City of God


This codex of Saint Augustine’s De civitate dei (City of God) is from the Plutei Collection of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence. The volume is bound in red morocco leather with the Medici coat of arms at the center and on each corner of the front cover. It has an illuminated page (recto of folio 11) and a number of illuminated initial capital letters (e.g., recto of folio 31). Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430) wrote more than 100 works, of which his Confessiones (Confessions) and De civitate dei are the best known. In De civitate dei, Augustine set out to refute the pagan claim that the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths in 410, an event that profoundly shook the Roman world, was caused by the rise of Christianity. The fundamental problem that Augustine grappled with is the spiritual church in a secular world: the city of God in the city of this world. The Plutei Collection consists of the approximately 3,000 manuscripts and books from the private holdings of the Medici family, which, bound in red leather with the Medici coat of arms, were arranged on the benches of the Laurenziana when the library first opened to the public in 1571. Cosimo de’ Medici (1389−1464) is known to have owned 63 books in 1417−18, which grew to 150 by the time of his death. His sons Piero (1416−69) and Giovanni (1421−63) vied with each other in commissioning illuminated manuscripts. Lorenzo il Magnifico (1449−92), son of Piero, acquired a great number of Greek codices and, starting in the 1480s, ordered copies of all texts lacking in the library with the aim of transforming the Medici library into an important center of research. Following the expulsion of the Medici from Florence in 1494, the books were taken from the family. Giovanni de’ Medici, elected Pope Leo X in 1513, restored the collection to the Medici, and another Medici pope, Clement VII (Giulio de' Medici), organized the establishment of the Laurenziana.

Last updated: January 8, 2018