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Medieval Manuscripts Return to Cirencester

Medieval Manuscripts Return to Cirencester

Four medieval manuscripts are coming back to Cirencester for the first time in nearly 500 years. A display of the 12th and 13th century manuscripts is taking place at the Corinium Museum from the 16th January to the 21st May. The display is a part of the Abbey 900 festival, which celebrates 900 years since the founding of St Mary’s Abbey in Cirencester.
The manuscripts were all from or associated with the abbey library. Manuscripts in the library were taken with around fifty others by Henry VIII’s Commissioners at the Dissolution of the Abbey in 1539. Many of the manuscripts ended up in Hereford Cathedral and others in the British Library, Cambridge and Oxford, including Jesus College and the Bodleian Library from which those in the exhibition are to be generously loaned.
De templo (On the Temple) is the Abbey’s copy of a book by Bede (673-753) and is on loan from Jesus College. It is opened to reveal a beautifully illuminated initial. The other three books are all works by Alexander Neckam who was one of the Augustinian Canons of Cirencester Abbey who later became Abbot.
Andrew Dunning, Curator of Medieval Historical Manuscripts at the British Library tells us the importance of Neckam and the abbey. “Alexander’s work was wildly popular, even by medieval standards. (But) Alexander Neckam was not a mere exception at Cirencester. The town itself, through the influence of the abbey, became an international hub of learning and trade in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries”.

James Harris Corinium Museum Collections Officer said:  “The display will be the culmination of contributions from people in the community of Cirencester. With the manuscripts display we are able to help show that Cirencester was a special place throughout its entire life from prehistory through to the modern day, and not least in the medieval period. This is a short window to view the manuscripts. This is a rare chance. I would advise they are a must see”.
The display has been made possible with generous donations from the Soroptimists International, Cirencester branch, and Tanners solicitors.
The Corinium Museum tells the story of archaeology across the Cotswolds with an emphasis on discoveries from Roman Corinium. A vibrant temporary exhibition programme takes place throughout the year.
For more information please contact the Corinium Museum on 01285 655611 or go to

Explore Gloucestershire
14 January 2017

For further information.


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