The Manuscript Context for the Inscription

Michelle P. Brown (Professor of Medieval Manuscript Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London)

The largely militaristic hoard also includes a group of overtly Christian artefacts: a large gold and garnet cross perhaps attached to a wooden processional cross or book-shrine / cover; other more ambiguously Christian crosses (a Greek equal-armed cross-shaped piece, a panel of six crosses resembling carpet pages in the Book of Durrow embedded in the ornament of a small pommel); one to be worn as a pendant - probably a bishop's pectoral cross resembling that found in St Cuthbert's tomb; and a gold strip perhaps from a cross, shrine or weapon. The latter is inscribed with a quote from Numbers 10.35, as it occurs in the Latin Vulgate Bible, 'cumque elevaretur arca dicebat Moses surge domine et dissipentur inimici tui et fugiant qui oderunt te a facie tua'. This text is also found with slightly different wording in Vulgate Psalm 67.1 / Protestant Bible 68.1):

'exsurgat deus et dissipentur inimici eius et fugiant qui oderunt eum a facie eius'.1

At a time when comparatively few people could actually read and write, but everyone was increasingly subject to its power and influence and had a heightened ability to interpret signs and symbols, it is appropriate to think in terms of a 'community of reading' - of words to be seen and images to be read. The public display of writing is therefore highly relevant in a consideration of the book culture of the period, and entails looking at inscriptions too, and vice versa. A similarly protective invocation is to be found on the eighth-century Coppergate helmet from York. Religious endorsement of 'just war' was evidently valued by Anglo-Saxon Christian warriors, and there was often a clerical presence on the battlefield, with relics carried into combat to ensure victory. A more poignant example of a cross carried into battle is that of King Sigebert of East Anglia, who had withdrawn to the monastic life but sometime before 644 he was unwillingly brought back to lead his people into battle against the pagan Penda of Mercia, but refused to carry arms in favour of the cross and was slain. Presumably the cross, as well as the weaponry, of the defeated would have made its way into the Mercian royal treasury.This highly significant hoard speaks of troubled, warlike times which marched in tandem with the conversion process, whatever the circumstances of assembly and deposition - be it a king's ransom, a metalworker's cache for reuse, a war cenotaph or a ritual votive deposit of weaponry such as those in Scandinavia, or the tribute of heriot, recalling a line in Beowulf,'when 'the gold hilt was handed over to the old lord, a relic from long ago'.

Some of the hoard's rectilinear panels of gold and garnetwork may be from a book-shrine or treasure binding, such as that depicted in the sixth-century Pantocrator icon from Sinai and the Stockholm Codex Aureus, or from a reliquary. An eastern Mediterranean appreciation of the iconic status of the book was transmitted to the West through the practice of enshrining sacred texts within treasure bindings.2 In Coptic Egypt and Ireland metalwork shrines (Old Irish cumdach) also occurred, often inscribed with the names of patrons and makers.3 The earliest surviving example (c.600) of what may be a book-shrine forms part of the Coptic Treasure of Archbishop Abraham of Harmonthis,4 whilst early treasure bindings are in the sixth-century Sion Treasure made in Constantinople.5 A late eighth-century Irish metalwork book-shrine from Lough Kinale, Co. Longford,carries a design recalling carpet pages and was designed not to open, the symbolic enshrinement of the book within ensuring its power.6 Later in the Middle Ages a Psalter long thought to be by St Columba's own hand, gained its name, the 'Cathach' or battler of Columcille, from the fact that its hereditary keepers carried it, enshrined, before them into battle, a practice encountered earlier in Armenia where Gospel books preceded armies into battle in place of the Byzantine palladium.7 The book had become one of the most powerful icons and talismans, and in Armenia were given names, a practice adopted in Ireland for 'The Cathach', 'The Domnach Airgid' and 'The Garland of Howth', and reminiscent of the naming of swords.

Might the presence in the hoard of such Christian artefacts betoken pagan desecration? The evidence is inconclusive. The folded gold items could be straightened out and restored. When the Derrynaflanhoard of church plate was buried, during the ninth century, and the Faddan More Psalter committed to the peat,8 those responsible may have been seeking not only to conceal them with a view to later retrieval, but to save them from desecration by pagan raiders by giving them ritual burial, resembling deposit within Jewish genizahs and near eastern examples of book burials. The Lough Kinale book-shrine, on the other hand, was tossed into an Irish lake during the ninth century when a disappointed Viking raider found that contained only an old book9 - a challenge to the iconic status of sacred texts from "outsiders" who preferred the old gods of the North.

