Nick Baker (Princethorpe College)

Putting your Best Foot Forward: Reviewing the Evangelist Portraits in the Codex Amiatinus

The ‘Christ in Majesty’ page (fol. 796v) has attracted a great deal of scholarly attention over the years. Given that it shows Christ flanked by two angels, surrounded by circular bands and enclosed within a ‘jewelled’ border, there are many elements for the art historian to consider. Unfortunately, the portraits and symbols of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have not been furnished with the attention they so rightly deserve. This paper will revisit these images and attempt to place them into a wider artistic context, thereby suggesting further theological meanings to the contemporary religious. It will also highlight the result of recent photographic work on the page, conducted under ultraviolet light, which has uncovered much more about the design of these portraits than has previously been known.


Meg Boulton (University of York)

From Cover to Cover: (Re)Presentations of Ecclesia and Eschatology in the Codex Amiatinus

This paper considers the illuminated pages of the Codex Amiatinus, the vast and elaborate eighth-century manuscript produced in Northumbria intended as a papal gift to Rome, giving particular attention to the Tabernacle diagram, or Temple page of the Codex as it has been variously identified (fols IIv‒IIIr), in the context of the two other miniatures in the manuscript. Differing groups of scholars argue that the conceptually complex double-folio diagram is a concrete representation of the architectural structure of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness or the Temple in Jerusalem, while others argue that it is a metaphysical, multifaceted diagram of the multiple architectural structures intended to house God: Tabernacle, Temple and Church.

Here, the Tabernacle Diagram, the Ezra Page and the Maiestus page are considered as multivalent and exegetically sophisticated images that (re)present the structural concepts that embody and actualise the Church, simultaneously presenting them in its past, present and future iterations. Moving from the early scholarship that addressed the classical exemplars or vernacular idiom of the illuminated pages this paper will discuss the spatial and temporal complexities produced in the pages of Amiatinus. A fundamental aspect of the discussion is the locus of the sacred (tabernacle, temple, church and heavenly city) presented variously in the Codex – shown as plan and elevation, interior and exterior, diagram and conceptualised space – actively allowing for the creation and conceptualisation of meta-physical spaces and places beyond those which were experienced and understood in terms of the earthly and the actual for its viewers. Further, it considers how these sophisticated concepts of physical and metaphysical space/s are actualised and encountered through the shifting subtleties of space, place and architecture within Amiatinus, alongside a complex viewing encounter that involved memory, compunction and an eschatological, psycho-geographical understanding of the architectural articulation/s of the church – past, present and future across the surface of the world, encapsulated in the space of a Codex.


Celia Chazelle (The College of New Jersey)

The Illustrations of the Codex Amiatinus and of Cosmas Indicopleustes’ Christian Topography

The discernible connections between painted and written pages in Amiatinus, writings by Cassiodorus, and known artistic elements of his Codex Grandior support the consensus that Grandior was the Old Latin “pandect” brought from Rome to Wearmouth, probably in 678. Whereas Amiatinus’ biblical manuscript – the Bible minus the preliminary gathering and Maiestas illustration – may have been completed by 703, most of its present first gathering and its Maiestas were perhaps executed later, in the early 710s, after it was decided to send Amiatinus to Rome. Grandior likely provided models for at least some art and texts possibly added at this time. Since Grandior was considered a “Roman” Bible, the additions would have helped transform Amiatinus into an appropriate gift for the papal city.

Another source that may have influenced choices made at Wearmouth–Jarrow for artwork in Amiatinus, however, was the sixth-century Greek Christian Topography ascribed to Cosmas Indicopleustes. The earliest surviving copy is ninth-century, yet the illustrations likely derive from Cosmas’ originals. A Greek or Latin version of part or all of this treatise was apparently at the Canterbury School under Theodore and Hadrian. Intriguing analogies with imagery in Amiatinus may be clues that Wearmouth–Jarrow had a version, possibly in a Latin translation. This paper will discuss the possible relation of some of Amiatinus’ imagery with Grandior and the Christian Topography. Bede’s doctrine and exegesis must have informed the selection and adaptation of artistic models from Grandior or elsewhere, and a copy of the Christian Topography would surely have attracted his interest but also raised doctrinal concerns. In particular, although Cosmas believed that the Tabernacle revealed the structure of the universe, Bede insisted that the earth and cosmos were spherical. His cosmology and awareness of the different views clearly illustrated in the Christian Topography may lie behind certain aspects of Amiatinus’ art, among them the representation of the Maiestas.


Carol Farr (University College, London)

The Graphic Presentation of Inscriptions in the Diagrams and Esdras picture

This paper will compare the design of the pages with other late antique and early medieval presentations of inscriptions, mainly in manuscripts but also in other media. I will attempt to show how the shapes used in the designs and their arrangements may have been chosen to reflect graphic traditions of diagrams as well as the harmony of scripture which others have understood to have been expressed in the Amiatinus images. Overlap between the function of diagrams, graphic design and visual images can be seen in the Amiatinus pages and is one of their connections with Insular material culture.


Richard Gameson (University of Durham: Keynote Lecture)

Amiatinus: Codex, Codicology and Contexts

This lecture will consider the various physical aspects of the book, comparing and contrasting them with relevant material near and far, to highlight what is and what is not particularly distinctive about the volume/project as a whole – and why this might be.


Mary Garrison (University of York)

Descendants of the Ceolfrith Pandects in England and on the Continent:Cassiodoran Ideals and the one-hide-per-bifolium format

A survey of the largest manuscripts in both the Codices Latini Antiquiores and The Typology of the Early Codex reveals a key trend related to size: from the advent of the codex-format onwards, the largest Christian codices have larger dimensions than the largest non-Christian volumes; and both the largest and the smallest books tended to be biblical. Amiatinus and its sister-pandects represent an apparently unprecedented achievement of scale as well as textual scholarship.

This Christian trend towards larger books (witnessed across the Middle Ages) has a particularly interesting manifestation in Northumbria, where we can detect the imitation not just of the size, but also of aspects of the format, of the Ceolfrith pandects, in two exceptional non-biblical books. The first of these is the famous Durham Cassiodorus (Durham B.II.30, the earliest extant witness to that work). The second is an undeservedly neglected Northumbrian copy of Pliny’s Naturalis Historia, (Leiden Universiteitsbibliotheek Voss. Lat. F. 4 ii, the earliest extant non-mutilated copy of that work and the earliest from North of the Alps).

Both the Durham Cassiodorus and the Leiden Pliny have tantalizing connections to Alcuin and York. Alcuin himself was an avid reader of Cassiodorus and wrote and cared more about punctuation, spelling, and the appearance of books than anyone since Cassiodorus. Alcuin is also known to have used a phrase that occurs above the Amiatinus Ezra-portrait in one of his own bible-dedication poems, carm. 69. Paul Meyvaert and Celia Chazelle have interpreted Alcuin’s use of this phrase variously as evidence that Alcuin had seen the Amiatinus itself in Rome, or one of its sister codices in England, or that the phrase had a wider currency, now untraceable. Whichever explanation one adopts, the recurring phrase invites us to see Alcuin’s Tours Bibles as a distant echo of the Ceolfrith Pandects.

In this paper, I will explore the nexus of connections that link a number of very large Northumbrian manuscripts (Amiatinus, Durham B.II.30 and Leiden VLF 4) and the Tours Bibles, considering these connections against the background of Alcuin’s knowledge of Bede and his reception of Cassiodorus’s works and intellectual ideals.


Jane Hawkes (University of York)

An Early Encounter with the Codex Amiatinus: March 1887

On 16 February 1887 Bishop Wordsworth of Salisbury wrote a Letter to The Guardian on the subject of De Rossi’s attribution of the Codex Amiatinus dedication to Ceolfrith ‘Britonum’. On 2 March, George Forrest Browne responded with his own Letter arguing that Ceolfrith would be better identified as ‘Anglorum’; it was an opinion confirmed a week later by Dr Hart. As a result Browne visited Florence in order to view the manuscript. He apparently did not consider it necessary to inform the Librarian of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana of his intentions. After repeatedly failing to gain entry he acquired an order from the Government in Rome which gained him admittance – but not a meeting with the Librarian. Instead he was greeted by a general employee and was disconcerted to discover a workman also in attendance. Nothing had prepared him for the dimensions of the manuscript he wished to examine, and he was suitably impressed when it was ushered in – on a stretcher borne by the workman and the library employee. Having intended to ascertain the nature of the dedication, as part of his ongoing research into, and lectures and publications on the early history and art of the Anglo-Saxon Church, specifically that of Northumbria, Browne’s visit resulted in what was probably the first account of the Codex’s illuminations, and his insights inspired an immediate (and unplanned) visit to Ravenna to confirm his observations.

