THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Medieval manuscripts blog

14 June 2011

The New Minster Charter

As we look forward to our Royal exhibition, which opens on 11 November 2011, we are going to showcase highlights of the British Library's spectacular collections.  This week we take a peek at a lavish Anglo-Saxon charter ...

The New Minster Charter

Winchester, c. 966

British Library, Cotton Vespasian A. viii

C13389-30 Cot Ves A viii, f. 2v

Full-page miniature of King Edgar with the Virgin Mary, St Peter, Christ in Majesty, and angels, Cotton Vespasian A. viii, f. 2v

King Edgar (d. 975), king of all of England from 959, was an ecclesiastical reformer, appointing bishops who imposed the Benedictine rule on monastic communities such as the one at New Minster, Winchester.  This charter (Cotton Vespasian A. viii), in the unusual format of a book rather than a single sheet of parchment, commemorates the introduction of Benedict's Rule at New Minster in 964.  The manuscript was completed two years later, and is written entirely in gold — the only known such example from the late Anglo-Saxon era.  Its importance is further indicated by the large full-page miniature of the King at the beginning of the book.

In the miniature, surrounded by a typically lavish Anglo-Saxon border, Edgar holds a book, presumably this very charter. He offers it to Christ above, who is seated on a rainbow in glory, being held aloft by angels.  Flanking Edgar are the two patron saints of the abbey, the Virgin Mary and St Peter (who are also pictured with King Cnut and Queen Emma in the Winchester Liber vitae (Stowe 944).  The King’s relationship to Christ is made explicit by an inscription on the page facing the image: ‘Thus he who established the stars sits on a lofty throne. King Edgar, prostrate and venerating, adores him.’ Through its text, decoration and imagery, this manuscript illustrates the importance of the King’s patronage, but also the limitations of his power.  

- Royal project team

Comments

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.