Every spring, when, as Chaucer has it, people feel compelled to go on pilgrimages, lecturers and advanced students of Medieval English Studies at Göttingen embark on a manuscript excursion to Vercelli, Italy. The archdiocese of Vercelli is particularly famous for its excellent archives, the Archivio e Biblioteca Capitolare, where many rare original manuscripts from the Middle Ages can be found. Among the precious manuscripts are Lombard laws, Bible fragments such as the Saint Eusebius gospel fragment from the fourth century, and, most importantly for Medieval English Studies, the Vercelli Book. The Vercelli Book, dating back to the tenth century, is one of four major collections of Old English poetry, but it contains 23 prose homilies as well. In the archives, students have the opportunity to work with the original manuscripts and to gain hands-on experience by transcribing, identifying, dating, and analysing the texts.
In addition to the work in the archives, a comprehensive cultural program organised by Prof. Rudolf and the curator, Dr. Timoty Leonardi, provides a deep insight into the historical and cultural backgrounds of Piedmont, Lombardy, and the manuscripts there preserved. The programme regularly includes day trips to Pavia, where the tombs of both Boethius and (allegedly) St Augustine of Hippo can be found, the Bibioteca Nazionale in Turin, where the students work with medieval manuscripts and illuminations from Ireland, and, not least, the sights of Vercelli itself, such as the Cattedrale di Sant' Eusebio with its silver crucifix.
Our students and staff agree that the Vercelli excursion is a fabulous experience. The SEP will continue its collaboration with the Vercelli Archives in the future.
Please enjoy the below impressions from our 2012 Vercelli outing (click image to play):