The St. Chad Gospels - University of Kentucky Vis Center
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over the small town of Lichfield in central England
are the three spires of the 13th century Lichfield Cathedral. Built at the burial site of St. Chad,
the Lichfield Cathedral is home to
the St. Chad Gospels, an eighth century illuminated manuscript containing the
Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and the early part of Luke. It was given to the Lichfield Cathedral in 700. In 2010 researchers from the University of Kentucky worked with curators at the Cathedral to create a digital copy of the St. Chad Gospels, one of the Cathedral's most important manuscripts.
Chad was largely responsible for the building of Lichfield Cathedral, but he
died just three years after his arrival there in 672.
"Chad died on the 2nd of March, and was first buried by St. Mary's Church, but afterwards, when the church of the most holy prince of the apostles, Peter, was built, his bones were transferred into it.
St. Chad Gospels had an eventful life.
In its early years, the manuscript was likely stolen for its gold and
silver book cover decorated with jewels.
The earliest recording of its whereabouts is in Wales: a note in the St.
Chad Gospels records the act of a man trading his best horse for the manuscript
and donating it to a church in Wales.
know from the 1345 Sacrist roll of Lichfield Cathedral, which included an inventory of the Cathedral's books, that there were
two Gospel books. Today only one book of the Chad Gospels survives. Sometime
between 1345 and current times, the second book was lost. They do not know where the second book
is or when it was lost.
There are two dominant theories about the second book’s history. Some scholars believe it was lost during the Reformation,
between 1536 and 1537, when many monasteries were dissolved. Others believe that it was lost in the siege of Lichfield during the English
Civil War in 1646.
In 2003, digging for a construction project unearthed a limestone panel from 800 A.D. The panel features an angel, and likely was part of an annunciation scene on St. Chad's shrine chest. The Angel and the St. Chad Gospels share similar pigments, persuading historians that the manuscript was written in Lichfield and settling disputes about where the book should reside. How the St. Chad Gospels returned to Lichfield is a mystery, but the manuscript has been rebound and “restored” and is currently on display.
manuscript contains the oldest surviving Old Welsh written in its margins.
manuscript is written in Latin Vulgate with over 2000 variations giving
scholars insight into the evolution of the language.
manuscript’s illuminated pages exhibit Celtic influences, giving historians a hint about the book's origins. The carpet page is an example of this,
with its Celtic cross shown
with animals held back by vines.
is a bit of an undiscovered gem.
And it’s my mission of life to make sure that we are able to explore all
its treasures with a wider public.”
-Adrian Dorber, Dean of the Cathedral
Contributor: NSF Disclaimer—This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0916421. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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