Biblia Pauperum

Biblia Pauperum Facsimile Edition

Part 1: North Hessen (Germany); Part 2: Bamberg (Germany) — Part 1: Second quarter of the 15th century; Part 2: 1349 and ca. 1400

Created in Northern Hesse and Bamberg: scenes from the Old and New Testaments in lively Gothic painting for the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg, Friedrich von Hohenloh

  1. Commissioned by Friedrich von Hohenlohe, the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg ca. 1425

  2. Created in two parts: the first in North Hesse with the second completed in Bamberg ca. 1500

  3. Corresponding scenes from both Testaments were executed in vivid Gothic illumination

Biblia Pauperum

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Biblia Pauperum

This manuscript of the Biblia Pauperum is a codex which originates from 15th century Germany and contains the so-called Paupers’ Bible, a simplified version of the Bible moralisée tradition juxtaposing events and figures from the Old and New Testaments that was intended for the instruction of the laity. The work was commissioned by Friedrich von Hohenlohe, the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg, and is among the more splendidly adorned exemplars of a Biblia Pauperum. It contains 42 easily understandable and artistically appealing pictures consisting of 38 half-page and 4 full-page miniatures that lovingly depict chosen scenes from the Bible, which are presented along with the corresponding passages from the text. The events of the Bible are set in the Late Middle Ages with the figures dressed in contemporary garments, including soldiers armed and armored like 15th century German foot soldiers.

Biblia Pauperum

This extraordinary Biblia Pauperum, which depicts the events of the Old and New Testaments in 42 picturesque miniatures, is stored today in the Vatican Library. This codex was commissioned in the 15th century by Friedrich von Hohenlohe the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg. The “Paupers’ Bible” consists of two parts, of which the first part was created in Northern Hesse in the second quarter of the 15th century. The second part of the Bible arose between 1349 and 1400 in Bamberg. Consisting of 66 pages in all, the manuscript shows important scenes from the Bible in the finest Gothic book art.

What is a Paupers’ Bible?

A medieval Paupers’ Bible, Biblia Pauperum in Latin, is a collection of picked scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Normally, a Paupers’ Bible shows a visual depiction of one of the events in the life of Jesus Christ from the New Testament on every page. These scenes were framed mostly by four images that showed either people or scenes from the Old Testament. The Old Testament scenes were arranged around the central depiction from the New Testament and were thus set in relation to one another. The Bible stories were depicted in a purposeful, salvation-historical nexus. Pauper’s Bibles were less expensive than complete Bible codices, hence the term.

A Pleasingly Simple Style

The Bamberg Paupers’ Bible originates from the aim to familiarize the community with the Bible through vivid pictures. The majority of the population in the Middle Ages could neither read nor write. The book painter, who illuminated the work, designed his miniatures to be easily understandable and appealing. He chose luminous colors for his figures and positioned the pictures of the Old and New Testaments so that the interrelated stories were easily understood. The miniatures were supported by clarifying text passages, which were adorned with colored initials.


Alternative Titles
Bible of the Poor
Biblia picta
Size / Format
Part 1: 46 pages; Part 2: 20 pages / 36.2 × 27.5 cm
Part 1: Second quarter of the 15th century; Part 2: 1349 and ca. 1400
Gothic Textura
4 Full- and 38 half-page miniatures illustrate the entire text
Richly illustrated Paupers' Bible

Available facsimile editions:
Biblia Pauperum – Pal. lat. 871 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City) Facsimile Edition
Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1982
Detail Picture

Biblia Pauperum

The Last Judgement

This cheery watercolor clearly depicts the end of Revelation when the resurrected dead are judged: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” (Rev. 20:11-12)

Biblia pauperum
Single Page

Biblia Pauperum

Christ in the Winepress

Paupers’ Bibles had to strike a balance between artistry and being comprehensible to the illiterate faithful and were valuable tools for religious instruction. This fine Gothic manuscript does so with clear imagery and luminous, expressive colors. Instead of a typical miniature connecting a scene from the New Testament with the Old, this is a wonderful portrayal of a popular metaphor.

St. Gregory the Great wrote: “He has trodden the winepress alone in which he was himself pressed, for with his own strength he patiently overcame suffering.” His blood is the wine, represented in the miniature by a wound to the chest, a reference to the spear that pierced him on the cross, with which he fills the cup that is in turn poured into the press.

Biblia pauperum
Facsimile Editions

#1 Biblia pauperum

Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1982
Biblia Pauperum – Pal. lat. 871 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City) Facsimile Edition
Biblia Pauperum – Pal. lat. 871 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City) Facsimile Edition Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1982
Commentary: 1 volume (106 pages) by Karl-August Wirth
Language: German
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. Part 1 reproduced in the color facsimile only. 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.
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