The Winchester Bible, one of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts in England.
It was begun in 1160 and still resides in Winchester Cathedral, close to where it was written.
It was produced in the scriptorium of the great priory attached to the cathedral. This stunning piece of work stands as a symbol of both the power and the wonder of the C12th Christian church in England.
Who wrote it?
It is thought to have been written by one person, in the Latin text of St Jerome and one can imagine the young monk, for it looks like a young hand, as he carefully copied out the letters,working with a goose feather quill and scratching out his mistakes with a sharp knife.
The text has been checked and corrected and again it is easy to imagine the admonishments that were issued over these mistakes. The 468 sheets of vellum, from up to 250 calves, were folded centrally, to create two massive tomes. The artists who created the illumination, it is thought there were six in all, may have arrived from schools in Italy or somewhere from within the Byzantine Empire to create the stunningly beautiful artwork.
Inks of various hues, gold leaf and paint and lapis lazuli, all the way from Afghanistan were used to create the bright and brilliant effect.
The bible has been re-bound and now exists as four volumes. Alas, thieves and collectors have removed some of the pages over time, so it is incomplete but it never was finished, it remained an incomplete object of stunning beauty, now displayed in Winchester Cathedral.
Looking at it, when can only imagine the great Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, who it is thought, commissioned the work in the first place, gazing down on it with appreciation and pride, he was a man, who, through the buildings he commissioned, showed a keen eye for beautiful art.
A thousand years on, it’s brilliance still shines out.
Alas, it is not online in it’s entirety but you can see a gallery of images by clicking here of it here and of course visit it for yourself in Winchester Cathedral Hampshire UK, opening hours are here.