Cambridge Illuminations

26 July to 11 December 2005
At Cambridge University Library and the Fitzwilliam Museum




The Bible and Its study: from the Cloisters to the University

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.