now.

The Codex Amiatinus is the oldest surviving, complete Latin Vulgate Bible in the world. It was made at Wearmouth-Jarrow in Northumbria in the early 8th century. It is so convincing in its mastery of the Italo-Byzantine style that it was not recognised as being of English manufacture until the late 19th century. One Thursday in June over 1300 years ago, a group of monks stood on the banks of the River Wear, weeping, as a boat sailed away carrying their abbot, Ceolfrith, and an enormous book as a gift for the Pope: the Codex Amiatinus. It has never returned to the British Isles, until now, when it returns to Britain for the first time for display in the exhibition.

The Lindisfarne Gospels is one of the most magnificent manuscripts of the early Middle Ages, written and decorated at the beginning of the 8th century by the monk Eadfrith, who became Bishop of Lindisfarne in 698 and died in 722. It is the epitome of the fusion of Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Pictish and Mediterranean cultural influences and was originally bound in leather and decorated with jewels and precious metals. Around 950 the Latin text of the Gospels is translated word by word in an Old English gloss, making it the earliest surviving example of the Gospel text in the English language. Today the manuscript is once again bound in silver and jewels, in covers made in 1852 at the expense of Edward Maltby, Bishop of Durham.


05 Nov. 2018
Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Full Price: £12.00
British Library
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