Codex Aureus of Echternach

Codex Aureus of Echternach

Echternach Abbey (Luxembourg) — 1020–1050

Made on behalf of Theophanus, adorned with a breathtakingly splendor cover, written entirely in gold: arguably the most magnificent and beautiful manuscript ever

  1. The "Golden Gospels of Echternach" is one of the most beautiful books to survive the Middle Ages

  2. The codex is completely written in gold ink and provided with 64 magnificent miniature and purple pages

  3. The original gilded cover features gemstones, enamel work, and an ivory plate depicting the Crucifixion

Codex Aureus of Echternach

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (3)
Description
Codex Aureus of Echternach

The Codex Aureus Epternacensis or Golden Gospels of Echternach is one of the most beautiful books to have survived to the present day. The text is completely written in gold ink and furnished with 64 magnificent miniature and purple pages. The De Luxe Edition features a cover with replica ivory plate showing the crucifixion, magnificent gemstones, and enamel work.

Golden Gospels of Echternach

This Gospel book is a work of inconceivable magnificence, extravagant in its wealth of visual motifs, handsome ornamentation, and splendidly colored scenes depictions of biblical events. The size of the parchment pages (31 x 44 cm) already betrays the significance of this book as an object of prestige. The Echternach school of painting reveals the full bloom of its unique mastery in 64 full-page miniatures and canon tables and hundreds of precious initials. The dignified impression of the manuscript is elevated by silver tones and imperial purple. The name of the Codex Aureus originates from its extravagant use of gold on nearly every page.

Echternach Monastery and Saint Willibrord

The Benedictine Abbey of Echternach in Luxemburg was founded by Saint Willibrord (ca. 658–739), an Anglo-Saxon itinerant monk from Northumbria. When he died at Echternach at the age of 81, he had long since laid the groundwork for Echternach to host one of the most important imperial scriptoria on the continent, and arguably the most important. In the 11th century, the ruling Salian dynasty named it their court atelier. An estimated 100 magnificent and golden illustrated manuscripts were made in Echternach during this century: the Echternach Sacramentary, Echternach Evangeliary, Pericopes of Henry III, the Salian Imperial Evangeliary…none, however, is as beautiful and as famous as the Golden Gospel Book - the Codex Aureus Epternacensis.

Gorgeous Text

The parchment pages, on which the text of the Gospels is written down in pure gold, the symbol of light and enlightenment, are particularly gorgeous. The text itself appears in two columns; it is animated with small golden initials or larger initials, which are interspersed with wickerwork. Human figures, birds, and columns often serve as ornaments. To emphasize individual passages, initials were painted that extend over an entire column.

A Glimpse of Everyday Life

The great picture cycle of the New Testament appears in four parts, which appear at the beginning of the respective Gospel texts. In them, the biblical events are depicted with a wealth of lively details. On sixteen pages, more than a hundred individual representations are subdivided into three zones. Each of the four parts covers a period of Christ’s life on earth. The fidelity to the biblical text has been preserved down to the smallest detail. All the pictures are a mirror of the Middle Ages. Thus the Codex Aureus represents an inexhaustible source for the study of everyday medieval life.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Codex Aureus Epternacensis
Goldenes Evangelienbuch von Echternach
Golden Gospels of Echternach
Size / Format
272 pages / 44.5 × 31.0 cm
Date
1020–1050
Style
Language
Illustrations
64 decorative pages, 16 full-page miniatures (each with 3 scenes), 5 evangelist portraits, 10 canon tables, 9 full-page, 16 half-page and 503 smaller initials, entire text written with gold ink
Previous Owners
The codex remained in Echternach until the French Revolution. When the abbey was closed down in 1795/96, it passed via Mainz to Erfurt, where it was purchased in 1801 by Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Coburg and Altenburg (1745–1804). It passed by inheritance to the House of Coburg-Gotha, which for financial reasons was obliged to sell it, in 1955, to the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg
Detail Picture

Codex Aureus of Echternach

Entablature of a Canon Table

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are presented side by side under three arches to aid the reader in their religious studies – these are the Canon Tables created by Eusebius of Caesarea. Resting on four columns with elaborate capitals, this elaborate entablature is exemplary of Ottonian illumination and the scriptorium of Echternach Monastery in particular. It makes use of only the finest pigments and glimmering gold leaf, all executed by some of the finest illuminators of the period.

Goldenes Evangelienbuch von Echternach (Luxury Edition)
Single Page

Codex Aureus of Echternach

Front Cover - Crucifixion

This Late-Ottonian treasure binding is arguably the finest to survive the Middle Ages. It actually dates to approximately 50 years before the manuscript itself and likely originated in Trier. An ivory plague at the center depicts the Crucifixion, which was originally painted with blue and green, of which only traces remain.

Four gold panels in repoussé gold relief show the Four Evangelists and their symbols with various background foliage. Other figures include Emperor Otto III and his Byzantine mother, Theophanu, as well as the Virgin Mary, St. Peter, and four saints specific to Echternach Monastery. They are divided by a band alternating between gem-encrusted gold filigree, enamels, and thinner gold bands with strings of small pearls.

Goldenes Evangelienbuch von Echternach (Luxury Edition)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Goldenes Evangelienbuch von Echternach (Luxury Edition)

Codex Aureus of Echternach – Hs. 156 142 – Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Nuremberg, Germany)
Codex Aureus of Echternach – Hs. 156 142 – Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Nuremberg, Germany) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Limited Edition: 250 copies
Binding: Cover with replica ivory plate showing the crucifixion, magnificent gemstones (48) and enamel work - one of the most impressive medieval book covers ever reproduced
Commentary: 1 volume (264 pages) by Rainer Kahsnitz and Elisabeth Rücker
Language: German
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€
Edition available
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#2 Goldenes Evangelienbuch von Echternach (Standard Edition)

Goldenes Evangelienbuch von Echternach (Standard Edition)
Goldenes Evangelienbuch von Echternach (Standard Edition) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Limited Edition: 850 copies
Binding: Silk binding with gilt fittings
Commentary: 1 volume (264 pages) by Rainer Kahsnitz and Elisabeth Rücker
Language: German
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.

#3 Goldenes Evangelienbuch von Echternach (Cork Box Edition)

Limited Edition: 150 copies
Binding: Silk binding with gilt fittings Leather bound cork box with ivory replica
Commentary: 1 volume (264 pages) by Rainer Kahsnitz and Elisabeth Rücker
Language: German
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.
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