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Enormous Bible from the 8th century returns to England after 1,302 years


Remi Mathis | CC BY-SA 4.0

Zelda Caldwell - published on 10/22/18

The 75-lb. Codex Amiatinus is also the oldest surviving complete Bible in Latin.

The oldest surviving Bible written in Latin is a monster. The 75-lb. Codex Amiatinus, produced by Benedictine monks in Northumbria, England around 700, measures 19 ¼ inches high, 13 3/8 inches wide, and 7 inches thick.

Remi Mathis | CC BY-SA 4.0

Commissioned as one of three Bibles to be produced by the monks of the Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery, the Codex Amiatunus was meant be a gift to Pope Gregory II. It never made it to the pope, however, as the monastery’s abbot, Ceolfrith, died on his way to Rome in 716.

The big book later turned up in the 9th century, in the Abbey of the Savior on Mount Amiata in Tuscany, hence the name Amiatinus.

Now, after 1,302 years, the Codex Amiatinus is making its way back to England, as the highlight of an exhibition on Anglo-Saxon art, literature, science and politics at the British Library in London.

Remi Mathis | CC BY-SA 4.0

Dr. Clare Breay, the exhibit’s lead curator, told The Guardian that the term “once in a generation,” used in promotional materials for the show, doesn’t begin to describe the treasures found in the exhibition.

“It’s a phrase that’s sometimes overused, but I think in this case that’s absolutely true. In fact ‘once in a generation’ doesn’t really encompass it for a lot of the loans,” said Breay.


Also included in the show is the Vercelli Book, a 900-year-old encyclopedia of Old English poetry; the St. Augustine Gospels, which date back to the 6th century; the Lindisfarne Gospels, the oldest English Gospel book, which somehow survived a Viking raid in the 8th century; and the Book of Durrow, the earliest illuminated Bible from Ireland or Britain.

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