Experts gather to debate rare ancient manuscript

Textus RoffensisA priceless manuscript believed to have influenced the authors of the celebrated Magna Carta is to be shown to the public.

The historic Textus Roffensis, written by a monk of St Andrew’s Priory in Rochester in the 12th century, will be exhibited in Rochester Cathedral Crypt from July 26-28 for the first time in six years.

It will also be the focus of a three-day conference, organised by the University of Kent in Medway to coincide with the display.

Textus Roffensis is made up of two books bound together some time after 1300; the first containing one of the most important surviving collections of Anglo-Saxon laws, and the second, the oldest of Rochester Cathedral’s registers.

It was viewed as so significant in its day it influenced the barons who wrote the Magna Carta – one of the most celebrated documents in history.

The Magna Carta required King John to accept to be bound by the law, and protected certain rights of the King’s subjects.

Written in 1123 AD, the manuscript – which goes by the full name of Textus de Ecclesia Roffensi per Ernulphum episcopum, translated as ‘The Book of the Church of Rochester through Bishop Ernulf’ – has survived numerous thefts, the dissolution of monasteries, a civil war, two word wars and a dip in the River Medway.

During the conference, organised by Professor Sir Robert Worcester, chancellor of the University of Kent, scholars will look at the context of the creation of the document.

They will address the language of its texts; English laws and their legal, political and cultural agendas; the relationship of the Church and royal Government; and the legacy of the book.

Kenneth Fincham, professor of early modern history and head of the university’s school of history, said: “Textus Roffensis holds some of the most significant texts issued by England’s various early medieval kingdoms going back to the laws of King Ethelbert of Kent.”

Professor Sir Robert Worcester said: “This is the first occasion where scholars of medieval history and others who study the importance of this period have gathered anywhere in the world specifically to exchange knowledge about the role of the Textus Roffensis in the history of England.

“It can be argued that the history of England began in Kent over 1400 years ago.

“The arrival in 597 of St Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory, with the mission to introduce the pagan people of Kent and nearby kingdoms not only to Christianity but also to written history; the mission and letters were directed at King Ethelbert to the people of Kent in their own language, Cantwara.

“Before he died in around 617 he equipped his subjects with a codified statement of law, the first surviving text of any type written by, as well as for, Englishmen.”

For further information on the conference go to www.kent.ac.uk/history/Events/textusroffensis.html

Source: Kent News

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