Giant Bible of Cividale

  • S. XI ex.; parchment; mm 615 × 410; ff. I + 159 + III’
  • Cividale del Friuli, National Archaeological Museum. Archives and Library, I
  • S. XI ex.; parchment; mm 585 × 395; I + 283 + I’
  • Cividale del Friuli, National Archaeological Museum. Archives and Library, II

This Bible of a possible Roman origin has been kept at Cividale del Friuli at least since the years of the patriarch Gerard (1122-1129). Its manufacturing can evidently be dated to little earlier than 1100, providing that a note by a contemporary hand records the Holy Sepulchre’s conquest by the Crusaders

As in the case of the giant Bible of San Daniele, also the two volumes of Cividale originally made together one Bibliotheca, really imposing for its sizes and consistency. The split of that book body into two handier units had to occur after 1456, since two inventories of the lower sacristy of Cividale, one of 1433 and the other of the years 1455-1456, record and describe this Bible, which is now divided in two volumes. The usually imposing decorative set employed for the incipit letters of the biblical books is here almost prevailingly carried out by means of those geometrical and interlace motifs identifying the «early geometrical style» of the third group, according to E. B. Garrison’s grid. Only in eight cases, on the contrary, initials are realized by means of ‘white vine-stem’ borders (the so-called ‘bianchi girari’) on a polychrome background. However the specialists’ attention to the two volumes has been drawn by two large-format illuminated pages (f. 6r of the volume I and f. 112v of volume II). The first of the two full-page illustrations is articulated on three registers: the top band displays the Pantocrator between two cherubs; in the two bottom bands four tiles display, in the following order, the breath of life breathed into Adam, Eve’s creation, the original sin, and the expulsion from Eden. The second illustrated page displays, on a triple register, the twelve Apostles; a figure of the Pantocrator is placed in the middle of the top band. The most relevant information on the Bibliotheca is again to be inferred from the occasional scripts written on the blank space of the leaves. The oldest local notice, since it involves Gerard [Gerardo], patriarch di Aquileia (1122-1129), evidences that this Bible, of very probable Roman origin, had to be already in Friuli and kept by the chapter of Cividale, before (or, at least, during) Gerard’s patriarchy. The name of Gerard’s successor, Pellegrinus I [Pellegrino I] (1131-1161) appears in other notes written on f. 3v, as well as of many other laypersons and clerics active in the city and having different relations with the chapter. Whereas the notices on f. 3v give further information to implement the outlines of the ‘Friulian’ history of the codex, it is a very brief note on the leaf recto that supplies a decisive grip to precisely state its absolute chronology: since this note actually refers to Jerusalem’s conquest by the Crusaders led by Godfrey of Bouillon and by Raymond, Count of Toulouse (1100), it ultimately suggests that the manuscript had to be already manufactured and used before the end of the eleventh century.

Codex I, f. 148v, initial of the book of the prophet Hosea

Codex I, f. 148v, initial of the book of the prophet Hosea

Codex I, f. 6r, scenes of the Genesis

Codex I, f. 6r, scenes of the Genesis

Codex II, f. 6v, initial of the book of Qoélet

Codex II, f. 6v, initial of the book of Qoélet

Codex II, f. 112v, Christ and the twelve apostles

Codex II, f. 112v, Christ and the twelve apostles

Codex II f. 83r, initial of the book of II of the Maccabei

Codex II f. 83r, initial of the book of II of the Maccabei

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