Skip to comments.Jesuits sell historic 7th-century St. Cuthbert Gospel for $14.7 million
Posted on 08/05/2011 7:27:29 AM PDT by NYer
LONDON (CNS) -- The Jesuits have sold the historic St. Cuthbert Gospel -- believed the oldest intact book produced in Europe -- to the British Library for $14.7 million.
The British Province of the Society of Jesus agreed to sell the late 7th-century Anglo-Saxon manuscript to raise funds to restore a historic church and pay for educational work in London and Glasgow, Scotland.
The book, a pocket-size Latin translation of the Gospel of St. John, was found inside the coffin of St. Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne, when the saint's grave was opened in 1104.
Experts believe the manuscript was placed inside the casket within 10 years of the hermit's death in 687.
Jesuit Father Kevin Fox, spokesman for the British Province of the Society of Jesus, announced the sale of the Gospel in a statement in July.
"It has been our privilege to possess this book for nearly 250 years," he said. "Now, in order to answer more of the many demands on our resources, the province trustees have decided to sell."
He said that the British Library would ensure that the manuscript was available for people from around the world to view either directly or online.
"People will be able to see the Gospel set among the library's other treasures of the Christian faith and of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic art," Father Fox said.
The statement said that the Gospel was, produced by monks of Wearmouth-Jarrow in northeast England.
Funds from the sale, concluded in conjunction with the auction house Christie's, will be used to help fund Jesuit schools in London and Glasgow, Scotland, pay for a new school to be founded in Africa and pay for the restoration of the 19th century Church of St. Peter, Stonyhurst, the parish that serves Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, England.
The St. Cuthbert Gospel was described by the British Library in a July press statement as having "beautifully-worked original red leather binding in excellent condition." The library said it is "the only surviving high-status manuscript from this crucial period in British history to retain its original appearance, both inside and out."
The Gospel was buried alongside St. Cuthbert following his death on the island of Lindisfarne off the northeast coast of England. His coffin was transferred to nearby Durham as his community attempted to escape coastal Viking raids. His grave later became a pilgrimage site.
The Gospel was discovered when St. Cutherbert's coffin was opened 400 years after his death during the dedication of a shrine in his honor at Durham Cathedral.
It was kept in the cathedral priory but when King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries during the Protestant Reformation the Gospel passed into the hands of a private collector in 1540.
By the 18th century, the book was in the possession of the 3rd Earl of Lichfield who gave it to Canon Thomas Phillips, who in turn presented it in 1769 to the Jesuits.
The book has been on loan to the British Library since 1979. It often was displayed in the Sir John Riblat Gallery.
The Jesuits approached the library in 2010 with an offer of the first option to acquire the Gospel for the public.
The 7th Century St Cuthberts Bible is the oldest European book.
The manuscript, a copy of the Gospel of St John, was produced in the north of England in the late seventh-century and was buried alongside St Cuthbert, an early English Christian leader, on the island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland around 698AD.
The coffin was moved off the island to escape Viking raiders and taken to Durham, where the book was found when the coffin was opened at the cathedral in 1104.
Books were so beautiful back then.
Strange: don’t hear ‘bout no Vikings burying no precious books to keep them from the eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevvvvvvvvvvvvvviiiiiiiiiiiiiiillllllllllllll
‘nother one o’ those religions of peace, them Thorlovers, I suppose.
And, “dissolved the monasteries,” sounds so regular and “move-alongp-now-nothing-to-see-here” ordinary. How about calling a spade a spade: “When Henry VIII in a bloody power grab stole all the property he could lay his hands on to found his own Church”???
“Stole it and sold it to his thug-friends in order to increase his stash” like someone we know today tends to do (stealing GM from its stock-holders and giving it to the union-thugs).
Sort of like when they asked Dillinger why he robbed banks.
“Because that is where the money is.”
Bernard Cornwell mentions St. Cuthbert in a number of his novels.
Bowlus Superus XI -
Oaklandia Christian Raiders XXXII
Minnesotania Pagan Vikings XIV
True, as far as it goes.
They were anti-Christian. It added to their zeal in raiding. Sorry, it’s the truth.
It wouldn’t be easy for me to remember the source at short notice, but there’s the idea that Viking raids on Christians began in response to a Christian king giving their co-religionists in Saxony the choice of conversion or death.
