Codex of Vyšehrad

Codex of Vyšehrad Facsimile Edition

Probably Bohemia (Czech Republic) — 1085

Created by a group of highly talented Regensburg illuminators: a masterfully illuminated Gospel Book celebrating the coronation of Duke Vratislaus II as the first King of Bohemia in 1085

  1. A group of artists from the Regensburg region of Bavaria was imported to mark the occasion

  2. 60+ miniatures as well as elaborate initials and gorgeous frames adorn the Biblical texts

  3. It is a splendid witness to the power struggles of the 12th century between Pope and Emperor

Codex of Vyšehrad

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

In the year 1085, Vratislaus II was crowned the first King of Bohemia, an event marked by the creation of this incredible Romanesque manuscript. The Vyšehrad Codex is the grandest of four manuscripts created by a group of artists, presumably trained in Regensburg, who were brought to Prague to commemorate the founding of a new kingdom, which was a tool of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV in his ongoing power struggle with the papacy. More than 60 miniatures adorn the Biblical texts in addition to elaborate initials and gorgeous frames that make this a true masterpiece of Romanesque art. The artwork is characterized by thick outlines filled in with pigments of red, pink, green, blue, purple, and brown presented before backgrounds with gold leaf. It is notable for including the earliest known representation of the Tree of Jesse, which may have been an assertion of the rightful kingship of the royal patron.

Codex of Vyšehrad

The Vyšehrad Codex, also known as the Codex Vyssegradensis in Latin, is one of the most important and most valuable manuscript kept in the modern Czech Republic. It is the Coronation Gospels of King Vratislaus, a magnificent tome made for the coronation of Vratislaus II (ca. 1032-92) as the first king of Bohemia in 1085. It is the largest and most splendidly illuminated manuscript from a group of four that was created by a team of artists in Prague between 1080 and 1085. Judging by the artistic style, this group likely originated from Regensburg and were brought to Prague for the creation of these splendid codices.

A Romanesque Masterpiece

The exceptional Romanesque illumination makes it one of the finest illuminated manuscripts from the second half of the 11th century and shows influences from Ottonian art, the Regensburg school in particular, and it is believed that the artists were foreigners who were invited to collaborate on a royal masterpiece. More than 60 miniatures adorn the Biblical texts in addition to elaborate initials and gorgeous frames. The four-page genealogy of Christ is both extremely artful and unusual in its depiction of the Tree of Jesse: instead of Christ’s ancestors, seven doves with halos perch in the branches, a motif from Byzantine art. Gold leaf has been used generously throughout the manuscript and contrasts wonderfully with the unusual, almost pastel color palette with unusual shades. Finally, the gorgeous text is written in an innovative mix of Roman capitals and uncial script.

Bavarian Illumination for a Bohemian King

The Vyšehrad Codex’s extremely rich iconography and its visual components rank it among the most precious illuminated manuscripts of the second half of the 11th century in Europe. It was probably made at the behest of Bohemian diplomats to honor an anniversary of the coronation of Duke Vratislaus II as the first King of Bohemia, which took place in 1085. The codex probably originated from the circle of the scriptorium at the Monastery of St. Emmeram in Regensburg, one of the most prolific sources for illuminated manuscripts during the period, which would have been very influential due to its proximity to Prague. Finally, it is notable for containing the earliest known representation of the Tree of Jesse, which may have been an assertion of the rightful kingship of the royal patron.

Created by an Anonymous Master

Although it is the work of several artists, the Vyšehrad Codex was a project that was apparently overseen by an artist known as the Master of the Codex Vyšehradensis. The artwork is characterized by thick outlines filled in with pigments of red, pink, green, blue, purple, and brown presented before backgrounds with gold leaf. The majuscule script is presented with spacing between words, which was unusual at the time, and the first letter of each sentence is enlarged and embellished with gold leaf and a red outline.

Part of a Political Struggle

The creation of the Kingdom of Bohemia could not have occurred without the help of Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV (1050-1106), who was engaged in a power struggle with the Papacy over the right to appoint bishops that culminated in the Investiture Crisis. As part of his campaign to limit papal power in his realms, the Emperor insisted on the retention of the Slavonic liturgy in Bohemia rather than adopting the Roman rite in order to gains the support of Vratislaus.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Vyšehrad Codex
Codex Vyssegradensis
Coronation Gospels of King Vratislaus
Lectionary Ms. Codex Vyšehradensis
Coronation Codex
Size / Format
216 pages / 41.5 × 34.0 cm
Date
1085
Style
Language
Script
Roman square capitals Roman uncial
Illustrations
64 full-page miniatures of the Evangelists and the Gospels, the genealogy of Christ and with scenes from the Old Testament and the life of Christ; numerous large decorative initials of vegetative ornaments
Content
Lectionary, which also includes the reading for the coronation of the king
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Church of Vyšehrad
Library of the Prague Archbishopric Seminary

Available facsimile editions:
Codex of Vyšehrad – XIV A 13 – National Library of the Czech Republic (Prague, Czech Republic) Facsimile Edition
Tempus Libri – Prague, 2014
Limited Edition: 199 copies

Codex of Vyšehrad – XIV A 13 – National Library of the Czech Republic (Prague, Czech Republic) Facsimile Edition
Sumptibus Pragopress – Prague, 1970
Detail Picture

Codex of Vyšehrad

Tree of Jesse

This miniature, precisely dated to 1086, is the oldest known depiction of the Jesse Tree and is also one of the most unique iconographically. It has been argued that its purpose was to assert Vratislav II’s right to rule as the first King of Bohemia. Instead of various figures from Christ’s genealogy, as is usual, the tree supports seven doves with haloes representing the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The prophet Isiah approaches Jesse, from whose feet the tree is growing, and holds a banderole reading: "A little rod from Jesse gives rise to a splendid flower".

Codex Vyssegradensis
Single Page

Codex of Vyšehrad

The Three Marys at the Tomb

After Jesus was laid to rest, the Three Marys returned three days later to visit the tomb, but found it is empty, the stone rolled back by an angel who sits upon it, and the soldiers guarding it are cast into a deep sleep. The angel tells them that Christ is risen and instructs them to go spread the word to his disciples and to seek him in Galilee.

The angel is depicted in a splendid robe trimmed with colorful gemstones and holding a cross-staff as he greets the Three Marys, who hold censers and jars of incense. Christ’s tomb is an elaborate sarcophagus with an intricate floral interlace pattern and is empty save for his discarded burial shroud. The soldiers guarding the tomb are small and childlike symbolizing their powerlessness in the face of an angel.

Codex Vyssegradensis
Facsimile Editions

#1 Codex Vyssegradensis

Tempus Libri – Prague, 2014

Publisher: Tempus Libri – Prague, 2014
Limited Edition: 199 copies
Binding: Book cover coated with floral embroidered fabric; back cover and spine in white leather showing the enthroned Christ in a mandorla on the back.
Commentary: 1 volume by Michal Dragoun and Tomáš Žilinčár
Language: Czech
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 Codex Vysehradensis

Sumptibus Pragopress – Prague, 1970
Codex of Vyšehrad – XIV A 13 – National Library of the Czech Republic (Prague, Czech Republic) Facsimile Edition
Codex of Vyšehrad – XIV A 13 – National Library of the Czech Republic (Prague, Czech Republic) Facsimile Edition Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Sumptibus Pragopress – Prague, 1970
Commentary: 1 volume by František Kavka, Jiří Mašín, Jaroslav Pešina, and Josef Krása
Languages: Czech, English, French, German, Russian
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: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
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