Bible of St. Paul Outside the Walls

Bible of St. Paul Outside the Walls Facsimile Edition

Scriptorium of Reims (France) — 870–875

The most magnificent and ornate illustrated Bible of the Carolingian period: the magnificent gift from Emperor Charles the Bald to the Pope, adorned with 24 full-page miniatures, 35 incipit pages, and 91 historiated initials

  1. A splendid gift from Charles the Bald (823–877) to Pope John VIII (d. 882) on the occasion of his imperial coronation

  2. The décor of the manuscript is clearly meant to testify to the power and sophistication of the Frankish emperors

  3. It features purple backgrounds, gold and silver inks, and the most extensive image cycle of any surviving Carolingian Bible

Bible of St. Paul Outside the Walls

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Bible of St. Paul Outside the Walls

The Biblia Sacra, the most lavishly adorned surviving Carolingian Bible, is distinguished by its 24 full-page miniatures, 35 decorative incipit pages, 91 historiated initials, and 4 decorative canon tables. It contains the Vulgate in its entirety with both Testaments. Also known as the Bibbia di San Paolo or Bible of San Paolo fuori le Mura, it is named for its residence, the Abbey of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, where it was moved during the reign of Pope Gregory VII (ca. 1015–85). Originating from ca. 870–875, the magnificent manuscript was gifted by Charles the Bald (823–877) to Pope John VIII (d. 882) on the occasion of his imperial coronation in Rome on Christmas night, 875. This marvelous Carolingian Bible is an iconic milestone of medieval illumination.

Bible of St. Paul Outside the Walls

The most opulent surviving Carolingian Bible and one of the great highlights of medieval illumination: the Biblia Sacra. It contains the entire Vulgate – both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, which are adorned by 24 full-page miniatures, 35 decorative incipit pages, 91 historiated initials, and 4 decorative canon tables. Testaments. Also known as the Bibbia di San Paolo or Bible of San Paolo fuori le Mura, it is named for its residence, the Abbey of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, where it was moved during the reign of Pope Gregory VII (ca. 1015–85). Originating from ca. 870–875, the magnificent manuscript was gifted by Charles the Bald (823–877) to Pope John VIII (d. 882) on the occasion of his imperial coronation in Rome on Christmas night, 875. The work is contained in a gorgeous 17th century binding of red leather with gilded metal fittings and writing.

Incredible Illumination

The décor of the manuscript is clearly meant to testify to the power and sophistication of the Frankish emperors who dominated 9th century Europe. The opening words of chapters are written in gold and silver inks on purple-dyed backgrounds. The texts are arranged in two columns framed by acanthus leaves and are adorned with elaborate initials, while the canon tables are arranged in beautiful arcades with figural ornamentation. The full-page miniatures precede various sections of the book, and although the miniatures preceding the Book of Job, the 24 remaining miniatures constitute the most extensive image cycle of any surviving Carolingian Bible. These images include a dedication portrait of Charles the Bald, portraits of St. Jerome and the Four Evangelists, 14 scenes from the Old Testament, a Christ in Majesty, and a miniature each for Acts, Epistles of Paul, and the Book of Revelation.

Carolingian Collaboration

The Biblia Sacra was created at Charles’ court school and bears resemblances to other works that Charles commissioned from Reims and Tours and likely involved scribes, miniaturists, and illuminators from those schools. The image program is firmly footed in the artistic tradition established by his grandfather Charlemagne (742–814) and features distinct echoes of Late Antiquity. A team of scribes from the scriptorium of Archbishop Hincmar of Reims (845–882) headed by a certain Benedictine monk named Ingobert, who is referred to in the dedication poem, is responsible for painstakingly putting the biblical text to parchment. Despite the incredible refinement of the miniatures, the artists responsible for them remain anonymous, allowing the artistry of the manuscript to speak for itself.

Two Restorations

The necessity to preserve this historic codex was recognized in the 17th century, when the specimen was already 800 years old. Thus, it underwent its first restoration in 1646, whereby the codex was rebound and blank sheets were added at the beginning and end to further protect the work in addition to its splendid new gilded red leather binding. The second restoration occurred between 1970 and 1981, during which time both the folios and baroque binding were refurbished. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated 17th and 20th century bibliophiles and artisans, the more than 1,100-year-old manuscript has survived into the 21st century in surprisingly good condition, much to the joy of art-lovers and researchers alike.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Bibel von St. Paul vor den Mauern
Bible of San Paolo fuori le Mura
Bibel des Heiligen Paulus
Bibbia di San Paolo
Bible of St. Paul
San Paolo Bible
Biblia Sacra - Codex Membranaceus Saeculi IX
Bibbia di San Paolo fuori le Mura
Size / Format
668 pages / 44.8 × 34.5 cm
Origin
France
Date
870–875
Language
Script
Carolingian minuscule Square capitals
Illustrations
24 full-page miniatures, 35 full-page incipit pages, 4 decorated canon tables, 91 decorated initials, small colored initials and gold lettering on purple dyed parchment throughout
Content
Full Bible text with preamble
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Charles the Bald
Pope John VIII

Available facsimile editions:
Biblia Sacra - Codex Membranaceus Saeculi IX – Abbazia di San Paolo fuori le Mura (Rome, Italy) Facsimile Edition
Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato – Rome, 1993
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Detail Picture

Bible of St. Paul Outside the Walls

Ananias Cures Saul of Blindness

Before his conversion, Paul the Apostle was a Pharisee and persecutor of Christians named Saul who was struck blind on the road to Damascus and converted after having a vision of Jesus. He was led by the hand to Damascus and remained blind for three days, during which time he neither ate nor drank. Jesus then appeared in a vision to Ananias and instructed him to seek Saul in the house of Judas and place his hands upon him so that his sight may be restored and he may be filled with the Holy Spirit. Framed by a creative architecture, this scene is one of seven on the page and its central position indicates its importance.

Bibbia di San Paolo
Single Page

Bible of St. Paul Outside the Walls

Dedication Portrait of Charles the Bald

This magnificent full-page miniature depicts Charles the Bald, grandson of Charlemagne, crowned and dressed in a bejeweled toga and a patterned tunic in the manner of a late Roman emperor. He is enthroned within an elaborate classically styled canopy with curtain walls that overlaps the acanthus leaf frame, making appear as though it were sticking out from this border.

Saints and angels with golden halos look down from heaven at Charles flanked by two armed men and two richly dressed ladies of the court. The book itself is absent, which is typical for dedication miniatures from this period. Expensive pigments as well gold and silver leaf were used to create the splendid image and the accompanying text is written in gold ink against a purple-dyed background.

Bibbia di San Paolo
Facsimile Editions

#1 Bibbia di San Paolo

Publisher: Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato – Rome, 1993
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Binding: Red leather binding with magnificent metal fittings
Commentary: 1 volume by Girolamo Arnaldi, Stefano Baiocchi, Bernhard Bischoff, Henri de Sainte-Marie, Maria C. Lilli di Franco, Joachim Gahede, Jean Gribomont, Jean Mallet, Florentine Mütherich, Giuseppe Nardin, and Steven Pisani
Language: Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€€€ (over 10,000€)
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