Gregory the Great (c. 540-604) was the first monk on St. Peter's Chair (590) and one of the most outstanding popes ever. In the time of natural disasters and threatening invasions, he exhorted Christians to keep the power of the soul in mind. His literacy found its expression in strikingly clear and coherent writing, which was not simply to be understood literally, but also metaphorically. The large decorative initial L in the lower section of the first column opens Gregory's commentary on St. John's Gospel, chapter 21, wherein the risen Christ reveals himself to his disciples by the lake of Tiberias. The initial is placed on a bright red ground, its body formed by intricate, yellow bands, filled in with ornamented bars in blue and red. The centre of this composition is marked by an eight-leaved flower. This type of decoration is characteristic for books originating in northern and central Italy in the 12th century, while the interlacing tendrils point to manuscripts produced in Tuscany at that time: in particular, the style is related to the work of the Masters of the Pluteus Bible (Florence, Bibl. Laurenziana, Plut. 15.13) and of the Corbolinus Master (Florence, Bibl. Laurenziana, Conv. Soppr. 630).
Read more about this artwork in our blog post.