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Article

Dorothy Verkerk

Illuminated manuscript of the first five books of the Old Testament (now incomplete), dating from the late 6th or early 7th century (Paris, Bib.N., MS. nouv. acq. lat. 2334) and named after the English collector Bertram Ashburnham. Also known as the Pentateuch of Tours, the Ashburnham Pentateuch is one of the oldest surviving pre-Carolingian Vulgate manuscripts of the Old Testament. In its present condition, it lacks the last verses of Numbers and all of Deuteronomy; while 18 pages of illustration and 1 frontispiece survive from the original 65 pages with illustrations. The illustrated pages comprise several scenes generally arranged in two or three bands, although some pages have one or two large scenes, others combine illustration and text. Painted tituli that follow the Vulgate accompany the miniatures; however, beneath the painted titutli are preliminary inscriptions penned in ink that follow the Vetus latina text.

Based upon stylistic, iconographical and codicological evidence, the Pentateuch appears to have been made in a late 6th- to early 7th-century Italian scriptorium. Twelve pages were added in the 8th century by scribes from Fleury; an additional restored page (fol. 33) was added in the 7th century by a Touronian scribe. The illustrations often deviate from the exact retelling of the biblical text. The column of smoke and fire, for example, in the story of the Crossing of the Red Sea is depicted as a large candle held in two hands, a reference to Easter Vigil liturgical ceremonies (fol. 68...

Article

Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time.

Astrology developed into a scientific branch of learning in ancient Greece, but because of the opposition of the Church Fathers it was transmitted to early medieval Europe in only fragmentary form in technically unsophisticated textbooks and popular divinatory genres. Literary and scientific texts provided more general ideas about the nature and attributes of the planets which were influential on later iconography. The first significant astrological images appear in 11th-century illustrated astronomical texts (e.g. London, BL, Cotton MS. Tiberius BV), which were acquired and produced by monasteries to aid with time-keeping and the construction of the Christian calendar....

Article

Richard K. Emmerson

Illuminated Ottonian manuscript (205×295 mm; Bamberg, Staatsbibl., MS. Bibl. 140) comprising 106 folios, divided into two halves, the first containing 50 miniatures illustrating the Book of Revelation, the second with 5 full-page miniatures illustrating Gospel readings from the Nativity to Pentecost. Separating the sections are two full-page images each with two registers. On the left St Peter and St Paul crown a young ruler, who is given obeisance by personifications of the four peoples of the empire, depicted below. They recall the personifications bringing gifts to the emperor in the Gospels of Otto III (Munich, Bayer. Staatsbib., Clm. 4453). Facing this imperial scene, on the right, Old Testament figures are paired with four personifications of the victorious virtues they model for the ruler: Abraham/Obedience, Moses/Purity, David/Repentance, and Job/Patience. The Apocalypse miniatures, of varying size and interspersed within the Latin text, are painted on gold grounds. Their iconography, descending from a Roman archetype, is related to the Carolingian Valenciennes Apocalypse (early 9th century; Valenciennes, Bib. Mun., MS. 99) and the contemporary Apocalypse fresco of Novara Baptistery. The vigorous colours and sumptuous execution of the miniatures, including an early detailed ...

Article

John Williams

[Commentarius In Apocalipsin]

Commentary on the Apocalypse composed c. ad 775 by Abbot Beatus of the monastery of St Martin in Liébana, northern Spain. There is an ‘official’ biography of Beatus, by Juan Tamayo de Salazar (d c. 1662), a collector of legends, but his date for Beatus’ death in 798 is precocious. In his own time Beatus was principally recognized as a forceful opponent of the Christological doctrine labelled Adoptionism, promoted by the Archbishop of Toledo, Elipandus. The Commentary on the Apocalypse was composed, however, from an expectation of the end of ordinary time in ad 800.

Beatus divided the text of the Apocalypse into 68 sections of typically a dozen or so verses, termed Storiae. In grouping the biblical verses rather than introducing them singly, Beatus’ format departs from most medieval exegetical approaches. Each of the Storiae was followed by a series of exegetical passages that interpret in allegorical and anagogical terms the verses or figures in the ...

Article

Adam S. Cohen

revised by Shirin Fozi

Illuminated manuscript (292 × 225 mm; London, BL, Add. MS. 49598) containing liturgical prayers recited by the bishop, produced in Winchester between ad 971 and 984 for Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, a leader of Anglo-Saxon monastic reform. It is a sumptuous work, with 28 full-page miniatures (another 15 have been lost) and 2 historiated initials lavishly executed in gold and vibrant colours (see Initial, manuscript). The decoration includes the finest examples of Winchester school borders, consisting of acanthus designs that fill the frame and shoot forth from the corner medallions. An inscription describes the manufacture of the book by the scribe Godeman and refers specifically to the ‘many frames well adorned’. The figural style, like the decorative and iconographic elements, is derived primarily from Carolingian models and is consistent with contemporaneous Anglo-Saxon art; what distinguishes the manuscript is its extremely luxurious illuminations and the complexity of its iconographic programme....

Article

Joachim E. Gaehde

[Bible of San Callisto]

Illuminated manuscript (Rome, S Paolo fuori le mura), probably made at Reims c. 870. It is the most extensively illustrated of all extant Carolingian Bibles. A dedicatory poem by Ingobertus referens et scriba fidelis and the verses accompanying an image of a ruler establish that it was made for a King Charles, now identified as Charles the Bald, who when he was crowned Emperor in Rome in 875 probably gave it to Pope John VIII, and that the text was written by an otherwise unidentified scribe named Ingobert. The Bible has been in Rome (S Paolo fuori le mura) since the papacy of Gregory VII (1073–85).

The manuscript contains 337 parchment folios measuring 448×355 mm. The decoration consists of 92 initials, of which 36 occupy full pages, 4 canon tables, and 24 frontispiece miniatures. The initials represent the finest work in the calligraphy of the Reims school and are, despite their variety, of one cast. The miniatures, however, show variations in style and technique in which it is possible to distinguish the work of three separate artists who reassembled and translated shared pictorial sources into their own idioms. These sources were a mid-9th century Tours Bible and Gospel Book (untraced) and a cycle of Bible illustrations from an imperial atelier at Constantinople of the later 4th to the mid-5th century. Of the three artists, the so-called ...

Article

Bobbio  

Michael Richter

Monastery in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. Approximately 50 km south of Piacenza in the Apennines, it was founded c. ad 613 through the cooperation of the Lombard king Agilulf (reg 590–615) and the Irish abbot and saint Columbanus (c. 540–615). Its nucleus was an older dilapidated church dedicated to St Peter. Columbanus died on 23 November 615, but his name and renown remained alive in the following centuries. Through cooperation with the Lombard monarchs as well as later the Carolingian kings, Bobbio became a very prominent monastery in Northern Italy. In 628 it was granted the earliest monastic exemption from supervision by the local diocesan, the bishop of Tortona. The community of Bobbio apparently lived according to the Rule of Columbanus as well as the Rule of Basil of Caesarea. The presence of the Rule of St Benedict cannot be documented there before the early 9th century. Bobbio became a known not only as a centre of Irish learning but also as a centre of grammatical as well as computational studies. Its early library also contained Classical texts as well as important palimpsests (a ‘catalogue’ survives from the late 9th century). In the late 9th and early 10th centuries (a period of economic decline) important illuminated manuscripts were produced there. The abbatial church was rebuilt under Abbot Agilulf (...

Article

Katherine Forsyth

Illuminated Gospel book (Cambridge, U. Lib., MS. Ii.6.32) made in the 10th Century. This is the oldest extant Gospel book with a securely Scottish provenance. Housed since 1715 in Cambridge University Library, it belonged in the early 12th century to the monastery of Deer, Aberdeenshire, as shown by a series of property grants recorded in its margins. These notes constitute, by some three centuries, the oldest surviving documents in Scottish Gaelic. The Book is a small-format, abbreviated Gospels intended for personal devotion and intimate pastoral use. As such it is an exceptional survival from the period. It contains the complete Latin text of John’s Gospel, and the beginnings of the other three. At an early date the text of a communion service for the sick and dying was inserted on a separate leaf. The Book was produced c. 900 in a Gaelic-speaking milieu at an unknown location, possibly in north-east Scotland, perhaps at Deer itself. The scribe appears also to have been the artist. Despite its small size, the Book follows many of the conventions of Insular book art and is comparatively heavily illuminated. Its programme consists of ‘three cruciform pages, five Gospel incipits with decorated initials, five full-folio and one half-folio figurative miniatures, and a variety of marginalia’ which relate to points of significance in the text (Henderson ...

