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Divining the Message

Manuscripts shed new light on life in mediaeval Italy

They’ve been described as heavenly, but rare historical manuscripts are giving researchers new insights into the religious and liturgical life in Southern Italy during medieval times. The manuscripts, copied in a script named after the Italian town of Benevento, are known for their bold script and breathtaking illustrations. Researchers at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies have amassed 1,500 of the 2,500 known manuscripts over the past 20 years, making U of T the world leader of Beneventan study. “It’s important to study these books because liturgy – the rituals for public worship – was essential to the way people of this time period lived,” says Prof. Roger Reynolds, one of the three team members on the project. “They led their lives around the liturgical seasons and teachings of the church and these religious practices were quite different than in the rest of Europe.” The project is funded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

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