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The Lichfield Gospels (also known as the Chad Gospels, the Book of Chad, the Gospels of St. Chad, St. Teilo Gospels, the Llandeilomarker Gospels, and numerous variations on these) is an eighth century Insular Gospel Book housed in Lichfield Cathedralmarker. There are 236 surviving folios, eight of which are illuminated. Another four contain framed text. The pages themselves measure 30.8 cm by 23.5 cm. The manuscript is also important because it includes, as marginalia, some of the earliest known examples of written Welsh. Peter Lord dates the book at 730, placing it chronologically before the Book of Kells but after the Lindisfarne Gospels.

The manuscript was rebound in 1962 by Roger Powell. At that time it was discovered that in the rebinding of 1862 the manuscript had been cut into single leaves and that the pages had been trimmed during the rebinding of 1707.

Text and Script

The manuscript 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 manuscript has almost 2000 variances from the Vulgate, almost a third of which it shares with the Hereford Gospels. There are fewer variations in the text which agree with the Macregal Gospels and the Book of Armagh, 370 agree with the Book of Kells and 62 with the Lindisfarne Gospels.

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 Northumbrianmarker, Ionamarker, and Irish manuscripts.

Decoration

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 Genealogy of Christ is framed (3 pages) and the last page is framed.

Marginalia

There are eight marginal inscriptions written in Latin and Old Welsh, which are some of the earliest written Welsh extant. The first records, in Latin, the gift of the manuscript "to God on the altar of St. Teilo" by a man named Gelhi, who, according to the inscription, had bought the manuscript for the price of his best horse from Cingal. The 'altar of St. Teilo" has in the past been associated with the monastery at Llandaffmarker. However, it has been determined that the third, fourth and sixth marginal inscriptions refer to lands with fifteen miles of Llandeilo Fawrmarker. It is, therefore, now thought that the book was given not to Llandaff but to the church at Llandeilomarker. The second marginal inscription is of some interest as it contains a unique example of early Welsh prose, which records the details of the resolution of a land dispute. The first two inscriptions have been dated to the mid ninth century. The third through eight inscriptions date from the ninth and tenth centuries. The Latin and Welsh marginalia were edited by J. Gwenogvryn Evans, with John Rhys in their 1893 edition of the Book of Llan Dav.

Provenance

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 Northumbriamarker and Ionamarker. Links to the Hereford Gospels suggest a Mercian origin. Many have argued that the manuscript was written in Wales, particularly due to the Welsh marginalia; if so, this would make it the only large gospel-book from Wales that survives. Some have argued that it was written at Lichfield. All except one line is in the same hand.

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 opening folio contains a faded signature reading Wynsige presul which probably refers to the Wynsige who was Bishop of Lichfield from circa 963 to 972-5. Folio four contains a reference to Leofric who was bishop from 1020 to 1026.

It is hypothesized that, due to the similarities of the painting techniques to the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells, the actual creation of the book may be placed between 698 and 800. It is also interesting to note that the interlaced bird patterns seen on the cross-carpet page on page 216 of the book has a striking resemblance to the ornament on a cross-shaft of Aberlady, Lothian, a Northumbrianmarker site of the mid 8th century. This suggests that the author/artist of the book and the sculptor of the cross-shaft ornament had a similar source for their designs.

Wherever it originated and however it came to Lichfield, it has, except for a brief period during the English Civil War, been at Lichfield since the eleventh century. In 1646, during the Civil War, Lichfield Cathedral was sacked and the library looted. This is probably when the second volume of the Gospels was lost. Precentor Walter Higgins is credited with saving the remaining volume. They were given to Frances, Duchess of Somerset, who returned them in 1672 or 1673. They have remained at the cathedral ever since. They were put on public display in 1982. The bishops of Lichfield still swear allegiance to the crown on the Lichfield Gospels.

Other Insular illuminated manuscripts of possible Welsh origin include the Ricemarch Psalter and the Hereford Gospels.

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