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Beginning of 4 Kings, in the Ceolfrid Bible

Beginning of 4 Kings, in the Ceolfrid Bible

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 705

Shelfmark: Additional MS 45025

Item number: f.2v

Length: 47.5

Width: 32

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

Outstanding in the early Christianity of Anglo-Saxon England, the twin monastery of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow maintained direct connections with Rome under its founding abbot, Benedict Biscop, and his successor, Ceolfrid. Biscop and Ceolfrid fostered religious practices and art modelled on those of Roman monasteries, including high-level Bible study and assembly of an excellent library. Under Ceolfrid, the scribes of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow created three large-format, single-volume copies of the best Latin edition of the Bible, writing them in the script and style of Rome. In 716, Ceolfrid set out to take one of them, the 'Codex Amiatinus', as a gift to Pope Gregory II. This page comes from another copy, known as the 'Ceolfrid Bible', which survives only in fragments of 3 and 4 Kings. During the 16th century, its leaves were used as covers of the 16th-century documents of the lands of the Willoughby family at Wollaton Hall in Nottinghamshire.

The beginning of 4 Kings is marked by a single initial P in black with meticuoulously applied red dots. In the margin, the letters XP are the Chi Rho monogram, the first letters of 'Christ' in Greek, flanked by alpha and omega, symbolising Christ. The script, called 'uncial' or 'inch-tall' because of its monumental appearance, is ultimately based on the most dignified Roman scripts. Laid out in columns, the text is written in lines of sense units or phrases to aid reading. In the first half of the 14th century a monk at an unknown monastery, probably in the Midlands, added in red ink the modern chapter number and a note marking the division between 3 and 4 Kings.

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