Origen, Commentary on the Song of Solomon f.1r
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
Medieval Christian theologians had to explain the Old Testament in terms of the church. Origen, who lived in 3rd-century Alexandria and Caesarea, accomplished Christian explanations of books of the Old Testament by discussing it as allegory--seeing the persons and events as symbols for Christian doctrine. The 'Song of Solomon' ('Cantica canticorum') presented challenges because it was a love poem. Origen explained it as an expression of love between the church ('Ecclesia') and her bridegroom (Christ). Later monks such as those at the Benedictine Abbey of the Blessed Virgin in Reading were able to read the Song of Solomon without problems.
Origen begins his prologue by describing the Song of Solomon as the song of a bride and bridegroom to each other. The simple but beautiful design of the first letter could be seen as an expression of the importance given to Bible study in monasteries and the simplicity of their ideals.