We’ve spent a good deal of time studying the monks who kept literacy and learning alive during the Middle Ages lately.  Looking at some of their original manuscripts and illuminations is amazing.  They aren’t just writing; they are works of art — breathtaking and meticulously made.

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

 To go along with our reading we made our own illuminations.  In place of metal leafing we used foil and glitter.  {I love glitter.}  I printed off a letter from a fancy font, then left my kids to decorate their first initials.  My daughter, Elizabeth, made this ornate E.


 We went to, a free font repository on the web, and selected a font from the Medieval category within the “Gothic” section.  There are quite a few ornate fonts that would work well for this project.  Select one and download it, then use just one letter, blown up to full page size, to decorate.  Decorate it using a variety of colorful materials, including some kind of gold or silver.

As we worked away on this craft project we had a discussion about how having available books and a literate people completely changes a society.  We also estimated the number of books we have in our house {over 1,000!} and realized just how much we take the privilege for granted.  Throughout so much of history and in so many places books haven’t been readily available like they are to us now.  We also memorized and copied {in our neatest, most perfect fancy-monk handwriting} some scriptures.  Of course,  we worked by candlelight in the dark, pretending we were in a monastery sans electricity during the Middle Ages.  Electric lights –  yet another thing we take for granted!

Have lots of fun making your own illuminations!

More From Layers of Learning

This activity is from Unit 2-2 of the Layers of Learning Curriculum.  Find the whole unit in all its glory here:

Layers of Learning Unit 2-2

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