Friday, March 27, 2009

Where do the Lindisfarne Gospels belong?

The North East of England is an area with a clear identity. It was for this reason that a few years ago the government first tried to introduce a regional assembly here. It was voted down by the region. Maybe it was because we didn`t want yet another layer of bureaucracy. However one issue of local identity that is still making the news is the location of the Lindisfarne Gospels. Many in the region want them returned here as an item of local pride. This seventh century manuscript has in recent years been on display in the region. Pressure continues for it to have a permanent home here, most likely in Durham cathedral treasury. They were removed to London from Durham during the dissolution of the monasteries.

This week it was announced that the British Library would lend the book to the region for three months every seven years. They will next be here in 2010. The Newcastle Journal has been reporting on the story this week:

During Tuesday’s meeting between the Library and North East MPs, Durham City’s Roberta Blackman-Woods told Sir Colin Lucas, chairman of the British Library Board, that it made “much more sense” for the North East to have the Gospels and for them to loan them to London once every seven years.

Ms Blackman-Woods said Sir Colin “just smiled at this suggestion”.

She said: “The campaign has tremendous resonance in the North East because people really do think that these Gospels belong to the region.

“They were written here and they are related to the early development of Christianity here.

“People think deep down that there is something here linked to their heritage and we want them in the best place to reflect that. I’m not surprised by the support shown across the North East, because this is very deeply felt.”
I`m delighted that there is strong feeling in the North East about our Christian heritage: it`s not something I often notice!

The Journal is conducting a survey regarding regional opinion on the matter. I`m not sure what to think but on balance I believe it may be a good thing for the region to have them back, especially if it stirs up pride in our Christian heritage.


Anonymous said...

I would support any move to have the gospels homed in the north east and would love to able to sign any petition to bring this about.
This reminds me of the stone of destiny. It was returned to Perthshire, wasn't it? Rightfully so, in my opinion. In the same way I think the Elgin marbles should be returned to Greece.
Go and nick 'em if they won't hand them over. That seems to work!
On another point entirely, Ms. Blackman Woods has fallen into the modern day trap of using the word "loan" as a verb. Grrrr. She means "lend".

Volpius Leonius said...

I would much rather they return Durham Cathedral to the Church personally.

leutgeb said...

The Lindisfarne Gospels are not displayed in the British Library in a manner that suggests they are really treasured anyway.

They should be returned to where they belong. The North East.

1569 Rising said...

Volpius Leonius is right, can we have our cathedral back, please, then we could set about re-ordering it in the spirit of Vatican 2. Thy guys with the sledgehammers would have a great time re-ordering that high altar; its much too prominent, and at the eastern end of the cathedral. Not much room in the choir for liturgical dance, and in any case the Dean and Chapter's copes are far too decorative. The Cathedral Choir have been known to sing Latin plainchant and worst of all, they dont know the words of "Colours of Day". Are there sufficient plugs for the electric guitars?
I suppose the altar could be placed in front of the Rood Screen, but maybe better to "re-order" the Screen, and get rid of the choir stalls.

On second thoughts, maybe the Cathedral is best left in the hands of people who know how to look after a World Heritage Site.

Anonymous said...

1569 Rising forgot to say that the signs asking people to be quiet and respect God's House will have to be removed too - after all, people should be able to yap away about the latest gossip to their heart's content irrespective of whatever else happens to be going on at the same time.

Volpius Leonius said...

The Cathedral was built as a place were Mass was to be said not to simply to be a tourist attraction and a place were people like to dress up and perform pretend masses.

Now I will let you get back to your bitterness ;)

1569 Rising said...

Sorry, Volpius, have I rattled your cage? I really did not mean to, obviously someone has had an irony by-pass. Can I just make a couple of points. On Novewmber 30 1569, Frs Holmes, Plumtree and Peirson celebrated the last High Mass in Durham Cathedral following the seizure of the city by the forces of the Earls of Westmorland and Northumberland. During that Mass, the people of the Bishoprick were absolved from schism. We know the rebels were subsequently defeated, and terrible retribution was wreaked on the North by the forces of the Queen. Anglican worship was restored, and so it has remained, apart from Cromwell stabling his horses, and Scots prisoners there.
Since that time, the Anglican authorities have lovingly maintained and cherished the place.
To describe the Cathedral clergy as people who like to dress up and perform "pretend masses" is deeply offensive, and I speak as a traditional Roman Catholic who has a high regard for the customs and traditions of the CofE. It cannot be denied that much of the re-ordering of Catholic Churches in the 1970's could only be described as destruction.

By the way, have you been to St Peter's in Rome - now there is a tourist attraction!

I am not bitter, honest.

Volpius Leonius said...

I know the history.

The members of the Anglican ecclesial community aren't clergy at all, they do not have holy orders, if that fact offends you then I am afraid you will just have to be offended.

St. Peters is also used for a proper religious purpose, unlike Durham Cathedral which is merely used as a theatre to stage performances.

All the things you praise are mere images which are utterly lacking in substance, a empty shell of the true worship.

