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Against the Pagans, in Augustine, City of God

Against the Pagans, in Augustine, City of God

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1130

Shelfmark: Royal MS 5 D.ix

Item number: f.53v

Length: 38

Width: 26

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript

When Rome fell to Alaric's army of Visigoths in 410, those citizens who had remained pagans blamed the emperor's rejection of the old gods in favour of Christianity. St Augustine wrote 'The City of God' in response. One of his most widely-read books, it remained important through the Middle Ages because his response went beyond the immediate situation. He wrote of the action of God in the world and in human history. This 12th-century copy of it was made in England and given to Rochester cathedral priory before 1202. Bishops, canons, monks and priests there would have studied it as a theological text, consulted it when writing sermons and read it for enjoyment.

A colourful, large letter 'C' begins Book VI, below the subtitle, 'Against the Pagans'. It is alive with the energetically running horn-blower and howling dog standing in front of him. Below, the spirals of the letter emerge from the mouth of a dragon, and a pig lurks among the leaves which sprout from the letter, muching them. This sort of population of small, imaginary figures can be seen in many English works of art from the Romanesque period.

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