Moutier-Grandval Bible


A beautifully illustrated pandect, taking its name from the monastery of Moutier-Grandval in the diocese of Basel in Switzerland, where it was housed until the Swiss Reformation in the early 16th century.

In early 800, the Englishman Alcuin of York (d. 804) prepared a corrected version of the Bible for the Emperor Charlemagne (r. 768–814) as part of his reforms to the Church. Alcuin was appointed abbot of the monastery of St Martin in Tours in 796 and, under his direction and that of his successors, St Martin’s became a major centre for the production of Bibles. Alcuin’s revised text of the Latin Vulgate (a late 4th-century translation of the Bible largely the work of St Jerome (d. 420)) used the Gallicanum rather than the Romanum version of the Book of Psalms and contained its own sequence of biblical books and prologues. The copies produced at Tours are particularly large. Many consist of a single huge volume or ‘pandect’ (the entire Bible in one volume). Three of the surviving Tours pandects are spectacularly illustrated. The earliest is now known as the Moutier-Grandval Bible, an immense volume that comprises some 449 parchment leaves (or almost 1000 pages).

The Bible includes four large illustrations that are celebrated as some of the earliest examples of full-page narrative art in manuscripts from the Middle Ages. These images now appear before Genesis (f. 5v, digitised image 1), Exodus (f. 25v, digitised image 3), and the Gospels (f. 352v, digitised image 4), and after the Book of Revelation (f. 449r, digitised image 5). The first illustration is arranged in four panels, in which the sequence of events moves from left to right. Individual scenes depict selected events described in the second and third chapters of Genesis: the Creation of Adam and Eve; God’s warning not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge; the Temptation and Fall; and the Expulsion from Eden. Within the borders is a poem written in gold letters that summarises these events; in fact, the poem may have been composed from the pictures themselves.

View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Full title:
Bible (The 'Moutier-Grandval Bible')
c. 830–840, Tours
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 10546

Full catalogue details

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