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The First Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Rochester, in "Acts of the English Bishops", by William of Malmesbury

The First Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Rochester, in

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1195

Shelfmark: Harley MS 3641

Item number: f.1v

Length: 34

Width: 21.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

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During the 12th century, Britain experienced a renaissance of history writing. Foremost among the authors who were vying for best-seller status, William of Malmesbury wrote 'Acts of the English Kings' and a history of the church ('Acts of the Bishops'. He was following in the footsteps of the Venerable Bede (8th-century author of 'History of the English Church and People'), whose information and cause-and-effect method he borrowed. Nevertheless, William warned his rivals that he was due credit for all the work of compiling the material since then. A Benedictine monk, William travelled widely to collect his material on church history and included a good component of anecdote to ensure popularity. He finished the first version about 1125 and updated it in 1142 with the 'Historia novella'. This manuscript of the 'English Bishops' belonged to the Cistercian Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Byland, Yorkshire. The red writing on this page tells the reader that the prologue ends and the first section begins. It concerns Augustine, sent to convert the Angles by Gregory the Great and the first archbishop of Canterbury, and other early English ecclesiastics.

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