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Lindisfarne gospels return home temporarily

The Lindisfarne Gospels [1] are to return to North East England, but only on a temporary visit.

News Post Leader (Newcastle upon Tyne) [2]

Monday, 30th March 2009
Lindisfarne Gospels to make temporary visit to north east
29 March 2009

THE Lindisfarne Gospels are to return to the north east of England, although only temporarily, it has been announced.
The British Library said the historic manuscripts, which were produced on the Northumberland island of Lindisfarne in the late 7th or early 8th century, could return to the region on loan for up to three months every seven years.

Campaigners from have long been fighting to bring the Gospels, which was drawn and illustrated to glorify the memory of St Cuthbert, back to the region permanently.

But the British Library Board could not agree to the proposal for a permanent “outpost” in the north east specifically to house the Gospels, citing its statutory duty to keep the national collection intact.

However Sir Colin Lucas, chairman of the British Library Board, said the loan move was an “excellent” outcome for the region.

“Effectively it means the Lindisfarne Gospels could go on display in one of the region’s institutions as early as 2010, with the expectation of another loan in seven years and a regular cycle of loans thereafter,” he said.

“As ever, the British Library Board’s paramount concern has been the welfare of the Lindisfarne Gospels as an integral part of the national collection – which we hold intact for the nation and in trust for the global community.

“The board sought the independent advice of a group of experts of international standing, and we are pleased to accept their recommendation to allow short-term loans of the Lindisfarne Gospels on a seven-yearly basis – subject, of course, to continuing monitoring of the condition of the manuscript.”

The Gospels were taken from Durham Cathedral in the 16th century during the reign of Henry VIII before arriving at the British Museum in the 18th century and later put on display in the British Library.

A modern copy of the Gospels is now housed in the Durham Cathedral Treasury, which is open to visitors.

When the Gospels were last on display in the north east, at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle in 2000, 160,000 visitors went to see them.

A group was set up 18 months ago to discuss with British Library to discuss a long-term home for the Lindisfarne Gospels in the region.

Dr John Bridge, chairman of the group, said: “Regional partners have worked hard over the last 18 months on a case for creating a dedicated Gospels centre in the north east and we are about to commission a full study to develop the scope and scale of a centre.

“Our approach has always been based on developing a long-term partnership with the British Library.

“Their statement is helpful as it enables us continue to work hard with the library and a number of interest groups to provide the necessary information to the British Library which would make the case unarguable.

“We are grateful for the support shown by many regional partners, politicians, the press and public.”