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Two letters of Cyprian

Two letters of Cyprian

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1150

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 217

Item number: f.2r

Length: 24

Width: 16

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

Books of all types on the Bible and theology were important to the monks of the Middle Ages. This manuscript, which belonged to the Cistercian abbey at Fountains in Yorkshire, contains a collection of the works of the Early Christian writer Cyprian. It would have been a scholar's book, read as part of the daily programme of Bible study. Images would not have been necessary, especially for the Cistercians, an order which had no objections to beauty but shunned elaborate decoration as distraction.

The manuscript opens with a section of the letters of Cyprian. Cyprian was bishop of Carthage and martyred in AD 258 in the persecutions of Valerian. An effective writer and man of action, Cyprian was not a great philosopher, but he was an eloquent proponent of Christianity, arguing for unity of the church. The two letters on this page are addressed to churchmen of Carthage and Pope Cornelius.

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