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Britain’s earliest known prayer bead necklace goes on display


Chris Combs | CC

Daniel Esparza - published on 04/22/23

England's oldest prayer bead necklace was recently found on a skeleton from Lindisfarne dating to the 8th or 9th century.

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Lindisfarne Priory and its museum re-opened earlier this year. The legendary center of Early English Christianity, also known as Holy Island, marks the spot of the original shrine to St. Cuthbert. Among the many treasures found in its museum is Britain’s earliest known prayer bead necklace.

As Lindisfarne Priory kept close links to the Northumbrian kings, it was certainly a wealthy monastery. Its new museum houses and displays several remarkable artefacts that bear witness to this fact. However, the prayer bead necklace might not be as luxurious as one might think. It is made from salmon vertebrae – a rather humble material, fit for a monk in the tradition of St. Cuthbert.

As read in the note published by, the prayer bead necklace was “recently found on a skeleton from Lindisfarne and dating to the 8th or 9th century […] The incredible discovery has been revealed to be Britain’s earliest known prayer bead necklace.”

“Lindisfarne was and has remained a site of huge international significance, not only in its influences on the practices of Christianity in England,” Susan Harrison, English Heritage’s North Collections Curator, told Medievalists. “The wealth of artefacts we have now been able to put on display in the museum is truly astounding […] Britain’s first prayer beads [were] never before on display.”

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