July 2, 2008

Durham may regain the Lindisfarne Gospels

Posted at 1:43 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The chances of the Lindisfarne Gospels returning to North East England may be increasing. Could the Lewis Chessmen be the next intra-national restitution case to see progress?

Financial Times

Durham hopes to regain Gospels
By Chris Tighe
Published: June 28 2008 03:00 | Last updated: June 28 2008 03:00

Almost five centuries since Henry VIII’s thugs looted Durham Cathedral and stole the Lindisfarne Gospels, hopes are rising that this stunning work of art may return to its spiritual home.

A monument to the Golden Age of the ancient Kingdom of Northumbria, the 1,300-year-old manuscript created on Holy Island, off the Northumberland coast, has acquired something of the mystique of a holy relic.

For 10 years campaigners have been pressing for the Gospels to be returned from London to north-east England. Now negotiations are taking place on a proposal for the British Library, which looks after the Gospels, to create a north-east base for the manuscript.

Durham is emerging as the likeliest location, a claim strengthened this week with the launch by Durham cathedral of a £7m development plan. The proposals include enhancements to the cathedral’s collections and attractions for its 600,000 annual visitors, plus a “corporate partners” scheme with businesses.

A British Library base for the Gospels in Durham would allow a rich collection of rarely seen medieval manuscripts owned by the Cathedral and Durham University to be publicly displayed.

It would also boost the potential for ecclesiastical tourism in a region that was once a beacon for Anglo-Saxon Christianity. The monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow, home to the Venerable Bede, are in the running for Unesco World Heritage Site status, which Durham already enjoys.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Financial Times

Unite the chessmen
By Brian Groom
Published: July 1 2008 03:00 | Last updated: July 1 2008 03:00

It is good to see a compromise emerging whereby the Lindisfarne Gospels, kept by the British Library, could go on permanent display in the north-east, almost five centuries after Henry VIII’s men stole them from Durham Cathedral. So what about the Lewis chessmen? The British Museum has resisted the Scottish government’s calls to return the chessmen, found on the isle of Lewis in 1831, to Scotland. This is a difficult issue: Scotland, which has items from all over the world in its museums, would suffer from any general move towards repatriation. But it would be good to see the chessmen, 82 of which are in London and 11 in Edinburgh, united for at least part of the year.

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