Middle Ages

Discover curated content about the Middle Ages

The Art of Reading in the Middle Ages

Let's take a journey in this online exhibition through society of medieval Europe to discover the rich palette in which reading manifested.

colour medieval illustration of a man in blue robes who sits at a desk

A journey through society of medieval Europe to discover how reading manifested

A scene from the New Testament in the centre: Christ rises from his tomb on the third day. The scene on the right: the prophet Jonah is thrown onto land after three days in the belly of the whale.

Beginning of our journey


Chapter on monastic life and reading culture

Two medieval knights fighting on horseback

Chapter on courts and court culture


Chapter on reading culture in medieval cities

Illuminated initial on a manuscript page

Chapter on development of reading in European national languages

Manuscript illustration of a man reading a book to a group of people

Chapter on circulation of manuscripts in the Middle Ages


Chapter on reading culture in medieval universities

Read the full exhibition


Stories on monastic life

Article de blog

Melodic notation for the public recitation of the Bible in mass

Detail of a manuscript with a miniature scene of St. Pachomius receiving the monastic rule from an angel

Explore this gallery of monastic rules and similar formative texts

Artist’s impression of daily life at Charlemagne’s Court. The room is full of people immersed in conversation with each other. King is sitting in the middle looking at some documents and listening to an adviser. Three clerics, recognizable by their white pallium, can be spotted, advising the king and teaching the youth.
Article de blog

Monastic annals and the evolution of medieval historiography

A modern-day example of a monastic refectory of St. Paul's Abbey in Oosterhout (the Netherlands).
Article de blog

Nourishment for body and soul

Cropped image of Saint Benedict. In one hand he holds the staff with the holy water brush, in the other hand a Bible with a chalice
Article de blog

6th century guide for communal religious life adopted by several monastic orders

Article de blog

Different habits of medieval readers


The Bible is not so much one book, as it's a collection of texts. Explore this gallery of its different books.

Historiated initial 'O' with Jerome writing, at the beginning of the Sentences. Image taken from f. 1 of Patristic excerpts. Written in Latin.

A gallery of theologians and clergymen whose teachings were formative in establishing early Christian doctrine

Read more stories about monasteries


Stories connected with medieval court culture

Article de blog

What coins where used in the Middle Ages and how far they travelled

Detail of a medieval miniature showing a woman (Erythraea) writing a scroll.

Female literacy during the Middle Ages was surprisingly high and many women encouraged reading and learning.

Illuminated initial and a miniature of a group of knights
Article de blog

Exploring the Manuscript Collection of Louis of Bruges

Detail of a miniature of Charlemagne at a table receiving a letter
Article de blog

How the Frankish noble family helped popularise and standardise written text as we know it now


Gallery with medieval coins

Article de blog

The 12th century saw a literary revolution in Europe

Detail of an historiated initial 'D'(efunctus) of two clerics with a book and a cross standing by a bier, with six candles in the background.

Desktops, books carousels, lamps and candles were helpful when reading or writing in the Middle Ages.

Article de blog

Learn about this very popular and controversial poem, a medieval guide to love.

Read more stories on medieval court culture


Stories on city life in the Middle Ages

A decorated initial with images of flowers and animals, next to the calligraphed text of the manuscript 'Trojanerkrieg' by Konrad von Würzburg
Article de blog

Discover how 15th-century scribe advertised his products in the medieval mansucripts

Johannes Gutenberg looks at a freshly printed sheet. The printer, a man in an apron, and a young man are watching him. On the right a workbench with tools, possibly used for making the type.
Article de blog

How the page layout evolved during the early years of the printed book

Article de blog

Books in 13th century

Article de blog

How a manuscript can indicate its readership

Illustration from The Book of the City of Ladies (Le Livre de la Cité des Dames) depicting two scenes. In the first scene, on the left side, a woman (the author) sits at the desk with books on it; in front of her, three women (three Virtues) are standing wearing crowns. In the second scene, on the right side, the female author is helping one of the Virtues (called Lady Reason) build the external walls of the titular City of Ladies.
Article de blog

Learn about 13th century female semi-religious orders who created and transmitted vernacular literature

Aristotle among his students. Miniature on the first leaf of Oresme’s translation of Aristotle’s Ethics, in a late 15th-century manuscript
Article de blog

Faculty of arts and university life in the Middle Ages

Engraving of writers Virgilius, Cicero and Seneca talking to each other
Article de blog

Rhetorical and philosophical teaching of Marcus Tullius Cicero

An assembly of women reading, in 'L'Épître Othéa'.
Article de blog

Different reading practices in the Middle Ages

Read more stories about life in medieval cities

Educational resources

Videos, learning scenarios and worksheets for educators

Still frame from a video discussing medieval manuscripts. Two hands holding a very small codex positioned just above a large manuscript book. Both books have detailed calligraphy.
Article de blog

Join 8 show-and-tell sessions exploring unique artefacts in the reading room of the Leiden University Library

Page from a book inventory with text in Latin

What book inventories tell us about reading in monasteries: The 11th century book inventory of Corbie

The seven liberal arts, depicted as women, with Philosophy at the top, carrying a sceptre. Folium from a 13th-century manuscript (Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, cod. 12538, fol. 12r).

The medieval manuscript, the book market, Paris as important center for book trade, book makers, sellers and consumers

détail d’une enluminure de manuscrit où deux personnes drapées de vêtements sophistiqués discutent en gesticulant

The first printed books, the book market, book makers, sellers and consumers

More resources related to the manuscripts and the culture of the Middle Ages (s'ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre)

Discover manuscript collections


The book of hours is a Christian devotional book used to pray the canonical hours

Masterworks from the main abbeys and bishop schools of the Carolingian Empire (8th-9th centuries)

Kalendar von 1526 : Ms. germ. oct. 9

Manuscripts from Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

Medieval monastic manuscripts from Bruges Public Library

Manuscripts from Leiden University Libraries

Page from an old manuscript

Medieval manuscripts from Národní knihovna České republiky

Newly digitised manuscripts from Bibliothèque nationale de France

Manuscripts from National and University Library of Slovenia

See more medieval manuscripts

Discover other collections

Gold coin with fleur-de-lis

Flat, usually round, piece of material used as a medium of exchange to facilitate trade


Early printed materials

Ceremonial headdress or headgear worn by bishops or abbots. Thin silver gilt on a leather backing, to support a large amount of jewels, semiprecious stones, seed pearls and precious stones. Silver-gilt bands reinforce the sides for the gilt plates holding the jewels and stones.

Diverse medieval objects in 3D from the Hunt Museum

Detail of a miniature of Christine de Pizan in her study at the beginning of the 'Cent balades'.

Poet and court writer for King Charles VI of France and several French dukes.


One of Ancient Rome's greatest poets, whose work work has had wide influence on Western literature


Eastern Roman Emperor who ruled from 527 to 565 (482-565)


French-speaking medieval author and court historian


Burgundian saint, abbot and theologian (1090-1153)