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Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 286: Gospels of St Augustine.

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Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 286: Gospels of St Augustine.
Alternate Title:
Evangelia Cantuariensia
Latin and English, Old (ca. 450-1100)
ff. 2 + 265 + 6
Approximate Date:
[ca. 500 A.D. - 599 A.D.]
Parker Manuscripts
CCCC MS 286 is the famous manuscript known as the St Augustine Gospels. This is a late sixth-century gospelbook which has for centuries been held to have been sent by Pope Gregory the Great with Augustine of Canterbury (d. 604) when he arrived to christianise the English in 597. Certainly the manuscript was in Canterbury by the end of the seventh century, and various additions were made there, including some tenth-century Anglo-Saxon charters written between the gospels of Matthew and Mark. Whether owned by Augustine himself, it almost certainly came to England with one of the early waves of Roman missionaries; on occasion it has also been associated with St Mellitus (d. 624), and with Minster-in-Thanet (Kent). CCCC MS 286 is the earliest surviving Gospel Book with figure illumination: although most of it has been lost, with only a picture of Luke as a scribe under an arcade, and a page of gospel images in a grid. Unfortunately, only these two of the probably eight full-page pictures which the book contained have survived. These images seem to have been highly influential on later English art; a number of Anglo-Saxon and Romanesque manuscripts seem to owe a debt to its imagery, as does a famous scene in the Bayeux Tapestry. In the later Middle Ages this manuscript was probably kept on the altar at St Augustine's, Canterbury, where Thomas of Elmham describes a number of manuscripts associated with Augustine being kept. Unfortunately, most of these are demonstrably later than Augustine's time. Parker may have been unaware of its assocation with the Gregorian mission. In recent years it has continued to play a role outside the library: since the Second World War it has been used in the enthronement of archbishops of Canterbury, and in 1982 it was put in the place of honour between Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Robert Runcie during the first papal visit to England since the Reformation.