The Smithfield Decretals

Description

While at least five of the images in the Smithfield Decretals can be considered ‘original’, the vast majority are thought to have been added about 40 years after the scribe, probably in France, finished writing it. By this time the book was in England, where its owner commissioned a group of artists to illuminate its folios.

Alongside the 1,971 papal letters on specific points of ecclesiastical law, these images teach us much about rural life in the Middle Ages. One illustration, for example, shows two people baking bread in a communal bread oven, a common practice in the 1300s, which allowed all members of the village to bake their own loaves.

Another image shown here is the second of two illustrations which tell the story of a woman. In the first picture she is seen taking her wheat to the mill while in the second she is shown setting fire to it. Although there is no record of the story that this is based on, we may infer that she burns the mill in retaliation, after being cheated by the miller.

At the end of the manuscript, on the back of page 314, the scribe has written ‘The whole thing is finished; give the guy who wrote it a drink’ in Latin.

Full title:
Edited by Raymund of Peñafort, with gloss of Bernard of Parma, Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria (the 'Smithfield Decretals')
Created:
c. 1340, Southern France, probably Toulouse
Format:
Manuscript / Illustration
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
Royal MS 10 E IV

Full catalogue details

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