Opening to the Gospel of John and the Punishment of Arius
From the Bible of Stephen Harding
Cîteaux, France; 1109
Bibliothèque Municipale, Dijon, MS 15
The striking fusion of line and painted color that is a hallmark of many of the finest decorated manuscripts from the monastery at Cîteaux, near Dijon, has long been attributed to the influence of Stephen Harding, an Englishman, who became its third abbot. The work is part of a multivolume Bible created at Cîteaux during Harding’s leadership. It was meant to be a standard scholarly work confirmed against original texts for accuracy. Line drawings in the manuscript are both fanciful interpretations of the accompanying text and reflections of theological debates conducted at the monastery. Here, a centaur’s body curves to form the opening letters of the holy words, an elegant nod to the classical world. Another illustration depicts the punishment of the heretic Arius, whose eyes are picked out by an eagle representing the textual authority of John.