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UAB awards honorary doctorate to palaeographer Jean Vezin

Jean Vezin i Ana Ripoll
Jean Vezin, one of the top experts in palaeography of the Early Middle Ages, was awarded an honorary doctorate by UAB on 27 October. The event took place at the Rectorate building and was chaired by Ana Ripoll, Principal of the UAB, Teresa Cabré, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts, and by Joaquim Pera, Director of the Department of Antiquity and Middle Age Studies.


Vezin was sponsored by Jesús Alturo, professor of Palaeography, Codicology and Diplomatics. In his speech, Alturo praised the meticulousness of Vezin's research work and pointed out "the need to examine closely the smallest elements of manuscripts which are often overlooked by researchers but which are essential in reaching conclusions which go much further than what immediate findings may suggest".

Nevertheless, Alturo stated that "despite his attention to detail, professor Vezin's erudition is global and not at all fragmented". He went on to explain that "when Vezin studies a codex, he does it in its totality, not only with the most sophisticated techniques in palaeography and codicology, but also using other disciplines which can provide new information". He quoted the new honorary doctor when stating that "a manuscript must be seen as a whole, the study of the different elements, of which text, notebook layout, writing and decoration often allow us to pinpoint the conditions under which it was created".

Alturo also praised the abundant scientific production of Vezin and highlighted the collection Monumenta Palaeographica Medii Aevii.  He ended his speech saying that Vezin "by reviving the numbed memory of so many books and diplomas, so many papyri and epigraphs, he has given life once again to cultural traditions which had disappeared, but had not died; which were hidden or forgotten, but were not inoperative or inactive, because they are the traditions which make up the spirit we have now."

Saint Catherine of Sinai

After UAB Principal Ana Ripoll awarded the diploma and medal of honour to the new honorary doctor, Vezin began his master lecture with a few words in Catalan to express "much joy and emotion" and praise professors Anscari Manuel Mundó and Jesús Alturo, two of UAB's "eminent scholars" in Latin palaeography and codicology.

Vezin spoke on the writings of the Latin manuscripts found over half a century ago at Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai. According to him, the texts present "difficulties, but are of great interest to the history of the persistence of Christianity in Islamic lands."

Saint Catherine's Monastery is located on Mount Sinai, Egypt. It was built where Moses was said to have seen the bush "all aflame, yet not consumed." It houses one of the most important collections of Greek and Oriental Christian codices and manuscripts.

Vezin offered an erudite explanation of his studies of these documents and referred to documented research and works carried out by other experts.

To illustrate his research, UAB's newest honorary doctor affirmed that "palaeography and codicology provide important elements needed to date and locate writings or manuscripts. However, except in particularly favourable cases, no conclusions can be reached if only these disciplines are applied."

Vezin concluded by saying that "until proven otherwise, I consider that these parchments and papers are moving testimonies of the survival of Christianity at the end of the 11th century in the land of Tertullian, Saint Cyprian and Saint Augustine".

A leading referent

Finally, UAB Principal Ana Ripoll referred to Vezin as "one of the leading referents in palaeography and the history of writing" and assured that "his lifelong career should serve as example to us all."

Ripoll stressed the fact that Vezin "through his analyses of ancient texts has brought us closer to the beliefs and cultures of incipient Europe."

She praised Vezin's "broad culture" and capacity of "joining different humanistic disciplines" as well as his "immense curiosity". And she considered his wisdom and young spirit "an explosive combination". Ripoll ended her speech wishing Vezin "many more professional accomplishments".

The ceremony ended with musical performances by Daniel Arias Trio, who performed Divertimento No. 4 by Wolfgang A. Mozart and by the UAB Choir, who performed Dieu! qu'il la fait bon regarder by Claude Debussy, April is in my mistress' face by Thomas Marley, and the traditional song Gaudeamus igitur.