Medieval manuscripts blog

Bringing our medieval manuscripts to life

15 December 2022

The Lindisfarne Gospels back at the British Library

The Lindisfarne Gospels is back on display in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery at the British Library, following its loan to the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle from 17 September to 3 December 2022. The exhibition in Newcastle, which was the culmination of a year-long programme of cultural events across the North East, attracted over 56,000 visitors. You can read more about the exhibition in our previous blogpost.

The Chi-rho page in the Lindisfarne Gospels, featuring the large decorated letters 'XPI'
Chi-rho page in the Lindisfarne Gospels: Cotton MS Nero D IV, f. 29r

The Lindisfarne Gospels is now on exhibition at the British Library showing the Chi-rho page, a particularly appropriate display for Christmastime. The Chi-rho is the abbreviated Greek name of Christ, spelled Chi-rho-iota, or ‘XPI’. In some early Latin gospel-books, including the Lindisfarne Gospels, there is a large decorated Chi-rho at the beginning of the account of the Incarnation at Matthew 1:18, Christi autem generatio sic erat (‘Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this way’).

In the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Chi-rho fills up almost the entire page. The insides of the letters are dense with knotted birds and interlace, while the outsides spin with an almost cosmic display of swirls. The letter chi looks as though it is leaping across the page on lithe legs, leaving trails of spirals in its wake – a jump for joy in honour of Christ’s birth.

Detail of the Chi-rho page showing the letter 'X' filled with intricate animal interlace pattern
Detail of the Chi-rho page in the Lindisfarne Gospels: Cotton MS Nero D IV, f. 29r

The Chi-rho page also stars on the front cover of the newly published book about the Lindisfarne Gospels: Eleanor Jackson, The Lindisfarne Gospels: Art, History and Inspiration (London: British Library, 2022). Written by the British Library’s Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts, the book is an accessible introduction to the production, decoration and history of the manuscript. It is fully illustrated in colour and is available from the British Library Shop.

Display of books featuring the Chi-rho page on the cover
Display of the newly published book on the Lindisfarne Gospels in the Laing Art Gallery shop

You can also view the Lindisfarne Gospels online on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website, and keep an eye on the blog for more Christmassy Chi-rho content coming soon!

Follow us on Twitter @BLMedieval