The monastery of Echternach, now in Luxembourg, was founded by the Northumbrian monk, Willibrord (b. 658, d. 739), in 698. This illuminated Gospel-book belonged to that monastery by the first half of the 8th century. The book is decorated throughout, starting on the very first page. Facing the opening words of each Gospel are full-page images of the symbols associated with each evangelist. As with the Book of Durrow, even holes in the parchment were ringed with red dots; one such blemish was finessed into an outline resembling a bird.
The place of origin of the Echternach Gospels is open to question. It has sometimes been presumed that the manuscript was made in Echternach. Alternatively, it has been attributed to the scriptorium in Lindisfarne, in Northumbria. However, this Gospel-book’s text and script differ from those found in other manuscripts with an arguable Lindisfarne origin.
The text and decoration of the Echternach Gospels also reflect Irish influence. Since Willibrord and his followers set out for the continent from Rath Melsigi, in Co. Carlow, Irish books and scribes are likely to have been present for at least the early years of his new monastery at Echternach. Textually, the Echternach Gospels is close to the 9th-century MacDurnan Gospels from Armagh. There is a strong resemblance between the calf, the symbol of Luke, in the Echternach Gospels and its equivalent in the Book of Durrow. Both manuscripts also use similar decorative lines of red scrolling.
- Article by:
- Emilia Henderson
- Christian religion and belief, Art and illumination, Making manuscripts
Manuscripts decorated in the Franco-Saxon style are some of the most visually stunning signs of the flow of inspiration and connections across the English Channel in the early Middle Ages. Emilia Henderson examines the design and production of these works.