#AceBritishHistory – June 06 – English Monarchs – Kings and Queens of England – Alfred the Great.: http://englishmonarchs.co.uk/saxon_6.htm
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#AceHistoryNews says the story of the “Lindisfarne Gospels” are part of our very fabric of Britain, this is how they came into being.
An Eight Century monk’s artistic legacy is one of Britain’s greatest literary and religious treasures.
The Lindisfarne Gospels were produced more than 1300 years ago at the monastery of Lindisfarne on the Northumbrian coast. The single volume manuscript consists of 500 pages of beautiful calligraphy and decorative symbols. An Anglo-Saxon translation of the Latin text was added two centuries later and is the earliest known English version of the gospels. The book survived the centuries in spectacular condition and is now held by the British Library.
Dr Michelle Brown, curator of illuminated manuscripts for the British Library, has researched the origins and craftsmanship of the work. Her findings are shared at an exhibition called Painted Labyrinth – the World of the Lindisfarne Gospels. The original manuscript is the centrepiece of the free event alongside an exact duplicate which visitors will be able to handle.
Dr Brown said: “The gospels hold a timeless universal appeal. It was made in an era of immense multiculturalism in England and the imagery is a mix of Roman British, Irish, Germanic, Mediterranean and even Middle Eastern influences. This was a deliberate attempt to include all aspects of society and faith resulting in a breathtaking piece of art.”
The central text is the Christian gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with prefaces by Saint Jerome. Dr Brown said: “The Lindisfarne Gospels were made in memory of Saint Cuthbert who lived near the abbey and was Bishop of Lindisfarne for a time. He was canonised soon after his death in 687. The work was probably carried out from 715 to 720. The book was clearly made by one skilled artist unlike many medieval manuscripts which were made by a team of scholars.”
Bishop Eadfrith, leader of the monastery from 698 to 721, is credited as the creator of the work. Dr Brown said: “The monastery was responsible for the spiritual welfare of people living across the north of England and southern Scotland up to Edinburgh. Eadfrith administered this social service. He also attended church eight times every day as part of his duties. It is amazing he was able to dedicate time to the production of the Gospels.”
Eadfrith was inventive and came up with modern solutions to problems he encountered. Dr Brown said: “We now understand the process used to generate the lavish pages. Each piece of vellum covered two pages, for example a spread of pages two and seven, which when folded and bound together created the book. The elaborate designs took up more space than the text in the Naples gospels he was copying from so it was a complex task to visualise the end design at the early stages. Eadfrith created test sheets using his own costly vellum to solve the problem. First he drew out his designs on one piece of vellum. Then he placed another piece over the top and carefully copied the markings. He rubbed the vellum in order to transfer the ‘pencil’ drawings onto the back of the sheet, as a reversed design.”
Images from the British Library
Dr Brown continued: “He then turned the sheet over and painted on the other side from the drawings, using candles to backlight, like a modern light box. This ensured his detailed drawings were not obscured by the first layers of pigment and could be followed and consulted throughout the painting process. He worked on the front of the second piece using a candle as a backlight. The finished work has no preparation markings on the painted side because the layout is all on the back.”
Research also shows Eadfrith adapted and expanded on existing artistic practice. Dr Brown said: “Pigment analysis reveals the gospels have 108 distinct shades. This is in an era when just three colours were generally used for work of this type. Eadfrith used a palette of six base colours made from locally available substances from which he expanded his range. We also believe Eadfrith may have been the inventor of the pencil. The traditional method of marking a design was to score the page using bone, it was difficult to read and paint was often trapped in the indentations. Eadfrith used a metal point with a lead graphite element so the grooves were not as deep. This is about 400 years before any other recorded use of a pencil.”
The exhibition features the different production styles used on the manuscript. It also looks at how the book has been passed down through the ages. Dr Brown said: “The Lindisfarne monks fled in 875 to escape Viking invaders and took the book with them to Chester-Le-Street, near Durham. A priest called Aldred added the Anglo-Saxon translation in about 950. He also made notes about what was known of Eadfrith. The monks and the book moved to Durham in 995 where they stayed until at least the time of Dissolution of the Monasteries. It came into the hands of Sir Robert Cotton in the Seventeenth Century and was part of the collection his heirs bequeathed to the nation.”
Painted Labyrinth – the World of the Lindisfarne Gospels is at the Pearson Gallery, British Library, London.
The British Library, 96 Euston Road
London, NW1 2DB
Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge, in the English county of Suffolk, is the site of two 6th- and early 7th-century cemeteries. One contained an undisturbed ship burial including a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts of outstanding art-historical and archaeological significance, now held in the British Museum in London.
Sutton Hoo is of a primary importance to early medieval historians because it sheds light on a period of English history that is on the margin between myth, legend, and historical documentation. Use of the site culminated at a time when Rædwald, the ruler of the East Angles, held senior power among the English people and played a dynamic if ambiguous part in the establishment of Christian rulership in England; it is generally thought most likely that he is the person buried in the ship. The site has been vital in understanding the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia and the whole early Anglo-Saxon period.
The ship-burial, probably dating from the early 7th century and excavated in 1939, is one of the most magnificent archaeological finds in England for its size and completeness, far-reaching connections, the quality and beauty of its contents, and the profound interest of the burial ritual itself. The initial excavation was privately sponsored by the landowner, but when the significance of the find became apparent, national experts took over. Subsequent archaeological campaigns, particularly in the late 1960s and late 1980s, have explored the wider site and many other individual burials. The most significant artefacts from the ship-burial, displayed in the British Museum, are those found in the burial chamber, including a suite of metalwork dress fittings in gold and gems, a ceremonial helmet, shield and sword, a lyre, and many pieces of silver plate from the Eastern Roman Empire. The ship-burial has from the time of its discovery prompted comparisons with the world described in the heroic Old English poem Beowulf, which is set in southern Sweden. It is in that region, especially at Vendel, that close archaeological parallels to the ship-burial are found, both in its general form and in details of the military equipment that the burial contains.
Although it is the ship-burial that commands the greatest attention from tourists, there is also rich historical meaning in the two separate cemeteries, their position in relation to the Deben estuary and the North Sea, and their relation to other sites in the immediate neighbourhood. Of the two grave fields found at Sutton Hoo, one (the “Sutton Hoo cemetery”) had long been known to exist because it consists of a group of approximately 20 earthen burial mounds that rise slightly above the horizon of the hill-spur when viewed from the opposite bank. The other, called here the “new” burial ground, is situated on a second hill-spur close to the present Exhibition Hall, about 500 m upstream of the first, and was discovered and partially explored in 2000 during preparations for the construction of the hall. This also had burials under mounds, but was not known because they had long since been flattened by agricultural activity. The site has a visitor’s centre, with many original and replica artefacts and a reconstruction of the ship burial chamber, and the burial field can be toured in the summer months.
Here is an interactive version: http://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/exhibit/sutton-hoo-anglo-saxon-ship-burial/gQOPNM9M?hl=en-GB&position=0%2C34