“How and why did one person invest so much sustained effort into producing such an encyclopaedic masterpiece? What was the artist-scribe’s life like? What must it have been like to try to claw back enough time and energy to undertake this body-racking, muscle-aching, eye-straining task in a hut somewhere on the seaboard of north-west Europe with the wind and the rain and the distraction of a beauteous Creation all around?
“What other duties filled the day: the monastic round of the divine hours (perhaps as many as eight religious services throughout each day and night); the need to prove humility by manual labour, from milking cows to brewing ale or forging metalwork; the requirements of daily prayer and study (some scope for scribal feats of heroism there); the forty days in the wilderness of physical deprivation and penance for Lent; the joys of high days and holy days; the constant intercessions for living and for dead and against threat of famine, plague and pestilence, and of all-too-frequent military confrontations; apprehension concerning all these dangers to your own and to kindred communities and to the surrounding countryside which harboured your flock, which was in constant need of your pastoral care as well as your ‘physick’ and humanitarian aid? In such an environment the scribe takes up his quill and brush as the armament in his spiritual struggle [...]” (p. 4)
I do love the introduction to this book. I haven’t been very far into chapter one before more tangible pleasantries and duties kept me from it, but I look forward to going further as time allows.
Brown, Michelle P. The Lindisfarne Gospels: Society, Spirituality & the Scribe. British Library, London: 2003.