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'Apocalypse of Bishop Golias', in a Miscellany

'Apocalypse of Bishop Golias', in a Miscellany

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1245

Shelfmark: Harley MS 978

Item number: f.75r

Length: 18.9

Width: 13

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

What if someone put together all the bits and pieces of written material that they enjoyed and needed for frequent use? The result might be something like this manuscript, perhaps a medieval version of the web-surfer's 'favourites' list. Mostly in Latin and French--with one famous Middle English exception--it has songs, satire and poems for entertainment, along with medical information, a calendar of religious feasts and devotional music. Believed to have been at Reading Abbey in the middle ages, it probably was made at a workshop in Oxford and may have been commissioned by the notorious music-loving monk, William of Winchester.

The manuscript includes several long poems on various secular subjects. It also has some of the Goliardic poems, pointed satires on the clergy. This verse, 'Apocalypse of Golias the Bishop', is written in an arcane Latin style and name-drops ancient Greek mathematicians, such as Pythagoras and Euclid, which a later reader has noted in the margin. By the time this manuscript was written the wandering students (Goliards) who composed and sang such works had been forbidden from chanting the service. The manuscript, however, includes a number of religious devotional works with music. Nevertheless, the biting ridicule of this poem probably should not be seen as being the literature of outsiders, but rather as an early indication of the criticism directed at the clergy in the late middle ages.

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