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A Decorated Initial, in the 'Moralia in Job' of Gregory the Great

A Decorated Initial, in the 'Moralia in Job' of Gregory the Great

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1110

Shelfmark: Royal MS 3 C.iv

Item number: f.161r

Length: 36.4

Width: 23.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

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.

The page has the opening of one of the sections of Book XI, in the rather confusing levels of division of Gregory's 'Moralia'. Nonetheless, it begins with a beautifully designed first letter (initial) Q, in which the letter's circle becomes a wheel-like design and its 'tail' a scene of a fish about to swallow another sea-creature. The imaginative style is typical of early 12th-century manuscript art, both in Norman England and on the Continent.

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