The inscribed object would seem to offer great potential for providing a closer dating for the burial of the hoard. However, it can potentially only really date itself The epigraphic context, which is comparatively evidentially slight in for the seventh century, initially suggested a dating perhaps as late as the ninth century to Elizabeth Okasha, whilst, on the basis of manuscript analogies,when consulted last year, I proposed a range of mid-seventh to early eighth century. At a conference held at the British Museum in 2010 another speaker, David Ganz, advanced a possible fifth-to early sixth-century dating.

There has been a century of scholarship in which relative chronologies have been developed, debunked and modified for the various media and an archaeologicalapproach to evolutionary stylistic sequencing has been influential. There is a danger of circular argument, in that metalwork and sculpture has often been situated in relation to a sequence of major manuscripts, many of which are themselves undatable except by comparing them with other undated books or artefacts. The current trend, therefore, is to move away from sequencing and the quest for fixed historical pegs upon which to hang key items in favour oft a C14-type approach with a plus / minus range and a balance of probabilities. The Book of Durrow, for example, is now variously dated anywhere between the second half of the seventh century and the ninth, depending on whether its stylistic relationship to 7th-century metalwork is deemed to make it of similar period, whether it is seen as embodying an earlier stage of development than other de luxe Gospelbooks such as Lindisfarne, St Chad and Kells, or whether it is thought to represent a late, old-fashioned simplification of Insular manuscript production. It would, however, be counter-productive to ignore any evidence that might permit a higher level of certainty, as is the case with some Insular manuscripts.

The inscription is written twice, on each side of a gold strip which is sturdy enough to have been free-standing, but which bears a rivet suggesting attachment to something, perhaps a wooden cross core, shrine or military accoutrement. The extract from Numbers 10.35 is carefully inscribed on one side - presumably the front - in a more formal version of the script, inlaid with silver niello. This may have been in emulation of the ostentatious copies of scripture inscribed in gold and silver inks which were criticised by St Jerome (who said that, rather than focusing upon visible wealth, the commissioners of such books would do better to concentrate on the meaning of the words and putting them into practice) and which were certainly imported into England by figures such as Wilfrid, whose shrine at Ripon featured one such following his death in 709/10. The inscription is introduced by a D-shaped cup-mount with a golden double snake-headed collar that would presumably have held a garnet or glass stud. The text concludes at the end of two lines with a vestigal frame with an animal head terminal. This is seen in plan, from above, and has almond-shaped eyes, curling ribbon-like jaws and a trefoil foliate tongue. It would appear to be a serpent or dragon, although much Insular animal art, especially prior to the eighth century, is generic and similar zoomorphic terminals may be found in manuscript art: as the terminals of decorated initials, as in the Mark incipit of Durham A.ii. 10 and the Matthew incipit of BL, Royal 1.B.vii; as the terminals of frames in decorated incipit pages, such as those in the Lindisfarne and St Chad Gospels10; or incorporated into miniatures, such as the terminals of the throne back in the Mark evangelist miniature in the St Chad Gospels. In the latter, the trefoil tongue meanders off into interlace as these quadruped throne-strutts sound forth the Word of the Lord written by the Gospeller whom they support and whose symbol - the lion - who hovers above, they resemble. Such amorphous beast-heads need not, therefore, necessarily depict serpents, and where they do this need not betoken evil, as we shall see.

The script on this, more formal, side is characterised by heavy open wedges to letter-strokes, reminiscent of early examples of half-uncial and of forms made both with a broad, formal quill pen or drawn in outline as in late Roman cursive and some of its derivatives, or with a stylus on wax tablets, as on the Springmount Bog tablets. On the back of the strip the inscription is repeated, although with variant word spacing and orthographyin a thinner and more cursively written version of the same script, largely without wedges and inscribed more lightly. It even, incorporates a New Roman cursive loop to the 'd' at the end of the text and introduces more minuscule letters such as 'r', which in 'oderunt' takes an angular form more reminiscent of a runic character, a feature which is cultivated as a stylistic element and probable ethnic cultural indicator in the Lindisfarne and St Chad Gospels.11 It also features contractions, denoted by abbreviation bars above the words, whereas the only abbreviation on the front (dne for domine) lacks a bar. All of these details would suggest that the person responsible for scratching the inscription on the back was literate and used to writing. This person also made an orthographical error, substituting fugiunt for fugiant. The hand which engraved the more formal version on the front likewise misspells fugiant as fugent and is somewhat unclear as to how the formal wedges should be applied to letters and how one 'u' should be formed - that in 'tua' which has a shoulder to its second minim which makes it resemble a back-to-front 'N', although it should be noted that it is not unusual for inscriptions from highly literate societies, such as Early Christian Rome, to exhibit similar misunderstandings. This does not necessarily mean that they were illiterate, but it might suggest that a metalworker was copying a formal script of the sort used for Scripture and trying to emulate the thick strokes formed by a thick quill pen into the linear outlines made by an engraving tool - a bit like trying to copy a modern calligraphic hand written with a broad-nibbed fountain pen with a thin, pointed biro.

