MINIATURIST, Irish
(active 725-750 on the Island of Iona)

Lichfield Gospels

725-50
Manuscript (Ms. 1), 308 x 235 mm
Cathedral Library, Lichfield

The Lichfield Gospels or the Book of St. Chad has 236 surviving folios, eight of which are illuminated. Another four contain framed text. The manuscript is also important because it includes, as marginalia, some of the earliest known examples of written Welsh.

It contains the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and the early part of the Gospel of Luke. A second volume disappeared about the time of the English Civil War. The text is written in a single column and is based on the Vulgate. The script is predominantly Insular majuscule but has some uncial characteristics and is thus called semi-uncial. There was a single scribe. The script forms strong links between the Lichfield manuscript and Northumbrian, Iona, and Irish manuscripts.

The origin of the manuscript is controversial. It is not known who wrote the manuscript, for whom it was written or where it was written. Paleographic and stylistic similarities link it to Northumbria and Iona. Many, especially those in Wales, have argued that the manuscript was written in Wales. Although it is not known how the book came to be in Lichfield, it may have been there as early as the late tenth century and was almost certainly there by the early eleventh century.

The manuscript has two evangelist portraits (St. Mark and St. Luke), a carpet page, initial pages for Mathew ("Lib"), Mark (initium), and Luke (Quoniam), a Chi Rho monogram page, and a page with the Four evangelist symbols.

The picture shows a detail of folio 220 which opens the Gospel of St. Luke. It is an elaborate carpet page of entwined dragons and decoration.