Augustine Gospels


Augustine Gospels:

o Augustin was sent from Pope Gregory the Great… The only text that likely was with Augustine is the Saint Augustine Gospels (in Corpus Christi Cambridge). Still has purpose to it – swearing in of Archbishops of Cantebury. The text is clearly based on an earlier Italian model.

Evokes classical heritage – seated in throne, pediment with large capital letters in Latin.

o It indicates how the Italian (Roman! Under Pope Gregory) serves as a font / source of material for the missionary activities in England. Also, we can see the role that images played in the act of conversion.
o Only two illustrated images from the Gospels, but no reaon to assume that these were the only images… Grid of 3 by 4, densely illustrated narrative. We only have a surviving fragment of what originally existed. Images are pulled together onto a single page, not scattered like in the Cotton Genesis.
o Goal: If this was one of the books Augustine carried to England, and his goal was to convert the heathens like King Ethelbert, what role did this particular manuscript play in the conversion of King Ethelbert.
o De Hemel tries to make a case that we might imagine Augustine parading around the countryside with the book, or groups sitting together with Ethelbert and pointing to the images as revelations.
o King Ethelbert wouldn’t have known anything about the images on first presentation, but would have been impressed by it. What is fundamentally important however, is the text or the Word. “In the beginning was the word…” (John 1.1).
o The pictures are value-added!
o The manuscript would have represented the divine!


o Conventions of history were not yet formed, supposed to support a certain world view. Not a repetorial structure to the Ecclesiastica, but simply a bullet-point record. He tells a version of the story which serves his purposes. Bede mentions that Augustine had a board with the images of Christ, and Augustine had many books.
o However, still a verbal performance as the text were read to them – but the physical presence of the object was valuab
o It was not custom made for the purpose of missionary work – it was made as a standard (albeit luxurious) copy of the Gospels! It was made with no sense of missionary activity.

These books were a tangible source of divine power. Many books were carried into battle for the power it could bring with it into a fight. Books used within local culture in a talismanic fashion.

Another similar image of a man in the Book of Durrow – a far cry from the late antique / early Christian style evident in the Saint Augustine Gospels. An artist who did not have a great deal of experience in forming characters in 3D – rather when he was forced to create a man, he follows contemporary metalwork again (e.g. Shoulder Clasp, Sutton Hoo, 620-655).


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