The manuscript was produced by monks on Lindisfarne
The Lindisfarne Gospels are to be returned to the north-east of England for a limited period, the British Library has confirmed.
The illustrated manuscripts, created by monks on Northumberland's Holy Island in 700AD, are held in London, where it is claimed more people can view them.
Campaigners have urged they be given a permanent home in the North East.
But the British Library has said they can be returned to the region for just three months every seven years.
The decision follows a review by a team of experts, who concluded the gospels could survive being loaned temporarily to "appropriate institutions."
The British Library said the gospels could be back in the North East - probably on show at Durham Cathedral - as early as 2010.
But the Northumbrian Association, which has campaigned for the gospels' permanent return to the region, said the news was a "disappointing compromise."
Chairman John Danby said: "This is not the result we wanted. It's very nice that they will be coming back, but they should have a permanent home in the North East.
"We will be continuing our campaign."
Sir Colin Lucas , chairman of the British Library Board, said: "As ever our paramount concern has been the welfare of the Lindisfarne Gospels as an integral part of the national collection.
"We sought the independent advice of experts and are pleased to accept their recommendation to allow short-term loans on a seven-yearly basis subject to continuing monitoring of the condition of the manuscript."
The gospels were produced by Eadfrith, Bishop of Lindisfarne.
They are dedicated to St Cuthbert, who rose from humble beginnings to become Bishop of Lindisfarne.