The two sides carry essentially the same quotation from Numbers 10.35, plus an additional invocation to fill the end of the second line on the back, and can be transcribed as follows:


Surge .dne disepentu|r inimici tui et |

Fugent qui oderun|t te afacie tua


Surge d(omi)ne disepintur | inimici tui-et fugiu(n)t quio de |

runt te a facie tua |adiute nos d(eu)s

The round brackets contain letters to be supplied in response to horizontal abbreviation bars above the word, denoting contractions.

The final three words of the inscription on the back are particularly lightly incised and cursive in aspect and ductus (and are abraded by surface scratches). These words form an additional invocation supplied to round off the biblical quotation. The phrase 'adiute nos deus' does not appear to find a precise parallel in Scripture or devotional texts of the period, but rather represents a conflation of words which would have been familiar to the writer from Scripture. The closest sources are the Vulgate Psalm 78.9 'adiuva nos Deus salutaris noster propter gloriam nominis tui Domine libera nos et propitius esto peccatis nostris propter nomen tuum' NIV Psalm 79.9 'Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name's sake'. This is the Psalm incipit used as the versicle recited at the point of the marking of the heads of the faithful with ashes - sign of repentance and redemption - during the Mass for Ash Wednesday, in the liturgy of Rome.12 The invocation 'adiute', which is substituted for the 'adiuva' of Ps. 78.9, occurs when calling upon the Lord to protect his Church, for example in the postcommunion prayer in the Mass for the sick in the Gelasianum Vetus, {N: 1542} 'Deus, infirmitatis humanae singulare praesidium, auxilii tui super infirmos nostros ostende uirtutem, ut ope misericordiae tuae adiute aecclaesiae tuae sanctae repraesentare mereantur: per dominum nostrum. [ITEM ORATIONES AD MISSAM PRO INFIRMUM post communionem - LIBER III. LXX]'.13

The 'Surge domine' passage, probably in the form in which it occurs in Psalm 68, also opens an ancient Christian prayer perpetuated in the Orthodox Church -the Prayer of the Precious Cross: "Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered and let them that hate Him flee from before His face. As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish; as wax melteth before the fire, so let the demons perish from the presence of them that love God and who sign themselves with the sign of the Cross and say in gladness: Rejoice most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, for Thou drivest away the demons by the power of our Lord Jesus Christ Who was crucified on thee, Who went down to Hades and trampled on the power of the devil and gave us thee, His precious Cross, for the driving away of every adversary. O most precious and life-giving Cross of the Lord, help me together with the holy Lady Virgin Theotokos and with all the saints, unto the ages. Amen.".14 There are modern examples of this prayer being inscribed upon metal crosses within the Orthodox tradition.

This is also the prayer for spiritual protection invoked against the torment of demons by the desert father St Anthony and was remployed for this purpose by the Mercian warrior-turned hermit, St Guthlac, and by St Dunstan, as recorded in their vitae. Of great relevance in this context, it was also quoted c.700 in a consoling prophecy by Guthlac to King Aethelbald (716-757), whose reign signaled the rise of Mercia's fortunes. Aethelbald was at that time in exile and was comforted by the hermit saint who assured him that he would come to power without bloodshed, quoting the passage from Numbers 10.35 which was the plea of the Israelites to the Lord in the Wilderness invoking God to rise to protect them, through the Ark, the following of which would bring them restoration and renewal.The wording of this prophecy closely parallels the inscription on the Staffordshire hoard strip.

During this time in the wilderness, which paralleled Aethelbald's, Moses prefigured the Cross when he raised the brazen serpent before the children of Israel in the Wilderness; the serpent-like animal head with its trefoil tongue and the golden double-headed serpent that frames the mount for the stud on the inscribed strip may be relevant in this regard. The Book of Numbers, from which the text of the inscription derives, relates that after the Lord sent a plague of serpents to punish the Jews for their lack of faith, Moses interceded with God and was instructed:

Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live" (Numbers 21:8).

Subsequent commentators have remarked that Moses set up the brazen image of the serpent upon a pole in the Israelite camp, like a standard. This became a type of the Crucifixion in the Early Christian Church, for in.John 3:14 Christ proclaims "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wildemess, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up". The brazen serpent, like the Cross, therefore became an image of salvation and of healing. If our strip represented, at one level, the brazen serpent, perhaps as part of or in association with the symbol of the Cross, their power to protect, to disperse evil and to heal the repentant of sin would be aptly reinforced by the conflation in the inscriptions of passages from Numbers 10.35, Psalm 79.9 and the 'adiute' invocation of the Lord. To a pagan Germanic people, still undergoing the process of conversion and with a long tradition of serpentine animal ornament, the Judeo-Christian symbol of the brazen serpent would have lent itself well as a talismanic and apotropaic symbol of faith as an extension of the iconography of the Cross, which was only beginning to assume its role as the foremost Christian rallying point. A predisposition to view the golden serpent as a talisman for personal and collective repentance, protection and salvation might also help to account for the presence of a number of enigmatic little golden snakes within the hoard.

Pope Symmachus (498-514) provided for a chapel of the Holy Cross at the Vatican a reliquary adorned with gems containing a fragment of the Cross and Emperor Justin II presented another reliquary cross to the Vatican. I have suggested that theLindisfarne Gospel's carpet pages with their metalwork resonances might also be intended to symbolise such cross reliquaries. From the second half of the seventh century, when the great Insular illuminated Gospel books began to be made, the iconography of the Cross rapidly gained popularity. During the first quarter of the century the tradition of the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday had been introduced to Rome, under eastern influence via Constantinople.15 In 614 the Persians captured Jerusalem and the relic of the True Coss. Emperor Heraclius recovered it and returned it to Jerusalem in 629, but it was still at risk and so was transferred to Constantinople in 635. Its triumphant entry - the imperial aduentus - was the focus of its exaltation there.16 This developed into the formal veneration of the Cross on Good Friday. By the mid-seventh century, when the earliest Anglo-Saxon clerical pilgrims reached Rome, a mass for the exaltation of the cross had been composed and was used in many of the churches there, along with liturgical artefacts such as illuminated manuscripts and jewelled metalwork crosses and other intriguing images, such as the brazen serpent set up inside the basilica of Sta Maria Maggiore. The large gold and garnet cross in the Staffordshire Hoard and the inscribed piece representan indigenous response to such influences during the first century after the launch of the missions to convert the Anglo-Saxons.

The beast head also reoccurs on both sides of the inscribed gold strip. The purpose of this repetition of text and image on both sides is unclear. Presumably the version on the back represents either an abandoned first stab or an attempt to determine layout, perhaps to serve as a trial-piece, although it would have been more convenient to practice the lettering on wax tablets or on a motif-piece consisting of a piece of wood or stone and to copy from this directly onto the front of the strip, as the painstaking copying of the wedges, which look as if they have been drawn with a stylus in emulation of a pen script, would suggest may have been the case.

What other Insular cases are there of layout drawings? The Lindisfarne Gospels features extensive layout drawings in lead-point on the backs of the areas of the page to be painted, but these were back-lit through the translucent membrane to permit show-through for copying in a way that would not work on the metal strip.17 The Derrynaflan paten features a series of letters, crosses and abstract symbols on its numerous components as an aid to assembly, but these were concealed from view by the ornament, as were those on another piece of de luxe Irish liturgical metalwork of eighth-century date, the Ardagh Chalice18. Similar assembly marks have also been found on a piece in the Staffordshire hoard. The Flixborough lead plaque (which carries a list of names written in a Mercian hybrid minuscule lettering resembling that in books of around 790-820) bears traces of a trial layout inscription, but this is scratched lightly onto the surface that was then engraved directly on top. The Staffordshire inscription does not function in any of these ways, Its only pragmatic function could have been for a literate scribe, who was working in a manuscript-based tradition of script and ornament, to have lightly inscribed the rear of the strip in order to establish the design and layout on the actual space.

Another possibility occurs, however. Perhaps the Staffordshire strip's protective invocation was intended simultaneously to face the enemies of the Lord, in apotropaic fashion, on the front, which was duly inscribed in formal fashion and the visibility of the letters reinforced by pouring silver niello into them; whilst it also turned its protection inwards to the bearer or the core of the object to which it was attached. An additional invocation of the protection of the Lord was included for this purpose. Such protection need not always be visible to be effective, even if the strip were applied, as the presence of the St Cuthbert Gospel inside his coffin and the book once entombed within the Lough Kinale shrine testify. Perhap the gold strip formed part of a shrine (itself representing at one level the ark) or the upright leg of a freestanding cross intended to be viewed from both sides, or was suspended from such a cross or another object.

The script is a so-called 'Phase I Insular half-uncial', which Julian Brown categorised as an early stage of reinvention of an earlier Roman hand which was practised in Britain and Ireland before it was 'reformed' under uncial influence at the time that the Lindisfarne Gospels were made. This Phase I half-uncial eschews litterae absolutae in favour of a variable mixture of 'majuscule' and 'minuscule' - or upper and lower case - letters. The prominent head wedges and the uncial 'E' of the 'In nomine' inscription carved upon a pebble found at Dunadd in Dalriada (Argyll, Scotland) and thought to date from the seventh or early eighth century, for example, betoken a more formal, half-uncial, intent than that suggested by the use of minuscule 'n' in the same inscription. Likewise, the Staffordshire inscription features uncial 'R'and 'N', whilst also favouring flat-headed 'g', straight-backed 'd' and 'oc'shaped 'a' which are also to be found in early intermediate examples of Insular half-uncial such as Durham A.ii.10 and the Book of Durrow, the oldest extant illuminated Insular Gospel books which are generally thought to date from the second half of the seventh century.19

How does this stage of development fit into a consideration of Insular half-uncial in general? The earliest surviving Insular manuscripts are from late sixth- or early seventh-century Ireland:20 including Codex Usserianus Primus, an 'Old Latin' Gospels, reminiscent of an early Gospelbook from St Columbanus's Bobbio (Milan, Ambrosiana I.61 sup.).21 Also of early date are the Springmount Bog wax Tablets, inscribed with Psalm verses,22 and the Cathach which contains Jerome's Romanum Psalter.Some scholars, such as Schaumann and Dumville, have expressed the view that these manuscripts may date from as early as the late sixth century, although most consider them early seventh.23 These manuscripts feature open wedges and mixed grade of letter form, but lack the regular, upright, regular ductus of the Staffs formal inscription and its mix of decidedly uncial and half-uncial variant letter forms. These are more reminiscent of the more 'stabilised' form of half-uncial, as seen in Durham A.ii.10 and the Book of Durrow, which was evolving in the Irische schriftprovinz, which embraced Northumbria,during the later seventh and century.

Julian Brown suggested that, during conversion, the Irish received cursive half-uncial, the script used for annotation by the educated reader of late Antiquity, rather than professional hands.24 He suggested that they upgraded this to produce a formal half-uncial and downgraded it as a working minuscule. Early Irish manuscripts (such as the Cathach) employ cursive half-uncial, giving way to a minuscule featuring some higher grade letter-forms. The script of the Book of Durrow is more settled, approaching Insular half-uncial proper. The inscription fits well here, and the zoomorphic ornament of several of the Staffordshire hoard's finestpieces - the gold cheek-piece, the gold and garnet sword hilt fitting and the gold hilt plate in particular - also find their closest manuscript parallels within the Book of Durrow. The archetypal regular Insular half-uncial script encountered in the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells, belongs to Julian Brown's 'reformed Phase II Insular half-uncial'25 Julian Brown saw his Phase II 'reform' of earlier Insular half-uncial as stimulated by Wearmouth / Jarrow uncial and its Italian exemplars, the impact of which he detected in the Lindisfarne Gospels and in the Durham and Echternach Gospels. He and Rupert Bruce-Mitford saw the Lindisfarne Gospels as being written on Holy Island before the translation of St Cutbhert's relics in 698.26 I, however, have ascribed it a terminus post quem of 715, on the grounds of its inclusions of lections being introduced in Rome at that time. If its artist-scribe was indeed Bishop Eadfrith, whose biography and agenda fits its production well, then his death in 721 provides a terminus ante quem, although work was completed after this hand was out of the picture.

Any such 'evolutionary' interpretation should, however, be tempered by acknowledgement that it is applied with hindsight. Irish scribes in particular exhibit a healthy lack of concern for categories; features of both Brown's Phases I and II may be mixed or occur side by side throughout the 8th and ninth centuries. This renders a primarily stylistic chronological sequencing unreliable. To my mind the development of Insular half-uncial was a more gradual process, progressing in the Columban parochia towards a more formal type throughout the 7th century, characterized by growing consistency and regularity, traceable throughout the Cathach,, Durham MS A.II.10, the Book of Durrow and the Durham and Echternach Gospels. That Phase I half-uncial was practised in a Columban milieu is shown by the seventh- to eighth-century Dunadd pebble inscription (perhaps intended for votive purposes, or as a trial-piece).27 This script had certainly achieved maturity by the time that the Durham Gospels was written, probably a generation or more prior to the Lindisfarne Gospels,>28 - which represents a precocious pinnacle within the development of 'Phase II', rather than its genesis.29 I have also emphasised elsewhere that the nature of monastic parochiae means that a book or artefact displaying features associated with a particular region or federation (e.g. Northumbrian or Columban) does not mean that it was necessarily made or used in the heartland of such. The missionary work of Sts Cedd and Chad of Holy Island,operating in Essex and Mercia respectively during the mid-7th century, might also mean, for example, that works resembling the Book of Durrow (with its textual connections to the Book of Kells probably best considered a Columban work) could not as well have been present in those regions.30

As the Staffordshire inscribed piece is of English manufacture and its lettering accords with a stage of development of half-uncial in England which generally predated the Lindisfarne Gospels of c.715-20 and its precursors, the Durham and Echternach Gospels , it should, I would suggest, be seen as datable to the seventh rather than the eighth century. The affinities of its zoomorphic decoration to the Book of Durrow, which scholarly consensus still places in the 670s or 80s, and, as we shall see, with the St Chad Gospels and Royal 1.B.vii, which post-date Lindisfarne, would tend to me to suggest the probability of a medial dating towards the end of the seventh century. However, given the small sample of extant comparanda, a broad range of c.650-725 is safer,with the balance of probability lying around 670-700.

What of the local, Mercian manuscript context? The possibility of Irish influence in 7th-century Mercia, has to be considered, for prior to the appointment of St Chad of Holy Island as bishop of Lichfield in 669 there is a tradition of earlier missionary work by the Irishman Diuma. Chad's Northumbrian origins also suggest that manuscripts from the Mercian heartland would, at this stage, share an affinity with those of the Columban federation. The Lichfield Gospels may be a useful local point of reference for the manuscript context for the inscription.31 It was in Wales by the mid-ninth century when it was redeermed for the Church by Gelhi and by the tenth century it was at Lichfield. I have suggested that this was a return to its original home, for the makers of the Lichfield Gospels seem to have consulted the major incipit pages of Lindisfarne and combined it with influences apparent in other probable Columban manuscripts, such as Durrow and Kells. A phase II half-uncial script, similar to that of the Lindisfarne Gospels, is used to record a text not of Lindisfarne's Vulgate, but a 'Celtic' mixed text. This would suggest that it was made in a centre which prized both the Cuthbertine and earlier Columban traditions and which enjoyed a privileged relationship with Lindisfarne. Such was its daughter-house of Lichfield.

The strip's animal ornament frames the script rather like the beast-headed terminals on the frames of the Insular Gospelbooks. They are viewed in plan, from above, and have almond-shaped eyes,long curling jaws and trefoil lobed foliate tongues.The curled jaw and almond eyes are to be found in Durham A.ii.10 and also , along with more lacertine trefoil foliate tongues in the Lichfield Gospels, on its chi-rho page and St Mark miniature, but not the 'in plan' view. This is, however, also encountered, alongside clothes-peg jawed beasts, on the Matthew incipit page of B.L, Royal 1.B.vii, an 8th-century Gospelbook which employed the same Neapolitan Vulgate text exemplar for its text as that of the Lindisfarne Gospels. Both this and the Lichfield Gospels both share links with Northumbria and with Holy Island in particular, and probably belong to the mid-8th century, the generation after the Lindisfarne Gospels.

The Lichfield angel,32 probably from St Chad's shrine, shares the distinctive palette of the Lichfield Gospels - a symphony of purples and white which Bede, in his de Tabernaculo, had equated with the journey of the just soul. I have suggested that this unusual palette on stone may have complemented an existing shrine book - the Lichfield Gospels. The Book of Cerne, probably made at Lichfield for Bishop Aethelwald of Lichfield (818-830), also bears a stylistic relationship to the Lichfield angel and a textual recollection of earlier links to Lindisfarne.33 The scripts of Cerne and other Mercian Tiberius Group prayerbooks of late 8th to early ninth-century date - B.L., Harley 7653, the Royal Prayerbook (B.L., Royal 2.A.xx) and the Book of Nunnaminster (B.L., Harley 2965) provide another local point of reference, but their set and cursive minuscules occupy a lower hierarchical and later chronological place in the Insular system.34 The evidence of surviving Mercian books does not, therefore, provide a direct context for the inscription, but does indicate that the varied stylistic features it preserves pre-date them and give a glimpse of the range of influences available in Mercia from which they sprang.


1: 'Rise up, O Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face'.

2: Important treasure bindings include the Lindau Gospels (New York, Morgan Library and Museum, MSM 1) and the Codex Aureus of Charles the Bald (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 14000). See M. P. BROWN, ed., In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000, exhibition cat., Freer and Sackler Museum, Smithsonian Inst., Washington DC, 2006, nos. 66, 67, 74, and J. LOWDEN, "The Word Made Visible: the Exterior of the Early Christian Book as Visual Argument," in The Early Christian Book, ed. by. W. KLINGSHIRN and L. SAFRAN, Washington DC, 2007, pp. 13-47.

3: R. Ó FLOINN, Irish Shrines and Reliquaries of the Middle Ages, Dublin, 1994.

4: Cairo, Coptic Museum.

5: Washington DC, Dumbarton Oaks, inv. no. BZ 1963.36.8. See BROWN, Lindisfarne Gospels, p. 212.; for the Sion Treasure bindings, see BROWN, ed., In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000, no. 67.

6: Dublin, National Museum of Ireland, 1986: 141. E. P KELLY, "The Lough Kinale Shrine: the Implications for the Manuscripts," in The Book of Kells, F. O'MAHONY, Proceedings of a Conference at Trinity College Dublin, 6-9 September 1992, Aldershot,, 1994, pp. 280-289.

7: V. NERSESSIAN, Armenian Illuminated Gospel Books, London, 1987, p. 11.

8: Dublin, National Museum of Ireland, 1980: 4,5; M. P. BROWN, `Paten and Purpose: the Derrynaflan Paten Inscriptions', in The Age of Migrating Ideas, ed. by J. HIGGITT and M. SPEARMAN, Edinburgh, 1993, pp. 162-167. B. MEEHAN, The Faddan More Psalter, Dublin, 2007.

9: KELLY, 'The Lough Kinale Shrine'.

10: Another example of the a similar treatment of animal art in the hoard and in one of the Lindisfarne Gospel's incipit pages is the cat head which terminates the border in Lindisfarne's St Luke miniature. Its pointed ears recall the shape of the terminals to the hoard's large gold and garnet cross, which may have been attached to a wooden processional or altar cross, or applied to a reliquary or book-shrine or book-cover. I have related the iconography of the cat in Lindisfarne to the threat of evil and the protection of the gateway to the other life. See M. P. BROWN, Lindisfarne Gospels.

11: M. P. BROWN, Lindisfarne Gospels.

12: [accessed 5.2.11], the Tridentine Latin Rite Project, which gives the Ash Wednesday Mass as celebrated at Sta Sabina in Rome It features as one of the recommended responsorial psalms for Ash Wednesday in the Graduale Simplex of Rome..

13: [accessed 5.2.11]., N. 1542 in the Gelasianum Vetus, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Cod. Vat. Reg. lat. 316.

14: [accessed 5.2.11].

15: The earliest liturgical text from Rome for the veneration of the Cross in St Peter's, Rome, is the Ad crucem salutandum in sancto petro:

'Deus qui unigeniti tui domini nostri iesu christi praetioso sanguine humanum genus redemere dignatus es, concede propitius ut qui ad adorandam uiuificam crucem adueniunt a peccatorum suorum nexibus liberentur. Per dominum.'

('God, who has deigned to allow the human race to be redeemed by the precious blood of your only-begotten son our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech you that those who come to adore the life-giving cross may be freed from the bonds of their sins. Through our Lord').

This occurs in the Sacramentary of Padua -Paduense and was celebrated on 14 September (as the finding of the true cross was celebrated at Jerusalem on that date), see P. K. MOHLBERG, ed., Die älteste erreichbare Gestalt des Liber Sacramentorum anni circuli der römischen Kirche, Münster1927, no. 665 p. 54; text from J. DESHUSSES, Le Sacramentaire Grégorien, Fribourg1979, I, p. 271 (= Introit, Hadrianum no. 690).

16: L. VAN TONGEREN, 'Vom Kreuzritus zur Kreuzestheologie: die Entstehungsgeschichte des Festes der Kreuzerhöhung und seine erste Ausbreitung im Westen', Ephemerides Liturgicae 112 (1998), 215-245, at pp 243-5.

17: M. P. BROWN, Lindisfarne Gospels.

18: M. P. BROWN, `Paten and Purpose: the Derrynaflan Paten Inscriptions', in The Age of Migrating Ideas, ed. by J. HIGGITT and M. SPEARMAN, Edinburgh, 1993, pp. 162-167.

19: As a note of caution, such features can also be observed in the stylised Phase I script of the Stowe Missal, from early ninth-century Ireland. As the Staffordshire inscribed object does not appear, however, to be of Irish workmanship we need not be unduly distracted by the late survival in Ireland of stylistic features that had passed well and truly out of fashion in England by mid-8th century.

20: For an overview of the study of Insular manuscripts and their palaeography during the last fifty years, see M. P. BROWN, 'Fifty Years of Insular Palaeography, 1953-2003: an outline of some landmarks and issues', in Archiv fűr Diplomatik: Schriftgeschichte Siegel- und Wappenkunde, Proceedings of the CIPL conference, 2003, ed. by W. KOCH & T. KÖLZER, Cologne, Weimar & Vienna, 2005, pp. 277-325. On the earliest Irish manuscripts, see B. T. SCHAUMANN, 'The Irish script of the MS Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, S.45 Sup. (ante ca.625)', in Scriptorium, 32 (1978), pp. 3-18; T. J. BROWN, 'The Irish Element in the Insular System of Scripts to circa A.D. 800', in Die Iren und Europa im frûheren Mittelalter, 2 vols, ed. by H. LOEWE ,Stuttgart, 1982), I, pp. 101-119; T. J. BROWN, 'The Oldest Irish Manuscripts and their Late Antique Background', in Irland und Europa: die Kirche im Frűhmittelalter, ed. by P. NÍ CHATHÁIN and M. RICHTER, Stuttgart, 1984, pp. 311-327; DUMVILLE, A Palaeographer's Review).