Article

Ben C. Tilghman

Irish illuminated Gospel book (Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS A. 4. 23. (59)), with a short Missa pro infirmis inserted between the gospels of Luke and John, made in the 8th century. It consists of 74 folios and measures 175×142 mm, and is one of the distinctively Irish manuscripts known as ‘pocket gospels’, due to their small format. The traditional association of the manuscript with Dimma, a scribe and later bishop who miraculously wrote a copy of the gospels in 40 days for the 7th-century saint Cronan, cannot be sustained. The inscriptions in which his name appears include evident signs of erasure, indicating that the name of the original scribe was replaced with ‘Dimma’ in perhaps the 10th or 11th century, possibly at the same time that the Missa pro infirmis was added. The manuscript is in fact the work of several scribes. The synoptic gospels are written in an insular miniscule script alternating between bookhand and cursive forms, highly abbreviated and cramped in some places. The script for John is bolder, more regular, and refined. As with most other pocket gospels, each gospel is written on a separate quire, and each gospel begins with an evangelist portrait facing a page with display lettering. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are each represented as men holding books, while John is again differentiated by being represented as his symbol, the eagle. The book was enshrined in a ...

Article

Ben C. Tilghman

Illuminated manuscript (Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS A. 4. 15. (57)) containing the Vulgate translation of the four Gospels, plus prefatory material derived form the Old Latin tradition, made in the 7th century. It measures 247×228 mm, contains 248 parchment folios, and is in a modern binding. No firm internal evidence indicates the date and location of the manuscript’s production, and the question of its origins has a contentious history, influenced occasionally by nationalist ideologies. A later colophon attributing it to St Colum Cille [St Columba] cannot be accepted as fact, but it is widely assumed that the book was made in a Columban monastery, whether in Ireland, Scotland, or Northumbria. It can be dated to the 7th century on stylistic and palaeographical grounds. The main body script is an Irish half-uncial, punctuated by display lettering at six major textual divisions and letters ringed in red dots at minor divisions. The programme of illumination includes a full-page depiction of the four evangelist symbols together around a cross, full-page depictions of each of the evangelist symbols (e.g. ...

Article

Roger Stalley

Manuscript of the four Gospels, in Latin, written and illuminated on vellum probably in the second half of the 8th century ad. It is the most extravagant and complex of the Insular Gospel books, representing the climax of a development that began in the 7th century ad with such manuscripts as the Book of Durrow (Dublin, Trinity Coll. Lib., MS. 57; see fig.). The 340 folios (originally about 370; present size 330×255 mm) are now bound into four volumes (Dublin, Trinity Coll. Lib., MS. 58). As well as the four Gospels the manuscript contains a sequence of ornate canon tables, decorated with architectural frames and symbols of the Evangelists, and other introductory material. St Matthew’s Gospel opens with a whole page devoted to the symbolic beasts (fol. 27v), one of several such pages designed to underline the harmony of the four Gospels. This is followed by a portrait of ...

Article

In the 20th century, discussion of the relationship between Byzantine art and the art of the Latin West evolved in tandem with scholarship on Byzantine art itself. Identified as the religious imagery and visual and material culture of the Greek Orthodox Empire based at Constantinople between ad 330 and 1453, studies of Byzantine art often encompassed Post-Byzantine art and that of culturally allied states such as Armenian Cilicia, Macedonia, and portions of Italy. As such fields as Palaiologan family manuscripts and wall paintings, Armenian manuscripts, and Crusader manuscripts and icons emerged, scholars identified new intersections between Western medieval and Byzantine art. Subtle comparisons emerged with the recognition that Byzantine art was not static but changed over time in style and meaning, although most analyses identified Byzantine art as an accessible reservoir of the naturalistic, classicizing styles of antiquity. Scholars considering the 7th-century frescoes at S Maria Antiqua and mosaics at S Maria in Cosmedin, both in Rome, and the 8th-century frescoes at Castelseprio and Carolingian manuscripts such as the Coronation Gospels of Charlemagne (Vienna, Schatzkam. SCHK XIII) used formal comparisons with works such as pre-iconoclastic icons at St Catherine’s Monastery on Sinai, along with the history of Byzantine iconoclasm, to argue for the presence of Greek painters in the West. Similarly, Ottonian and Romanesque painting and luxury arts, such as ivories, provided examples of the appropriation of Byzantine imperial imagery. Yet the study of works such as the great 12th-century ...

