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The opening of St Mathew's Gospel in the Lindisfarne Gospels

This beautifully decorated copy of the four Gospels was made by a single artist-scribe (perhaps Bishop Eadfrith of Lindisfarne), probably working in the monastery of Lindisfarne around AD 715-720. A masterpiece of Insular culture (of the islands of Britain and Ireland), it skilfully blends artistic, calligraphic and textual components drawn from Celtic, Germanic and Mediterranean cultures. In the 950s its Latin text (St Jerome’s Vulgate version) was translated into old English between the lines by Aldred, a priest at Chester-le-Street. This is the earliest surviving version of the Gospels in the English language.The opening words of the St John's Gospel explode across the page in a riot of ornament, becoming sacred images. Roman, Greek, Germanic and Celtic motifs and letter-forms are merged to create a new identity for Britain.