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The ancient gospels that come without a queue.

A 1300-year-old Gospel manuscript held at Lichfield Cathedral, which dates back further than the famous Book of Kells in Dublin, is beginning to attract national interest since the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard.

The St Chad Gospels are about 70 years older than the Book of Kells in Dublin's Trinity College, which attracts thousands of visitors each year, but have so far been Lichfield's best kept secret.

The manuscript, also known as the Lichfield Gospels, the Book of Chad and the St Teilo Gospels, contain the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and the early part of the Gospel of Luke.

There are 236 surviving folios, eight of which are illuminated and another four contain framed text.

The Cathedral's Canon Chancellor, the Reverend Dr Pete Wilcox, said: "The Book of Kells dates from about the year 800; the St Chad Gospels date from about 70 years before that.

"Older than the Book of Kells, St Chad Gospels are on display in the Chapter House of Lichfield almost every day of the year - and astonishingly, you don't have to pay to see it and you don't even have to queue."

Dr Wilcox added: "This is going to be some year. This is the year the St Chad Gospels cease to be neglected. Two weeks ago a photographer from National Geographic came to capture images of our Gospel book, for a forthcoming issue of their magazine. "Last week a BBC TV team, with presenter Dan Snow, was at the cathedral filming our Gospel book, for a documentary to be broadcast this summer.

"So why all the fuss? Why the sudden interest? Because of the Staffordshire Hoard - the largest ever find of Anglo Saxon gold."

Dr Wilcox said he was expecting visitor numbers at the cathedral to triple when it hosts a Staffordshire Hoard exhibition from July 30 until August 21.

The manuscript has been at Lichfield since the 11th century. In 1646, during the Civil War, the cathedral was sacked and the library looted. This could be when a second volume of the Gospels was lost. Precentor Walter Higgins is credited with saving the remaining volume. It was given to Frances, Duchess of Somerset, who returned it in 1672 or 1673 where it has remained at the cathedral ever since and went on public display in 1982. The bishops of Lichfield still swear allegiance to the crown on the Chad Gospels.

CAPTION(S):

Canon Pete Wilcox, Chancellor of Lichfield Cathedral, left, with the unique 1,300-year-old manuscript, the St Chad Gospels
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:6CHAD
Date:Mar 17, 2011
Words:418
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