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A Canon Table With Angel, in the 'Bury Gospels'

A Canon Table With Angel, in the 'Bury Gospels'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1010

Shelfmark: Harley MS 76

Item number: f.10r

Length: 27

Width: 20

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

After the 9th-century Danish invasions and 10th-century reform of monasteries, the kind of decoration seen in earlier manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels becomes rare. Later Anglo-Saxon manuscripts have more solid-looking ornament and figures which are distinctive but inspired by art from the Continent. Although it is missing several of its original pages of decoration, the Bury Gospels exemplifies late Anglo-Saxon book art in a deluxe form. Inscriptions on a few of its pages indicate that in the 11th century it was at Bury St Edmunds, a monastery founded to keep the relics of Edmund, the martyred King of East Anglia. Despite its name, the style of the Bury Gospels' decoration suggests it was made at Christ Church, Canterbury. Royal interest in Edmund's relics--which gave Bury a high status--could have brought it this lavish gospels. This page has a canon table, one of a series in a kind of index which, using a system of numbered sections, lists the similar passages of the gospels. Reading across the columns, one could locate all the passages which tell of, for example, the birth of Christ. All the canon tables in the Bury Gospels are richly decorated with painting and gold, but this page is the most elaborate of all. A city of beautiful architecture embellished with gold rises from the top of the canon table's framewor. Probably it was meant to represent the heavenly Jerusalem. An angel emerges above a central lintel holding a scroll and golden sceptre, emphasising the holy gateway through which the reader was about to enter.

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