Queens’ MS 14
Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430), De Civitate Dei
England, first half of the twelfth century
This image: Beginning of Book XI, De Civitate Dei.
Written in Latin by Augustine of Hippo (modern-day Annaba, Algeria) in the fifth century, De Civitate Dei contra Paganos [The City of God Against the Pagans] is a book of Christian philosophy that sought to contest the then widely held belief that the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 was due to the rise of Christianity and abandonment of the disgruntled Roman gods. As a work of one of the most influential Church Fathers, De Civitate Dei became a cornerstone of Western Christian thought, addressing some key theological issues such as the existence of evil, the conflict between free will and divine omniscience, and the doctrine of original sin.
The page on display is the beginning of Book XI, which comments on creation in Genesis 1 and describes how the two cities (Earthly [Rome] and Heavenly [City of God]) mirror the division of the angels into good and evil. The manuscript has a table of contents and marginal signs throughout marking chapters and key passages. The importance and familiarity of this text to its intended readers is indicated by the fact that this copy is both a huge and heavy volume with large script, but also uses a high number of abbreviations. Evidently originating from the same monastic source as the Psalm Commentaries of Gilbert of Poitier (Queens’ MS 18), this volume is bound in seal skin of the twelfth century, and was given to Queens’ by Francis Tyndall in the early 1630s.
On the final flyleaf a scribbled seventeenth-century note says, ‘John come kyss me now my mother is to London gon the / in mi the Wyef of Sth pleaseth it youe to vnderstond that peter / yf I could wright I wold not be ydle as hitherto I haue bynne.’