Bede's Verse 'Life of St Cuthbert' f.57v
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.
Bede wrote the verse 'Life of Cuthbert' for a friend who was going on pilgrimage to Rome, hoping that it would help him cope with the difficulties of a long journey. The 'Life of Cuthbert' is the story of an ascetic holyman, who saw his whole life as a pilgrimage. This page tells of the elderly bishop's retiring to his beloved solitary life on a small island off Lindisfarne, the discovery of his body and the immediate commemoration of him as a holyman. Between the lines, the scribe has written 'helper' words in Latin and Old English to aid the reader in dealing with Bede's erudite vocabulary.