St. Cuthbert, who died in 687 in his hermitage on Fame Island off the coast of Northumbria, became one of the most important saints of the Middle Ages and was (and indeed remains today) a key figure in the religious and political life of north-east England. A great many churches were dedicated to his memory. The Lindisfarne Gospels was produced in his honour and the exquisite Gospel of St. Cuthbert (the Stonyhurst Gospel) was placed in his coffin. Both these manuscripts are among the treasures of the British Library. So, too, is the superlative illuminated Life of St. Cuthbert, produced in Durham c.1185, certainly one of the most important examples of visual hagiography of any period or place to have survived. This manuscript forms the cornerstone of this book, and all 42 of the extant full-page miniatures are reproduced (in 4-colour plus special gold).
After a preliminary chapter which places Cuthbert in his historical context, Dominic Marner then moves forward to Durham in the 1170's and 1180's, when the cult of St. Cuthbert was being fostered internationally by the community of monks and the Bishop, Hugh du Puiset, in rivalry with Canterbury where the cult of St. Thomas Becket had quickly achieved a phenomenal success. The illuminated Life is discussed in the context of the revitalisation of the cult of the saint, and the manuscript is compared with several others created in Durham at the time and described in detail. The narrative components and techniques employed in illustrating the key episodes is analysed, especially the clear motivation of the artist to portray Cuthbert in an emotional and sympathetic manner.
This is a book that is intended for a wide and varied audience - those interested in medieval religious history and art, who will relish the superb colour reproductions at an affordable price, as much as a more specialist readership.