Preparations are being made in Newcastle to welcome the Lindisfarne Gospels to the city.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums has been awarded a significant grant from the North of Tyne Combined Authority in support of the upcoming Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery, in partnership with the British Library. This will be the first time the ancient book, the most spectacular manuscript to survive from Anglo-Saxon England, has been displayed in the city since 2000 and its first showing in the region since the major exhibition in Durham in 2013.

The ancient illuminated manuscript was written just a few miles away on Holy Island in the early 8th century, and is said to be the most spectacular surviving manuscript from Anglo-Saxon England. The Gospels is described as one of the world’s greatest treasures. It will go on display in Newcastle between September 17 and December 3, opened at a page introducing St John’s Gospel.

Image of the Lindisfarne Gospels

Crop Incipit To Gospel Of John, Lindisfarne Gospels, C. 700 (Cotton MS Nero D IV) (c) British Library Board

Mayor Jamie Driscoll said: “There is huge excitement that the Lindisfarne Gospels will be returning home They’re one of the world’s great works of art and they are from right here; when the North East was the kingdom of Northumbria and led the world in art, culture, and creativity. The Lindisfarne Gospels 2022 programme is seeking to engage 300,000 people in this regional celebration, a unique opportunity to showcase the best of our cultural offerings. This is not just about bringing visitors to the North of Tyne, which will be great for our economy. It’s about celebrating our region.”

Mayor Jamie Driscoll on a Newcastle City Centre street

Mayor Jamie Driscoll

North of Tyne Cabinet Member for Culture Creative and Rural Cllr Glen Sanderson, the Leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “The Lindisfarne Gospels are part of our inheritance. It will be a privilege to be their custodian and will give visitors and communities in Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle something to look forward to in 2022. This funding from the North of Tyne will help us showcase our region, boosting our businesses, economy and tourism as we ensure a strong recovery from the pandemic.”

The Lindisfarne Gospels will feature in a contemporary, multi-sensory exhibition about its meaning in the world today. There will also be a variety of public, community and school events across the North East to celebrate the landmark loan from the British Library, as well as a brand-new high-profile artist commission to reimagine the significance of the Gospels for a 21st-century audience. The programme will also include a supporting exhibition at Newcastle City Library.

‘Libraries and the Lindisfarne Gospels: Sharing stories through the ages’ (17 September to 3 December 2022) will explore the changing way people have shared stories since the creation of the Lindisfarne Gospels in the 8th-century to the modern day, using artefacts from the Newcastle Libraries Heritage collection and special loans from the British Library. A linked programme working with libraries throughout the region will ensure that activity reaches every community.

Keith Merrin, Director, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, said: “We’re very grateful for the support of the North of Tyne Combined Authority to help us bring this national treasure to be displayed at the Laing Art Gallery for North East people to enjoy. We’re confident that the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition will benefit our region on many levels – boosting the local economy, directly creating jobs, working with local suppliers and the visitors it will bring to use services in the city and surrounding area. There will be a significant school and community programme for children and young people including within some of our most disadvantaged communities. Working with attractions across the region to co-ordinate the Inspired by Lindisfarne Gospels 2022 programme we are also helping to raise the profile of our region, as a vibrant and exciting place to visit.”

Now in the care of the British Library, the manuscript was most recently on loan to the region in 2013 when it went on display at Durham University where it attracted almost 100,000 visitors. It has been to the Laing twice before, in 1996 and then 2000. The Gospels – taken with the monks when they fled Lindisfarne due to the Viking raids – eventually ended up in London where it was known to be by 1605.