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The death of Gregory the Great, in Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica

The death of Gregory the Great, in Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 750

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Tiberius A XIV

Item number: f.39r

Length: 29.5

Width: 22

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

One of the most important medieval histories, the 'History of the English Church and People' was written by Bede, a monk at Jarrow, about 730. Copied at Jarrow probably within a few decades of the original, this manuscript is written in the beautiful handwriting that was developed to supply the demand for their house-author's work. It was nearly destroyed in a fire in 1731. Another contemporary manuscript of the book survives in the library of St Petersburg. Bede wrote his history for the king of Northumbria, Ceolwulf, who was a devout although not strong ruler. The book tells the story of the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, based on sources Bede gathered from colleagues and other books, which he referenced in his work. Book (or Section) Two begins on this page and tells of the death of Pope Gregory the Great, who had sent the missionary monk, Augustine, to convert the Anglo-Saxons. It begins after a list of contents and Bede's wishes, 'Happy reading.' The very fine decoration of the capital letter at the book's beginning as well as the beautiful handwriting are indications of the carefully cultivated visual arts of the monastery at Jarrow, which imitated the art and learning of monasteries in Italy.

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