31 Days of Medieval Manuscripts (2015) · Medieval Art and Architecture

St. Cuthbert’s Gospel – Day Twenty of Medieval Manuscripts

Start of the Gospel of St John in the St Cuthbert or Stonyhurst Gospel. Northumbrian, c. 698. British Library. (MS Add. 89000 f.1). By British Library [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I’m starting to realize that I prefer older (pre-10th century) medieval manuscripts to later ones. I think I’m attracted to older manuscripts’ inherent mysteries – we simply don’t know as much about their makers or original owners. Accordingly, today’s feature is the St. Cuthbert Gospel, a seventh-century English gospel book now owned by the British Library. The book was found in the tomb of Saint Cuthberth of Lindisfarne (c. 634-687) in the twelfth century, which is now it got its name. The St. Cuthbert Gospel is interesting both for its tiny size (137 × 95 mm or 5.39″ x 3.74″) and for its amazing condition, including its original binding. According to the British Library, the St. Cuthbert Gospel “is the only surviving high-status manuscript from this crucial period in British history to retain its original appearance, both inside and out”. From what I can tell without going through every single page (though you can do that on the British Library’s website), the manuscript isn’t illustrated or heavily-decorated. However, the lettering is beautiful and its history more than makes up for a lack of illumination in my opinion.

Page of the Gospel of St John in the St Cuthbert or Stonyhurst Gospel. Northumbrian, c. 698. British Library. (MS Add. 89000 f.11). By British Library [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Source: Harrison, Julian “St Cuthbert Gospel Saved for the Nation”. British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts blog. April 17, 2012. Accessed October 20, 2015.

An image of St. Cuthbert teaching from a 12th century manuscript of Bede’s Life of St. Cuthbert, British Library (MS Yates Thompson 26 f.35) [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons.
As an aside, I’ve just discovered that today is National Writing Day. Apparently, I’m supposed to talk about why I write (#whyiwrite). Well, I write because I think art and history are too fascinating to enjoy alone. I hope you agree. 🙂

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