Central Italy (Tuscany), beginning of the 12th century
parchment; 570 x 398 mm; fols. i + 285 + i
The two volumes of the Bible of Santa Maria del Fiore (Edili 125–6) are extraordinary examples of monumental or ‘giant’ Bibles, as they have been dubbed in academic circles. It is unknown who commissioned the manuscript, but it has been documented among the codices in the sacristy of Florence Cathedral since at least 1418; it remained there until 1778, when it was transferred to the Biblioteca Laurenziana. The complex ornamentation of the Bible—which follows a precise functional hierarchy and contains decorated pages, illustrated pages, free figures in the columns of texts, and historiated and figured initials—parallels iconographic solutions (a youthful version of God the Father) found in giant Bibles from Rome (e.g. the Pantheon Bible, Vat. Lat. 12958; the Santa Cecilia Bible, Barb. Lat. 587; the Todi Bible, Vat. Lat. 10405; the Bible now in Perugia, Biblioteca Comunale Augusta, MS L 59), the fresco cycles at San Giovanni a Porta Latina in Rome and San Pietro in Valle in Ferentillo (Terni), and French, English, Spanish and even Oriental pictorial models. According to Timothy Chasson (1979), however, what distinguishes the illustrative cycle of this Bible is its repetition of the motifs of the ‘fall’ of man and ‘anointment’, i.e. sin on the one hand and legitimate sacerdotal consecration on the other. Therefore, its iconographic programme parallels the reforms promoted by Pope Gregory VII (1073–85) and his successors. Its complexity has led to the assumption that there was “an author—the patron, a theological counsellor or supervisor—who oriented the choices of those who executed it” and who may have been connected with the milieu of the Florentine cathedral in the early 12th century (Le Bibbie atlantiche 2000, 278). The manuscript is open at fol. 212r, with miniatures depicting the vision and stoning of Jeremiah, and the initials of the Prologue and the Book of Jeremiah.