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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Codex Macedoniensis

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Codex Macedoniensis is a 9th century Byzantine manuscript of the four Gospels written in a Greek uncial script. Its text is incomplete due to the loss of its first few quires and several of its leaves. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>What we know of the place of origin of the manuscript is based on the testimony of a Greek scholar at the end of the nineteenth century who claimed to have seen it described as "of Eikosifoinissa", refering to a monastery located in the Pangaion mountains, in northern Greece, but which was geographically considered as being a part of Macedonia. That monastery is likely to be the place of origin of the manuscript, or at least its early home. After acquiring it in 1900 in that area, the English Quaker minister Joseph Bevan Braithwaite gave it the name "Codex Macedoniensis".</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The entire text of the four Gospels was copied by a single scribe in a late uncial script representative of ninth-century liturgical books. At a time when the Greek minuscule hand was already dominating the Byzantine manuscript world, the 9th and 10th century witnessed a persistence of the uncial in service books because its larger, unligatured and easily readable letters proved convenient for public reading. The addition of accents and breathings in continuous uncial texts, as in our manuscript, would also prove helpful to the reader in separating the words more easily, and thus gaining some fluency when reading out loud. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The same scribe also provided a list of contents at the beginning of each Gospel in order to help the readers searching for a specific passage, along with very short informative texts which were meant to shed light on the apostolic origin of the following Gospel and explaining where, when and by whom it was written: those are called <i>hypotheses</i>.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The text of Codex Macedoniensis was abundantly provided with rubrics which can be divided into three different kinds. Firstly, the title headings present in the top margins refer to the <i>kephalaia</i>, that is to say, the chapter divisions of the Gospels which were in use in most of Christian Europe before the development of modern chapter divisions. Each of those title headings consists of one number and one short sentence summarising the episode it refers to. The tables of contents preceding each Gospels list these <i>kephalaia</i>. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Secondly, the Eusebian section numbers, which are indicated in the side margins, refer to smaller divisions of the text of the Gospels which started being used in late Antiquity. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Thirdly, the contemporary lection notes added in the side margins refer to lessons taken from the text of the Gospels which were read during the daily offices. Each lection note is composed of two elements: an indication of the occasion in the liturgical year the lesson was to be read and a short mention of the subject of the passage in question. Within the text, some marks indicate to the reader where the reading should start and end. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Codex Macedoniensis is a the witness to a period when uncial Gospel manuscripts tended not to be used solely as continuous and linear texts any more; they started to become fully equipped with apparatus so that they could function as lectionaries. In fact, the 9th century also witnessed the development of lectionaries proper, which eventually proved more convenient to find the desired lessons, since the whole organisation of their content followed the liturgical calendar and was not any more subject to the continuity and linearity of the text of the Gospels. That is why, in most Byzantine monasteries, the lectionary was often preferred to the continuous Gospel manuscript. Still, despite the rise of that kind of service book, many monasteries in the Byzantine world persisted in using Gospel books during the mass if they were sufficiently equipped with lection notes to make them suitable for daily lessons. The Codex Macedoniensis is an example of such a liturgical Gospel manuscript.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The codex is decorated with refined ornaments on the incipit page of each Gospel. They mostly comprise red-ink headpieces that encircle the Gospel headings. They are largely typical of the ornaments found in Byzantine Gospel books. In particular, the title heading of the Gospel of Mark is enclosed by an ornamental <i>pyle</i> (meaning 'gate'), a <i>pi</i>-shaped (Π) headpiece very commonly used in the Byzantine Biblical manuscripts (<a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(161);return false;'>81r</a>). Moreover, the presence of gold embellishing the ornaments of the incipit pages suggests that this was a codex of rather high standing.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>As far as the textual of the manuscript is concerned, Kirsopp Lake pointed out that this codex (refered to as 'Y') is related to the Π family of New Testament manuscripts. (see: Lake S., <i>Family Π and the Codex Alexandrinus: The Text according to Mark</i> (London: Christophers, 1936), p. 57)</p>Clément Malgonne

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