Rare bible returns to Cathedral 500 years after it went missing

The Lyghfield Bible was written in the 13th century

A rare medieval bible has returned to Canterbury 500 years after it disappeared from the Cathedral’s monastic book collection during the Reformation.

Known as the Lyghfield Bible, after a 16th century Cathedral monk who owned it, the 690-leaf volume was written in the 13th century on high quality parchment.

It was bought from a private seller for £100,000 at a specialist sale of manuscripts in London in July.

The sale was made possible with a grant of nearly £96,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and additional funding from the Friends of the National Libraries, the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral and a private donation.

Sir Peter Luff, chairman of NHMF, said: “Not only an incredibly rare book directly linked to one the most turbulent periods of British history, the Lyghfield Bible is also exquisitely beautiful.

Canon librarian Rev Tim Naish, head of archives and library Cressida Williams and Dean of Canterbury, the Very Revd Robert Willis

“We at the National Heritage Memorial Fund agreed it was imperative it should be saved for the nation and returned home to Canterbury where its important story can be told to future generations of visitors, pilgrims and students.”

The Lyghfield Bible is pocket-sized and was designed for personal use. It formed part of the collection of the medieval monastery of the Cathedral in the 16th century, but may well have been in Canterbury well before that time.

As the Cathedral’s monastic community was disbanded during the Reformation, the library and book collection of Canterbury Cathedral were dispersed with many volumes destroyed or taken apart for the reuse of their materials.

The volume is the only complete Bible from the medieval book collection which is now at the Cathedral and is part of a collection which is inscribed on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register.

It is the finest example of a complete illuminated book from that collection and it is planned that it will be displayed in the new exhibition area being developed at the Cathedral as part of The Canterbury Journey project.


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