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A unique manuscript from ninth-century Northumbria with later additions made at Durham Cathedral Priory


The Durham Liber Vitae is a complex manuscript which originated in the mid-ninth-century as a list of several hundred names of persons associated with a Northumbrian church, probably Lindisfarne, but possibly Monkwearmouth/Jarrow.

Around 1100 addition of a list principally of monks of Durham Cathedral Priory, continued until 16th century.

Several thousand names of lay persons were added throughout the middle ages.


—in understanding the phenomenon of libri vitae across Europe, and the place of England and Northumbria in particular in the development of this class of document, and the development of liturgical commemoration and memorialisation in general.

—of the lists of names: their identification as individuals or as family and other groups; historical significance (for example, the occurrence of Pictish and Scottish names; for the composition of a religious community and relationship with other houses); and cultural significance, for example the emergence of Scandinavian and Norman names in the eleventh century.

—for understanding the relationship of the church to lay society in north-east England across a wide time-span, in the light of those (lay and religious) whose names were entered in the book.

—for palaeography and codicology. The ninth-century section provides a crucially important record of Northumbrian hand-writing in that period; and the technical handling of, for example, the gold and silver text, has the potential considerably to enlarge understanding of technical aspects of ninth-century manuscript production. The eleventh-century and later sections are a treasure-house of Durham palaeography across six centuries.




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