A colourful, gilded image portraying a kneeling monk in a black robe offering a book to St Peter and St John the Evangelist forms the frontispiece of this manuscript. The monk is Herbertus Dursens of the Benedictine abbey of Saint Peter, Corbie, identified as the scribe by an inscription on this, the only image in the volume. It is followed by a collection of theological writings on the subject of penitence, in other words confessing one’s sins, repenting and receiving absolution. Relevant passages from works in Latin by Burchard of Worms (d. 1025), St Augustine of Hippo (d. 430), Isidore of Seville (d. 636) and Hrabanus Maurus (d. 856) have been extracted and copied together to make up this ‘handbook’ for penitents. Initials in red and blue, some elaborately decorated, mark the beginning of each text.
An intriguing addition by a different scribe follows a series of Sententiae of Prosper of Aquitaine (d. c. 463); it is the Carta Dominica a letter from Christ that was believed to have fallen from the sky in Jerusalem, urging strict compliance with the observance of Sunday and warning of dire consequences for those who fail to comply. Many copies of this short text survive in different languages; the early Latin version in this manuscript is believed to be the source of an Old English translation that survives in a manuscript from Bath Abbey.
This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.
- Article by:
- Calum Cockburn
- Making manuscripts, Art and illumination
Books were made in monasteries across England and France during the early medieval period. Calum Cockburn introduces some important sites of manuscript production that were active between 700 and 1200.
- Article by:
- Samu Niskanen
- Making manuscripts, History and learning
Samu Niskanen discusses the movement of manuscript texts and letter collections between England and France in the early Middle Ages.