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The Creation, in Hugh of St.-Victor's 'On the Sacraments of the Christian Faith'

The Creation, in Hugh of St.-Victor's 'On the Sacraments of the Christian Faith'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1155

Shelfmark: Harley MS 3847

Item number: f.7r

Length: 19.4

Width: 12

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Theologians of the 12th-century developed sophisticated ways of presenting their arguments supporting Christian doctrine. One of the foremost thinkers, Hugh of St Victor (1096-1141) was a famous teacher at the monastery of St Victor in Paris. His 'On the Sacraments of the Christian Faith' unified his thoughts on Christian doctrine, becoming one of the most important books of the 12th century. It was widely copied, being used as a textbook and reference for theological study. This 12th-century copy of it belonged to the Benedictine priory of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Oswin, in Tynemouth, a cell of St Albans, known for its great learning in that period. Hugh wrote 'On the Sacraments' in thirty parts, divided into two main sections. In the copy owned by the monastery at Tynemouth, each part begins with a very large first letter which is coloured and decorated. This page has at its top the end of the prologue to the book, followed by a short introduction to the first part, on the Creation. The first words quote the opening of Genesis: 'In principio" ("In the beginning"). A snake slithers up the first letter, a symbol of the Fall, because of which, according to Christian doctrine, the sacraments were given by Christ as sign of the return of grace.

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