Decorated Initial, In St. Augustine's City Of God f.15v
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 rubric (red writing) signals to the reader that Book (Section) I has ended and II begins--an organising feature of many medieval manuscripts. Book II's start is further highlighted by its large first letter, whose segmented shape sprouting thick leaves is typical of 12th-century southern English manuscript decorated. Originally it would have gleamed with a silvery metallic colour, but this has darkened with age. In the margins, notes made by readers who were studying the book can be seen.