Article

Don Denny

Numerical list of concordant passages in the Gospels, devised in the early 4th century by the historian Eusebios of Caesarea. Such tables indicate passages to be found in all four Gospels, those found in two or three of the Gospels and those unique to a particular Gospel. In medieval manuscripts they appear as a series of pages, varying from seven to as many as nineteen, placed at the front of Gospel books and often included, preceding the Gospels, in full Bibles. It was customary to surround them with ornament and, despite the wide geographical and chronological range of this practice, the basic decorative format remained fairly constant. The tables are divided and framed by representations of architectural columns surmounted by arcades or, occasionally, pediments; pictorial matter is concentrated in the upper part of the design, which might contain decorative and symbolic bird and plant motifs as well as more explicit illustrative features, such as the Evangelist symbols or the Twelve Apostles. In Eastern manuscripts the tables are sometimes preceded by two or three pages of introductory text, similarly framed by architectural designs, and a further page of related ornament (e.g. a tempietto) might be included at the beginning or end....

Article

Joachim E. Gaehde

Term used to describe poems in which certain letters or words are contained within patterns or compositions to form independent phrases or verses within regular lines of continuous text (in which, for example, Christ’s halo contains the words ‘Rex regum et dominus dominorum’). Anticipated in Hellenistic poetry, carmina figurata were introduced to the Latin world c. ad 320 by Publilius Optatianus Porfyrius, court poet of Constantine the Great. Porfyrius’ poems were widely copied and imitated in the early Middle Ages because the juxtaposition of poetic and visual configurations lent itself to the exposition of layers of theological thought. They were composed by Venantius Fortunatus (fl c. 530–610) and St Boniface (c. 680–754), among others, and appealed particularly to scholars of the Carolingian Renaissance. Alcuin of York (fl c. 735–804), his pupil Josephus Scotus (d 791) and Theodulph, Bishop of Orléans, all wrote ...

Article

Heather Pulliam

Term usually applied to the full-page ornamental designs that occur in Insular Gospel books. Carpet pages typically occur at the beginning of a section of text and several scholars have argued that they may serve an apotropaic function, marking the viewer’s entrance into the sacred text. Michelle Brown has also suggested that these pages could refer to the temple veil as well as to the silk cloth that was sometimes used to cover and protect painted images within manuscripts.

The designs typically incorporate abstract Christian symbolism such as the marigold, cross, and tri-knot. These motifs, as well as other geometric designs, play upon Christian number symbolism: the trinity (3), the four Evangelists and quadripartite world (4), Christ’s death and suffering (6), the resurrection (8), the perfection of God (10), and the apostles and tribes of Israel (12). The carpet page shares a number of common features with Insular stone-carving, especially the cross slabs found in Scotland. Complex geometry and proportions underlie the designs of these pages....

Article

Bernard Meehan

[Psalter of St Columba]

Irish Psalter (Dublin, Royal Irish Acad., MS. 12.R.33) that can be dated to c. ad 600 and is perhaps the earliest surviving Irish manuscript. It was traditionally believed to have been written by St Colum Cille (St Columba; d 597). As the chief relic of the O’Donnell family, the Cathach (‘battler’) and its shrine (Dublin, N. Mus.) were carried into battle to ensure victory. According to a late medieval tradition, the Cathach is identified as the copy, made at night by St Colum Cille, of a Psalter lent to him by St Finnian. When a dispute arose over the ownership of the copy, King Diarmait Mac Cerbhail stated, ‘To every cow her calf, to every book its copy’, a judgement frequently cited as an early example of copyright law.

The Cathach is incomplete at its beginning and end. From an original size of around 110 folios, it now has 58 folios, with a text running consecutively from Psalms 30.10–105.13. The script used is an early version of Irish majuscule. There are rubrics (in red ink) and enlarged initial words for each psalm, normally written using the technique of diminuendo (where the letters are written in diminishing size until they reach the size of the text block), and often surrounded with red dots. A variety of trumpet spiral, cross, fish and other decorative devices is employed. All of the surviving leaves have suffered damage through contact with the shrine, the hinged wooden box, covered with ornamental gilded silver and bronze plates from varying dates, in which it was encased late in the 11th century....

