The Bible and Its study: from the Cloisters to
At the Fitzwilliam Museum
The Bible, the quintessential text of Christianity, was the most
frequently copied and rigorously studied book of the Middle Ages.
Biblical manuscripts display great diversity in their size, format
and illumination, reflecting the different contexts in which they
were made and used. Familiarity with the Scriptures was gained from
contemplative reading in the monastic cloister, lectures and private
study at the schools, the liturgy and daily offices performed in
the cathedral, or the sermons heard in the parish church.
The true meaning of the Word of God could not be fully appreciated
without commentaries. In the early Middle Ages, the Fathers of the
Church and celebrated theologians provided the authoritative understanding.
By the twelfth century the early universities provided the concentration
of lecturers and students that stimulated the mass production of
manuscripts and required the professional skills of parchment makers,
scribes, artists, and book sellers.