Perfect Proportions: Anglo-Saxon Style
Hello icon friends,
Next along in the lettering posts is an example of some gorgeous Anglo-Saxon; the magnificent Benedictional of St Aethelwold. The original manuscript is held by the British Library and considered to be one of their greatest treasures: “A Masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon art”.
The images have all been digitised and are available to see through the British Library’s website here. There is a great deal of embellishment on the images but zoom in past all this and have a close look at the way the garments have been painted on the figures in particular the colours, composition and fabric folds – some wonderful examples for iconographers.
This entire book was written by the scribe Godeman for St Æthelwold, Bishop of Winchester from 963-984 and is one of the earliest and most significant surviving examples of the Anglo-Saxon Winchester scriptorium.
Born c AD 909, the aptly named Aethelwold “noble ruler”, was key to the transformation of English religious life. He initiated the reform of the Benedictine Rule which culminated with his written document ‘Regularis Concordia’.
Godeman, the scribe, was a monk at the Old Minster, Winchester. He may have belonged to the group of monks from the Abbey at Abingdon that Æthelwold placed in Winchester Cathedral as part of the renewal of the Benedictine Rule. The artist for the illuminations has not been identified although some scholars attribute these to Godeman too.
Here are just a few examples of the lettering in this manuscript – the British Library is a fantastic resource and there are many good quality images of this Benedictional available to study online.
Having studied as many examples of each of the letters available, here are my attempts to create a painted Anglo Saxon style alphabet which would suit icons which depict Anglo Saxon Saints, or saints contemporary with this period (listed at the end of this post).
I have saved the full set of letters which you can download and save to your desktop as a six page pdf document here: Aethelwold Letters
Thanks for reading and I will leave you with some suggestions for saints which may lend themselves to icons using this script:
Some saints associated directly and indirectly with the manuscript:
St Swithun St Aethelwold St Dunstan St Cuthbert
St Æthelthryth St Benedict St Vedast St Stephen
St Aetheldreda St Edgar St Gregory
St Mary Magdalene St John the Baptist
SOME SAINTS CONTEMPORARY WITH THIS PERIOD
Gaudentius (Radim Gaudentius) born 970 d 1020 Archbishop of Niezno
Firmian d 1020
Heribert of Cologne (Herbert) b 970 d 1021
Herve d 1021
Berward of Hildesheim b 960 d 1022 Bishop of Hildesheim
Theodoric of Orleans b 980 d 1022 Bishop of Orleans
Agatha Hildegard d 1024
Henry II, Holy Roman Emperor b972 d1024
Romauld 952 d1057
Fulbert of Chartres 970—1028 Bishop of Chartres
Elfleda (Ethelfleda) d.1030
963 Athanasius the Athonite buys the island of Kyra-Panagia from the Byzantine noblemen of Constantinople as a dependency of Mount Athos.
969 Olga of Kiev, grandmother of the Grand Prince Vladimir of Kiev
978 Edward the Martyr, King of England, March 18.
988 Dunstan, Abp. of Canterbury, May 19.
980 Translation of the holy relics of Birinus of Dorchester from Winchester to a new shrine, September 4 by St. AEthelwold.