Bede's Verse 'Life of St Cuthbert' f.45r
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.
Written about 705 in the form of a letter, the prologue of Bede's verse 'Live of St Cuthbert' addressed a priest named John, who was setting out on a pilgrimage to Rome. Bede intended that the poem provide solace during the difficulties of the long journey. The first letters of the prologue and beginning of the poem are decorated with the imaginary beast heads and classical plant forms which are typical of late 10th- to early 11th-century Anglo-Saxon ornament.