Medieval Moods

The Gospel of St Cuthbert

The British Library recently acquired what is a miraculously rare treasure. For 9 million pounds they now own outright the St. Cuthbert Gospel which they have previously had on long term loan from the Jesuits. The book was produced in the 7th century and is the oldest European book to survive fully in tact and was found inside St. Cuthbert’s coffin when it was opened in Durham in 1104. Both inside and out the book is precisely as it was when produced over 900 years ago.

While it’s not unusual for me to be awed by the way one artefact or another has weathered time, for some reason or another this story really touched me even more than most. That it’s a book will be part of it, I’ve always thought that the manuscripts produced in ages past are frequently more beautiful that even the art of the time. But even more than that, this was a book of faith. It was a book that would have been opened not just at times of regular prayer but times of trouble, when the reader needed guidance from his beloved scripture.

If they could speak the pages would tell far more of a story than that which is inked upon them. The smudges and stains, the faint words that appear to be scripted in the margins over the years. The faintest energy left behind by each penitent as they turned to this book for comfort. It’s overwhelming  if you try and take it all in.