Lindisfarne Gospels

For John:
Design a beginning that was not a beginning
From a logo that was not a logo
But a word that was God  
Simply found before anything was
Shapeless and nebulous as the mists below
The eagle soaring high.

     For Luke:
     Draw what many have undertaken –
     To draw up an account that owed no-one anything
     Because there was nothing
     And there was no-one
     But He who became a sacrifice
     Worth more than anything bovine.

For Mark:
Illustrate the start of a gospel
That relies more on what is not
Than what is seen
Yet nevertheless attractive
Surpassing landscape beauty
And the lion’s majesty.


     For Matthew:
     Paint a record of genealogy
     Of those who were and those not in line
     Letting their flesh and His burst into life
     For us and with us
     In gentle lines of Northumbrian pigment
     That makes Him colourfully human.

June 2010
Imagined instructions from an Abbott to one of the monks scripting the Lindisfarne Gospels.
Each of these gospels has three illustrated pages:
  • the ‘carpet page’ of Celtic knot-work,
  • another showing the evangelist at work, with his motif accompanying – Mathew, a human-being; Mark, the lion; Luke, the calf; John, the eagle.
  • the third with the first words of that gospel.

Click here to turn the pages of the Lindisfarne Gospels now kept in the British Library

Click here for photographs of Lindisfarne, Holy Island, Northumberland