More than a thousand years ago, when Christianity was a flickering light in England and Scotland, Oswald returned from exile to claim his kingdom of Northumbria in battle. He had been raised by Christian monks in Scotland, and asked them to send someone to help him spread the gospel in Northumbria. Aidan came, and established his ministry on the lonely, quiet tidal island of Lindisfarne. When Aidan died, a shepherd boy called Cuthbert had a vision of angels carrying a holy soul to heaven.
Years later, Cuthbert was put in charge of the community on Lindisfarne. He lived a simple life of prayer, teaching (largely by example) and fasting, and died in 687. He was soon recognised as one of Northumbria's great saints, and a later abbot of Lindisfarne made a book of the gospels, so beautifully written and decorated that it is almost unbearably lovely to look at.
It is now thirteen hundred years old and lives in the British Library. I often go in to have a peek at it when I'm in London, but this year it came to Durham Cathedral where Cuthbert is buried. On Wednesday Claire, Tony and I met at Durham, said a prayer at Cuthbert's tomb, and went to the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition. It was very well done, with pages of the gospels projected on to the walls, and contemporary gospel books around it, as well as St Cuthbert's ring and the cross he wore. The book itself, in its glass case, was open at the beginning of St Matthew.
But it's no good me telling you about it. Put The Lindisfarne Gospels into a search engine and look.