The Jarrow/Wearmouth monastery, founded by Benedict Biscop and
home to the great scholar St Bede, was the home of Abbot Ceolfrith and
the birthplace of the Codex Amiatinus.
This fabulous Anglo-Saxon Book which still exists today was produced by
the monks of Jarrow and Wearmouth under the direction of Ceolfrith,
Abbot of the monastery. It is the oldest complete Latin bible in existence
and took several years to produce. Ceolfrith commissioned three copies
to be made, each having over 1,000 pages of Vellum, beautifully written
in Latin calligraphy. It was an ambitious project, as other monasteries
were reproducing just the four Gospels or the Book of Psalms. To make a
one volume entire bible in the 8th century was extremely rare. The work
could only have been done in a well equipped monastery and by highly
Ceolfrith’s plan was to have copies at Jarrow and Wearmouth, and the
third copy he would take personally to Rome as a present for the Pope,
Gregory the second.
Taking with him the third copy of the Codex, Ceolfrith left our shores for
Rome on what was to be his last pilgrimage. It was the year 716 and
Ceolfrith was 74 yrs. old. Sadly he didn’t reach Italian soil but died on
route at Langres monastery in Burgundy. Some of his followers continued
their journey with the Codex and presented it to the Pope as Ceolfrith
had wished. Others returned to England with the sad news of his passing.
Of the three copies of the Codex which Ceolfrith caused to be produced
only one remains. It is now in the Laurentian Library in Florence.
THE CHILDREN’S CODEX
As part of the Codex 1300 commemoration of that literary pilgrimage to Rome,
children from city schools are creating new chapters to one of history’s most
influential books produced in Sunderland thirteen centuries ago – The Codex
Over 100 schools in Sunderland, Jarrow and South Tyneside, were invited to be
involved in this prestigious and historical event. Each school was given a template to
follow reflecting the size and design of pages, with a biblical reference for pupils to
base their writing and designs on. Once completed the work is to be collated to
create a new Children’s Codex as a literary gift to the world from the young people
of Sunderland and Jarrow.
A leather bound copy of the ‘Children’s Codex’ will leave St Peter’s Church in June.
It will first visit Westminster Abbey to be signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury
Justin Welby, before continuing its journey to Rome to be presented to Pope Francis
in the Vatican. Here it will be put on permanent display in the Vatican as a
commemoration of the original Codex sent from Wearmouth-Jarrow 1300 years ago.
Another three bound copies of the Children’s Codex will remain at home to be on
permanent display at St. Peter’s Church Monkwearmouth and St. Paul’s Church
Jarrow, with a third to be made available on loan for schools, libraries and community
venues in Sunderland, Jarrow and South Tyneside.
The Codex 1300 anniversary commemorative project is being coordinated by SPEAK (St Peter’s Educational
Activities for Kids) in conjunction with Sunderland City Council, the Parish of Jarrow and South Tyneside Council.
Here at St Gregory’s, our Y5 children have enjoyed taking part in this project.
The whole class produced some outstanding work, and after a very difficult decision,
work completed by Jamie Pippet was selected to be included in the ‘children’s codex’.
As an extra and unexpected honour, Jamie has also been selected to be part of a
small group of children acting as ambassadors, who will accompany the codex on its
journey from Monkwearmouth to London to be blessed by the Archbishop before it
continues onwards to the Vatican.
All children, accompanied by a parent/carer, are welcome at the initial Blessing ceremony on 29th May at 2pm at St Paul’s, where the Children’s Codex will be blessed then led in procession out of St Paul’s on its way to St Peter’s.