This paper will review this early encounter and the manner in which its results, published in April 1887, have influenced the focus of subsequent scholarship, despite the largely unacknowledged foundations laid by Browne’s report, and his subsequent return to Florence and Rome in the company of other textual scholars and art historians – which resulted in his promotion to Disney Professor of Art and Archaeology in October 1887 and the establishment of the study of Anglo-Saxon and Insular sculpture in the Department of Archaeology at Cambridge.


Hugh Houghton (ITSEE, University of Birmingham)

The Text of the Gospels in Codex Amiatinus

Codex Amiatinus has long been recognised as one of the most important witnesses to the version of the Latin text of the Bible later known as the Vulgate. In the New Testament, it is one of only three consistently-cited manuscripts in the standard hand edition known as the Stuttgart Vulgate, and it is also one of the principal witnesses in the Oxford Vulgate of Wordsworth and White. The origin of the biblical text in this pandect, and its relationship to the three copies of the Bible described by Cassiodorus in his Institutiones, have long been a focus of debate. It is, however, generally agreed that the Gospels derive from an antegraph copied in Naples, which may have been used for other Northumbrian Gospel books produced around this time.

One of the final works of Dom Bonifatius Fischer, a pioneer in the study of the Latin Bible, was a collation of test passages from all Latin Gospel manuscripts copied in the first millennium. This was published in four large volumes (Die lateinischen Evangelien bis zum 10. Jahrhundert, Freiburg, 1988–91), but Fischer’s death soon after prevented the production of the planned fifth volume of analysis. A short article on manuscripts related to the Stockholm Codex Aureus was published posthumously in 2010. An electronic copy of the raw data, however, was provided to the Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing at the University of Birmingham in conjunction with their work on the Vetus Latina edition of the Gospel according to John. This paper will present the information in this collation relating to Codex Amiatinus, in order to gain a fuller idea of its place in the transmission of the text of the Gospels. In addition, the data offers a starting point for identifying relationships between Codex Amiatinus and other manuscripts which may be worthy of more detailed exploration.


Georgia Michael (ITSEE, University of Birmingham)

Imaging the ‘invisible’ Godhead: Reception, Visual Convention and Ingenuity in the Codex Amiatinus

Representations of Divinity, specifically, God the Father and the Holy Trinity have recently become the subject of controversy within the Orthodox world. Reminiscent of the Byzantine iconoclastic debate of the eighth and ninth centuries which questioned the validity of imaging religious figures, the two conflicting positions vehemently debate the legitimacy and the illegitimacy of the iconography of the Triune God.

The Codex Amiatinus preserves significant depictions of Divinity produced around 715, in the period immediately before the Byzantine iconoclastic debate. The illuminated folios of the Amiatinus are important to the historiography of Trinitarian art. In particular, the codex testifies to visual conventions used by the Northumbrian illuminators to articulate the Godhead and it heralds future visual formulations of the Holy Trinity in Christian art.

Three themes will be discussed in this paper; I will discuss how a close image-centred analysis of the tri-fold pages of the opening quire, together with the ‘Christ in Majesty’ image on fol. 796v has revealed new information about imaging divinity, especially God the Father, on the cusp of Byzantine iconoclasm. Second, the original order of the opening quire of the Amiatinus is irrecoverable, however the internal evidence demonstrates how Northumbrian illustrators with meticulous ingenuity preserved established pictorial symbols and used a ‘colour-code’ to produce a nuanced depiction of God. To finish, I will explore possible reactions to the iconography by the western and ecclesiastical audiences of the early eighth century.


Conor O’Brien (University of Cambridge)

The Amiatinus Tabernacle and Ideology at Wearmouth-Jarrow

The Codex Amiatinus and its sister pandects were a substantial drain on the resources and manpower of Wearmouth-Jarrow; the work on them would not have been undertaken lightly or without purpose. In recent years scholars have suggested that the bibles were intended not simply as works of bookish antiquarianism but as expressions of Wearmouth-Jarrow’s self-understanding: ideological statements about its orthodoxy, romanitas or spiritual superiority over other Northumbrian religious communities.

