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Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts



What kinds of books were illuminated?
This illuminated page is from an antiphonary, a choral book. Its large size allowed several choir members to use it at once.
zoom This illuminated page is from an antiphonary, a choral book. Its large size allowed several choir members to use it at once.

 

During the Middle Ages, Christianity played a dominant role in European life. For monks, whose daily schedule was divided between working and praying, the reading and making of manuscripts were acts of devotion. Most of the books they copied were religious: the Bible, the Gospel books, books used in church services, and prayer books meant for private worship. These texts were in Latin, the official language of the Church.

However, not all illuminated manuscripts were religious. As universities grew, students needed books on a variety of subjects. In addition to the Bible, they studied literature, history, arithmetic, astronomy, and botany. And not all books were in Latin. As more people learned to read, the demand for books-and for books in common spoken languages-increased. By the fourteenth century, cookbooks, stories and legends, travel books, and histories were all popular illuminated texts, produced by professional scribes and illuminators.


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1. This illumination is from a missal-a service book used during Mass.
2. A text portion of a missal. Not every page was lavishly decorated.

 

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April 2005