World’s oldest Latin Bible returns to Britain after 1300 years

Codex Amiatinus Bible

The world’s oldest-known Latin-written Bible is to return to Britain after a more than 1300-year hiatus.

The Codex Amiatinus is a historic, revered treasure of the Anglo-Saxon world, written by in 716 by monks at Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery, in Northumbria. The famed Christian scholar St Bede is believed to have been involved in the work, commissioned by Abbot Ceolfrith.


The manuscript was one of only three produced, and is the earliest complete copy of Jerome’s historic and influential Latin Vulgate Bible – the authoritative text that shaped Christian theology and debate for millennia.

The Bible – weighing in at more than 75lb – was a gift for Pope Gregory II, for whom it was carried off to Rome. It spent time in both Tuscany and then Florence, where it has been at the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana since 1786. The Florentine library agreed to lend the Codex to the British Library for its 2018 Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition, enabling a long-awaited return. Despite its impressive historic import, the treasure remains unknown to many today beyond academia.

‘It is the earliest surviving complete Bible in Latin. It has never been back to Britain in 1,302 years but it is coming back for this exhibition. It is very exciting,’ said Claire Breay, the British Library’s exhibition curator, according to The Guardian.

She added: ‘I’ve been to see it once and it is unbelievable. Even though I’d read about it and seen photographs, when you actually see the real thing … it is a wonderful, unbelievably impressive manuscript.’