Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Manuscripts on Tour’ Category

On Friday, January 15, 2016, the St Augustine Gospels- a 6th century gospel book that is reputed to have been sent with St Augustine on his mission from Pope Gregory the Great to convert the English people- was brought from Cambridge to Canterbury Cathedral for the day to serve as inspiration to the assembled Primates at an extraordinary meeting of the Anglican leadership. The goal was for the manuscript to serve as a physical reminder of the core principles of the church; based on long tradition, the words of the Gospels themselves, and the faith that unites all believers.

Portrait of St Luke (CCC MS 286, f. 129v)

Portrait of St Luke (CCC MS 286, f. 129v)

 

 

The visit was in conjunction with the loan of an ivory crozier which is venerated as a relic of Augustine’s mentor, St (formerly Pope) Gregory, from the monastery of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome. These two items were displayed together in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral during the closing service of the meeting. Following the ceremony, Parker Library staff gave informative talks on the manuscript in the Cathedral library, which were attended by Cathedral staff and visitors. This was an extremely rare opportunity to see the 1,400 year old manuscript out from under glass, as it is typically only available to view in its case in the Parker Library exhibition on one day a month.

The gospel book, also known as CCCC MS 286, was initially kept at St. Augustine’s abbey in Canterbury and venerated as a relic of the saint. After the dissolution of the monasteries, it was brought to Canterbury Cathedral. Decades later, Matthew Parker, (then Archbishop of Canterbury), was given a mandate by Elizabeth I to collect ancient books and documents from the realm, with which to study the history of Christianity in England and shore up the tenets of the new Anglican church. He proceeded to collect a large number of manuscripts from Canterbury Cathedral, including the Gospels, a collection which now forms the core of the Parker Library, which has been the home of the gospel book since Matthew Parker bequeathed it to his old College in 1575.

Further details are available here.

Special thanks are due to the incredibly welcoming and efficient staff of Canterbury Cathedral, whose kindness to the Parker Library staff (all a bit tired from their 5AM start from Cambridge!) really made the visit a success.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Two of the best known and most important manuscripts in the Parker collection are about to go on display in the forthcoming Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition at Durham. The exhibition, which opens on 1st July and runs until 30 September, is in the newly refurbished Palace Green Library. On show will be artefacts and manuscripts from, amongst others, the Parker Library, the British Library, National Museum of Scotland, and, of course, Durham Cathedral.

The exhibition explores why the Lindisfarne Gospels was made and follows it’s path from Lindisfarne to Durham, via Chester-le-Street. The St Cuthbert Gospel, which resided in St Cuthbert’s tomb in Durham Cathedral for 400 years, is also on display. After a fundraising campaign, the manuscript was bought for the nation by the British Library in April 2012.

On loan from the Parker Library are the Northumbrian Gospels  written in the eighth century, possibly in Lindisfarne; and Bede’s Life of St Cuthbert, a ninth-century manuscript, almost certainly from Durham Priory.

The exhibition runs from 1st July – 30th September, daily from 10.00am – 10.00pm; tickets can be bought on line or in person from Palace Green Library.

Read Full Post »

Our oldest and most precious book, the St Augustine Gospels (CCCC MS 286) will be playing an important role on Thursday in the enthronement of the new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. This copy of the four gospels was made in Italy in the late sixth century. It’s believed to have been brought to Canterbury as part of the mission of St Augustine who was sent by Pope Gregory the Great in AD 597 to (re)christianise the English. Augustine was successful in converting Æthelbert, King of Kent, and many of his people and was consecrated as the first archbishop of Canterbury. Throughout the Middle Ages, the gospel book was kept at St Augustine’s Abbey and venerated as a relic of the saint. After the closure of the abbey as part of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, the book entered the collection of  Matthew Parker, the 70th archbishop, and was one of the manuscripts he gave to his old college in 1574.

