ONE of the most important books in European history from the Seventh Century is to go display in Durham, it has been announced.
The St Cuthbert Gospel will be part of an exhibition housed half at Durham’s World Heritage Site and half at the British Library after a major fund-raising campaign was started.
A manuscript copy of the Gospel of St John, the St Cuthbert Gospel was made in the North of England in the late Seventh Century and buried alongside St Cuthbert on Lindisfarne, apparently in 698, and later found in the saint’s coffin at Durham Cathedral in 1104.
The award of £4.5million by the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) has boosted the campaign to acquire the Gospel and the Library is now in discussion with other donors with a view to securing the full amount by the deadline of March 31, 2012.
The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham, said: “This wonderful book links us directly to Saxon Christianity of the north of England, and to the north’s best-loved saint, Cuthbert himself.
“Durham Cathedral owes its very existence to him, and we prize not only his memory, but also the treasures associated with him here at the Cathedral such as his pectoral cross and portable altar.
“So I wholeheartedly support the campaign to save this book for the nation, for it is a vital part of our cultural and spiritual heritage.
“Like the Lindisfarne Gospel Book, the Cuthbert Gospel speaks powerfully about Northumbria’s golden age, whose spiritual vision, intellectual energy and artistic achievement continue to inspire us today. We are in the British Library’s debt for having taken this initiative.
“We must make sure it succeeds.”
Chris Higgins, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “Durham University is proud to partner with the British Library in the conservation, display and interpretation of the oldest and one of the most important of all western manuscripts.”
The gospel is expected to be showcased in Durham in around two years’ time.