Rule of St Benedict and the Regularis Concordia f.118v
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
This manuscript is known for its copy of the 'Monastic Agreement of the Monks and Nuns of the English Nation' ('Regularis Concordia') and a copy of the Rule of St Benedict. The 'Regularis Concordia', probably written by St Aethelwold (Bishop of Winchester, 963-984) , was part of the 10th-century reform of monasteries which took place under the guidance of Aethelwold, St Dunstan (archbishop of Canterbury, 959-988) and St Oswald (bishop of Worcester and archbishop of York, died 992). Based on the Rule of St Benedict (6th century), which set out the goals and daily activities for monasteries, the 'Monastic Agreement' was issued at a meeting of England's monastic leaders called in 970 by King Edgar. It confirms that the king was the protector of monks and the queen of nuns, linking monasteries to the crown. This manuscript, a later, illustrated copy which belonged to Christ Church, Canterbury, also includes prayers, homilies and material on the dramatic rituals of late Anglo-Saxon church services on major feast days.
The prologue of the Rule of St Benedict begins by calling for the opening of the soul to God, citing biblical verses such as, "It is now the hour to rise from sleep" (Romans 13:11), using the metaphor of opening the eyes to light and the ears to sound, which is how this page begins. Between the lines of the original Latin, a word-by-word translation (gloss) into Old English was inscribed. This served not only as an aid to those who could not read Latin but also as a general educational technique to encourage literacy in both languages. The Old English glosses in many of the manuscripts of late Anglo-Saxon England were part of the larger program of reform which included elevating the level of literacy and learning. The messy appearance of this page results from its having been near destruction in the Cotton library fire of 1731.