Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A Chester-le-Street First (NZ277514)

As most aficionados of the history of Chester-le-Street are keen to relate, this famous old town in the heart of County Durham was the original long-term resting place on the English mainland of the mortal remains of the great St.Cuthbert … before they were whisked off to first Ripon, then eventually Durham for permanent burial. The famous saint lay in stately repose at Chester-le-Street for some 112 years during 883-995AD.

When they arrived, however, the travelling monks didn’t expect to stay long. They’d been on the run for seven years with Cuthbert’s coffin and treasures and fully expected to move on again soon enough. So though there was plenty of stone lying around from the days of the Romans, they decided to throw up a temporary wooden church and dedicated it to St.Mary & St.Cuthbert.

By and by, they decided to stay put for a few generations – so they turned their thoughts to other religious matters. Not least was the first ever translation of the (Lindisfarne) Gospels into what we may consider to be a form of English – a task completed between 947 and 968 by ‘Aldred the Scribe’ by way of the scribbling of notations in Old English alongside the original Latin text.

So quite a coup for Chester-le-Street: the site of the first English translation of the Gospels – or at least the earliest surviving copy. So next time you see a copy of the famous Lindisfarne Gospels look out for Aldred’s writing between the lines!

A bit fuzzy, but you get the idea

In case you’re wondering, a short while after the removal of Cuthbert’s remains in 995AD a permanent, stone church was built on the site of the wooden affair around 1056 – bits of which can still be found in the fabric of the present-day parish church. 

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