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Medieval Manuscripts: Aratea

When the Greek poet Aratus looked at the night sky, he saw mythological horses, centaurs, and heroes. Centuries after his death, an unknown artist brought his stories to life in a codex that became among the most famous astronomical manuscripts of the Carolingian Renaissance.

Aratus’ didactic poem Phenomena explained the movement of the stars, according to which the Earth stood still with the sky rotating around it. Mythological creatures and characters are set against a deep blue, cloudless sky, with gold decorations shining as brightly as the constellations they represent.

Each of the 39 full-page illustrations is accompanied by Latin verses penned in littera capitalis rustica. Because of its popularity, in later centuries the manuscript was copied in Gothic script, which was more common among readers of the Late Middle Ages.

Historians believe that the mysterious manuscript was composed for Empress Judith, wife of Emperor Louis the Pious, in the area that was to become Lorraine in France. Although it is hard to establish an exact date, experts have estimated that the codex was composed after 825.

Our thanks to Facsimile Finder for helping us create this post. You can learn more about this manuscript and see more images by visiting their website.

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