Bede's Prose 'Life of St Cuthbert' f.3v
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
St Cuthbert, bishop of Lindisfarne (Holy Island), links the early and late middle ages in Britain, with the start of his career in the foundations and early history of Northeastern monasteries in the mid-7th century, the journey of his relics through several Northern centres during the Viking onslaughts of the 9th and 10th centuries, and enshrinement at the end of the 10th century at Durham, whence kings and churchmen, North and South, continued support of his cult. Beginning soon after his death (687), a sophisticated campaign promoted Cuthbert's holiness with works of art and literature, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels and accounts of his life. Bede wrote prose and verse versions, copies of which are in this manuscript. Often it is attributed to Canterbury because of its decoration's style, but a monastery in Wessex, such as Sherborne, has been suggested based on the contents of a prayerbook placed after its 'Lives' of Cuthbert. According to an inscription in the manuscript, it was written on the order of an abbot Wigbeorht, who cannot be identified.
The first section of Bede's prose 'Life of Cuthbert' begins with a grand framed inscription of its title in capital letters without spaces dividing the words. The page imitates roman inscriptions, one of the features of a classicism that overtook late Anglo-Saxon manuscript art and came from 9th and 10th-century Continental art.