Portrait of St Luke (CCC MS 286, f. 129v)

Portrait of St Luke (CCC MS 286, f. 129v)

The most distinctive elements of the St Augustine Gospels are the illustrated pages, extremely rare in such an early manuscript. The book seems originally to have had 8 full-page pictures but only two survive. The first is an author portrait of St Luke and it’s likely that there were similar portraits of the other evangelists. The other illustrated page is a grid with images of various events from the Passion, including this depiction of the Last Supper.

The Last Supper (CCC MS 286, f. 125r)

The Last Supper (CCC MS 286, f. 125r)

The new archbishop will be the 105th in succession to Augustine. It’s appropriate that he should swear his oath of office on the gospel book which has such a strong connection with the office and with Canterbury.

Read Full Post »

I was lucky enough last week to visit Barcelona, accompanying the globe-trotting Machaut manuscript (Ferrell MS 1) which was recently on exhibition in Paris. But it has important Spanish as well as French connections so it’s appropriate that it’s now on view in a new exhibition at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC). Although Ferrell MS 1 belonged to and was possibly made for Gaston Fébus, Count of Foix, who was celebrated in the recent Paris exhibition, it seems to have been given by him as a gift to Yolande of Bar (1365-1431), wife of King John I of Aragon. It thus entered the Aragonese royal collection and is listed in the 1417 inventory of the books of King Alfonso V of Aragon (“El Magnanimo”).

The MNAC exhibition is entitled ‘Catalonia 1400: the International Gothic Style‘ and the Machaut manuscript is on display in the first section of the exhibition which explores the close relationship the courts of Aragon and Catalonia had with France, particularly as it was expressed through the exchange of gifts, including jewels and manuscripts, and the impact that relationship had on cultural and artistic sensibilities in late 14th and 15th century Catalonia.

Installation of an exhibition is a stressful time but it was lovely to meet some of the people that we’ve been corresponding with over the last two years or so in arranging the loan, including the loans co-ordinator, registrar, exhibition curator and his assistants and the manuscript conservator:

MNAC staff

MNAC staff

Once the manuscript was safely installed, I had a quick look at the rest of the exhibition which contains some beautiful manuscripts, silver and altarpieces. I particularly admired the work of the Catalan artist Bernat Martorell. The curator, Rafael Cornudella, was especially delighted to have Martorell’s St George retable from the Louvre in the exhibition.

The rest of the museum contains some absolutely stunning works of medieval art, notably numerous Romanesque wall paintings from churches across the Spanish Pyrenees which were collected and preserved in the 1920s. The collection of Gothic altarpieces is also exceptional.

Corpus Christi image

Corpus Christi image

This is a detail from one I really liked which depicts various miracles associated with the Eucharist from a chapel dedicated to Corpus Christi. Having read many exempla stories from all over Europe which describe hosts bleeding when stabbed (proving that they truly are Christ’s body), it’s exciting to see the same narrative depicted so clearly in contemporary church decoration.

MNAC is definitely worth a visit, especially while the Catalonia 1400 exhibition is on. It closes on 15 July.

Read Full Post »

An exhibition is now on at the Musée de Cluny in Paris,  Gaston Fébus et le livre de la chasse, and it contains a manuscript from the Parker Library. The manuscript in question, a highly illuminated copy of the works of the great French 14th century writer and composer Guillaume de Machaut (c.1300-1377), doesn’t actually belong to the library; it’s on loan from American collectors James and Elizabeth Ferrell, in order that it can be made available for scholars to study. The manuscript has been in private hands since it was made and, not long after it was made, probably belonged to Gaston Fébus himself.

Guillaume de Machaut, Oeuvres complètes (Ferrell MS 1, f. 31r)

Guillaume de Machaut, Oeuvres complètes (Ferrell MS 1, f. 31r)

Gaston III, count of Foix (1331-1391), Viscount of Béarn and Pyrenean prince, gained a reputation for wealth, political independence and the brilliance of his court. He was given the nickname Fébus (Phoebus) on account of either his golden hair or his handsome features. He was a collector and man of letters, and also author of the Book of the Hunt, a hunting manual dedicated to Philip the Bold (1342-1404), Duke of Burgundy, of which numerous richly illuminated manuscript copies survive.