The Codex Amiatinus may have been intended to formulate Wearmouth-Jarrow’s ideology as well as express it. The manuscript’s largest image shows Moses and Aaron (indicated by their names) within the Tabernacle; Moses and Aaron are linked with the monastery’s own leadership in the anonymous Life of Ceolfrith, Bede’s commentary on 1 Samuel and Gregory III’s letter to Abbot Hwaetberht. All three writings reflect upon the changes in Wearmouth-Jarrow’s leadership at just the time that the Codex Amiatinus left the monastery. The Tabernacle bifolium was not part of the original binding of the manuscript’s opening quire and this paper will consider whether it might have been a comparatively late addition to the Amiatinus’s design, intended to help develop an ideological reading of the changes taking place within the community at Wearmouth-Jarrow.


Tom O’Loughlin (University of Nottingham)

The Plan of the Temple / Sanctuary in the Codex Amiatinus: the Interplay of Map and Exegesis

The plan of the temple is surely one of the most impressive images from Anglo-Saxon England, and has attracted much attention from art historians. It can also be seen as an example of early medieval biblical mapping, and has attracted some attention from historians of cartography. However, it is not only an illustration and a map – and worthy of study under each of these headings – but an exegetical event in its own right, and an example of that small group of medieval maps where technical biblical exegesis and map-making are combined so that it both illustrates and interprets the text.

However, while other examples of the genre are tied to specific texts, this plan stands at the beginning of a pandect and therefore needs to be understood within its context in the codex. So the question we must ask is how does an image of the temple – which as an object in history had ceased to be in 70 CE and which the creators of the codex believed was now theologically redundant – serve as an introduction to the corpus of the scriptures?


Eyal Poleg (Queen Mary, University of London)- Unable to attend

The Codex Amiatinus as an Anomaly: Patterns of Survival and Sanctity among Anglo-Saxon Bibles

The Codex Amiatinus stands out among Anglo-Saxon Bibles. Its towering size, text, and artwork all testify to the global reach and impressive capabilities of the scriptorium at Wearmouth-Jarrow. It is also unique in its mere survival. Out of surviving Anglo-Saxon biblical manuscripts, pandects are a rare exception. The overwhelming majority of biblical manuscripts surviving from the period are Gospel Books. This paper will not engage with questions of origins and compilation, texts, scribes or illuminators. Rather it will chart the afterlife of biblical manuscripts up until the Reformation. The role of books in medieval libraries, churches and courts of law will help explain this unique survival pattern, as will the analysis of surviving manuscripts, both in full or fragments. Oath-formulae and sacrists’ records are some of the best witnesses to the afterlife of biblical books. They will help explicate what had happened to Anglo-Saxon Bibles in the high and later Middle Ages, when their text was no longer seen as accurate, their divisions incompatible with current use, and their script outdated? Pandects became obsolete, broken down and recycled. Gospel Books (and one recently discovered Becket’s Psalter), whose value was not reliant on their text, and whose utility did not necessitate legibility, became treasured items.

The paper will therefore explore whether Bibles were actually sacred in the Middle Ages. Our modern reckoning, owing much to Reformation sensitivities, would be put aside in favour of a more nuanced understanding, in which Wycliffe’s view of biblical manuscripts as ‘skins of beasts’ will be seen as coming from the heart of medieval orthodoxy.


Alan Thacker (Institute of Historical Research, London)

Wearmouth-Jarrow, Rome, and the Papacy in the Early Eighth Century

This paper will seek to examine papal Rome both as a physical location and as a spiritual and political power in the late seventh and early eighth century and thereby provide a context for Ceolfrith’s expedition and Wearmouth-Jarrow’s gift of the Codex Amiatinus. It will examine Wearmouth and Jarrow’s contacts with Rome from their foundation until 716, and analyze more generally the growing importance of English visitors to the city, their interest in the pilgrim sites, and their interaction with the papacy during this period. The paper will conclude by placing these developments in the wider context of the papacy’s relations with the eastern empire and its growing investment in the West in the late seventh and early eighth centuries.


