Monks' bible returns to Bede’s World in Jarrow after 1,300 years

A full scale replica of a bible produced by monks at Jarrow has returned to Tyneside from Italy

Bede's Great Bible returns to South Tyneside
Bede's Great Bible returns to South Tyneside

A taste of Tuscany came to Tyneside yesterday to mark the arrival of the world’s only full-scale replica of a huge bible produced by monks in the North East 1,300 years ago.

Abbot Ceolfrith, of the Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery, began the project to create the Codex Amiatinus bible in the late Seventh Century.

Three of the bibles were made by the monks over several years.

The 2,060 pages of each bible, which weighed 75Ibs, used the vellum from more than 500 calves.

Alongside the Lindisfarne Gospels, it was another great undertaking by monks in what has became known as the Golden Age of Northumbria.

Aged 74, Ceolfrith set off in June 716 with some of his monks on a pilgrimage to Rome to present one of the bibles to the Pope.

But he died in a monastery in Burgundy in France, and the bible became part of the possessions of the abbey of San Salvatore at Monte Amiata in the province of Siena in Italy for around a thousand years.

It is now in the Laurentian library in Florence, while the other two bibles have long disappeared.

Italian medieval scholar Prof Manuela Vestri produced the full size replica of the Florence bible through her company La Meta, which creates replicas of ancient manuscripts.

She has brought the replica to Bede’s World in Jarrow, where it will be on show from Sunday until September.

The bible has been accompanied by a party of 19 from San Salvatore, who will create a flavour of their Tuscan town today, tomorrow and Sunday at Bede’s World.

From noon today and from 10.30am to 3.30pm on Saturday and Sunday there will be tastings and sales of San Salvatore produce such as wine, monastic liqueurs made from fruit and herbs, cheeses, pasta, ricciotina - a local almond and chocolate cake - and hand-made soaps.

A chef from the party will also give pasta speciality demonstrations .

The event is part of a friendship agrement between San Salvatore and South Tyneside which has been signed by Prof Vestri, whose grandparents are from the Tuscan town which has a population of 6,000.

The link will seek to build on the shared “ownership” of the bible and the fact that both areas have had a history of mining - in San Salvatore’s case, that of mercury.

Prof Vestri first visited Jarrow and its monastic remains five years ago when she led a party of students who also visited York, Durham, Lindisfarne and Hadrian’s Wall.

“It was an emotional moment to come to Jarrow in the footsteps of the early pilgrims and it made history real for the students,” said Prof Vestri.

“Bringing the full scale bible replica back to Jarrow is a great occasion. It’s marvellous.”

As well as the bible being on public show, Bede’s World is also offering bookings for groups for special showings.

Bede’s World’s Dr Kathy Cremin said: “ The fact that the bible has been out in the world for so long, and now the full scale replica is back in the place where it was created, is very special.”

A page of one of the other two bibles was found in 1882 in Robinson’s bookshop in Newcastle in the binding of a register, dated 1780, by Durham Cathedral Canon William Greenwell. It was presented by him to the British Museum in 1909.


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