By such deceits where the English people tricked into such false worship, and it seems some Catholics even today will not learn from the mistakes of the past, praising that which is false as been better than that which allows us to receive abundant grace from God.

Would you praise a mere illusion originally designed to wean the people from their Catholicism with the least amount of fuss higher than a Catholic Mass by a true Catholic Priest?

That which was stolen should be returned to the Church, if you disagree then I call you a traitor whose support is cheaply bought and is therefore of little worth.

The Anglicans are usurpers, nothing more.

Richard S Rainbow said...

Harsh words which I am surprised were published on this blog. Volpius Leonius should learn a little charity,clarify his thoughts and meet some devout Anglicans, clergy and lay. VP is certainly not showing such Christian virtues as many Anglicans I come into contact with on a regular basis.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Richard, I agree that VL`s words are harsh and zeal may have got the better of him but I rarely refuse to publish comments. Maybe I should think about it more.

Anonymous said...

I would support the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the North East. However, there are two problems intrinsic to precious manuscripts: a) one would need to be assured that the preservation of the Gospels was as good as (or better than) that provided by the BL; b) precious manuscripts tend to be displayed for good reason (see aforementioned point) in climate-controlled display cases, with the book open at a particular page and rarely turned. It is difficult for the casual viewer to appreciate the beauty of a book locked away in this manner.

Better, perhaps, but in contradiction to the above, would be the courage to _use_ the Gospels for their intended purpose every so often. failing that invest in a decent facsimile. In the meantime, there is a 'Turning Pages' digital version of the Gospels at (though my Linux laptop refuses to open it). Does the Durham Cathedral Treasury already have the interactive Turning Pages version available? (I no longer live in Durham.)

There are various early manuscripts of Bede scattered around the libraries of the world. Maybe someone could reunite them (virtually at least, though I understand there was an exhibition along these lines at Bede's World last year).

Finally, I think Fr Brown is right not to censor comments except where they are clearly ad hominem or abusive (or spam). I most certainly don't agree with VL but I appreciate reading the responses of others, rather than not having seen VL's words at all (an opportunity, if you like, for the witness of the more charitable, the more tolerant, though without the smugness of course).

Richard S Rainbow said...

Volpius Leonius said of 1569 Rising: "if you disagree then I call you a traitor whose support is cheaply bought and is therefore of little worth." I think that was nasty. He also said: "Durham Cathedral ... is merely used as a theatre to stage performances." Does he never consider that other people can be sincere in their beliefs?
I hope that I don't know Volpius Leonius; I prefer nice people!
Yes, Fr Brown, perhaps some people do not deserve a medium to express their (uninformed) prejudices

Leo said...

Does that phrase at the top left of the picture say "imago leonis" ie "picture of a lion"? The illustrator didn't havemuch faith in his ability if he felt he had to tell people what the picture was meant to be of. Or maybe I'm totally wrong.

Fr Michael Brown said...

Interesting point Leo. It is a lion with wings so maybe some explanation was needed. Also how many people in 7th century Northumbria would have recognised a lion? Apart from that I really don`t know.

Leo said...

Oh, I thought it was lion-like enough, even with the wings. I suppose as you say the 7th century onlookers wouldn't have been to Masai Mara on package tours or seen lions on the telly. I see the need now for the caption. Silly me. He hasn't written "Monk writing" after all .

ScepticalBeliever said...

To me "imago leonis" looks like a later addition to the page, possibly for the benefit of people going on the first Thomas Cook tours.
Aside from that, how many of the,then mostly illiterate, laity ever had sight of the Lindisfarne Gospels.
The 7th century (and later)clergy, who seem to have made not infrequent long and expensive trips to Rome might have been aware of what a lion was and they were the ones who actually saw the (now) famous book.

FrankE said...

To be honest, it looks a bit more like my dog than a lion :-)

ScepticalBeliever said...

FrankE: I know your dog and he is much better looking than that stupid lion.

Volpius Leonius said...

If I am uninformed why don't you inform me instead of trying to censor me, what exactly was incorrect in my comments?

Sincerity of belief does not alter either history or reality. A schizophrenic sincerely believes he is several people he is still only one person no mater how sincere his beliefs to the contrary are, and it would not be charitable to refuse him treatment, quite the opposite.

Likewise it is not charitable to hide the truth of their situation and their history from Anglicans, nor to hide the Catholic Truth from them at our of some false respect for their sensibilities.

You would be hiding behind a false mask of charity as an excuse to not have to confront difficult truths and a fear of making enemies if you were to do so.

If Christ had been such He would never have confronted the Pharisees as He did, if any were sincere in their beliefs it was they but Christ knew it was not charity to leave them in their errors but rather it was true charity to correct them even with harsh rebukes and even though He knew it would result in His death on the cross.

Richard S Rainbow said...

I'm not going to waste my time replying to bigots!

Richard Toporoski said...

I hope it will be helpful (in reply to Leo) if it is pointed out that that is not a "monk writing" on the page of the Lindisfarne Gospels, but St Mark the Evangelist, who is identified in Latinised Greek as "Saint Mark". But I wonder what the "R" after that is.