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A Vatican Statute of 917, in the Rule of St Benedict

A Vatican Statute of 917, in the Rule of St Benedict

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1000

Shelfmark: Harley MS 5431

Item number: f.107r

Length: 23

Width: 8.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Written in the 5th century by Benedict of Nursia, the Rule of St Benedict became the most widely accepted manual for religious communities in western Europe. It was written to guide communities of monks and nuns in a life of reasonable asceticism, establish a daily framework of prayer and outline spiritual goals. The early Anglo-Saxon monasteries were becoming familiar with Benedict's rule, but not until after the disruptions of the Viking invasions and subsequent reform of monasteries in the 10th century was it uniformly in place. This manuscript copy was made at St Augustine's, Canterbury, at the end of the 10th century when monasteries had begun to follow St Benedict. A chapter of his rule would have been read aloud from this manuscript each day after early morning prayers (called 'prime', at about 6 am). After the end of the Rule of St Benedict, the manuscript has a copy of a statute from the Lateran Palace (palace of the pope) in Rome, issued in 917, during the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV. It was added by another scribe who was not as skilled as the one who decorated the Rule of St Benedict. The drawing of the animal heads is stiff and angular, and the design of the letter is very simple. The statute is on a section of vellum pages which could have been inserted into the manuscript to replace damaged pages or to add the statute.

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