A Decorated Letter, in the 'Moralia in Job' of Gregory the Great
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
Pope Gregory the Great (590 to 604) transformed church administration, refined the practices of monasteries and wrote some of the most important Biblical commentaries of the middle ages, notably his 'Moralia in Job'. This manuscript is Volume I of a two-volume copy of the 'Moralia', having part of the Book of Job and the first half of the 'Moralia'. Made early in the 12th century, it belonged to the Cathedral of St Andrew at Rochester. The cathedral, named for the monastery in Rome where Gregory had begun his career, was founded in the early 7th century by Augustine, the missionary--also a monk from St Andrew's, Rome--whom Gregory had sent to Britain to convert the Angles. The medieval popularity of the 'Moralia' was due to its theme of personal, interior spirituality: how does one forge within oneself a Christian soul? The Book of Job, too, tells a great story.
Most medieval books show the important divisions of text by having the first letter of a division larger than the others and often decorated or coloured. Also, titles, written in red, announce the endings ('explicit') and beginnings ('incipit') of sections. The system can be seen on this page of the Rochester copy of the 'Moralia'. In the second column, the silvery grey letters were originally in red, telling of the ending of the first part of book (or section) five and the beginning of the second part. The large letter, ornamented in early 12th-century style, with a writhing beast, begins Book 5, part 2.