The History of and Information About

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Benedictional of Archbishop Robert ofjumiges, now in Rouen. There was no comparable development of benedictionals elsewhere.
    Even today the cathedral at Ely is dedicated to St Etheldreda, the Abbess who died in 679, and it seems that St Ethelwold held her in special veneration. At any rate, he refounded her abbey at Ely and chose her as the subject of one of the illuminations in his great book [4]. The inscription reads: 'Imago Sanctae Altheldrythae Abbatissae ac Perpetuae Virginis' ('The representation of St Etheldreda Abbess and perpetual virgin').

The work and achievement of St Ethelwold was shared by his two great friends, St Dunstan and St Oswald, Bishop of Worcester and Archbishop of York, so it is interesting to note that the Ramsay Psalter, written in Peterborough, was almost certainly produced for St Oswald.

During the last years of Anglo-Saxon rule a proto-Romanesque style was developing in England, but this was entirely smashed by the Conquest and there is no English miniature between 1066 and the Albani Psalter of 1123.
    With the twelfth century we come to a series of splendid folio Bibles produced under the influence of yet another revival of the monastic spirit. They were not intended for study but rather for ceremonial use on great occasions. These manuscripts are similar in character to the Romanesque cathedrals and abbeys for which they were created. They are austere yet rich, severe but filled with an omnipresent power, and their illumination has much in common with the sculpted Last Judgements found on the tympana of many pilgrim churches.
    This illumination was strongly influenced by Byzantine art, for there was considerable contact with the remarkable Byzantine civilization flourishing under the Norman kings in Sicily and some contact with Constantinople itself. However the great impact came with the second crusade. So many Englishmen took part that, according to a contemporary chronicler, 'you would imagine that England would be emptied and exhausted by the movement'. The crusade was a disaster, but on their way home the defeated crusaders were entertained by Roger, King of Sicily, who consoled them with gifts that must have included manuscripts and works of art. Here, too, they saw the stupendous mosaics in Palermo and Monreale. The parallels between these and subsequent English art are far too close to be coincidental.

The Lambeth Bible was produced, almost certainly, at Canterbury. Here, although we do not know his name, it appears that the artist was a layman and that he moved about in the world. The similarities to the Sicilian mosaics are so close that he may well have seen them with his own eyes. Further, there is strong reason to suppose that the same artist illuminated a book for Wedric, Abbot of Liessies in what is now France. Unfortunately this book was a victim of the Second World War, having been destroyed at Metz, but two remarkable detached leaves survive in the possession of the Societe Archeologique in Avesnes.
Figure 5 reproduces a page from one of these leaves in which St John is seen writing his Gospel, inspired by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove which, held by the hand of God, whispers in his ear. Very touch-ingly, Wedric holds the inkhorn into which the saint dips his pen.
The greatest English Bible of the twelfth century (some say the greatest of all twelfth-century manuscripts) is the Winchester Bible, still in the Cathedral Library. Walter Oakeshott has distinguished the hands of six artists who worked on this supreme book over tens of years. In some cases one man drew an illumination while another painted it. It is interesting to observe the monastic tradition preserving features from previous ages. The interlacing strapwork derives from Hiberno-Saxon manuscripts, while the struggle with the lion not only reflects Byzantine art but harks back to classical images of Hercules.
The long production of the Winchester Bible probably extended into the early years of the thirteenth century, and even then it was never finished. This very passage of time enables us to watch, in the later miniatures, the emergence of a new spirit: the age of stern Romanesque austerity changing into the age of Gothic grace.
The Winchester Bible was probably produced to the order of Henry of Blois (112971, a splendid character and a munificent patron), Bishop of Winchester and brother of King Stephen. He made several visits to Rome, and was familiar with Mediterranean and, perhaps, Sicilian art; and it was he who commissioned the Winchester Psalter. Most of the Psalter's illuminations are distinctly English, but two ) are strongly Byzantine.  This manuscript, too, was rescued by Sir Robert Cotton and passed to the British Museum.
During the same period great Bibles were also produced on the Continent. One of these, in two volumes (Harley MSS 2798-99), came from the Premonstratensian Abbey of Arnstein near Coblentz on the Rhine. frying-pan, may the falling sickness and fevers draw near him, may he be hung up and twisted around. Amen.') This curse did not achieve its purpose, for the manuscript had already left the monastery when it was purchased by Robert Harley in 1721. This is the more to be regretted, for the curse might otherwise be used against those who, in our own day, have turned the stealing of books from national, and other, collections into a modus vivendi.
    The monastic scriptoria of Bury, Canterbury and Winchester produced splendid Bibles and liturgical manuscripts over several centuries, but the most interesting scriptorium during the first half of the thirteenth century, St Albans, is famous for its chronicles and historians.
    The historiographers wrote the St Albans Chronicle, commencing with the Creation of the World. This ambitious history was continually up-dated by the addition of events as they occurred. In the first half of the thirteenth century St Albans produced two historians who are of the greatest importance for our knowledge of medieval history, Roger of Wendover (d. 1236), who wrote Flores Historiamm, and    Matthew Paris. Matthew Paris (c. 1200-59) entered the monastery at the age of seventeen. In his youth he assisted Roger of Wendover and, on the latter's death, took over the duties of historiographer and head of the scriptorium. By this time there must have been an outstanding historical library at St Albans - but Matthew Paris did not confine himself to documents. He took every opportunity to talk to men of affairs, to mingle with courtiers and talk with the king when, from time to time, he stayed at St Albans, and to gather information at first hand. Nor was he confined to the cloister; he travelled in England and observed and wrote of historical events. His vivid observations on court life include an entertaining account of an elephant that some potentate had presented to the king. In our own day we see politicians attempting to ingratiate themselves with television interviewers, and it is amusing to note that Henry in and his court were much the same. When, for example, the Holy Blood was to be translated from St Paul's to Westminster and carried by the king - Matthew Paris was invited to watch the ceremony from the steps of the throne. It is much to his credit that he maintained an independent position and, when he felt it necessary, never hesitated to criticize the king.
    Matthew Paris was an active head of the scriptorium. He wrote and illustrated books with his own hand and produced volumes of maps. We may with confidence credit Matthew Paris with the beautiful signed drawing in which he depicts himself at the feet of the Virgin . Having rounded off his Chronica Majora at the year 1250, Paris intended to retire and take life more easily. However, his enthusiasm apparently proved too strong, for he made the last entry in his own hand shortly before his death. At the end of the chronicle there is a drawing, by a disciple, of the old chronicler on his deathbed. He rests his head on his arm, which lies upon an open manuscript, 'Liber Cronicorum Mathei Parisiensis'. Above is the inscription: 'Hie obit Matheus Parisiensis'. One English thirteenth-century illuminator who has emerged from the

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