Cambridge Illuminations

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




The Coming of Christianity: Pagans and Missionaries

At the Fitzwilliam Museum

As a religion of the book, Christianity established its roots and spread its message through texts. Manuscripts were as mobile as the missionaries who converted the pagan people in the name – and with the Word - of God. They were exchanged as gifts or pledges, presented as tokens of devotion, treasured as the relics of saints, and transformed into symbols of identity for entire communities. Manuscripts disseminated the teachings of the early Church, reinforced its political and cultural expansion, and enhanced the image of Christian rulers who had embraced the new faith.

The manuscripts displayed in this first section of the exhibition offer fascinating insights into the early history of Christianity in the Latin West. They preserve tangible evidence about its spread from Rome to Canterbury and from Ireland to the Court of Charlemagne.