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Corpus Christi College University of Cambridge

Parker Library Collections

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Parker Library Collections

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"The Parker Library represents one of the most astonishing art collections in the western world and more specifically in Britain. Thanks to new technology we can now appreciate it in a way that nobody has been able to since it was first produced. The art work is so finely worked that a lot of the detail is virtually impossible to see with the naked eye, like fine graffiti on the wall in the background or somebody wearing a hairnet ... it's no wonder they lost their eyesight doing this!" One of the oldest of the books in the collection is one that is central to English history, the single most important relic of the conversion of the kingdom of Christianity: it is the Canterbury Gospel, brought to England by St. Augustine, when he landed in Kent in 598 AD sent by Pope Gregory to convert the people of Britain. Whenever a new Archbishop of Canterbury is enthroned, the Master and one or two other representatives of College take the Gospel to Canterbury and the new Archbishop takes his oath on the book. When the current Pope, John Paul II, came to Britain for the first time in the 1980s, there was a little problem of precedence concerning who should sit on the throne in Canterbury Cathedral. They solved this by putting the Augustine Gospel on it, and both the Pope and the Archbishop revered the book.

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Photo "First page of the Canterbury Gospel"  © Corpus Christi College, Cambridge