You might ask the first Vikings to convert to Christianity about how lovey-dovey kind and generous the pagan Vikings were. You want to make them out into strictly fiscal thugs. They were both fiscal and religious thugs.
And before you come back with, “well Christianity spread by the sword,”
Islam spread by the sword. Christianity
Even in the case of Charlemagne forcing the Saxons, it was forcing them to return to the Christianity they had embraced. Perhaps they hadn’t embraced it for the right reasons (fiscal Christians), perhaps he should not have violently forced them back—criticize him if you wish
but don’t cite it or other examples of Christianity spreading by the sword. Not even in Mexico or India did that happen. As long as the European powers tried to force it by the sword, it failed. In Mexico it was the apparitions of Mary at Guadalupe. In India it was the direct opposition to Portuguese “fiscal Christianity” by Francis Xavier that brought about the first significant conversions.
And don’t tell me about Clovis driving his army through the river to “baptize” them against their will. He didn’t do that. Yes, when he converted (via the persuasion of his wife), his army and people joined him, but they did NOT do so at the point of the sword. Loyalty was everything for the Franks (and the Vikings) and followers followed their leader but not at the point of a sword.
The point of the sword lie was created by Enlightenment Christian-haters (who came out of a truly state-church situation, which was a modern and Protestant invention) as part of their propaganda campaign.
That’s the Charlemagne and the Saxon canard. I dealt with it in a comment above. The Saxons had converted but rose in revolt against Charlemagne; his force was aimed at apostates. They converted after being conquered by him but post hoc non ergo propter hoc — the Anglo-Saxon missionaries had been working on the Saxons for some time.
People converted out of a mixture of motives—glum acquiescence to a conqueror among them — but it was voluntary.
Modern people do not understand how one can make a free choice under pressure. We have this stupid idea that “freedom” only takes place when it’s airy-fairy flower-child whim choice.
The process of Christianizing northern and western Europe was messy. It involved wars and conquests among German tribes. But the conversion did not simply take place at the point of a sword as it did with Islam. I know it makes a nice moral equivalence, as you suggest.
But it’s not historically true and even secular, pagan historians today agree. There’s an article in Speculum, for instance, about the conversion of Clovis deconstructing the “army through the river” myth.
Your textbooks in school and college all reflect the Enlightenment Anglo-American anti-Christian (and anti-Catholic) hegemony of historians for 300 years now.
Part of being a critical reader is to realize that such biases are built in and correct for them.
Charlemagne was a great sinner. I won’t defend his Saxon policy, though neither will I simply reject it. It was a messy time. But they were not converted at the point of the sword and that did not happen in Christian history—the Saxon affair comes the closest, along with the failed efforts by early modern colonial powers.
If one expected such one would be disappointed.
Christian Vikings terrorized the coasts and raided those who didn't pay the “Dane-geld” just as much as the Pagan Vikings did before them.
It was economics that turned raiders into traders - not religion.
The additional zeal probably had a lot to do with the Christians telling them their God was not the right one.
You’ve apparently read more than me on this. I didn’t see this from a textbook in school or college - it was recent, from the internet, and might have been from this site.
As right as you may be, I’m probably not the only one on here who’d get the initial impression that thou doth protest too much. Surely Vikings were aware what had happened in Saxony, not far away. Would you agree? And perhaps they’d have missed some of the subtleties you’ve mentioned as being involved in killing so many Saxons.
Some may use it as a canard; I don’t. I’m interested in knowing the truth of it. If you have a link to your sources, I’d appreciate it. I doubt very much though that all historians agree on this, as historians often can’t even agree what they had for lunch the day before at their conferences.
Ah, thanks for reminding me!! I've read all of his Richard Sharpe novels, and learned a lot about Wellington's campaigns against Napoleon. I'd been meaning to start his Medieval series, but never got around to it.
I've recently finished RE-reading Ellis Peter's "Cadfael" series, about a 12th century Welsh Benedictine monk in an abbey in Shrewsbury, England. He had been a Crusader, and took the cowl in his late forties. Learned a lot about the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud in that one!
Most of them have been dramatised. Acorn media has them. They star Derek Jacobi as Cadfael.
He didn’t use the money for the church, my FRiend. He used it for his own secular purposes.
Because that is where the money is.
