THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Medieval manuscripts blog

30 January 2013

A Menagerie of Miracles: The Illustrated Life of St Cuthbert

YT 26 f. 1v a80033-02

Miniature of a monk (Bede?) kissing the feet of St Cuthbert, from the preface to Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert, England (Durham), 4th quarter of the 12th century, Yates Thompson MS 26, f. 1v

Last year the British Library was pleased to announce the acquisition of the 7th century St Cuthbert Gospel (Additional MS 89000) following the largest public fundraising campaign in our history; see herehere and here for more.  Following the acquisition, the St Cuthbert Gospel was exhibited in our Treasures Gallery alongside another manuscript equally well known to lovers of all things Cuthbertian, Yates Thompson MS 26.

This 12th century manuscript is our latest addition to the Digitised Manuscripts website.  Yates Thompson MS 26 contains a number of texts about England's favourite hermit and bishop, most notably Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert (vita beati Cuthberti).  But it is probably most famous for its extensive programme of illumination, which documents almost every episode in St Cuthbert's holy life.  Key events depicted include the establishment of Lindisfarne, Cuthbert's ridding the wife of King Ecgfrith's prefect from the demons that beset her, the saint's much-mourned death and subsequent healings at his tomb.  These miniatures are beautifully interspersed with those of more 'mundane' miracles, like a crow bringing lard in atonement for stealing straw and Cuthbert curing a monk of diarrhoea.  Some of our other favourites are below:

 

YT 26 ff. 10v-11r a80033-04

Miniature of St Cuthbert praying to God to change the winds beside the river Tyne; miniature of two monks at the monastery of Tynemouth praying for the safety of those blown away in a gale, from Chapter 3 of Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert, England (Durham), 4th quarter of the 12th century, Yates Thompson MS 26, ff. 10v-11r

Yates_thompson_ms_26_f014r

Miniature of the young St Cuthbert kneeling in prayer, interrupted by his horse finding bread and cheese wrapped in linen hidden within a roof, from Chapter 5 of Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert, England (Durham), 4th quarter of the 12th century, Yates Thompson MS 26, f. 14r

 

Yates_thompson_ms_26_f024r

Miniature of (lower left) Cuthbert praying in the sea, and, after he has finished (lower right), otters coming to warm and dry his feet with their breath and fur, while (above), another monk secretly watches the miracle, from Chapter 10 of Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert, England (Durham), 4th quarter of the 12th century, Yates Thompson MS 26, f. 24r

 

Yates_thompson_ms_26_f026r

Miniature of St Cuthbert in a boat at sea, with two other men, from Chapter 11 of Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert, England (Durham), 4th quarter of the 12th century, Yates Thompson MS 26, f. 26r

 

Yates_thompson_ms_26_f028v

Miniature of an eagle bringing St Cuthbert and his companion a fish, which they then share with the eagle, from Chapter 12 of Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert, England (Durham), 4th quarter of the 12th century, Yates Thompson MS 26, f. 28v

 

Yates_thompson_ms_26_f039r

Miniature of St Cuthbert building his hermitage on the island of Farne, with the help of an angel, from Chapter 17 of Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert, England (Durham), 4th quarter of the 12th century, Yates Thompson MS 26, f. 39r

 

Yates_thompson_ms_26_f045v

Miniature of St Cuthbert miraculously discovering a roof beam for his church in the waves of the ocean, from Chapter 21 of Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert, England (Durham), 4th quarter of the 12th century, Yates Thompson MS 26, f. 45v

 

YT 26 f. 63v E123036

Detail of a miniature of St Cuthbert's vision of the soul of a man, who was killed by falling from a tree, being carried to heaven, from Chapter 34 of Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert, England (Durham), 4th quarter of the 12th century, Yates Thompson MS 26, f. 63v

 

YT 26 f. 74v a80031-95

Miniature of monks at St Cuthbert's hermitage signalling with torches to the monks of Lindisfarne that Cuthbert is dead, from Chapter 40 of Bede's prose Life of St Cuthbert, England (Durham), 4th quarter of the 12th century, Yates Thompson MS 26, f. 74v

 

The Life of Cuthbert is the first British Library manuscript from the Yates Thompson collection to be made available on Digitised Manuscripts, but we can promise you that it will not be the last.  Much more information about the extraordinary collector Henry Yates Thompson and his eponymous collection can be found in our virtual exhibition appropriately titled Henry Yates Thompson's Illuminated Manuscripts

Sarah J Biggs

Follow us on Twitter: @blmedieval

Comments

These are just glorious! I look forward to paging through the entire manuscript. I've just made a post about this on my Haliwerfolc blog where I collect All Things Saint Cuthbert.

Absolutely beautiful. So moving.
Thank you.

Wonderful addition to the equally wonderful and growing digitised collection: thanks! I remember first reading about Cuthbert's otters in Helen Waddell's delightful book 'Beasts and Saints', which also relates plenty of other hagiographic animal stories.

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