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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Ladder of Divine Ascent

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript, dating to the late 10th or early 11th century, is a copy of the <i>Ladder of Divine Ascent</i> by St John "Klimakos" (d. 649), a name meaning John "of the Ladder", confected from the title of this, his principal work. The author was a monk of the Monastery of St Catherine on Mount Sinai, who became a hermit and then served as abbot in his later years. The text is a guide to the ascetic life, organised in thirty chapters presented metaphorically as steps on a ladder and each concerning particular virtues to be developed or vices to be overcome. It became one of the most influential works of spiritual guidance in Orthodox Christianity.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript may be a product of the Greek-speaking communities of southern Italy, since some of its headings have been highlighted with yellow wash, which has also been applied to some of the ornament, a typically western practice not in widespread use in the mainstream of the Byzantine world but often found in south Italian Greek manuscripts. However, this could also be a later addition made in western Europe, since its usefulness in identifying the beginning of sections would have remained applicable at any time. The manuscript seemingly spent some of its later history in Italy, given the presence of an early modern note in Italian on <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(7);return false;'>f. 1r</a>, which wrongly identifies it as a hagiographical book on the deaths of virgin saints.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The text is incomplete at the beginning and end, having lost several quires, while the outermost surviving folios have suffered extensive tears. After this damage was done, the manuscript was repaired with patches reusing parchment from an 11th-century manuscript of St John Chrysostom's homilies on the book of Genesis. These were detached during the manuscript's modern rebinding and bound into the end of the volume. Also at some point after the loss of the final quires, part of a folio from a late 10th or early 11th-century manuscript was reused as an endleaf. This contains part of a text by St Gregory of Nyssa on the birth of Christ, which contains variant readings that have been used in the critical edition of the text.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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