ST GREGORY THE GREAT. Homiliae in evangelia, in Latin, MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[England, mid-12th century]
274 x 175mm. 71 leaves: 18, 26, 3-410, 5-66 76(probably of 8, lacking ii, vii), 88, 98(probably of 10, lacking iii, viii), 103(lacking iv and all thereafter) and lacking a quire after 7, 35 lines written in brown ink in a romanesque hand between two verticals and on 35 horizontals ruled in plummet, prickings visible in inner and outer margins of most leaves, justification: 210 x 120mm, initials (1-10 lines) in red, several with simple pen-work decoration, text capitals on ff.6v-24 touched red or yellow, titles in red (lacking an undetermined number of leaves, first page slightly darkened, dampstain to blank upper corner of most leaves, natural flaws to around 20 leaves, a few tiny wormholes to first dozen leaves, a few smudges, clean tears to ff.48 and 53 with no loss of text). 19th-century brown blind-tooled roan, gilt edges (slight wear to extremities).
Sermons 1-32 (CPL 1711; PL, lxxvi, 1075-1230) of 40, lacking all or part of sermons 22-25 and sermons 29-30.
The Homilies on the Gospels of Pope Gregory I (c.540-604) were among the most widely read and most greatly venerated texts of the Middle Ages. Delivered to the people of Rome during 590 and 591, soon after Gregory's election to the papacy, these sermons on the gospel readings for Sundays and feast days represent his only surviving public liturgical preaching. As such, they reflect his belief that teaching was one of the first duties of a bishop. Unlike his Homilies on Ezechiel and the Moralia in Job, which were delivered to monastic audiences, the Homilies on the Gospels are pastoral talks in which the exposition of the scriptures was more direct and less allegorical. To make the sermons more accessible to the common hearer, Gregory illustrated dogma with numerous examples drawn from life. Thus the texts also preserve significant anecdotes about Gregory himself and about the upheavals to which Rome and Italy were subject in his time.
According to Gregory's preface, addressed to Bishop Secundinus of Taormina, he himself preached the first 20 homilies before the people. The second 20, however, were composed by the pope and read by a notary, while Gregory was suffering from a stomach ailment which kept him from public speaking. After the sermons had been delivered, Gregory revised them and deposited a copy of the final version of the text in the papal archives, but he noted that already imperfect copies, transcribed by hearers, had been in circulation. The Homilies on the Gospels were copied many times during the Middle Ages, and survive in more than 400 manuscripts. Portions of them were also taken into the liturgy as readings in the Breviary. The present manuscript, carefully written and accented for reading aloud, was undoubtedly produced for use in a monastic community.