Cambridge Illuminations

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




History and Literature: Sacred and Secular

At the Fitzwilliam Museum

Latin was the dominant language of church and state throughout the Middle Ages, but it co-existed with an ever-growing number of vernacular texts. This section of the exhibition illustrates the porous boundaries of medieval literature, intended to satisfy the needs of increasingly literate and diverse audiences.

Sacred and secular themes, history and legend, poetry and courtly ethics, rhetoric and pastoral instruction were often found within the same volume and even within the same text. They enjoyed equal popularity in the courts of princes, the households of archbishops, and the town houses of civic dignitaries. These texts challenged artists to create some of the most novel and imaginative programmes of illustration.