Article

Yi Sŏng-mi

[cha Haech’ŏn; ho Koun]

(b Kyŏngju, North Kyŏngsang Province, 857; d 915).

Korean calligrapher. He is considered to be one of the two most prominent calligraphers of the Unified Silla period (668–918), the other being Kim Saeng. Ch’oe was also a famous statesman, Confucian scholar and man of letters. In 868, at the age of 12, he travelled to China, and in 874 he passed the Chinese civil service examination for foreign scholars. In 885 Ch’oe returned to Korea and served in various official capacities.

Several examples of his calligraphy survive in the form of stelae, the most famous of which is the Chin’gam sŏnsa taegong t’appi (887), a stele dedicated to the Sŏn Buddhist master Chin’gam and now in the Ssanggye-sa Temple, Hadong, South Kyŏngsang Province. The title in seal script and the main text in regular script show his calligraphy at its best. In character composition Ch’oe seems to have modelled his calligraphy loosely on the style of the Chinese master Ouyang Tong (...

Article

Charter  

James D’Emilio

Legal document typically written in documentary script on a single parchment sheet and authenticated by subscriptions, notarial signs or seals. In archives, originals were sometimes stitched into booklets or rolls. Notarial charters were registered, while deeds of ecclesiastical and civil institutions were copied in cartularies organized by place, date or issuer. Charters include contracts, property transactions, marriage agreements, dispute settlements, official privileges and decrees.

Besides their value as historical documents, collections of early medieval charters, such as those at St Gall, Lucca or Catalonia, furnish insights into law, literacy and linguistic change. In the mid- to late Middle Ages, the texts, scripts and physical features of papal bulls, charters from monastic or episcopal scriptoria, and the burgeoning output of royal chanceries and civil notaries chart pathways of education and cultural exchange geographically and through social strata. In relation to medieval art, charters have fourfold importance. As historical sources, some document artists, patrons or artworks. Signed and dated originals of known provenance help to date manuscripts and reveal practices of scribes and scriptoria responsible for book production and illumination. In contrast with the dearth of medieval artists’ signatures, signed charters represent a sizeable corpus of securely attributed work with ample contextual information that facilitates study of individual style and artistic careers. Lastly, some are of artistic interest for their execution in a book hand or embellishment with decoration comparable to that in manuscripts: decorated lettering; calligraphic flourishes; the chrismon, cross and other religious symbols; validation signs, monograms and seals; and, rarely, illuminations....

Article

John Lowden

Byzantine illuminated manuscript (Moscow, Hist. Mus. MS. D.29). It is a small Marginal Psalter (195×150 mm) of 169 folios, in which broad spaces were left blank on the outer edges of the pages to be filled with numerous unframed illustrations, glossing the biblical text in various ways (see Early Christian and Byzantine art, §V, 2, (iv), (f)). The original text and captions to the illustrations were elegantly written in a small uncial script around the mid-9th century ad. In the 12th century, however, most of the text was crudely overwritten in minuscule, giving the book a messy appearance. This evidence of continued use over a long period is also reflected in the state of the miniatures, many of which are heavily worn and flaked, yet the manuscript is still more complete than two other roughly contemporary Psalters (Paris, Bib. N., MS. grec 20; Mt Athos, Pantokrator Monastery, MS. 61)....

Article

Ronald Baxter

Term applied to gold writing in manuscripts. Two techniques have been used for writing in gold. In the older, used during Classical antiquity, powdered gold was mixed with glair or gum to produce ink, which was then burnished when dry. This is the method described by Theophilus, who stated that silver could also be used, or gold imitated with ground tin, dyed with saffron after burnishing. The second technique, mordant gilding, was developed in the 12th century. This involves writing in gum or glair and sticking gold leaf on to the letters before the mordant is dry. This was a much cheaper process since only a fraction of the amount of gold was used, but it is technically much more difficult. The mordant dries quickly, especially at the edges of the stroke, and when it is dry the gold will not stick. Usually red or yellow pigment was mixed with the mordant, which both camouflaged any bare patches and made the stroke easier to see when gilding. Other additions to the mordant were chalk, to give bulk and raise the letters, and sugar or honey, which slowed the drying process by making the mordant hygroscopic....