The final leaf of a glossed copy of Boethius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae made at Abingdon Abbey c.1000 bears an elaborate compass-drawn labyrinth in red ink. Within its winding paths, the labyrinth contains an acrostic poem on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. While previous studies have focused on its significance for understanding the Anglo-Saxon cult of the Virgin, this talk asks different questions of the poem: why was it written in the shape of a labyrinth, and why in this particular manuscript? What follows is an exploration of medieval labyrinth imagery and ideas of meditative ascent, revealing the role of art and reading in the labyrinthine quest for spiritual consolation.
Eleanor Jackson is Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library. She completed her PhD at the History of Art Department at the University of York in 2017, with her thesis focusing on Insular pocket gospel books.
Organised by Dr Alixe Bovey (The Courtauld)