Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms at the British Library is perhaps the most significant display in recent times

In this week’s Spectator magazine

The first thing that greets you is a small figurine called ‘Spong Man’, dating to the 6th century and unearthed at a pagan burial site in Norfolk. Carved on to the lid of an urn, he looks like a middle-aged man sat down in his chair contemplating his worries. Spong Man represents a quite mysterious, distant world and the page only lights up with the arrival of Christianity from 597, which brought with it the written word and institutionalised learning. It was in far-off Northumbria where this culture burned brightest, King Oswald bringing over Irish churchmen to Christianise the kingdom, with the priory at Lindisfarne founded by St Aidan; the gorgeous Lindisfarne Gospels was one result.

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