Codex Cavensis

“…perhaps the finest manuscript ever penned by a Spanish scribe.” – E. A. Lowe [3, p325]

The Codex Cavensis (aka La Cava Bible, or Biblia de Danila [5, p255) is a Spanish manuscript that has been dated to the late 8th/9th century [1, p537], c.800 [2, p282], and probably mid-9th century or later (based on paleographical reasoning) [3, p328]. It contains the entire Bible [2, p282]. The name of the scribe can be found “after the colophon to the Lamentations of Jeremiah on fol. 166v” and is DANILA SCRIPTOR. Unfortunately, he did not include when he wrote it or where he wrote it [3, p325]. It is currently being held in the Archivio della Badia della Santissima Trinità, Cava de’ Tirreni, Italy [4].

The archive that it’s held in was reportedly founded in 1011 by S. Alferio [6]. When did this archive receive the codex?

“Codex Cavensis has its name from the monastery of La Cava, near Naples, where it is now preserved. Of its history nothing is known, but there seems to be no doubt that it was written in Spain.” [2, p281]

“For all its importance, both textually and palaeographically, the Cavensis remained practically unknown to scholars until the last decades of the last century.” I think that quote by Elias Avery Lowe (1879-1969) was published in 1937. This means that it was not until the early 19th century that any serious attention was given to the manuscript, according to Lowe. He names De Rozan (1822), Angelo Mai, Champollion, (Bishop Bernardo?) D’Aragona, and Ziegler as some of the first scholars who dealt with the manuscript. Jean Mabillon visited the abbey in 1685, but he apparently never saw the Cava Bible. Lowe speculates that possibly the monks were keeping quiet about it or that it hadn’t yet reached South Italy. [3, p326]. A fuller list of literary commentary about this codex is: Ziegler (1876), Berger (1893), Lowe (1937), Ayuso Marazuela (1955-6), Millares Carlo (1963), Fröhlich (1995), Bogaert (2012), Cherubini (2012), and Perriccioli Saggese (2014) [5, p255].

It was in the first half of the 19th century that it was thought to be written in Lombardic script, but that notion was officially replace in 1879 when Cesare Paoli established the Spanish script. On the same page, Lowe explains in a bit of depth the obscurity of where exactly in Spain it was produced [3, p327].

“The later history of the Cavensis, like its origin, seems shrouded in mystery. We do not know when it left Spain, nor under what circumstances.” – E. A. Lowe [3, p329].


12th century? – It is in South Italy. This is based solely on paleographical ground presented by Lowe [3, p329].

19th century – Scholars begin paying attention to it [3, p326].

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[1] – Andrew Edward Breen’s “A General and Critical Introduction to the Study of Holy Scripture” (1897). Accessed 17 July 2020.

[2] – Accessed 21 July 2020.

[3] – Accessed 21 July 2020.

[4] – Accessed 21 July 2020.

[5] – Accessed 21 July 2020.

[6] – Accessed 22 July 2020.

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