Actually, Willie Sutton said that in response to the question as to why he robbed banks.
for historians (amateur and professional), the reformation was beyond doubt the single greatest disaster in english history.
The vikings didn’t just raid britain, they conquered and settled a substantial amount of it in the late 9th century, and later fully conquered england in the early 11th century (Swein, though he died before being crowned and his son Cnut held the thrones of England and Denmark, iirc). They had similar success in northern france as well. At the time this was going (9th ct) on they were so pagan that I have trouble imagining them having any interest in religious issues on the continent.
I have never seen a single reference anywhere on conversion events in saxony having anything to do with the beginning of viking raids. Vikings weren’t too picky about who they raided, they would raid across to other norse countries as well if it were permitted.
I stand corrected.
Thanks - that is what I get for going from memory.
The theory is around. Houghton M. mentions it more fully than I did to discredit it. His sources might be a place to start if you’re interested.
No doubt the Vikings raided other heathens, and when surrounded by Christians and of a mind to raid, it would have been hard not to raid Christians. Their interest in religious issues on the continent, of which Denmark is a part, would have been related to watching one group of followers of Odin and Thor be mass murdered by their Christian neigbors, and wondering if that’s something to expect from Christian neighbors.
I don’t think the theory, or hypothesis, that there was a connection posits that there was an Odinist holy war against the Church of Rome, of which raids on coastal monasteries and churches were just a few battles.
Can I buy an ‘h’? I’d like to solve the puzzle: neighbors.
Careful re the ‘Thorlovers’ HM. We’re still about. We didn’t need precious books, don’t you know, because we had honey meade.
I’ve seen those adaptations, but much as I like Derek Jacobi, I didn’t like the way they changed the stories sometimes, trimming characters, etc. I know they did it for time purposes, but I like the books better.
I’ve read the books and the major issues I have with the shows are with Oswin and Berengar (can you believe I can’t instantly recall the character’s name? sigh..). Both were stronger, more interesting characters in the books.
OTOH, the books’ pace seemed uneven and the beats occurred at less-than-optimum places with sometimes not enough sometimes too much preparation. The series IMHO did fix thast problem. They were all well-paced. My personal favorite is “The Rose Rent”.
My favorite book in the series was, oddly enough, “St. Peter’s Fair” which is easily one of the weakest in the TV series.
Yet, even so, that is one of the few series of mysteries I actually own (Inspector Morse is the other).
I’m not 100% sure, but I thought Cnut was emphatically a Christian king. His son was supposedly much less devout (or perhaps more devoutly Wotanic), but not Cnut.
I have factually read a book about cnut (which has a picture of him and his wife in some tapestry somewhere doing christian-oriented stuff), yet didn’t remember any of it nor the fact I had read it in my previous post. Cnut went to some emphatic lengths to be a very christian king.
I remember seeing some photo long ago in a book I presumably still own of the hodge-podge of bones in caskets above the altar area of winchester cathedral, with the assumption that cnut,. his wife, a few others of named note, were probably included in the bone collection. I spoke to a man (this was in probably 1999) at the cathedral who first seemed surprised I even knew of the bones and then told me they weren’t at that time sure who was who, etc, that for whatever reason they couldn’t associate the varied bones with any given corpse. it was interesting to consider that cnut might be among the varied skulls and other bones pictured, he would certainly be the oldest person on skeletal display I know of.
Harthacnut and harald neither made any such lasting impression at all.
All that said, I am not sure how this would relate to swein or the various viking fleets harassing england in the early 11th century.
I have read entire books on fairly narrow topics, but for whatever reason, my memory is perfectly capable of temporarily forgetting I ever read such a book at all.
They didn’t become Christians until the late 1100s and 1200s. Christianized Vikings did not raid “just as much.” Whether the reason for the decline was economic or religious, one can argue. The transition took nearly two centuries—more than most places in western Europe. Along the way, a lot of half-Christians Vikings did what half-Christian/half-pagans might be expected to do.
But you can attribute it all to economics if you wish. Religion superstructure, economics substructure and foundational—good Libertarian or Marxist theory, take your pick.
So any Viking who raided after Christianity came to Norway was only half-Christian. Wow -that cut incidence of raiding by Christian Vikings 50% in one fell swoop - or is it 100% by your method of calculation!
If you were smarter or knew anything interesting you might be amusing. Libertarian or Marxist!! Pffffft!!!!!