517 – 2017:
CELEBRATING 1500 YEARS
OF VERONA’S CATHEDRAL LIBRARY
After the destruction of the famous libraries in Alexandria and Pergamum, the "Biblioteca Capitolare" (Cathedral Library) in Verona has become the oldest, still-active library of its kind in the world. It originates from the "Schola Sacerdotum Sanctae veronensis Eccleslae", that is, from the Canonical Chapter of Verona Cathedral, which had the dual task of performing church services in the Cathedral as well as providing 'cultural' training for new priests. It is certain that the manuscript-producing function of the Cathedral workshop (Scriptorium) was active on 1st August 517 AD, the date noted down by a scribe-priest in the Chapter Codex, and it was not the oldest among those preserved in the Library, since it was pre-dated by the Institutions of Gaius (the only Roman law text in the world to have survived to this day in almost complete form) as well as by an edition of the De Civitate Dei of St. Augustine, dating back to the author (early 5th century).
Another particularly valuable manuscript is the LXXXIX codex of liturgical prayers, because it contains the so-called 'Veronese Riddle', written in the margins between the 8th and 9th centuries. It is a short sentence considered by many to be the oldest written expression of the nascent Italian language, transcribed from the Latin. In the 10th century, calligraphy work was continued by Raterio, Bishop of Verona, who called his city 'the Athens of Italy' since it had risen to become a centre of elevated culture and learning. Distinguished humanists attended the Cathedral Library, as evidenced by the presence of Dante Alighieri (1320) and Francesco Petrarca (1345). He found a codex there of Cicero's letters (to Atticus, Quintus and Brutus), which also inspired him to revive the epistolary genre. Verona's Cathedral Library still preserves some 1200 manuscripts, 245 incunabula (1450-1500), 2500 16th-century volumes, 2800 17th-century volumes, 11,000 parchments and over 72,000 volumes of priceless cultural value for the whole of humanity.
Villa Della Torre Allegrini, the Ancient Roman-style Domus designed by Giulio Romano and Michele Sanmicheli, which was already a thriving centre for humanist culture, is honoured to celebrate the first 1500 years of Verona's Cathedral Library and to host a deeply-felt and much-needed discussion on the great theme of the preservation and revival of Italy's great, historic libraries.
PROGRAMME (in Italian only)
6pm - Guided tour of Villa Della Torre Allegrini
6.45 pm - In the Hall of Mirrors: Introduction and opening address by Giancarlo Mastella, Director of Villa Della Torre
6:50 pm - Meeting on 517-2017: celebrating 1500 years of Verona's Cathedral Library" (The talk will be in Italian only)
Speakers: Mons. Bruno Fasani, Prefect of the Chapter
Prof. Dorit Raines, University Ca 'Foscari Venice
Prof. Adriano Prosperi, Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa
Coordination by Gianni Moriani, University Vita-Salute, San Raffaele, Milan
With the extraordinary participation of the 'Coro Popolare Gregoriano di Verona' (Gregorian Choir of Verona), directed by P. Marco Repeto and Letizia Butterin.
8.15 pm - Aperitif in the 'Sea Monster' Room with complimentary wines by Allegrini and San Polo
The invitation is open to the public. Prior reservation is required.
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