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

Thursday 14 July 2016, 5.00PM

Speaker(s): Celia Chazelle

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.

Location: Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building

Admission: Free to students