The Jarrow/Wearmouth monastery was the home of Abbot Ceolfrith and the birthplace of the Codex Amiatinus. The Jarrow/Wearmouth Pandect Bible, to give it its true title exists today in Florence as one of three originals produced by Ceolfrith.
IT HAS RETURNED HOME TO JARROW AND IS ON DISPLAY AT BEDE’S WORLD UNTIL 21st. SEPTEMBER 2014. THE ONLY FULL-SIZE REPLICA OF THIS AMAZING BIBLE HAS BEEN KINDLY LOANED TO BEDE’S WORLD MUSEUM UNTIL THAT DATE, AFTER WHICH IT WILL RETURN TO ITALY. THE CODEX AMIATINUS IS THE ONLY REMAINING PANDECT OF THREE SINGLE VOLUMES WRITTEN AND PRODUCED IN THE MONASTIC SCRIPTORIUM IN THE 7th. CENTURY UNDER THE DIRECTION OF ABBOT CEOLFRITH. (PROJECT STARTED IN AD692) THE OTHER TWO SINGLE VOLUMES ARE MISSING, POSSIBLY DESTROYED DURING THE VIKING INVATIONS TO THE NORTH OF ENGLAND.
The one surviving Pandect Bible produced in the monastic scriptoria is unique, not only for its superb uncial script, but also for the elaborate and informative 7th. century illustrations which illuminate and bring the Pandect to life.
CODEX AMIATINUS ~ THE OPENING OF ST. MARK’S BIBLE.
PROLOGUE AND CONTENTS PAGE OF THE CODEX.
This Fabulous Anglo-Saxon Book which still exists today was produced by the monks of Jarrow and Wearmouth under the direction of Ceolfrith, Abbot of the monastery. It is the oldest complete Latin bible in existence and took several years to produce. Ceolfrith commissioned three copies to be made, each having over 1,000 pages of Vellum, beautifully written in Latin calligraphy
Ceolfrith’s plan was to have copies at Jarrow and Wearmouth, and the third copy he would take personally to Rome as a present for the Pope (Gregory the second). It was copied by the scribes at Jarrow and Wearmouth from the CODEX GRANDIOR, the Italian 6th. century bible, now lost. This was originally written by the Italian, St. Jerome, who translated it from Hebrew into Latin. He was a biblical scholar who also founded a monastery at Bethlehem.
When Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrith visited Rome in 678, they acquired the Codex Grandior for the library of the new monastery at Wearmouth. A few years years later the Codex Amiatinus was labouriously copied from this by seven scribes in the Scriptoriums at Jarrow and Wearmouth and Ceolfrith was there to oversee its production.
This plate from the Codex Amiatinus appears at the beginning of the New Testament. It shows Christ seated in majesty with the four evangelists and their symbols in each corner.
How was the Codex Amiatinus produced ?
The work could only have been done in a well equipped monastery and by highly skilled scribes. It has been proved that seven scribes did the work and the writing was done in Latin calligraphy in Uncial characters, large, clear and beautiful.
Ceolfrith started the project in 692. This date has been established as the twin monastery secured a grant of additional land to raise the 2,000 head of cattle needed to produce the Vellum. Each copy contained 1029 leaves made from calfskin and weighed over 75 lbs. Each bifolium requiring one entire calfskin.
It was an ambitious project, as other monasteries were reproducing just the four Gospels or the Book of Psalms To make a one volume entire bible in the 8th. century was extremely rare.
Of the three copies of the Codex which Ceolfrith caused to be produced only one remains. It is now in the Laurentian Library in Florence. The other two copies which remained at Jarrow and Wearmouth have been lost, probably destroyed by the Viking invasions
CODEX AMIATINUS ~ THE PENTATEUCH ILLUSTRATION
The Pentateuch Illustration is relating to the first 5 books of the Old Testament , regarded as a unity. This plate indicates, as does the previous illustration, the tradition of using circles as an image of divine perfection. The circles here are displayed in a cross formation. Each book and comment is placed in a system of circles and each smaller circle is then placed in an all-encompassing larger circle, using here the five mosaic books in the form of a crucifixion.
