They came in the 8th century to plunder and pillage, but in the 9th century, the Vikings came to conquer and stay. Fearing for their lives, the monks of Lindisfarne and the Community of St Cuthbert gathered up their most precious belongings and left their holy island for what was destined to be a momentous seven-year journey that helped shape England and keep alight the flames of Christianity that were in imminent danger of being extinguished.
On the back of their cart was the coffin of St Cuthbert, his body still preserved after his death almost two-hundred years earlier, proof indeed of his saintliness. Alongside him; the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of the most beautiful and important books in world history; the head of St Oswald, the king who brought Christianity to Northumbria, once the most violent kingdom in the land; and the bones of St Aidan, the missionary from Iona who converted Oswald’s people.
As Writer-in-Residence for Durham University and the Lindisfarne Gospels Exhibition 2013, Richard W Hardwick researched the journey and its surrounding history, before taking award-winning photographer Paul Alexander Knox as theytravelled the same route the Community of St Cuthbert took, following a list nailed to the door of Durham Cathedral by Prior Wessington in 1416. They journeyed over the same landscape, took refuge in the same communities and gathered stories from people they met, many of whom were unaware their communities helped preserve the body of the most powerful saint in the land and one of the most important and beautiful books in world history. And although their journey was initially developed as an historical one, it turned out to be an intensely personal and poignant journey for both Richard and Paul too.
Their journey was updated as they went along via a live blog which can be accessed here – St Cuthbert’s Final Journey
An exhibition of their work was displayed as part of the resoundingly successful Lindisfarne Gospels Exhibition in Durham in 2013 – and in 2014 it toured throughout libraries in the North East of England.
The final installment of their project was a beautifully designed book, published by Lapwing Books, and including photography and writing not found elsewhere.
There are a limited number of books available through Lapwing Books for £15 each