The archive of the Montecassino Abbey, the religious community founded by St. Benedict in the 6th century that was the hub of medieval monastic life, boasts the invaluable Rabanus Maurus Cassinese manuscript, which was produced at Montecassino during the time of Abbot Theobald (1022-35) and contains the great encyclopedic dictionary De Universo, or De rerum naturis, which Rabanus Maurus (780-865), a monk from Fulda who became Bishop of Mainz, wrote in the 9th century, at the zenith of the Carolingian epoch.
This large-size codex (49x35 cm) consists of 530 pages in Beneventan script and splendidly illustrated with over 360 miniatures with lively figures and colours. However, the true importance of the codex goes beyond its high artistic worth, since De Universo is one of the leading medieval encylopedias and the first one compiled after two centuries of silence, that is, after St. Isidore of Seville's Etymologies.
And although Rabanus drew inspiration from this latter work, De Universo surpasses it for the grandiosity of its concepts and its noble aim of spreading knowledge. In fact, the work is like an immense library of knowledge that covers the entire Middle Ages, a combination and cross-section of various aspects: the historical and biblical tradition of the Church, books and culture, the animal and plant worlds, descriptions of human life, the nature of the soul and body, monsters and miracles, celestial phenomena and the calculation of time, weights and measures, minerals and metals, the organisation of states, music, medicine, agriculture, the science of war, manual labour, diet, everyday tools and objects.
There is no facet of the Middle Ages that is not discussed in this encyclopedia, which mirrors the entire civilisation of the time. Furthermore, the miniatures, which illustrate every subject in marvellous scenes, faithfully follow the style and aim of the text, making the codex a grand fresco of the universal order.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "De Universo De Rerum Naturis Rabano Mauro ": De Universo De Rerum Naturis Rabano Mauro facsimile edition, published by Priuli & Verlucca, editori, 1994