Dear fellow book lovers, why don’t you “Take a Break from the Present” and watch us leaf through illuminated manuscripts from past centuries? Let’s start with the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of the series’ highlights. If you want to know more about this manuscript, read on!
As many of you probably already know, the Lindisfarne Gospels is a Latin Gospel book made in the Insular world sometime between the late 7th and early 8th century. What some of you might not know is that we launched – both on Facsimile Finder and on our Youtube channel – the Lindisfarne Gospels facsimile high quality video, so feel free to check it out and tell us what you think!
10 Centuries of Darkness
Like many other manuscripts, this one, too, has its fair share of mystery, for there is no conclusive evidence as to where the codex was created and few clues as to its whereabouts prior to the 17th century. So, what we know so far is that the book was probably made on the tidal island of Lindisfarne – founded by St Aidan from Iona in 653.
Then, we loose track of it for almost 10 centuries until it finally makes an appearance in the early 17th century, in London. What happened in those 10 centuries, however, we have no way of knowing, although you should check out the facsimile edition commentary as it provides a study about its possible timeline.
An Artistic Synthesis
Another thing we do know is that the Lindisfarne Gospels is thought to be one of the three sister volumes made at Lindisfarne at the same time, the others being the Durham Gospels (Durham Cathedral Library, MS A.II.17) and the Echternach Gospels (BNF, MS Lat. 9389). It is noteworthy that these manuscripts have received much less public exposure, one of the main reasons being its place as a jewel within the national collections.
Due to its beauty, some scholars go as far as to claim that the intricacy and the sophistication of its illumination is the work not of a man but of angels. Furthermore, the manuscript reflects a melting-pot of influences such as Celtic, Pictish, Anglo-Saxon, and Mediterranean art, a fine synthesis of the art of the early Middle Ages.