Use this page to gather information and ideas about the Lindisfarne Gospels as an Object.
The Power of Books
The four gospel writers knew that books can be powerful objects. Is there a book you love, or one you despise? Think about books to store knowledge, to create imagined worlds, books to treasure...
In his telling of Jesus' story, Luke wants to show Jesus as caring for people, whatever their background or origin. In the Lindisfarne Gospels portrait Luke writes on a scroll. He is writing for Romans, Greeks and others from all over the world. The calf represents Christ's sacrifice at the Crucifixion. This is Luke's symbol.
The beautiful colours in the Lindisfarne Gospels are made from plants, rocks and animal products mostly found in the environment around the monastery.
Some of the ingredients were very poisonous: red and orange from toasted lead; yellow from arsenic. Others came from adding acids or alkalis to plants: blue from woad; purple from lichens. Green or verdigris was made by suspending copper over a bowl of vinegar so that copper oxide formed (a bit like rust on iron).
Some ingredients had to be crushed: white from chalk or crushed egg shell; black from crushed carbon; and gold, crushed to a powder or thinly rolled to form gold leaf. All these pigments were mixed with beaten egg white to turn them into a paint. The black ink was made by steeping oak galls in boiling water and then adding a small amount of iron salts.
The pages are not paper but vellum - thin sheets of leather. Many calves were 'sacrificed' to create this sacred book.
The Lindisfarne Gospels as a treasured object
The Lindisfarne Gospels was made to commemorate the life of St Cuthbert, who lived from 634 - 687AD. Books were very precious and expensive treasures, and it was a celebrated object to be displayed in church for many people to see.
This ancient book still exists as a real object in good condition, considering its age and fragility. It is cared for by the British Library, where it is on display at the London site.
Key Words Luke, Calf, Sacrifice, Nail, Relic, Archive, Icon, Symbol, Artisan, Fetish, Storage.