Secular Manuscripts

Secular Manuscripts

By Christina Richardson

Lustre: Spiritual Treasures and Sensory Pleasures (University of Houston, Texas, 2005)

Introduction: The words “illuminated manuscript” conjure up images of richly and painstakingly ornamented pages of parchment devoted to God and, in particular, the Bible. Indeed, the sheer amount of effort, talent, and materials used in the creation of an illuminated manuscript was often understood as a physical demonstration of the greatness of the Almighty and the power of His Word. However, with the arrival of the High Middle Ages (the late twelfth to the early thirteenth century), the production of illuminated manuscripts ceased to be centered in the realm of the monastery and began to move into secular society. Though the decoration and production of illuminated manuscripts initially focused on the Bible and theological treatises, the end of the twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth century saw the rise of secular tomes with subjects geared toward lay students and the aristocracy.

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