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Augustine, On Christian Doctrine f.4r

Augustine, On Christian Doctrine f.4r

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1115

Shelfmark: Royal MS 5 B.xii

Item number: f.4r

Length: 26.5

Width: 16.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript

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The priory of the cathedral of St Andrew, Rochester, possessed a great number of books, most of which became the medieval manuscripts section of Henry VIII's library when the bishop of Rochester's belongings were confiscated in 1534 or upon his execution in 1535. The clerics, monks and canons at the cathedral would have need for many types of books: for study, conducting church and prayer services and for personal devotion. This manuscript, copied in the early 12th century, contained St Augustine's 'On Christian Doctrine' and 'On True Religion'. In the late 12th or beginning of the 13th century, the monastery's cantor, Alexander, wrote out a catalogue of all the books owned by the priory on the flyleaves at the front of this manuscript.

Augustine's 'On Christian Doctrine' was one of the most important books for medieval theologians. In it, he wrote a systematic theory for explaining in human terms--or interpreting--divine wisdom as communicated via scripture and the natural world. In the Rochester copy of it, a diagram begins the book to aid the reader in understanding his sophisticated theory. The diagram of 'doctrine' has four main branches: things, signs, things instituted by men and things divinely instituted. The branch below signs, given (or intended) signs, is the most complex because to Augustine it was the most important to interpretation, scripture itself being a series of signs--given in the most important way, in words--which had to be correctly and fully interpreted. His theory of signs still influences modern literary criticism.

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