A Glossed Gospels of Luke and John f.2r
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
Medieval students studied the latin translation of the Bible edited by St Jerome in the late 4th or early 5th century (Vulgate). Aware that it was a translation from the greek but into another foreign language and following their belief that its words were signs of divine mysteries, they needed study aids. The gloss (explanations between or beside the lines of a text) became a sophisticated educational tool. Glosses were sometimes added long after the main text was copied, but this manuscript of the Gospels of Luke and John was planned to have an interlinear latin gloss and a series of standardised glosses (glossa ordinaria) in its wide margins. It belonged to the the Franciscan convent (Greyfriars) at Canterbury, although it probably was made elsewhere in Canterbury or southern England just before or around the time the first Franciscans arrived in England and settled at Canterbury, in 1224.
This page has the special layout accommodating the glossa ordinaria. Short excerpts of the gospel are written in large letters, surrounded by their glosses in smaller letters in the margin. The first words of Luke 1:5 ('In the time of Herod king of Judea, a priest named Zecharias') begin with a historiated initial of the priest before an altar.