Bells to ring out as part of series of events celebrating the Lindisfarne Gospels and their creator

A celebration of the life of the scribe who created the Lindisfarne Gospels 1,300 years ago has been launched.

By Ian Smith
Tuesday, 1st June 2021, 10:45 am
A series of events are being held to celebrate the life of Eadfrith, creator of the Lindisfarne Gospels.
A series of events are being held to celebrate the life of Eadfrith, creator of the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Parishioners of St Mary’s Church, Holy Island and pupils at Lowick and Holy Island C of E First Schools are celebrating the life of Eadfrith who is believed to have written the world famous book between 715-720 AD.

Acknowledged as a masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon England, the book is a decorated copy of the Gospels of the bible, recounting the life of Jesus. It features ornate painted lettering, drawings and patterned pages with multi-cultural influences.

Eadfrith, who was Bishop of Lindisfarne from 698, devoted years of his life to producing the book as a dedication to God and to his famous predecessor, St Cuthbert.

The Lindisfarne Gospels. Picture: British Library Board

The celebrations will include lighting up the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick in the Northumberland colours of red and gold, and bell ringing on Eadfrith’s feast day on June 4, and concerts, writing workshops and a podcast this summer.

Revd Canon Dr Sarah Hills, Vicar of St Mary’s, said: “We know that Eadfrith died around 721AD and we want to recognise his amazing work here 1,300 years ago.

“The Lindisfarne Gospels are a beautiful depiction of the story of Christ and they also tell us about how the island community and its culture survived terrible persecution and how the people of the North East united to save this book.

“Sharing ideas, treasuring diversity and reconciling our differences, as expressed in the pages and journey of this book, can help us all to achieve peace and reconciliation in our lives and communities today.”

Gospel of Matthew, Lindisfarne Gospels. Picture: British Library Board

After nearly a hundred years of Viking raids, the monastic community abandoned Lindisfarne in 875, taking with them the body of St Cuthbert and other relics, including the Lindisfarne Gospels.

The community spent over 100 years at Chester-le-Street, County Durham, before settling at Durham.

The Gospels had to be protected again during the violent dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII and were eventually rehomed (minus the original jewels that decorated the binding) in the British Museum in 1753 and passed on to the British Library where they remain today.

Rebecca Simpson, head of Lowick and Holy Island Church of England First Schools, said: “We will be making a pilgrimage across the sands to the island and investigating the science, history and cultural influences of Eadfrith’s amazing work and the history of writing.”

Lindisfarne Priory.

Eadfrith pioneered the use of a candle-powered lightbox to enable him to trace the complex patterns and intricate lettering on the book’s vellum pages.

Bishop of Newcastle, the Right Reverend Christine Hardman said: “The north of England is recognised as the cradle of northern Christianity and Eadfrith’s masterpiece provides timeless inspiration to us all.

“People across the world are inspired by the spiritual influence of the northern saints and the unique heritage of Holy Island, the birthplace of Christianity in the north of England and the Lindisfarne Gospels.”

The Eadfrith Gospels celebrations are supported by the Handley Trust and Allchurches Trust.

St Mary's Church on Holy Island.

The Lindisfarne Gospels will go on display at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, on loan from the British Library in 2022.

A large interactive digital copy of the Lindisfarne Gospels can be viewed at the Lindisfarne Centre on Holy Island.

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