John of Freiburg, Summa Confessorum f.209v
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
In the 12th century, John of Freiburg was lector (reader) at the Dominican house at Freiburg. The Dominicans were a preaching order who were concerned with dogma. Beginning by indexing an important work on penance by Raymond of Penafort, John carried out the ideals of his order by expanding Raymond's book into a larger 'Summa Confessorum' (roughly translated as 'Concise Book on Confession and Penance') so that it included a huge range of material, arranged alphabetically. An aid to preachers and teachers which put the latest theological ideas into simpler form, it proved successful. More than two hundred manuscripts of it survive. This manuscript of it belonged to the abbey of St Albans, where it would have been used as a reference for composing sermons and teaching.
This page begins the title, 'On Betrothal.' Also, it shows how medieval scribes designed their pages of text so that the hierarchy of its divisions was clear. Using different sizes of letters, styles of handwriting and colours, they indicated the beginning of the major division (large, coloured letter), headings (smaller letters in colour) and subheadings (smallest letters in colour). Vellum was a precious material. Even a considerable piece missing did not prevent it being used in manuscript (lower left corner).