Lindisfarne Gospels

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The Lindisfarne Gospels is a vellum codex of the four Gospels (British Museum, Cotton MS Nero D IV), with Canontables and prefaces, written in a noble AngloSaxon majuscule script and splendidly decorated in HibernoSaxon style by Eadfrith (bishop of Lindisfarne, 698721) on the island of Lindisfarne off the northeast coast of England, probably between 695 and 698. Complete and exceptionally well-preserved, it comprises 259 folios (13.8 inches by 9.8 inches). About 970 a word-by-word interlinear translation of the Latin text into the Anglo-Saxon was added by Aldred, a monk of the Lindisfarne community. This is one of the longest Old English texts and a very important linguistic document. Aldred added also a colophon (on fol. 259r) giving details of the making of the Gospels. The binding, now lost, was by Aethelwald (bishop, 721740) and was enriched with gold, silver, and gems by Billfrith (Bilfrid), an anchorite of the community. The codex was thus made on Lindisfarne in the monastery founded (635) by the Irishman aidan but by Saxon hands. The Gospel text is a pure Vulgate of the ItaloNorthumbrian family very close to that of the Codex Amiatinus. Its exemplar appears to have come from Naples. Italian influence appears also in the settingout of the text, in the Canontable arcades, in the Evangelist portraits, and even in the character of the script. Eadfrith is the first known name in British art history. The text was issued in editions by J. Stevenson and G. Waring (185465) and by W. W. Skeat (187187).

See Also: manuscript illumination.

Bibliography: Codex Lindisfarnensis, ed. t. d. kendrick et al., 2 v. (Olten 195660), color fac. and commentary. s. f. h. robinson, Celtic Illuminative Art in the Gospel Books of Durrow, Lindisfarne and Kells (Dublin 1908). e. g. millar, The Lindisfarne Gospels (London 1923). f. henry, Irish Art in the Early Christian Period, to 800 A.D. (Ithaca, N.Y. 1965). j. backhouse, The Lindisfarne Gospels: A Masterpiece of Book Painting (San Francisco 1995).

[r. l. s. brucemitford]

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Lindisfarne Gospels, now British Library, Cotton MS Nero D.iv. A Latin text of the Gospels, with a later Anglo-Saxon translation or gloss, which was made at the monastery of Lindisfarne, in the north-east of England, by Eadfrith, who was bishop of Lindisfarne 698–721. It is an elaborately decorated book. Each Gospel is preceded by three fully decorated pages: an author portrait, a carpet page, and an initial. Matthew's Gospel has a second initial page (1: 18), to mark the beginning of the story of the Incarnation. It is likely that the manuscript was made for the elevation of the relics of St Cuthbert in 698. The Gospels remained closely associated with the saint during the Middle Ages, travelling with the body to Chester-le-Street and then to Durham. When Cuthbert's shrine was pillaged at the Reformation, the Gospels were taken to London. They became part of Sir Robert Cotton's library and subsequently part of the national collections in the British library.

Lynda Rollason

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Lindisfarne Gospels Manuscript illuminated in the Hiberno-Saxon style in the late 7th or 8th century. It may have been executed for Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne (698–721). It is now held in the British Museum, London.