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Lindisfarne Gospels

Virtually all that is known of the Lindisfarne Gospels comes from a colophon, written in the second half of the tenth century by Aldred, who also provided an Anglo-Saxon gloss (word-for-word translation) between the lines of Latin text. The opening words from the Gospel of John, In principio... (In the beginning), have been glossed as In fruma... in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

He identifies Eadfrith as the author, his successor Æthelwald as binding the manuscript, and Billfrith as adorning the cover with gold, jewels, and gilded silver, all of which probably were lost during the dissolution of the monasteries, when Henry VIII ordered the Gospels removed to London. Eventually, the manuscript was acquired by Sir Robert Cotton, who bequeathed it to the nation. It now is in the British Library.

In fleeing the Vikings in AD 875, the monks of Lindisfarne took their Gospel with them. The manuscript is said to have been lost in the Irish Sea but miraculously to have washed up on shore three days later, stained but otherwise undamaged.

This illuminated manuscript has five carpet pages, so-called from the intricacy of their design, which are similar to the cloisonné shoulder clasps found at Sutton Hoo and may have been inspired by such metalwork.  

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