The Codex Amiatinus and its “Sister” Bibles: Scripture, Liturgy, and Art in the Milieu of the Venerable Bede


The Codex Amiatinus and its “Sister” Bibles examines the full Bibles (Bibles containing every scriptural text that producers deemed canonical) made at the northern English monastery of Wearmouth–Jarrow under Abbot Ceolfrith (d. 716) and the Venerable Bede (d. 735), and the religious, cultural, and intellectual circumstances of their production. The key manuscript witness of this monastery’s Bible-making enterprise is the Codex Amiatinus, a massive illustrated volume sent toward Rome in June 716, as a gift to St. Peter. Amiatinus is the oldest extant, largely intact Latin full Bible. Its survival is the critical reason that Ceolfrith’s Wearmouth–Jarrow has long been recognized as a pivotal center in the evolution of the design, structure, and contents of medieval biblical codices.

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Celia Chazelle teaches at The College of New Jersey. She is author of The Crucified God in the Carolingian Era (Cambridge, 2001) and has edited and co-edited multiple volumes on medieval topics, including Why the Middle Ages Matter (New York, 2011). She was elected Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America in 2019.
"Celia Chazelle is to be warmly congratulated for offering what can justly be described as the first comprehensive account of this monument of early medieval book production, putting knowledge about Codex Amiatinus, Wearmouth-Jarrow and its biblical culture on a new footing. Potential users--and there ought to be many--should be aware that, notwithstanding the many helpful subdivisions into which the text is organised, this is not a work that can easily be skimmed or sampled. On the contrary, a proper understanding of any individual point presupposes reading the book in its entirety".
Richard Gameson, in The Medieval Review, August 2020.

"Les publications de Celia Chazelle sur le Christ crucifié ou bien la théologie de la liturgie (en particulier del’eucharistie) sont bien connues des médiévistes et appartiennent sans aucun doute à la catégorie des lectures indispensables. Le livre publié parl’a. en 2019 sur un «monument» majeur de la théologie, de la liturgie et del’histoire del’art duh aut Moyen Âge fera lui aussi date et s’imposera rapidement comme un«classique» indispensable au près des médiévistes de tout bord. [...] .L’ouvrage dont il est question ici est un véritable modèle du genre, où toutes les hypothèses proposées par l’a., sur la base d’arguments très solides et parfaitement démontrés,emportent l’adhésion sans réserve aucune. [...] Ce livre n’est en aucun cas une monographie sur le célèbre codex Amiatinus aujourd’hui conservé à Florence (Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, ms. Amiatino 1) réalisé au VIIe-VIIIe s. au monastère anglais de Wearmouth-Jarrrow. Se situant bien au-de là d’une monographie «classique» consacrée à un manuscrit qui se contenterait de passer successivement en revue la codicologie, le texte et les enluminures, C. Chazelle prend appui sur ce manuscrit clé et ce qu’elle appelle avec élégance ses bibles « sœurs » pour offrir au lecteur un panorama d’une rare acuité sur la théologie, la liturgie et la pensée chrétienne dans le monde anglo-saxon dans le haut Moyen Âge. [...] Le livre de C.Chazelle est à tous égards une grande réussite où les hypothèses et arguments, servis par une remarquable érudition,emportent l’adhésion".
Éric Palazzo, in Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale, 2020.

"In the first comprehensive monograph on the Codex Amiatinus (Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS Amiatino 1), Celia Chazelle has richly contextualized and proposed a new chronology for the series of “full Bibles” produced at Wearmouth-Jarrow in the early decades of the eighth century. The author considers not only the Codex Amiatinus, the best-known and only complete surviving Wearmouth-Jarrow Bible, but also the British Library Folios, the surviving remnants of at least two large-scale “sister” Bibles produced at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and five additional “smaller format part-Bibles” from the same context. [...] Chazelle’s volume will most assuredly become essential reading on the Codex Amiatinus".
Carol Neuman de Vegvar, in Speculum, 96 (3), July 2021.

"What makes Celia’s Chazelle’s book, The Codex Amiatinus and Its “Sister” Bibles: Scripture, Liturgy, and Art in the Milieu of the Venerable Bede, stand out from the many others on Amiatinus—including a slew of works that celebrated 1,300th anniversary of Coelfrith’s departure with it for Rome—is that she has tried to address its significance in the round. She uses it as a gateway into the biblical world of Bede, and then within that world she asks why these Northumbrian monks made such a massive investment in making three of these enormous bibles— [...] this is a study worthy of its object and will be welcomed by historians of the Bible as much as by Anglo-Saxonists and art historians. The work is enhanced by the sixty-five images in color and black-and-white illustrating what is being discussed in the book, and by a very useful summary of what is to be found on each of the 1030 folios of the manuscript (471–81). All in all, we are brought into the “life” of the codex."
Thomas O’Loughlin, in Journal of British Studies Vol. 60:4, 2021.

