I’m a big fan of the wonderful city of Durham and right now there’s an extra reason visit thanks to one of the world’s most famous books being on display at Palace Green Library on Durham’s World Heritage Site next to the iconic Durham Cathedral.
You can’t fail to notice that the Lindisfarne Gospels mean something special to Durham as there are distinctive posters promoting the exhibition in nearly every shop window and even the local buses are emblazoned with an intricate Medieval design inspired by the world famous book – so I thought I better go and see what all the fuss was about!
When I arrived at Palace Green I was greeted by the loud sounds of young would-be warriors acting out their part in a portrayal of Vikings at battle. There was a delightful smell in the air too which turned out to be pork cooking on a spit, it had been prepared by a lovely lady demonstrating what everyday life was like in an Anglo-Saxon home.
I certainly hadn’t expected such an impressive and interactive display to be part of my Lindisfarne Gospels experience but this is event on Palace Green was just one of the many activities that have been organised to help bring the exhibition to life for visitors.
I think the dressing-up box was aimed at kids but I couldn’t resist! As for the exhibition itself, well you can expect to see a lot more than the Gospel itself….
You’ll see a collection of items from the Staffordshire Hoard (the stash of Anglo Saxon gold and silver worth over three million quid was discovered in a farmer’s field in 2009!) Plus some scary looking Viking weapons too. These items really help put the importance of the craftsmanship used to create the Lindisfarne Gospels in to context.
I loved history at school and have always been intrigued by the history of local people so I was fascinated by the story of Saint Cuthbert, the book was written in his honour and the exhibition explains why. I won’t spoil it for those of you planning on visiting but I will share with you my favourite anecdote from Cuthbert’s legacy… Eleven years after being buried on the island of Lindisfarne, Cuthbert’s coffin was opened and to everyone’s surprise his body was miraculously undecayed. Spooky eh? This led to him being made a saint and the cult of Saint Cuthbert began!
I would recommend booking your tickets in advance. The treasured Gospels are only in the region until 30 September after which they will return to the British Library in London. To get the most out of your visit, check out the What’s On section of the dedicated website (The fun Warrior Training workshops I witnessed return on 14 & 15 September) and be sure to visit the Wolfson Gallery, also situated in Palace Green Library. Here you will find a smaller exhibition entitled ‘Exploring the Lindisfarne Gospels’ which explains how the manuscripts were made – and this bit is FREE! Follow @gospelsdurham to keep up to do with events.
By Rachel Kershaw