*** DEBUG END ***

Oldest Latin Bible to return to Britain  

08 December 2017

 © Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence

Foot-thick: the Codex Amiatinus

Foot-thick: the Codex Amiatinus

THE world’s oldest surviving complete Latin Bible is to return to Britain for the first time since it was sent to Rome 1302 years ago, as a gift to Pope Gregory II from monks in the north-east of England.

The Codex Amiatinus was one of only three produced at the twin monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow. One is lost, and the other survives only as fragments. For centuries, it was kept at the Abbey of the Saviour, in Monte Amiata, in Tuscany, before passing in the 18th century to the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, in Florence. The Laurenziana has now agreed to lend it to the British Library, alongside the Lindisfarne Gospels, for its exhibition “Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms” next year.

The chief executive of the Library, Roly Keating, described it as “one of the great acts of creative book-production of the entire millennium”. Apart from its rarity, the richly decorated book is singular as it is 12 inches thick and weighs 35kg. It contains both Old and New Testaments, and is written on 1030 leaves made from the skins of at least 515 sheep.

The exhibition’s curator and the British Library’s head of ancient, medieval, and early modern manuscripts, Dr Claire Breay, said: “It is one of the greatest treasures of Anglo-Saxon times, yet it is not very well known by the general public. This loan will give the manuscript the attention it deserves. So much from that time has been lost: it is incredible that this has survived intact.

“I’ve been to see it once, and it is unbelievable. Even though I’d read about it, and seen photographs, when you actually see the real thing it is a wonderful, unbelievably impressive manuscript.”

All three Bibles were commissioned by Ceolfrith, the abbot of Wearmouth and Jarrow, where two of them were retained. He led the party of monks that was taking the third to Rome in 716AD, but died in Burgundy before it was delivered. A digital replica of the Codex Amiatinus is housed at the Bede’s World museum (News, 5 August 2016). The BL show will run from October 2018 to February 2019.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM: 

Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Church Times/Canterbury Press:

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

Early bird tickets available



Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)