Codex Amiatinus ~ Books of the Bible as arranged by St. Augustine.
~~~ Histories, Prophets, Gospels, Letters of Apostles, Acts, Apocalypse.
This plate from the Codex Amiatinus depicts Ezra, the ancient scribe and priest re – writing the “Books of the Law”. It is believed that this picture was copied from the Codex Grandior ( Cassiodorus ).
Ceolfrith sets off for Rome, never to return. Taking with him the third copy of the Codex, he left our shores for Rome on what was to be his last pilgrimage. Like Elijah it could be said of him ” The journey is too great for thee”.
It was the year 716 and Ceolfrith was 74 yrs. old. The monks of Jarrow and Wearmouth were shocked and saddened when he told them to appoint a new abbot as he intended to live out his life in Italy after presenting the Codex to the Pope. Sadly he didn’t reach Italian soil but died on route at Langres monastery in Burgundy. He reached the monastery on the morning of September 25th. 716 and departed to the Lord at four in the afternoon. Some of his followers continued their journey with the Codex and presented it to the Pope as Ceolfrith had wished. Others returned to England with the sad news of his passing.
LATIN LIST OF SCRIPTURAL BOOKS. ~~~ OLD TESTAMENT ( left ) NEW TESTAMENT (right ) . BOOKS OF THE BIBLE AS ARRANGED BY ST. HILARY.
PLAN OF SOLOMON’S TEMPLE AT JERUSALEM.
The bible was in the possession of the monastery at Monte Amiata near Siena from the 9th. century until 1792, when it was taken to its present location in Florence after the monastery was closed. How it came to be there in the first place remains a mystery. Its origins were not discovered until the 19th. century, when it was revealed that the dedication page ( pictured below ) had been altered and it was identified as Ceolfrith’s gift to Pope Gregory.
The forged amendments are clearly apparent, especially the fifth line which reads ” Peter of the Lombards” after “Ceolfrith of the English” had been erased. The true dedication was verified using ultra-violet light.
Today the original manuscript has been unbound by experts in Florence in order to produce a limited edition number of smaller replica copies, one of which is now on display in the City of Sunderland ( City Library and Arts Centre ) to celebrate the adoption of Benedict Biscop as Patron Saint of the City of Sunderland. (replica copy below).
The priceless bible of Ceolfrith still exists today in the Laurentian Library in Florence, where it is known as the Great Bible of Monte Amiata from the name of the monastery where it was housed for nearly a thousand years.
What was Bede’s input towards its production ?
Bede tells us very little about his part in the project, although it was likely to be considerable. He seems to leave all the glory to its creator, Ceolfrith, and probably felt the work was a fitting epitaph to the man who was his mentor and guardian. When Bede entered the monastery as a seven year old Ceolfrith was already an established monk of 37 who was soon to become Abbot of the dual foundation monastery, taking young Bede under his wing and guiding him along during his formative years.
Bede simply states that Ceolfrith added to the monastic library three Pandects of the new translation, in addition to one volume of the old translation brought from Rome. ( probably referring to the Codex Grandior brought to the monastery by Ceolfrith and Benedict Biscop from Italy in 678 )
WHAT’S IN A NAME ? ~~ SUMMARY.
Today there remains only one of Abbott Ceolfrith’s Pandect Bibles of the three originally produced at the Jarrow/ Wearmouth scriptorium.
This survives under the misnomer of “Codex Amiatinus”, the name it has acquired due to a set of circumstances. It is a name which would have been completely alien to Ceolfrith and is unlikely to be a one he would have approved of, or which he would have wanted the Pandect to be known by. The circumstances have dictated the name given to the Pandect today which will no doubt continue to be known as the Codex Amiatinus.
THE JARROW LECTURES RELATING TO THE CODEX ARE AS FOLLOWS :-
1967 Lecture ~~~ ” The Art of the Codex Amiatinus “ By R.L.S Bruce-Mitford. M.A. B.Litt, F.S.A.
1977 Lecture ~~~ ” The Codex Amiatinus and the Byzantine Element in the Northumbrian Renaissance “ by Per Jonas Nordhagen. Ph.D., Oslo University.