Lindisfarne Gospels to stay in London, reaffirms British Library after latest North East exhibition
Curators at The British Library have again reaffirmed the Lindisfarne Gospels are to remain in London, despite ongoing calls to return them to the North East.
The gospels were created in the eighth century and thought to be the work of Eadfrith, a monk who became Bishop of Lindisfarne in 698. They are preserved by experts at the library near St Pancras Station in the capital.
The library allows them to be borrowed for up to three months every seven years. In 2013 the manuscript was loaned to Durham University, attracting almost 100,000 visitors.
This year, the gospels were displayed at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle between September 17 and December 3.
The gospels were appropriated by Henry VIII during his Dissolution of the Monasteries. Campaigners have long said that the manuscript should come back to the North East permanently, with a number of locations as options including Durham Cathedral.
However, while the British Library says it is delighted with the successes of the Lindisfarne Gospel’s Durham and Newcastle exhibitions of 2013 and 2022, they will remain in London as it has a legal obligation, as well as the expertise, to look after the work.
A spokesperson said: “One of the British Library’s core purposes is to build, curate and preserve the national collection of written, published and digital content to make our intellectual heritage accessible for everyone.
“Governed by the British Library Act 1972, the Library has a statutory obligation to ensure the long-term preservation of the Lindisfarne Gospels, which requires highly specialist facilities, resource and expertise.
“Our St Pancras site was purpose built for the nation to accommodate manuscripts of such significance and the Library has one of the most experienced curatorial and conservation teams in the world.
“The Library follows a conservation programme recommended by an international committee of leading conservators and curatorial experts, whilst trying to provide access to the widest audience possible, today and in the future.
“When on display in the Library’s free Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library, we turn a page every three months to limit the amount of light and physical stress on any one opening.
“The volume is rested from display for six months after eighteen months’ display. We have also digitised the manuscript so it is freely available for everyone online at www.bl.uk/manuscripts.”