The earliest illuminated manuscripts can be traced back as far as 400 to 600 AD in the gothic period when they were primarily produced throughout Ireland, Constantinople and Italy. The significance of these works lies not only in their deep rooted art history and historical value, but in their link to literacy as a whole. The very existence of illuminated manuscripts acted as a way of giving stature and commemoration to the ancient documents of Greece and Rome.
Most manuscripts which have endured the passage of time are from the Middle Ages although many illuminated manuscripts remain from the fifteenth century Renaissance period as well. Precious few manuscripts have survived from Late Antiquity.
Manuscripts are illuminated on papyrus, parchment called vellum and scrolls made of goatskin, calf, and sheep. A traditional palette includes blue, red and green. The colors are alternated in sequence to draw the eye around the entire illumination.
Illumination refers to the light as it is captured on the applied gold leaf. Today, illumination broadly includes decorated vines and initial letters that are painted in detailed designs.
The art of illuminated manuscripts is deeply rooted in the history of the Sacred Art Institute on Enders Island. A prominent collection of illuminated Stations of the Cross by Jed Gibbons and illuminated prayers by Valerie Weilmuenster are on display in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption.