Gregory's Dialogues


Initial F at the beginning of Book II is in the best Merovingian style. St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 214 f. 11r.

The passage here comes from Cod. Sang. 214, a set of fragmentary leaves containing excerpts from the Dialogues of Pope Gregory I the Great (r. 590 – 604). The manuscript was probably written around 700 in northeastern France. The scribe used a script based on the notoriously unfriendly Merovingian chancery script, primarily used in documents in the post-Roman Merovingian kingdoms that included much of what is now France and Western Germany. In the text, derived from New Roman Cursive, many letter pairs are combined and reoriented in elaborate ligatures; letter forms can be compressed, elaborated, or elongated; and words are sometimes abbreviated or spelled with non-standard orthography. Chancery script (and other Merovingian scripts influenced by it) would ultimately be replaced by Caroline miniscule, the basis of many aspects of Latin alphabets now in use and so much friendlier to modern readers.

Written at Rome in 593 and 594, the Dialogues describe the lives of holy men and women and discuss heaven, hell, purgatory, and the state of the soul after death. The entire second book, part of which you will transcribe, is devoted to the life of St. Benedict of Nursia, himself about a generation removed from Gregory. Gregory states, following hagiographic convention, that his information comes from disciples and followers of Benedict who were in a position to know. Benedict is particularly known as the founder of the great monastery of Monte Cassino and for creating the Rule of Benedict as a guide for monastic life. Portions of the Dialogues survive from four probably Merovingian manuscripts, and the writings of Gregory the Great were especially popular during the period.

The speaker, either Gregorius or Petrus, is indicated in red ink in this manuscript.


Jake Purcell: Ad fontes, Transcription Exercise: Gregory's Dialogues, CC-BY-NC, URL: