Eadfrith’s gospel book

In the closing years of the seventh century, behind the walls of the priory of Lindisfarne, a monk named Eadfrith created a masterpiece. He wrote and ‘painted’ a gospel book (a book of the four gospels of the new testament, Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John). Such books had been produced before, and would be produced again. But nothing like Eadfrith’s gospel book has ever been seen.

Lindisfarne is a tidal island on the eastern shore of England, just south of the Scottish border. Saint Aiden, an Irish monk, founded a priory there sometime in the first third of the seventh century. No doubt he was taken by the remote aspect of the island, which is approachable only during low tide. The Venerable Bede describes the island’s church as built “of hewn oak, thatched with reeds after the Irish manner. … But Eadbert, a later Bishop of Lindisfarne, removed the thatch, and covered both roof and walls with sheets of lead.”1.Bede, Ecclesiastical History, ch.25, p.186.¬†Eadbert was bishop while Eadfrith was a monk, and so it is doubtful if Eadfrith toiled under any roof grander than thatch. No doubt it was damp, cold, and dark.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Bede, Ecclesiastical History, ch.25, p.186.

Save us from the fury of the Northmen’s… comb

While the Vikings don’t appear in the records of the 8th century until near its close, recently a rare piece of evidence about the Vikings in the early 8th century was unearthed in Ribe, one of the oldest towns in Denmark. What, might you muse, was this relic of those wild seafarers and vicious raiders known to us from countless movies and images? One of those horned helmets, perhaps, or a massive axe still embedded in the skull of some poor monk? None of the above. It was a comb, a beautiful little piece of engraved reindeer antler.

Comb made of reindeer antler

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