One of Corpus’s most remarkable medieval manuscripts, CCC MS 133, has been sent on short-term loan to the Faith Museum at the Auckland Project, Bishop Auckland. CCC MS 133 is a siddur (prayer book) which dates to the late 1100s. Belonging to an Arabic-speaking Jewish man living in England, it offers a glimpse into the faith of Jewish communities living in England during a time of upheaval and division.

Corpus Librarian Joanna Snelling says: “Corpus Christi College, Oxford, takes seriously its custodianship of its historic collections, having cared for many objects, including CCC MS 133, for many centuries.  We make decisions on access to texts in the light of safeguarding them now and preserving them for the future.  We balance these cares with our desire to share these unique resources with scholars and the wider public.  We are always grateful to be approached to lend objects to exhibitions; having items on display, with interpretation and context, is a wonderful way to reach a wide audience.  The general public can then see and engage with texts that form part of our shared heritage, and in a way that minimises risk to vulnerable material.”

The Faith Museum, which opened in the autumn of 2023, describes itself as exploring “how faith, belief, and religion have shaped lives and communities in Britain throughout history.”. It is part of the Auckland Project, founded in 2012 with the intention to “transform a 900-year-old bishop’s palace, Auckland Castle, from a private dwelling into a vibrant world-class art, faith and heritage destination.”  Lenders to the project, which includes an art gallery, include the British Museum, the Victorian and Albert Museum, the Jewish Museum and the Bodleian Library. 

The Museum approached the College for the short-term loan of CCC MS 133, as part of its plans to ensure “that the story of Jewish communities continues to be represented” in its gallery, Exploring faith in Britain in the Middle Ages. In particular, the Museum would “seek to explore what knowledge can be gleaned about the faith and experiences of Jewish people living in England in the medieval people through this manuscript and the evidence it contains about its owner.” 

It has agreed with Corpus Fellow Judith Olszowy-Schlanger, Professor in Hebrew and Jewish Studies, a suitable choice of opening to display: the beginning of the Passover Haggadah - a text that all Jewish families recite at the ritual seder meal opening this major Jewish festival. CCC MS 133 is probably the earliest preserved text of this prayer in all Ashkenazi (North) Europe.