Faith Wallis (McGill University)- Unable to attend

Bede’s Eye and the Codex Amiatinus

In De tabernaculo Bede performs an unprecedented exercise in visualizing two- and three-dimensional space. The passage in question is Exodus 26:12‒13. Bede has just explained the two coverings of the Tabernacle: the inner curtains of embroidered linen, and the outer goats’-hair coverings. The inner curtains are ten in number, each 28 cubits by 40 cubits. They are joined by rings and clasps, five sheets and five sheets, and then the two sets of five are joined into a single sheet. The haircloth coverings are eleven in number, each 30 cubits by 44 cubits. “Five of them,” says Exodus 26:8‒9, “you shall join by themselves, and the six others you shall connect to one another, so as to double the sixth covering at the front of the roof.” Once again, the two coverings are joined “so that from all there may be made one tent (26:11).” At this point comes a difficult and challenging passage: “And with what remains of the coverings that are prepared for the roof, that is, with half of the one covering that is longer, you shall cover the back of the tabernacle. The cubit that remains on one side, and the other [cubit] on the other side, which are over and above in the length of the coverings, shall hang down, covering both sides of the tabernacle.”

Bede’s curiosity was evidently piqued. “In order that these things might be understood more clearly,” he says, “it is necessary for us to conduct a somewhat more extensive investigation of the position of the tabernacle itself as a whole.” The problem was a mathematical, or rather, a geometrical one: given that, according to Josephus, the Tabernacle was a rectangular structure thirty cubits long, ten cubits broad, and ten cubits high, how could one enclose it with an inner panel of ten 28×4 cubit curtains, and an outer panel of eleven 30×4 haircloth coverings? With close and precise attention to the measurements involved, Bede’s response reconstructs the arrangement of the fabric panels in two dimensions, and then imagines how they would look layered on one another, and draped over the three-dimensional framework of interlocking boards.

This remarkable passage raises a number of questions. Why did Bede consider such an exercise “necessary”? What role measurement (and plane and solid geometry) play in his larger exegetical project? And what is the connection of his exegesis of Exodus 26:12-13 to the image of the Tabernacle’s armature and hangings in the Codex Amiatinus? This last question leads us into the debate over whether the Amiatinus image reproduces the Codex Grandior’s, or whether it was created in Wearmouth-Jarrow, perhaps with the participation of Bede himself. To put it another way, was Bede’s mathematical and imaginative eye inspired by a picture, or was the picture the projection of Bede’s eye? Unravelling these questions will entail examining Bede’s descriptions of measured space, architectural and cosmological, across his oeuvre, but also the role of number and measurement in the search for that vera sapientia which (as the prologus of Amiatinus puts it) is the goal of scriptural study.


Lila Yawn (John Cabot University, Rome)

The Italian Giant Bibles (saec. XI-XII) and the Codex Amiatinus

The Italian Giant Bibles – one of medieval Europe’s largest, most apparently                 homogeneous manuscript families – are widely regarded as a Romanesque imitation of the Carolingian Bibles from Tours. This hypothesis rests on the grand dimensions of the most famous early examples; on their graphic, textual, and pictorial contents; and on the common but increasingly debated idea that the Italian group originated in a Roman ‘export scriptorium’ (or scriptoria) closely tied to the reform papacy. At least one early nucleus of the genre, however, owes a notable if still largely unrecognized debt to the Codex Amiatinus. Italian Giant biblical manuscripts traceable to the general area of the Badia Amiatina are typically smaller than those of the ‘Roman’ subgroup, with writing windows sometimes identical in size to those of the Codex Amiatinus. These Bibles also have chapter summaries that favour the Northumbrian F series (rather than the Alcuinian lambda series) and unusual painted initials very similar to those of patristic books clearly modelled on volumes owned by the Badia Amiatina in the eleventh century (cf. Gorman, Scriptorium, 2002). One of these patristic manuscripts (Perugia, Bibl. Cap., 3) includes an eleventh-century copy of the Ezra portrait from the Codex Amatinus, as well as assorted texts by Bede. This paper will examine the ‘Amiatine’ Italian Giant Bibles, with particular attention to the intimate relation between Perugia, Bibl. Cap., 3, and one of the most celebrated early Italian Giant Bibles: the illustrated Old Testament of Perugia’s Biblioteca Augusta (Ms. L. 59).