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Offa Directing The Construction Of St. Albans Abbey, In Matthew Paris's 'Lives Of The Offas'

Offa Directing The Construction Of St. Albans Abbey, In Matthew Paris's 'Lives Of The Offas'

Medium: Ink on vellum

Date: 1320

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Nero D I

Item number: f.23v

Length: 34.8

Width: 22

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

Matthew Paris (c. 1200-1259) became a monk of St. Albans in 1217, and in 1236 became the abbey chronicler, a task which allowed him to exercise and explore his talents as a scribe, and as an accomplished and inventive artist. Most of this manuscript is written in Matthew's own distinctive handwriting, as are the miniatures, except for some added in the 14th century. The 'Lives of the Offas' concerns two Kings, both called Offa, the first of whom had promised to found a monastery in the 5th century, and the second of whom carried this out when St. Alban's relics were discovered in the 8th century.

Images such as this one are of special interest to historians of architecture and engineering, since it depicts a medieval architect (holding a set-square and compasses), a mason using a plumb-line, sculptors fashioning blocks of stone, and labourers using a pulley to lift masonry.

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