Illuminated Manuscripts - ILLUSTRATED HISTORIES

A famous historical murder took place in 12th-century England when four of King Henry II’s knights murdered Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. This image, circa 1220, depicts the earliest-known portrayal of that event (which occurred on 29 December 1170 at Canterbury Cathedral). The original—captioned "Martyrdom of Thomas Becket"—was once part of a psalter and is now maintained at the British Library where it is referenced as: “Harley MS 5102, f. 32.”


National histories, created in the Middle Ages, not only chronicled the exploits of kings and subjects, they featured beautiful pictures which illustrated the text.

  • The Villani Chronicle, about the history of Florence, features illuminations on parchment. Pictures include the Conquests of Fiesole and Carmignano.  Located at the Vatican Library.

  • When the Jewish people left Egyptian captivity, their leader was Moses. The Peszach Haggada depicts a scene of Jews, with Moses, wandering in the desert. The people in the picture are wearing Oriental clothing.  Located at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest.

  • Sometime in the 13th century, after 1272, the Chronicle Roll of the Kings of England was created to depict the monarchs.  Located at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

  • In the 14th century, it was believed that French people had Trojan origins. That legend is reflected in scenes from the Great Chronicle of France (created for Charles V) which portray the siege of Troy.  Located at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris.

  • An Illuminated Chronicle about the history of Hungary includes stories, traditions and legends of 14th century Hungarian life. One of its illustrations depicts the Capture of Gyula.  Located at the National Library, Budapest.

  • Livy, the Roman historian, chronicled many events of Rome including its legendary founding by Romulus and Remus. The title page of a 15th century copy of his history portrays events mentioned in the book, including (on the lower right) a picture of Romulus, Remus and the wolf.  Located at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich.

  • In the first century B.C., Curtius Rufus (another Roman historian) wrote a history of Alexander the Great. Remaining fragments of that history were copied on to parchment in the 15th century. The title page of this Deeds of Alexander the Great once belonged to Giovanni Matteo Butigella.  Located at the National Library, Budapest.
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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2001

Updated Last Revision: Jul 09, 2019

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"ILLUSTRATED HISTORIES" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 01, 2001. Feb 26, 2020.
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