Golden miniatures as a harbinger of the Gothic: a gold and silver glowing, late Romanesque manuscript in the "Channel Style" for the Brandenburg Cathedral treasury

Brandenburg Evangeliary

Magdeburg (Germany) — ca. 1210

Brandenburg Evangeliary

Brandenburg Evangeliary

Magdeburg (Germany) — ca. 1210

  1. Late Romanesque masterpiece created ca. 1210 by order of the Brandenburg cathedral chapter for the cathedral there

  2. Furnished with 29 large and full-page, gold-glowing miniatures and numerous smaller gold initials

  3. The 10 historiated initials are laid out in the so-called "Channel Style" and draw from the emerging Gothic

Brandenburg Evangeliary

Ms. 1 Domstiftsarchiv Brandenburg (Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany)
Alternative Titles:
  • Brandenburger Evangelistar
Brandenburg Evangeliary – Ms. 1 – Domstiftsarchiv Brandenburg (Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany)
Brandenburg Evangeliary – Ms. 1 – Domstiftsarchiv Brandenburg (Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany)
Brandenburg Evangeliary – Ms. 1 – Domstiftsarchiv Brandenburg (Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

In the early 13th century, Brandenburg was on the edges of Christendom; the Eastern Baltic was still largely pagan and facing the wrath of the Northern Crusades. Immigration from the south fueled the growth of cities across what is now northern Germany and cathedrals were being erected. A scriptorium in the city of Magdeburg was commissioned with the creation of the splendid manuscript at hand by the Premonstratensians, a religious order consisting of Canons Regular engaged in preaching instead of monks. The manuscript is a magnificent example of the Late Romanesque style in Germany exhibiting artistic influences from across Europe. Full-page miniatures and large historiated initials are executed with great mastery in a wonderful variety of bright, opaque colors as well as gold and silver leaf. More than 800 years later, the impressive manuscript still resides in the treasury of Brandenburg Cathedral.

Brandenburg Evangeliary

One of the last and greatest artistic accomplishments of German Romanesque art: the Brandenburg Evangeliary was created ca. 1210 in the city of Magdeburg. It was commissioned by the Brandenburg chapter of the Premonstratensians, a religious order consisting of Canons Regular engaged in preaching instead of monks, and has remained in Brandenburg Cathedral’s treasury for all 800+ years of its existence. It is in fact one of the few manuscripts to spend its entire life in its original location, although the jeweled binding was lost in the course of World War II. Gorgeous full-page miniatures and large historiated initials, some of which fuse figure and letters, are created using rich opaque colors accented with gold and silver leaf. Its splendid combination of contemporary styles makes it a landmark of medieval German illumination.

The Pride of Brandenburg Cathedral

This manuscript is part of a tradition of large Gospel Books intended for public display, usually in cathedrals or large abbeys. It is also a gorgeous testament to the period, when the Northern Crusades were engaged in the conversion of pagan Slavs living in the region of the Eastern Baltic, and when modern northern Germany was experiencing an influx of settlers from the south. It was doubtless meant to impress both the faithful and the unconverted. As an evangeliary, the text consists of readings from the Gospels that were arranged in accordance with the liturgical year, arranged for the purpose of being recited during Mass. The picture cycle depicts scenes from the Life of Christ going up through the Pentecost presented in richly colored full-page miniatures with gold leaf.

An Impressive Mix of Styles

Although distinctly German in character, artistic influences from across Europe are evident in the 18 full-page miniatures, one full-page historiated initial, ten large historiated initials, and numerous other initials all painted with intense, bright colors embellished with gold and silver leaf. The glimmering gold backgrounds that give a timeless and spaceless feeling to the miniatures and historiated initials is derived from Byzantine art, as are certain iconographic forms. The tendril initials are inspired by the “Channel Style”, a Romanesque fusion of English and northern French styles. Meanwhile, Italian influences can also be seen in many of the initials and frames that incorporate acanthus, palmette, and ivy motifs. The manuscript could even be considered proto-Gothic because of its more naturalistic body posturing highlighted by a skillful play of light and shadow. Furthermore, jagged fall of folds, rocky edges, and similar stylized elements seem to foretell the coming Zackenstil, a “jagged style” of early German Gothic art. It is precisely the manuscript’s hard-to-define hybrid style that, along with the extremely high quality of its execution and quality of its materials, makes the Brandenburg Evangeliary a milestone of German illumination.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Brandenburger Evangelistar
Size / Format
218 pages / 33.6 x 24.0 cm
Date
ca. 1210
Language
Illustrations
18 full-page miniatures, one full-page ornamental initial, ten large miniature-like ornamental initials, numerous multi-line gold initials on coloured ground and coloured initials on gold ground, large areas of gold leaf, shiny silver, intensively bright colours
Content
Pericopes - Texts for the liturgical year beginning with Christmas

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Brandenburg Evangeliary“

Das Brandenburger Evangelistar
Brandenburg Evangeliary – Ms. 1 – Domstiftsarchiv Brandenburg (Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany)
Brandenburg Evangeliary – Ms. 1 – Domstiftsarchiv Brandenburg (Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany)
Brandenburg Evangeliary – Ms. 1 – Domstiftsarchiv Brandenburg (Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany)
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Das Brandenburger Evangelistar

Publisher
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Luzern, 2020
Limited Edition
680 copies
Binding
Leather binding
Commentary
1 volume by Beate Braun-Niehr / Klaus Niehr / Christina Meckelnborg / Rüdiger von Schnurbein / Fabian Kolb
Language: German
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