Collection Care blog

08 August 2013

Under the microscope with the Lindisfarne Gospels: name that folio – the answer

We recently took you Under the microscope with the Lindisfarne Gospels in a previous post and shared some incredible images of medieval artistry. The four gospels are introduced by an illumination of the saint, a carpet page, and a major initial opening a folio of decorated text. We asked you to identify the folio from one of our zoomed in images. Did you figure it out..?

As you can see below, it is part of folio 2v, the carpet page of St Jerome! 

A view of the Carpet page of St Jerome in its entirety. The manuscript page itself has some staining, particularly in the top middle which has run into the image. There is much dirt around the edges, and also close to the binding. The Image itself is central to the page. It consists of a large horizontal rectangle, bordered at the corners with elaborate finials, of hounds with teeth clenched into the corners of the image. The outer border is red, followed by a thick inner decorative border containing intertwined birds in teal and red on a black background. This border is then supplemented by a smaller thinner border of faded blue. Within that is the main image itself, a stylised cross done as squares, on top of a red and gold celtic-style knotwork in small squares.
Carpet page of St Jerome ff 2v

    A close-up view of the left side of the carpet page of St Jerome. The left hand side of the cross or crucifix can be seen, laid out square similar to the floorplan of a church, which connects to the main body of the cross off the image. Within the square of the cross is highly intricate squaresof red, yellow and pink aligned around a green square which is itself bordering a white central square. The outer squares are on top of a vivid red background. The knotwork of the main background can be glimpsed closer, while a section of the illustrated border can be seen more clearly, showing the birds connected by knotwork moving up the border page.
CC by Figure 1: The carpet page of St Jerome (folio 2v)

A highly focused close-up of the Carpet page detail at x50 resolution. The Image has focussed on a section of coloured illustration. Central to the image is a section of pink pigment squares at right angles to the image, separated in the middle by a white and black bounding line. Outside the pink squares is a thick white line which is itself bordered by a thick black line. The space between this and the outer border of the same style, is filled in with purple pigment.
Figure 2: The image in question showing the step and key pattern in the cross panels. This region has been magnified by x50.

CC by 

Carpet pages typically occur at the beginning of a gospel in illuminated manuscripts and exhibit geometric and colourful designs that consume the entire folio. They are referred to as carpet pages due to their resemblance to oriental rugs or prayer mats. Prayer mats were used to prepare worshippers for prayer and the carpet pages in the Lindisfarne Gospels serve a similar function in preparing readers for the Gospel message. The carpet pages feature a cross set against a background of highly ordered ornamentation. Each carpet page in the Lindisfarne Gospels contains a different form of cross representing different church traditions.

Folio 2v is dominated by an interlace motif controlled by the eight-ribbon knot with cruciform breaks pattern. As observed in our image they surround a cross consisting of panels filled with step and key patterns. The folio is borded by ribbon birds and dog heads.

Carpet pages were influenced by early Coptic manuscripts and contain ornamentation with similar motifs found on contemporary metalwork and jewellery.

Christina Duffy, Imaging Scientist


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