Decorated Initial, In St. Augustine's City Of God f.6r
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
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.
The first page of the book begins with a large 'G' made up in part of the body of a dragon or other imaginary animal who, with the help of his smaller, bodiless companion, devours the rest of the letter. Originally it would have shone with silvery metal, which now has turned dark and seeped into the surrounding vellum. Part of the underdrawing in metalpoint (pencil) can still be seen near the top of the letter. The design's inventiveness and fantasy make it a good example of English Romanesque decoration. In the lower margin, the inscription says that a Master Ha[mon?] Kok gave the book to the cloister of Rochester ('Roffensi').