Our Beacon Forum

By:Muhammad Rafi Karachi
Date: Thursday, 26 April 2012, 7:36 am


Date Published: Tuesday, 24 April 2012
By Staff Writer
Posted in: Art & Culture

The St Cuthbert Gospel, a seventh-century relic and the oldest fully intact European book, has been sold to the British Library for £9 million. The manuscript of the Gospel of St John, also refered to as the St Cuthbert Gospel, was created in the late seventh century and placed in the saint's coffin on the island of Lindisfarne, probably in 698.

The saint's remains were discovered in Durham in 1104, during which the coffin was opened and the gospel discovered. "It is undoubtedly one of the world's most important books," said Scot McKendrick, head of history and classics at the British Library.

"Most people who know about books know about the St Cuthbert Gospel. The staggering fact is that we don't have a European book that looks as it did when it was made before this. It's quite astonishing."

The St Cuthbert Gospel is bound in its original red leather, and is the only surviving "high status" manuscript from this period of British history to retain its original appearance both inside and out.

In 2010, the library was approached by auction house Christie's, which was acting on behalf of the gospel's owner, the Society of Jesus (British Province), or Jesuits. The library was given first option to purchase the manuscript, which was valued at £9m.

Scot McKendrick of the British Library said that Jesuits came into possession of the artefact in the middle of the 18th century. The Earl of Lichfield gave it to a priest who in turn passed it to Jesuits living in Europe. They later brought it to Stonyhurst, north-west England, which explains why it was formerly known as the Stonyhurst Gospel.

Half of the price of the gospel came from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, established in 1980 to safeguard works of art and wildlife havens for the nation. Other funding came from the Art Fund, Garfield Weston Foundation and the Foyle Foundation, as well as donations from anonymous charitable trusts and individuals.

The British Library has opened a special display exploring the creation, travels and "near-miraculous" survival of the gospel across thirteen centuries.

Via [The Guardian]