The 7th Century in Europe: Refined Art from Secluded Scriptoria in Times of Religious and Political Power Struggles

This article is Part 3 of our Centuries series. In it, we will begin with the wars between the Byzantines and Persians, examine Byzantine medical knowledge and Greek Fire, and the rising tide of Islam.

We will then turn our attention westward, focusing on the fracturing of political entities across the West during the ongoing Völkerwanderung or migration of Germanic peoples. Finally, the emergence of Insular illumination in the British Isles, in which they would reach their first cultural highpoint. 

Demonstration of a Sample Page

Ashburnham Pentateuch 

Cain and Abel 

The unknown but talented artist has employed three colored strips to illustrate the fratricidal story of Cain and Abel in the manner of a modern comic book. Oxen with blue horns and hooves are depicted pulling plows along with other livestock and crops such as wheat, but so too is the murder of Abel. Cain is confronted by God, whose hand points accusingly at Cain as he raises his arms in guilt.

The first five books of the Old Testament are referred to as the “Pentateuch”, and although this famous codex is missing Deuteronomy, it is historically significant as the oldest Latin translation of the Bible. Although its origins are unclear, it was tremendously influential stylistically and has a splendid color palette of purple, orange, green, and blue.