Cistercian Devotional Book

Cistercian Devotional Book

Herrenalb Abbey (Germany) — 1484

From copperplate engravings to illumination: 30 magnificent miniatures of the Passion from the Cistercian Abbey of Herrenalb in Baden-Württemberg

  1. The work was created by Johan Zürn, cantor of the Cistercian Herrenalb Abbey in Baden-Württemberg

  2. He followed as an illuminator for the artists of the printing press

  3. 30 splendid miniatures modeled on copperplate etchings present scenes from the Passion

Cistercian Devotional Book

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Cistercian Devotional Book

The so-called Herrenalb Prayer Book is a gem of late 15th century illumination. The manuscript is a wonderful attestation of its time, in which 30 splendid miniatures present scenes from the Passion. Nonetheless, there is something very special about these illustrations: they were modeled on copperplate etchings, which were made by various masters of this new printing technique! In this way, the piety that the patron from the Herrenalb Abbey had desired for such a work was wonderfully and profoundly conveyed. Johann Zürn from Neibsheim created a unique manuscript of his time with the Cistercian Devotional Book!

Cistercian Devotional Book

The so-called Herrenalb Prayer Book is a gem of late 15th century illumination. The manuscript is a wonderful attestation of its time, in which 30 splendid miniatures present scenes from the Passion. Nonetheless, there is something very special about these illustrations: they were modeled on copperplate etchings, which were made by various masters of this new printing technique! In this way, the piety that the patron from the Herrenalb Abbey had desired for such a work was wonderfully and profoundly conveyed. Johann Zürn from Neibsheim created a unique manuscript of his time with the Cistercian Devotional Book!

A Devout Commission

“This prayer book by Johann Zürn from Neibsheim, monk and cantor of our abbey at Herrenalb, was begun in the year 1482 and painstakingly completed in the year 1484 at the instigation and request of the Lay Brother Ludwig von Bruchsal, who occupied the office of procurator in Merklingen.” So begins the Latin text of Manuscript theo. Lat. quart. 9 of the State Library in Berlin, the so-called Herrenalb Prayer Book. Ludwig von Bruchsal commissioned the work in 1482, which wows not only because of the typical text, but also and especially because of its grandiose miniature pages.

An Illuminated Prayer Book from Herrenalb

The 206 parchment pages of the Cistercian Devotional Book contain a calendar, prayers to the Virgin Mary and saints, St. Bernhard of Clairvaux among others, and other typical texts for such a manuscript. The scribe and author of the prayer book was Johann Zürn from Nyposheim (present-day Neibsheim), cantor of the Cistercian Herrenalb Abbey in modern Baden-Württemberg, founded 1148. It is probable that this Johann Zürn was also responsible for the marvelous book adornment that makes the Cistercian Devotional Book so unique: 30 full-page miniatures with scenes of the Passion.

Copper Etchings as a Template

These impressive and magnificently-colored depictions do not represent the actual creations of the illuminator. Whoever the painter of these gorgeous compositions was, they relied upon templates in the form of masterful copperplate etchings. Therefore, among the examples were some copperplate etchings by the artist Martin Schongauer from the Upper Rhine, and also probably from a Strasbourg Master ES, a “Karlsruhe Master of 1446”, and the Upper Rhine Master WB. In this way, the innovative new technique of copperplate etching was “reverse engineered” into the established medium of illumination. Magnificent miniature pages were the result of this fruitful combination, belonging among some of the most beautiful that were produced in the 15th century!

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Das Herrenalb-Gebetbuch
Das Herrenalber Gebetbuch
Das Gebetbuch aus Herrenalb
Devocionario del Císter
Gebetbuch des Zisterzienserordens
Missel de l'Ordre de Cíteaux
Devozionario cisterciense
Devozionario cisterciense de Herrenalb
Size / Format
206 pages / 20.0 × 14.0 cm
Origin
Germany
Date
1484
Style
Language
Illustrations
30 full-page miniatures
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Cistercian Devotional Book – Ms. theol. lat. quart. 9 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany)
Millennium Liber – Madrid, 2017
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Detail Picture

Cistercian Devotional Book

Christ before Pontius Pilate

Still bleeding from his beating and tied around the neck and wrists, Christ is shown being brought before Pontius Pilate, who is richly dressed in green, holding a scepter, and wearing a smug look on his face. The soldiers are armed with late medieval halberds and their turban-wearing captain reflects contemporary anxieties over the Turkish invasion of southeastern Europe. It is a crowded and boisterous scene filled with color and wonderfully highlighted with both gold and silver.

Devocionario del Císter
Single Page

Cistercian Devotional Book

St. Bernhard of Clairvaux

The Cistercian order was founded in the wake of reforms made to Benedictine monasticism, a movement that was led by St. Bernhard of Clairvaux, among others. As such, he is especially important for the members of that austere and diligent religious order, also known as the Bernardines. This scene adapts a typical Descent from the Cross but inserts Bernhard into the scene.

Bernhard literally makes Christ’s burden his own in this scene as he eases the Messiah down from the cross and takes his ashen body over his shoulder. He has laid his cardinal’s staff down on the verdant green ground next to his coat of arms and the manuscript at hand. The gold leaf stars and halos magnificently contrast the midnight blue sky and Bernhard’s black habit.

Devocionario del Císter
Facsimile Editions

#1 Devocionario del Císter

Millennium Liber – Madrid, 2017
Cistercian Devotional Book – Ms. theol. lat. quart. 9 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany)
Cistercian Devotional Book – Ms. theol. lat. quart. 9 – Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin, Germany) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Millennium Liber – Madrid, 2017
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Binding: Leather on bord, presented in elegant case
Commentary: 1 volume by Elisa Ruiz García
Language: Spanish
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.
Regular price without login (like new)2,790 
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