"This book clearly aims to stimulate a lot more work on the Codex Amiatinus. The Codex has seen something of a flourishing of scholarship on it since the turn of the century, but Celia Chazelle's volume manages to both summate and challenge that literature in a way sure to guarantee that this star of early English manuscripts will not be out of the limelight soon."
Conor O’Brien in Early Medieval Europe, Volume 29, Issue 3, August 2021, 428-430
List of Color Plates
List of Figures
List of Maps and Tables
List of Abbreviations
1 Wearmouth–Jarrow and the Context of the Codex Amiatinus
 Part 1. The Wearmouth–Jarrow Bibles
 1 Wearmouth, Jarrow, and Ceolfrith’s Last Journey
 2 The Codex Amiatinus
 3 Other Wearmouth–Jarrow Biblical Manuscripts
 4 Full Bibles Made for Wearmouth–Jarrow
 5 The Codex Amiatinus as Bible Witness
 6 Aims and Approach in this Book
 7 A Case of Mistaken Identity
 8 Art Historians and Amiatinus
 Part 2. Bibles and Their Contexts
 1 The Narrative Evidence
 2 Wearmouth–Jarrow and its Environs
 3 The Easter Controversy
 4 Wilfrid, Theodore, Biscop, and Ceolfrith
 5 The Archcantor John, Liturgy, and Monotheletism
 6 Wearmouth–Jarrow, Kings, and Bishops
 7 The Years 710–c.716
 8 Wearmouth–Jarrow and its Bibles
2 Bede, Monasticism, and Scripture
 Part 1. The Monastic Life and Scripture’s Moral Teachings
 1 Introduction
 2 Hermits and Coenobites
 3 Preaching and Teaching
 4 Approaches to Scripture
 5 Biblical History
 6 Exploring Scripture’s Figurative Senses
 7 Moralizing Exegesis
 8 Contexts
 Part 2. Misinterpreting Scripture
 1 Correcting the Errant
 2 Eschatology, Easter Reckoning, and Free Will and Grace
 3 Easter Reckoning
 4 Grace, Free Will, and the Possibility of Innocence
 5 Perspectives
3 The Wearmouth–Jarrow Full Bible Manuscripts
 Part 1. The Manuscripts
 1 Introduction
 2 The Codex Amiatinus Biblical Manuscript
 3 Amiatinus’ Biblical Prefaces
 4 Amiatinus’ Capitula
 5 The Biblical Recension
 6 Writing and Text Layout in Amiatinus
 7 Heterogeneity
 8 Biblical Text Subdivisions and Their Articulation
 9 Liturgical Texts
 10 The Biblical Manuscript and Its Exemplars
 11 The Canon Tables
 12 The British Library Folios
 Part 2. Assessing the Manuscript Evidence
 1 Amiatinus, the British Library Folios, and Possible Production Sites
 2 Chronology of Production
 3 The Implications of the Bankes Leaf
 4 The Possible Priority of the Codex Amiatinus
 5 Dating Amiatinus’ Biblical Manuscript
 6 Dating the British Library Folios
 7 The Possible Scope of Wearmouth–Jarrow Bible Production
 8 A Bible for York?
 9 Pandectes
4 Bibles and Reading at Wearmouth-Jarrow
 Part 1. Architecture, Art, and Liturgy at Wearmouth–Jarrow
 1 Introduction
 2 Settings of Worship
 3 Artistic Elements
 4 Extra-Liturgical Reading and Meditation
 5 Rome and Christology
 6 The Liturgy
 7 Scriptural Manuscripts at Wearmouth and Jarrow
 8 Scripture in Rome’s Liturgy
 Part 2. Amiatinus, Liturgy, and the Sister Bibles
 1 Jarrow’s Foundation and Biscop’s Death
 2 Bibles for Reading
 3 Amiatinus and Grandior
 4 Writing a Sister Bible
 5 Dynamic Processes of Production
 6 Oriented Reading: The Roles of the Capitula
 7 Amiatinus’ Sister Bibles at Wearmouth and Jarrow
 8 A Gift to Rome
5 The Preliminary Gathering and Painting of the Glorified Christ
 1 Introduction
 2 Grandior and the Christian Topography
 3 Amiatinus’ Preliminary Gathering by June
 4 Folios 1/I Verso–4/V Recto: The Dedication and Ezra Portrait
 5 Folio 3/IV: The Purple Leaf
 6 Folios 2/II Verso–7/III Recto: The Wilderness Tabernacle
 7 Folios 5/VI Recto, 8/VIII Recto, and 6/VII Recto: The Three Biblical Diagrams
 8 Folio 6/VII Verso: The Pentateuch Cross
 9 Folio 796 Verso: The Glorified Christ (Maiestas Christi)
 10 The Preliminary Gathering, the Glorified Christ, Grandior, and Rome
6 A Gift for St. Peter
 1 Introduction
 2 Sacred Space, Sacred Unity
 3 The Prophet Ezra
 4 The Wilderness Tabernacle
 5 The Pentateuch Cross
 6 The Glorified Christ
 7 Amiatinus and the Wider World
7 Connecting Past to Present
 1 Introduction
 2 The Wearmouth–Jarrow Bible-Making Enterprise
 3 The Gift Bible
 4 The Manuscripts after
 5.   Afterword: Commemorating the Gift to Rome Today

Appendix: Codicological Summary of the Codex Amiatinus Biblical
Select Bibliography
Plates and Figures following page
Students and specialists of early medieval and Anglo-Saxon religion, culture, manuscripts, and art; historians of the Bible; academic libraries and institutions; the educated public interested in the early Middle Ages.
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