Codex Trecensis - Pastoral Rule of Gregory the Great

Codex Trecensis - Pastoral Rule of Gregory the Great – SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo – Ms. 504 – Médiathèque d'Agglomération Troyenne (Troyes, France)

Probably Rome (Italy) — About 600

The rules, tasks, duties, and obligations of the clergy: the oldest surviving manuscript of the influential Pastoral Rule by Pope Gregory the Great, written in accurate uncial script

  1. Pope Gregory I (r. 590–604) was a more prolific writer than any of his predecessors

  2. He wrote his treatise on the responsibilities of the clergy ca. 590, shortly after his election

  3. It enjoyed widespread popularity and was translated into Greek as well as Anglo-Saxon

Codex Trecensis - Pastoral Rule of Gregory the Great

Ms. 504 Médiathèque d'Agglomération Troyenne (Troyes, France)
  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Codex Trecensis - Pastoral Rule of Gregory the Great

Dating from ca. 600, this manuscript contains the oldest known version of Pope Gregory the Great ‘s Liber Regulae Pastoralis or The Book of the Pastoral Rule, commonly known in English as Pastoral Care. It was originally written by the sainted pontiff ca. 590, shortly after his papal election, and was later revised by him. Pastoral Care became one of the most influential works concerning the responsibilities of the clergy that was ever written and was widely distributed – the book was translated into Greek at the behest of the Eastern Roman Emperor Maurice and was translated into Anglo-Saxon by King Alfred the Great himself. The oldest surviving manuscript containing the full revised text was written in uncial script without breaks between words and is adorned by initials in red, green, and yellow.

Codex Trecensis – Pastoral Rule of Gregory the Great

Counted among the most important figures in the development of Christianity, Pope Gregory I (ca. 540–604) was a more prolific author than any pope to have come before him and wrote one of the most influential and widely celebrated works concerning the priesthood and its responsibilities. Although highly praised, many contemporaries felt Gregory set the bar too high in terms of the personal, intellectual, and moral standards he expected from the common parish priest. Nonetheless, the Liber Regulae Pastoralis was quickly disseminated from the Eastern Mediterranean to the British Isles. Originally, the text was written by Gregory as a response to a query by Bishop John of Ravenna. The commonly used title is derived from a letter written by Gregory when he sent a copy to his friend Saint Leander of Seville (ca. 534–600/601).

A Vastly Influential Work

In contrast to the typical image of the so-called “Dark Ages”, there was actually a network of monasteries and scriptoria that allowed the Regulae to be copied and spread to virtually every corner of Christendom within 10 years of Gregory writing it. After personally reading a copy, the Byzantine Emperor Maurice (539-602) ordered that the work be translated into Greek and had copies sent to every bishop in the Empire. Gregory’s work stands alone among the Latin works of the period deemed worthy enough to be translated into Greek. It was equally popular in the West and was brought to the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Kent by Augustine (d. 604), the first Archbishop of Canterbury, in 597 as part of a mission commissioned by Gregory. As part of a project to improve education in Anglo-Saxon England, King Alfred the Great (848/849–899) personally translated the work into Old English and described both his methods and rationale behind the project in a preface. The work appears to have been adopted by the bishops of the Frankish Empire after a series of councils in 813 and continued to be regarded as the most essential guide for priests across Europe for centuries to come.

Created in Gregory’s Lifetime

Among the numerous copies of Pastoral Care that survive today, the oldest is believed to be a manuscript originating from Rome ca. 600 when Gregory was still pope and is stored today in the Troyes Public Library under the shelf mark MS 504. Not only does it contain the full revised text, but it is also one of the oldest complete manuscripts in existence. It was written in an unbroken uncial script, about 25 lines per page, which is adorned with red, green, and yellow initials. The initials exhibit characteristics from Insular illumination and are similar to the opening initial of the so-called Bobbio Jerome, which was created by Hiberno-Scottish monks in Northern Italy about 20 years earlier. Although the first three lines written in red ink have faded, the black ink remains clearly legible. The manuscript is a precious relic not only of Christian theology but of the manuscript tradition at the end of Late Antiquity.

Saint Gregory the Great

Gregory was the son of a Roman senator and served as prefect of Rome at the age of 30. He also lived for years in a monastery for years and became the first pope from a monastic background. This combination of a proper theological education and experience with politics and as an administrator made for an exceptional pope who expanded the authority of the papacy to Spain and France, send missionaries to England, and convinced the Franks, Lombards, and Visigoths to abandon Arian Christianity in favor of Rome’s teachings. Known throughout the Middle Ages as “the Father of Christian Worship”, today he is regarded as a saint in Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, as well as many Protestant denominations and is counted as one of the Latin Fathers and a Doctor of the Church. Gregory is the patron saint of musicians, singers, students, and teachers. Even John Calvin (1509–64), who did not believe in the veneration of saints, declared Gregory to be the last good pope.


Alternative Titles
Codex Trecensis - Pastoralregel von Gregor dem Großen
Codex Trecensis
La Regola pastorale di Gregorio Magno
La Règle pastorale de Grégoire le GrandCodex trecensis
Liber pastoralis S. Gregorii papa
Size / Format
312 pages / 28.9 × 22.0 cm
About 600
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Codex Trecensis - Pastoral Rule of Gregory the Great – SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo – Ms. 504 – Médiathèque d'Agglomération Troyenne (Troyes, France)
SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo – Florence, 2005
Facsimile Editions

#1 Codex Trecensis: la "Regola Pastorale" di Gregorio Magno

SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo – Florence, 2005

Publisher: SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo – Florence, 2005
Commentary: 1 volume by Bruno Judic, Armando Petrucci, Franca Nardelli, Giovanni Orlandi and Paolo Chiesa
Languages: French, Italian, Latin
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. The pages are represented on a larger white background. The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €
(under 1,000€)
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