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Eight hundred year old bible returns to Canterbury Cathedral

Historic bible back at Canterbury Cathedral Photo: Canterbury Cathedral

A rare medieval bible has been saved for the nation and returned to Canterbury Cathedral, 500 years after it disappeared from the Cathedral's monastic book collection at the time of the Reformation.

Now known as the Lyghfield Bible, after the 16th century Cathedral monk who once owned it, the 690-leaf volume was purchased at auction from a private seller at a specialist sale of manuscripts in London in July.

The £130,000 purchase was made possible with a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and further funding from the Friends of the National Libraries, the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral and a private donation.

The Lyghfield Bible was written in the latter 13th century on high quality parchment or vellum which is almost tissue-like in quality.

The fine Latin script and extensive and very fine illumination was probably produced in Paris, one of the medieval centres for this type of work.

Medieval bible went missing Credit: Canterbury Cathedral

We are very grateful to the support from funders. It is of the utmost significance to us to have here in our collections a copy of the core Christian text which was owned by one of the last monks of the medieval monastic community. The bible bears witness to the upheavals of the Reformation, a time which defined what the Cathedral is today, and will have a key role in telling visitors our story.

– Cressida Willaims, Head of Archives
  • See footage of the bible in this report by Tom Savvides