Codex Aureus of Echternach

Codex Aureus of Echternach – Müller & Schindler – Hs. 156 142 – Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Nuremberg, Germany)

Echternach Abbey (Luxembourg) — 1020–1050

Made by order of Theophanus, written entirely in gold, and adorned with a breathtaking magnificent binding: arguably the most splendid and beautiful manuscript of all time, created in the famous scriptorium of Echternach

  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

Facsimile Copy Available!
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(over 10,000€)
  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. It originated from the famous scriptorium of the Benedictine Abbey of Echternach in Luxemburg, which produced dozens of masterpieces of Carolingian and Ottonian illumination. The text is completely written in gold ink and furnished with 64 magnificent miniatures, numerous purple pages, as well as five Evangelist portraits, decorative canon tables, and other decorative elements. Classical architectures with arches and columns, borders with geometric and acanthus leaf patterns, and interlace initials additionally adorn the text. The De Luxe Edition features a cover with replica ivory plate showing the crucifixion, magnificent gemstones, and enamel work. This manuscript represents one of the most magnificent works of medieval illumination from any epoch.

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
Patron
Probably Abbot Humbert von Echternach (1018–1051), cover commissioned by Emperor Otto III (980–1002) and his mother Theophanu (960–991)
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Coburg and Altenburg (1745-1804)
House of Coburg-Gotha

Available facsimile editions:
Codex Aureus of Echternach – Müller & Schindler – Hs. 156 142 – Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Nuremberg, Germany)
Müller & Schindler – Frankfurt, 1982
Limited Edition: 250 copies

Codex Aureus of Echternach – Müller & Schindler – Hs. 156 142 – Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Nuremberg, Germany)
Müller & Schindler – Frankfurt, 1982
Limited Edition: 850 copies

Codex Aureus of Echternach – Müller & Schindler – Hs. 156 142 – Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Nuremberg, Germany)
Müller & Schindler – Frankfurt, 1982
Limited Edition: 150 copies
Detail Picture

Codex Aureus of Echternach

Entablature of a Canon Table

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are presented side by side under four arches to aid the reader in their religious studies – these are the Canon Tables created by Eusebius of Caesarea. Resting on five columns with artful 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.

Codex Aureus of Echternach – Müller & Schindler – Hs. 156 142 – Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Nuremberg, Germany)
Single Page

Codex Aureus of Echternach

Adoration of the Magi/ Dream of Magi and departure by horseback/Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

This impressive manuscript contains more than one hundred colorful individual scenic depictions of passages from the New Testament. Different periods of Christ's life are illuminated in three zones, one below the other. The particularly generous use of gold to frame the individual scenes and to accentuate pictorial motifs testifies to the special richness of the codex. Added to this is the value of the content of the illustrations, in that the faithfulness to the biblical text is preserved down to the smallest detail.
In the upper section of the picture, the Magi are depicted presenting their gifts. Mary and the infant Jesus are embedded in a magnificent columned architecture, artfully masking the humble birthplace of Christ. In the masterful and detailed representation, above the architecture is the red shining star of Bethlehem, which showed the way to the three saints.
While the middle section of the picture continues the Gospel of Matthew with the dream of the Magi, the lower scene shows the offering of Jesus in the temple according to Luke (2, 22-35). Here, also, it is demonstrated with particular richness of detail how Jesus is handed over to Simeon at the altar of the temple. Mary and Joseph stand in the elaborately decorated temple room, while Mary holds two doves ready for the sacrifice.

Codex Aureus of Echternach – Müller & Schindler – Hs. 156 142 – Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Nuremberg, Germany)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Goldenes Evangelienbuch von Echternach (Luxury Edition)

Müller & Schindler – Frankfurt, 1982

Publisher: Müller & Schindler – Frankfurt, 1982
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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€€€
(over 10,000€)

#2 Goldenes Evangelienbuch von Echternach (Standard Edition)

Müller & Schindler – Frankfurt, 1982

Publisher: Müller & Schindler – Frankfurt, 1982
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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)

#3 Goldenes Evangelienbuch von Echternach (Cork Box Edition)

Müller & Schindler – Frankfurt, 1982

Publisher: Müller & Schindler – Frankfurt, 1982
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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
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