The Italian Giant Bibles, Lay Patronage, and Professional Workmanship

D2-Bibbie-atlanticheThe Italian Giant Bibles, Lay Patronage, and Professional Workmanship

Lila Yawn

CEHTL, 3, 2010, Paris, LAMOP


Recent studies of the folio-format biblical manuscripts commonly known as the Italian Giant Bibles, or Bibbie atlantiche, have frequently proceeded from the premise that the earliest examples, and indeed much of the corpus, originated in Rome, under the papal aegis, as an arm of the eleventh-and early twelfth-century church reform. Articulated with particular clarity in the catalog of the double exhibition of Bibbie atlantiche held at Montecassino and in Florence in 2000- 2001, this widely accepted model maintains that the first generations of the genre were produced during the third and fourth quarters of the eleventh century in Rome, and above all at St. John Lateran, to serve as vectors of reformed religious practice and as prestigious symbols of pontifical authority and alliance before and during the Investiture Controversy.

Everything about the codices, from theiroversize format to the version of the Vulgate Bible text that they contain, is perceived as constituent of a distinctive reform-motivated product, a new biblical edition manufactured at the reform’s epicenter for strategic distribution in Italy and abroad. Documented gifts of such Bibles by ecclesiastical dignitaries form one cornerstone of the hypothesis. An inscription in the Giant Bible of Geneva (Geneva, Bibliothèque publique et universitaire, lat. 1) commemorates its donation to the city’s cathedral chapter by Archbishop Frederick (c. 1030-c. 1073), along with at least twenty-five other books, including works by Plato, Aristotle, Horace,Juvenal, Porphyry, Macrobius, and other ancient and medieval authors.

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