Click here to skip to content

Freeing of the Slave Iliuth, in the Bodmin Gospels

Freeing of the Slave Iliuth, in the Bodmin Gospels

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 900

Shelfmark: Additional MS 9381

Item number: f.2r

Length: 26

Width: 17

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

During the early period of Christianity in Britain, after the departure of the Romans and their legal system in the 5th century AD, the gospel book symbolised the ultimate authority of God and the Church. A gospel book, especially in Celtic areas (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Man) could be credited with the supernatural power of its church's founder saint. Displayed on altars and in processions, such a book had public and spiritual dimensions. All these factors made it a place to record special legal actions, including manumission - the freeing of slaves. Probably made in Brittany, a 'Celtic' area where cultural links with western Britain and Ireland were maintained, the 9th-century Bodmin Gospels, from St Petroc's Priory, Bodmin, Cornwall, is such a gospel book. This page begins a standard gospels preface, a copy of the letter written in the 5th century by St Jerome to the pope on his new Latin edition of the Bible. In the lower margin, the faint inscription records the freeing of a slave named Iliuth "and all his offspring" during the reign of King Aethelred (978-1016 ). It is written in Latin, with Celtic (Cornish?) and Anglo-Saxon names of the slave and witnesses. Slavery was a fact of life in the early medieval world: anyone could be taken into slavery during war, by raiders or because of poverty.

Search within this collection

Elsewhere on our websites


Latest events - register free online

Mobile app

For iPhone, iPad and Android

Report a Concern

What is the nature of your concern?

Report a Concern

What is the nature of your concern?

Email link to a friend

Write a brief note to accompany the email

Your friend's email address: