Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ern/50642555/

Friday, 3 August 2018

A Very Rare Mediaeval Bible Returns Home To Canterbury Cathedral, 500 Years After It Disappeared From The Cathedral’s Monastic Book Collection, At The Reformation.


This Article is taken from, and can be read in full at, CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL


Illustration: CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL

A rare Mediaeval Bible has been saved for the Nation and returned to Canterbury Cathedral 500 years after it disappeared from the Cathedral’s Monastic Book Collection at the time of The Reformation.

The Lyghfield Bible returns to Canterbury Cathedral, much to the delight of Canon Librarian, Revd Tim Naish, Head of Archives and Library Mrs Cressida Williams, and The Dean of Canterbury, The Very Revd Robert Willis.

Now known as The Lyghfield Bible, after the 16th-Century Cathedral Monk who once owned it, the 690-Leaf Volume was purchased at Auction from a private seller at a specialist sale of Manuscripts in London in July 2018.


The £100,000 purchase was made possible with a grant of almost £96,000 from The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and further funding from The Friends Of The National Libraries, The Friends of Canterbury Cathedral and a private donation.

The Lyghfield Bible was written in the Late-13th-Century on high quality parchment, or vellum, which is almost tissue-like in quality. The fine Latin script and extensive and very fine illumination was probably produced in Paris, one of the Mediaeval centres for this type of work.

The Bible is pocket-sized and, as such, was designed for personal use, possibly whilst travelling. The Volume formed part of The Collection of The Mediaeval Monastery of the Cathedral in the
16th-Century, but may well have been in Canterbury well before that time.


As the Cathedral’s Monastic Community was disbanded during The Reformation, the Library and Book Collection of Canterbury Cathedral were dispersed, with many Volumes destroyed, or taken apart for the re-use of their materials [Editor: The Reformation was such a wonderful, wonderful thing, don't you think ?].

Exactly what happened to The Lyghfield Bible requires further investigation, but now it is back to join the very small percentage of The Book Collection that survived, amounting to some thirty Volumes from the thousands that were once held [Editor: Again, The Reformation was such a wonderful thing, don't you think ?].

The Lyghfield Bible is the only complete Bible from The Mediaeval Book Collection which is now at the Cathedral, and is part of a collection which is inscribed on The UNESCO UK Memory Of The World Register. It is the finest example of a complete Illuminated Book from that Collection and it is planned that it will be displayed in the new Exhibition Area being developed at the Cathedral, as part of The Canterbury Journey Project.


Canterbury Cathedral's Head of Archives and Library, Cressida Williams, said: “We are very grateful to the support from Funders. It is of the utmost significance to us to have here in our Collections a Copy of the core Christian Text, which was owned by one of the last Monks of The Medieval Monastic Community. The Bible bears witness to the upheavals of The Reformation, a time which defined what the Cathedral is today, and will have a key role in telling visitors our story.”

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of The National Heritage Memorial Fund, said: “Not only an incredibly rare Book, directly linked to one the most turbulent periods of British history, The Lyghfield Bible is also exquisitely beautiful. We at The National Heritage Memorial Fund agreed it was imperative it should be saved for the Nation and returned home to Canterbury, where its important story can be told to future generations of visitors, pilgrims and students.”

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