Pope to give the Queen a copy of Gospels torn apart in war

Pope Benedict XVI's gift to the Queen next week on his visit to Britain is a copy of book torn apart more than 400 years ago in a battle between Catholics and Protestants.

The Lorsch Gospels, written 1,200 years ago, are beautifully illustrated with drawings and gold letters. The book was originally kept at Lorsch Abbey in Germany during the Middle Ages but in 1622 it was stolen during the Thirty Years War, a battle between Catholics from the Holy Roman Empire and Protestants from the north.

England was involved in battles with France and Spain during the conflict, and the book was stolen in order to raise money for the war and the covers were torn off.

The richly illustrated first half reached the Migazzi Library in Vienna and which was later sold to Bishop Ignac Batthany, a bishop in Transylvania. This section is now in a library Alba Iulia, Romania, while the second half is kept in the Vatican Library.

The front cover, with ivory reliefs of Christ treading on the beasts and archangels, is in the Vatican Museums, while the back cover, with the Virgin and Child with saints, angels and a Nativity of Christ below, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Father Federico Lombardi said: "The gift will be a copy of the cover, which is kept here in the Vatican, and so will allow the book to be reunited and formed for the Queen."

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