Codex Millenarius

Codex Millenarius Facsimile Edition

Mondsee Abbey (Austria) — Ca. 800

Created around the year 800 at Mondsee Monastery and in use for more than 1000 years: The masterfully illuminated Carolingian Gospels from Kremsmünster

  1. This sumptuous 8th century manuscript has been used at Kremsmünster Abbey for more than a millennium

  2. The text is the only well-preserved testimony to a now lost Bavarian-Austrian form of Vulgate

  3. The oldest surviving manuscript in which the evangelists and their symbols are equally represented

Codex Millenarius

Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Codex Millenarius

The Codex Millenarius is a plenarium, i.e. it contains all four Gospels in their entirety, but what is more, it introduces the Gospels with full page miniatures of the Evangelists and their symbols, and is the oldest such manuscript to employ this artistic device. This sumptuous 8th century manuscript has been in continual use at Kremsmünster Abbey for more than a millennium, hence its name. In addition, the text is the only well-preserved testimony to a now lost Bavarian-Austrian form of Vulgate. Therefore, this manuscript represents an artifact of tremendous value for researchers in art history, biblical history, cultural history, and linguistics.

Codex Millenarius

The Codex Millenarius contains all four Gospels in Latin translation and belongs to the three precious holy shrines of Kremsmünster Abbey, which are of outstanding spiritual value and of special cultural and historical interest. Together with Tassilo’s chalice and chandeliers, the Codex Millenarius has been used in liturgy up to this day. Its pricelessness is based on its age, the beauty of its script, and its excellent decoration. In addition, the text is the only well-preserved testimony to a now lost Bavarian-Austrian form of Vulgate. The Codex Millenarius was made ca. 800 either in the scriptorium of Mondsee, the mother monastery of Kremsmünster, or perhaps in Kremsmünster itself. It has remained at Kremsmünster ever since. The illumination goes back to the Carolingian period and comprises a total of eight full-page miniatures depicting the four Evangelists and their symbols, the four relevant sumptuous initials introducing the Gospel texts and a few remainders of the canon tables. The pictorial decoration is further ornamented with a solemn Carolingian script (uncial) which makes the holy text a truly unique holistic work of art.

A Millenary Jewel

The Codex Millenarius owes its name to the millenium anniversary celebrated by the venerable Abbey of Kremsmünster in 1777. When Garampi, the Papal nuncio in Vienna and former prefect of the Vatican Archives, saw the gospel book, he exclaimed: Vere hicce millenarius codex est(”This is truly a millenary book”).

Masterful Illumination and Calligraphy

We know of only a few other comparable manuscripts which pair the evangelists and their symbols on an equal footing in large full-page miniatures of the same size. The Millenarius is the oldest surviving manuscript in which these double images have been preserved to this day. Another unique feature of the Millenarius is the consistent insertion of all eight pictures into big arcades with round arches. These are framed alternately in gold and silver and decorated with interlacing ornament. The depictions of the evangelists and their symbols impress the reader by means of their dynamism and detailed appearance. The open books in the pictures of the evangelists, which show an extremely fine minuscule script, are of particular value in this context. Furthermore, the unique value of the Millenarius is visible in the beauty of its uniform script. A solemn, very standardized uncial from the Carolingian epoch highlights the sacred text. Each single leaf thus constitutes a graphical masterpiece, and was probably executed by a single artist.

A Unique Textual Testimony

The Codex Millenarius is a plenarium, i.e. it contains all four Gospels in their entirety: Matthew, Marc, Luke and John. The text is Vulgate though an important portion is Vetus Latina, which makes one assume that a predecessor was corrected from Vetus Latina into Vulgate. Only three manuscripts of this type have been handed down to us, of which the Codex Millenarius constitutes the best preserved example. The textual form of this Bavarian-Austrian type used in the Church province of Salzburg before Alcuin came along, is rooted in Northern Italy.


Alternative Titles
Codex Millenarius maior
Size / Format
700 pages / 34.0 × 23.0 cm
Ca. 800
Uncial Rustic capitals Minuscule script
8 full-page miniatures, 4 large decorative initials
The Four Gospels in their entirety

Available facsimile editions:
Codex Millenarius – Cim. 1 – Stift Kremsmünster (Kremsmünster, Austria) Facsimile Edition
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1974
Detail Picture

Codex Millenarius

Matthew the Evangelist as an Angel

Holding his gospel with a serene expression on his face, Matthew the Evangelist is depicted as an angel dressed in a flowing blue cloak. Gold leaf has been used to highlight the corner fittings on the codex as well as his clothing, some of which has flaked off over the course of 1,200 years. The feathers of Matthew’s wings have been painted with great detail and his face is remarkably expressive thanks to the large eyes, broad nose, and full lips painted by the artist.

Codex Millenarius
Single Page

Codex Millenarius

Saint Luke as a Winged Bull

As the oldest surviving manuscript to contain full-page miniatures of the Evangelists and their symbols, this is one of the earliest depictions of Saint Luke and his symbol – a bull or ox, typically depicted with wings, as it is here. The fact that this symbol was given its own separate page points to the Insular tradition of illumination in which it is was created.

Although designed in the Insular style and including elements typical of Anglo-Irish art, such as the use of interlace, the classical influence in the miniatures, and the manuscript as a whole, is self-evident. Aside from being placed within a rounded Roman arch, the aesthetic style of the bull and color palette chosen by the artists are strongly influenced by Late Roman art.

Codex Millenarius
Facsimile Editions

#1 Codex Millenarius

Binding: White leather spine with red cloth covers
Commentary: Bound with facsimile (40 pages) by Willibord Neumüller and Kurt Holter
Language: German

The facsimile comes in a binding with a scholarly commentary in which Willibrord Neumüller, librarian of Kremsmünster Abbey, describes the textual form of the manuscript and its codicological analysis, and Kurt Holter explains the decoration from an art historian’s point of view.

W. Neumüller O.S.B., Kremsmünster, and K. Holter, Wels. 40 pp. text, 6 plates with 17 ill. and 1 colour plate.
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Pages reproduced in color and in black and white and not trimmed to match the original.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
You might also be interested in:
Ottheinrich's Bible Facsimile Edition
Ottheinrich's Bible
Regensburg (Germany) – 1425–1430 and ca. 1530

A masterpiece of German Gothic and Renaissance art adorned with magnificent gold miniatures: the first illustrated New Testament Bible in the German language

Experience More
Vorau Picture Bible Facsimile Edition
Vorau Picture Bible
South Germany – 1467

Created long before Luther: a large Bible in German vernacular with over 550 expressive images

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection