About this blog

This is a window into the weird world of Anglicanism, as experienced on a Cathedral Close. Has anything much happened since Trollope's Barchester Chronicles? You will still see the 'canon in residence' hurrying across to choral Evensong, robes flapping, as the late bell chimes. But look carefully and you will notice he is checking the football score on his iPhone as he runs. This is also a writer's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the novelist's life. And it's a fighter's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the judo mat. Well, the agony, anyway.

Saturday 6 August 2011

WEEK 31--Lecture on the St Chad Gospels

I don't wish to imply that I've never been to a lecture before.  Heck, when I was an undergraduate, I went to several every term.  I'd sit there with my mate Sue, and we'd see who cracked first and wrote the note which said 'Lunch?'  This meant Norwegian mushrooms and vintage cider at one of Durham's pubs, with the knock-on effect of no afternoon lectures.  That's what happens when students are given grants.  They don't study. In these days of student loans it's completely different.  It really is.  Study, study, study, no pub.  Would my son lie to his mother?

Nor are you to think I'm just scrambling around again for something new to blog about.  I've chosen this for a reason.  I am addressing a syndrome which has no handy name, but which we all recognise.  The old 'living in Stratford and never going to the RSC' scenario.  You know what I mean.  Admit it, you only ever visit the Tower of London when you've got foreign guests, don't you?

Here in Lichfield we have a truly magnificent Gospel Book, which as I may have mentioned before, is OLDER THAN THE BOOK OF KELLS.  It's currently on display in the Chapter House alongside its mate, the Lichfield Angel (a Saxon carving, probably from St Chad's tomb chest), and the star items of the Staffordshire Hoard.  Sorry folks--the exhibition has sold out, but if you're quick, you can still catch it at Tamworth Castle (27th Aug--18th Sept).  I believe there are still free tickets left, but you do have to book.

Obviously, I've often seen the St Chad Gospels.  They still get paraded round the cathedral on High Days and holidays.   But I've never really taken the trouble to learn much about them.  Hence today's lecture.  It was delivered by Prof William F Endres, an expert from the University of Kentucky.  Last summer we had a team from Kentucky over here, digitising the Gospel book (i.e. taking lots of  images with very high-tech equipment).  Prof Endres was here to share some of their discoveries.

A long overdue scholarly book on the St Chad Gospels is being planned, which ought to scotch forever the idea that the St Chad Gospels originated in Wales.  And it is to this work you should turn in due course for a proper analysis.  But here are a couple of things which captured my imagination:  the first is the possibility that the scribes who wrote this exquisite text may have been women.  Another is that some of the ornamentation, which appears to be unique to the St Chad Gospel (a twisted rope motif) bears an uncanny resemblance to the filigree work on some of the Staffordshire Hoard items.  And finally, there are hints that the St Chad Gospel may have influenced the style of the Book of Kells.  (Than which it is, of course, OLDER.)

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