The benefit of silence

A medieval illuminated Latin Psalter from the 13th century, sold at Christie’s in December 2022 for GBP 40,000.

Anyone who’s seen an illuminated manuscript from the Middle Ages has also had a glimpse into the drama of the handwritten page. The wild colours, the gilded surfaces, the geometries tempered only by the sacrality of the nomina sacra, or the morphologies of God, the irruptions of the figures coming from and remaining in the margins, the elongations and elucubrations of human imagination taking form in the initials that initiate the reading sequence without consummating the indulgences of the eye, the acrobatics and aerobatics of historiated letters, stories within stories within stories captured by the meekness of a letter or a three-letter word, the blasts into the messiness of information, the anxiety of not knowing what to do with the overload, how to organise and be organised, how to caress the invisible with too much visibility, how to constrain the eternal without abusing or compromising one’s commitment to a God-given life predicated on grace and gratitude. The noise of the living living with the book of one’s existence, but in the silence of the monastery, the scriptorium where the quils alone have the right to break the silence and speak their language of half-understood code, that is the lived-in paradox of the craftsmen and women whose minute gestures told and changed the story of the word made flesh in the flesh of the skin, the ink irrigating the culture by a thousand rivulets, each flowing, struggling, beating against the noise outside the gates, where there is little patience for the gilded page.

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