Historic manuscript is saved

A manuscript found in a pile of junk on top of a cupboard at St Peter’s Church dates back to the 15th century.

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Bexhill Manuscript SUS-150107-113448001Bexhill Manuscript SUS-150107-113448001
Bexhill Manuscript SUS-150107-113448001

The illustrated manuscript, rescued by Deacon Olivia Owerrett, is a single page, written on both sides in Latin.

She said: “I showed it to a member of the congregation, Stuart Hughes, whom I knew had an interest in Latin inscriptions.

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“He took it to the British Library and also consulted the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. I also sent photographs to my academic friends in Amsterdam who agreed with the assessments of the British scholars.

“As a result, we now know that it is an extract from a mediaeval Latin Mass, written on vellum, which can be dated to the early or middle 15th century (about the time of or just earlier than Richard III in England).

“The style of the writing and the illustrations suggest, we are told, that it was produced in south Germany or Bavaria. Stuart has made an initial translation of the Latin, which will be on display at St. Peter’s church during our Patronal Festival at the end of June.

“This is a fascinating discovery which gives rise to all sorts of questions. For example, where is the remaining text? Although it was produced in Germany, was it in use, given its quality, at one of the larger monastic houses in Sussex?

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“For instance, we know that Lewes Priory had a large library and there exists an account of the looting of the Priory at the Dissolution of the monasteries.

“Father David, from his interest in art, is delighted by the find and understandably struck particularly by the illustrated initial on the second page; he has been matching it with similar representations in religious art of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.

“This is an exciting new phase in our Church life linking us to our Church forbears and I am sure that others will be amazed by it too.”

The reverse side of the manuscript contains an illuminated D with a small horned figure within it.

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There was speculation that this could be the Devil but it is thought to be Moses, who is sometimes depicted with horns.

The manuscript is available to view in an ongoing exhibition at St Peter’s Church, most days from 10am - 4pm.

Rosie Hore, from the church, said: “It really is worth coming along to see.”

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