21: Usserianus Primus is Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS 55; Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana MS I.61 sup. contains a 'mixed' text and, interestingly, the Irish half-uncial script is written over a palimpsest of Ulfilas in Gothic.

22: National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, S.A. 1914:2; SCHAUMANN, 'The Irish script of the MS Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, S.45 Sup'.. These are an unusual survival, given the climatic conditions of northern Europe, for they owe their preservation to loss in a peat bog.

23: David Dumville has recently questioned whether Usserianus Primus was an Insular work at all, contesting the views of Elias Lowe, Julian Brown, David Wright and Jonathan Alexander who saw it as of Irish manufacture (Ireland or Bobbio) during the early seventh century. Many of the palaeographical features of Usserianus Primus that reflect late Roman cursive and quarter- or half-uncial influence are also to be found in manuscripts from Bobbio (the Basilius, Milan Ambrosiana C. 26. sup., and the Orosius, D.23. sup.) and the Cathach. It should also be noted that aspects of the codicology of Usserianus Primus also suggest an Insular origin, namely ruling after folding, hair-sides of membrane facing flesh-sides, and the signs of its containment in a metalwork book-shrine (cumdach) of Irish type. The addition of glosses in an Insular minuscule would also support an early Insular provenance. Finally, the use of the punctus and of diminuendo to assist in the legibility of the text, and the introduction of a measure of word separation - an important contribution to the history of writing, which is also found on the Staffordshire inscription - would also indicate an Insular origin. For recent discussion of early Insular script, see M. P. BROWN, 'From Columba to Cormac: the Contribution of Irish Scribes to the Insular System of Scripts', 57th Settimana di studio della Fondazione Centro Italiano di Studi sull'Alto Medioevo, 'L'Irlanda e gli Irlandesi nell'Alto Medioevo', 16-21 April, 2009 (CISAM: Spoleto, 2010); M. P. BROWN, 'Writing in the Insular World' in R. G. GAMESON, ed., A History of the Book in Britain Volume 1: From the Romans to the Normans (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, forthcoming).

24: T. J. BROWN, 'The Irish Element in the Insular System of Scripts'.

25: T. J. BROWN, 'The Irish Element in the Insular System of Scripts'; M. P. BROWN,Lindisfarne Gospels, pp. 253-271.

26: Evangeliorum Quattuor Codex Lindisfarnensis, ed. by T. D. KENDRICK et al.,Lausanne, 1956-60; The Durham Gospels, Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile 20, ed. by C. D. VEREY et al., Copenhagen, 1980.

27: M. P. BROWN, Lindisfarne Gospels, p. 255, fig. 103; E. CAMPBELL and A. LANE, Dunadd: an Early Dalriadic Capital, Oxford, 2000.

28: C. D. VEREY, The Durham Gospels; departing from the views expressed in T. D. KENDRICK, ed., Evangeliorum Quattuor Codex Lindisfarnensis, attributing both volumes to a putative Lindisfarne scribe - 'the Durham-Echternach Calligrapher', I have suggested that the Durham Gospels may have been made either at Lindisfarne or Melrose and that the Echternach Gospels also belong to this earlier generation and were probably written in Echternach itself by scribes trained in the Irish tradition, see M. P. BROWN, Lindisfarne Gospels, pp. 253-271.

29: M. P. BROWN, Lindisfarne Gospels, pp. 253-271.

30: M. P. BROWN, The Lindisfarne Gospels and the Early Medieval World (British Library and Chicago University Press: London and Chicago, 2010) and The Book and the Transformation of Britain (forthcoming).

31: M. P. BROWN, 'The Lichfield Angel and the Manuscript Context: Lichfield as a Centre of Insular Art', Journal of the British Archaeological Association 160 (2007), 8-19; M. P. BROWN, 'The Lichfield / Llandeilo Gospels Reinterpreted' in R. KENNEDY and S. MEECHAM-JONES, eds., Authority and Subjugation in Writing of Medieval Wales (Palgrave Macmillan: New York & Basingstoke, 2008), pp. 57-70.

32: Ibid.

33: M. P. BROWN, The Book of Cerne: Prayer, Patronage and Power in Ninth-Century England (British Library & Toronto University Press: London & Toronto, 1996), pp. 252.

34: Ibid. See also M. P. BROWN, 'Mercian Manuscripts? The 'Tiberius' Group and its Historical Context', in M. P. BROWN and C. FARR, eds., Mercia: An Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in Europe (Leicester University Press: Leicester, 2002), pp. 278-291 and M. P. BROWN, 'Writing in the Insular World'.