One of the most lavish is owned by the Morgan Library in New York. It isn’t in the exhibition in Paris – but many images from it are displayed in an online exhibition:

NY, Morgan Library, MS M.1044, f. 31v

New York, Morgan Library, MS M.1044, f. 31v

The exhibition at the Musée de Cluny, Musée national du moyen age, is divided into two parts, a selection of manuscripts and objects relating to Gaston Fébus and his Book of the Hunt; and a collection of books that may have been in his library.  It will run until 5 March 2012, and features loans from the British Library, the British Museum, the Louvre, and other institutions. The exhibition will then move to the Musée du Château de Pau, Gaston’s impressive old home, from 17 March until 17 June, although without the Machaut manuscript.

Château de Pau

Château de Pau

Read Full Post »

There’s been a lot of media attention about the new exhibition in the old reading room at the British Museum which opens on Thursday. It’s called ‘Treasures of Heaven: saints, relics and devotion in medieval Europe’.

It’s a great opportunity to showcase a range of beautiful objects from the whole of the medieval period, from Late Antique sepulchres to early printed relic-books, and from across Europe and beyond, from a Syrian votive plaque to a Scottish pendant invoking Saints Andrew, Ninian and Margaret. Central to the exhibition are the stunning reliquaries, some of which still contain the neatly-labelled remains of saints. There are exquisite thirteenth-century caskets with intricate Limoges enamel and, strangest to modern eyes, reliquaries in the shape of the body parts they contain – a golden arm, foot or head inlaid with precious stones.

The exhibition clearly shows how international the business of devotion to saints was in the Middle Ages. The legends of the saints describe how St James ended up in northern Spain and Mary Magdalene was shipwrecked in southern France; the practice of ‘furta sacra‘, stealing relics to glorify your church or city, was rife; Crusaders brought back all manner of booty; pilgrims travelled to great centres like Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Canterbury as well as local shrines across Europe and took home souvenir badges and votive tokens.

There are several examples in the exhibition of precious objects from one place being incorporated into a devotional object elsewhere – a Byzantine icon in a Gothic frame from Aachen; the silver reliquary of the arm of St George which was taken from Constantinople to Venice after 1204 and given a whole new jewelled casing; and, the most fascinating, an Egyptian rock crystal flask, probably a perfume bottle, inscribed in Arabic, ‘Blessings to its owner’, which was converted into a reliquary for the Virgin Mary’s hair.

Among all these amazing objects are a few books, including one from the Parker Library, the second volume of Matthew Paris’ Chronica maiora (MS 16). Matthew’s chronicle shows how the public display of a holy relic was a significant event – and how medieval royals were keen to associate themselves with these symbols of divine power. He has two drawings, one depicting King Louis IX of France standing on a platform holding up a reliquary containing a fragment of the True Cross (f. 142v) and one depicting his contemporary Henry III of England carrying a vial of Christ’s blood in procession (f. 216r).

The exhibition is on at the British Museum from 23 June to 9 October 2011. Tickets cost £12 but 2 for 1 tickets are available on weekdays if you travel to London by train.

Read Full Post »

Last week I had the pleasant task of accompanying CCC MS 373 to Germany, for an exhibition at the Historische Museum der Pfalz in Speyer.

The Museum at Speyer

The manuscript, a twelfth century version of Ekkehard’s Chronicle, will be on display, as part of an exhibition entitled Die Salier, Macht im Wandel, from 10th April to 30 October 2011.

The manuscript image displayed in the exhibition is of  Henry V, who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1111, and who is buried in the Cathedral along with four other Emperors from the Salien Dynasty:

The Emperor Henry received the orb from an Archbishop

The manuscript was almost certainly brought to England by Mathilda who returned after Henry’s death in 1128, and eventually found its way into Parker’s hands.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »