A Glossed Gospels of Luke and John f.121v
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.
The Gospel of John 1:1 ("In the beginning was the Word") is written in the centre of this page in large letters. It has an interlinear gloss to explain individual words and the glossa ordinaria written in small letters in the wide margin above and on either side. The page layout enabled the positioning of each gloss--indicated with red or blue markings--next to its relevant text. The gospel text's beginning is highlighted with a large historiated initial of St John holding a book and his symbol, the eagle, below.