From its foundation in the seventh century, the abbey of St Bertin in St Omer was one of the most powerful abbeys in the north of France. Under the abbacy of Odbert (active 986–1007), the monastic scriptorium produced many important and beautiful manuscripts, including several copied by the abbot himself. This output continued through the middle of the eleventh century, with several volumes demonstrating the influence of the monumental, imperial style of Ottonian illumination. This approach may have been introduced by travelling artists from Liège who worked at St Bertin as well as other abbeys in northern France.
One such volume is now known as the St Bertin Gospels. It contains two full-page Evangelist portraits, of St Mark and St Matthew, painted in pink and green on a burnished gold background. It also includes a number of elaborate ‘incipit’ pages that mark the beginning of each Gospel. By the seventeenth century, the manuscript was in the collection of Antoine Faure (d. 1689), the provost and chancellor of Rheims, whose library became part of the French royal library in 1701.
This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.
- Article by:
- Charlotte Denoël
- Medieval manuscript collections today
Charlotte Denoël provides insight into the historic collections of illuminated manuscripts now in the national library of France.
- Article by:
- Calum Cockburn
- Art and illumination, Making manuscripts
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.