Civiltà del Po - I codici e le miniature
I codici

The Po Civilization: The minute codices

One of the most important places in the Monastary was the Scriptorium. The Scriptorium was usually a vast environment on the south side of the building with numerous windows that expose the room to as much light as possible. Benedetto wanted his monks to know how to read and write so that they could study and meditate on the word of God. In order to study, the abbey needed to have books; and in this period the printing press has not yet been invented. The copies of books were reproduced by hand. This is why the monks that were responsible for this activity were known as "amanuensi" (from the Italian word "mano" for hand).
The books copied by these friars called "codici" (codices) were made of sheets sewn together. The first books were written on rolled papyrus; later on etched on wax tablets with the "stilo", a pointed tool made from bone, metal or wood. The amanuensi monks copied ancient texts onto parchment sheets for generations.
The parchment, used from the V to the XII centuries, was a type of "paper" made from animal hides (sheep, goats, veal) and treated to render them flat and smooth. The ink used was black, red for the first few lines, the capital letters of the title, green and blue for the initials and finally, gold and silver for the elaborate scrolls used in the religious services.
The monks wrote with a goose feather pen that was sharpened with a knife; while razors were used to scrape and clear off the parchment and a compass to measure the distance between the lines.

La miniatura

The Po civilization: the Miniature

The art of making miniatures is the art of illustrating and decorating manuscript texts. The term "miniare" ( to make minute), actually means to colour in red, and derives from the word minimum with which, during the middle ages indicated cinnabar (mercury sulphate) a vivid red that was used to paint the initials of the ancient codices.
This art form was developed in the late ancient era, in the V century, when codex manuscripts were substituting scrolls on which, antique scripture and literature had been transcribed until then. Development within the courts, but especially within the monasteries, where the friars expert illustrators, transformed books into a precious refined product, these illustrations were important enough to inspire other artists, in tapestry, windows, and later enamels.
The production of minute codices was a long complex operation that required mastery and technical competence of artistic aspects: the work began with the preparation of the pages of parchment (the principal surface for the scripture), then a copier that inserted the text, a chapter notary that wrote in red ink the list of chapter titles, a designer, a miniature painter, a book binder, a silver or gold smith for the ornamented sections of the cover.
The work of the miniature illustrator began after the script copier and chapter notary and this artist illuminated the codex, filling it with priceless colours and gold.

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