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Twelve new names inscribed into centuries-old historic manuscript at Durham Cathedral.

A centuries-old tradition continued yesterday at Durham Cathedral as a new list of names was entered into the Liber Vitae (‘Book of Life’), a manuscript recording the names of those who have contributed to the life and work of the cathedral in notable ways.

On Wednesday 5 October, at an event in the cathedral’s Deanery, twelve volunteers who have each offered over 20 years of service were entered into the book as a thank you for their dedication. This included seven volunteers from postponed events in both 2020 and 2021.

Volunteer guide and welcome steward Rob Lawson, who has been volunteering at Durham Cathedral since 1998, says, “I truly love the cathedral and have been coming since I was a child. It's the people, the wonderful visitors, that have kept me volunteering for over 24 years here. I very much enjoy making people feel welcome, telling the cathedrals stories on guided tours and sharing my love of this special place with everyone who comes through the doors.”

Alongside the names of volunteers, also added are the names of the cathedral’s major benefactors, which include individuals, trusts and companies who have gifted more than £10,000 in the last five years.

Matthew Mills, Head of Development at Durham Cathedral says, “Inscribing names in a Liber Vitae is essentially the continuation of a medieval practice, when inclusion in the book offered an assurance of prayers in the face of divine judgement. Revived in 2007, today’s Liber Vitae is a way of honouring those whose loyal support, as volunteers and donors, is vital to the success of all our endeavours, from worship and fabric conservation, to arts programming, and caring for our natural environment.”

Each of the volunteers and donors' names were inscripted by specialist calligrapher Tim Sokell. An inscription in the front of the Liber Vitae states: “The Chapter commissioned this volume with the intention of recording each year the significant gifts and voluntary service without which the Cathedral could not continue to flourish.”

The tradition of the Liber Vitae goes back many centuries; the original manuscript was started in the ninth century, possibly on Lindisfarne, and listed the names of kings, dukes, queens and abbesses. It is thought that the purpose was to remember the living and the dead in church, including in some solemn ceremonies when the book would be processed to the high altar.

In 1100 the monks revived the use of the Liber Vitae and the names of bishops of Durham, the first priors of Durham Cathedral Priory and Durham monks were included.

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