Codex Amiatinus


Codex Amiatinus is the earliest complete Latin Bible. It is one of three giant, single-volume Bibles, made at Wearmouth-Jarrow in the early years of the 8th century. Two of these Bibles were made for the church at Wearmouth and for the church at Jarrow: fragments of one of them survive.

In 716, Abbot Ceolfrith took the third and finest volume on his final journey to Rome, intending it as a gift to the shrine of Peter the Apostle. He died en route, at Langres in Burgundy, leaving his monks to complete the mission. Since that time, Codex Amiatinus has been cared for in Italy, renowned as the most accurate copy of the Vulgate translation made by St Jerome (d. 420).

The volume contains both Old and New Testaments, written on 1030 leaves made from at least 515 skins. It also contains three elaborate paintings — one of which shows the prophet Ezra writing — and a series of diagrams that closely follow late antique models. The script, decoration, parchment and contents of Codex Amiatinus are profoundly Mediterranean in style.

The sophisticated decorative scheme of the first quire may well derive from Codex Grandior, a lost Bible which had formed part of Cassiodorus’s celebrated library at Vivarium, in southern Italy, in the 6th century and which was probably acquired in Rome by Abbot Biscop (d. 689) and Ceolfrith for the library at Wearmouth.

The work of the Wearmouth-Jarrow scribes was so good that it was not until modern times that Codex Amiatinus was recognised as an 8th-century English book rather than a 6th-century Italian one.

Only in 1888 was it realised that the dedication page had been altered by a later hand, using lighter ink. The original inscription read, ‘Ceolfrith, abbot from the far-off lands of the Angles’ had this book taken to Rome. Later, these dedicatory verses were scraped down, replacing the name of Ceolfrith of the Angles (Ceolfridus Anglorum) with that of Peter of the Lombards (Petrus Langobardorum), one of the abbots of San Salvatore, turning the manuscript into a gift to the monastery of the Saviour at Monte Amiata rather than to St Peter in Rome.

Full title:
Codex Amiatinus
Before 716
© Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana
Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS Amiatino 1

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