Part of the Imperial Insignia, written in gold ink on purple parchment: each German emperor swore his oath with his hand on this book

Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire

Palace School of Charlemagne, Aachen (Germany) — Shortly before 800

Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire

Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire

Palace School of Charlemagne, Aachen (Germany) — Shortly before 800

  1. A crown jewel of the Roman-German Emperors was created ca. 800 at the behest of Charlemagne (742-814)

  2. The Gospel text is recorded in gold and silver ink on purple parchment alongside Evangelist portraits

  3. The golden cover is a Late Gothic work by the master smith Hans von Reutlingen (1492-1524), which was added ca. 1500

Krönungsevangeliar des Heiligen Römischen Reiches (De Luxe Edition)

Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire

Incipit Page: Gospel of Luke

Adorned by a glorious “Q” initial with Insular-style interlace, the opening lines of the Gospel of Luke are perfectly written. The Byzantine scribe’s triumph is all the more impressive considering that the words of the Four Evangelists were written entirely in gold ink, which contrasts wonderfully with the purple parchment that was itself extremely expensive to manufacture. Three writing styles were employed: capitalis rustica, capitalis quadrata, and uncial script for the main text.

Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire

Alternative Titles:
  • Codex Aureus
  • Krönungsevangeliar des Heiligen Römischen Reiches
  • Coronation Gospels of Charlemagne
  • Vienna Coronation Gospels
  • Treasury Gospels
  • Krönunsgevangeliar Karls des Großen
  • Wiener Krönungsevangeliar
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire, also known as the Vienna Coronation Gospels, represents a highpoint of Carolingian manuscript art. This work is centrally important, as it is one of the imperial crown jewels on which any of the Roman-German Kings must take their coronation oath. It is opulently appointed and arranged in an evangelistary fashion. Sixteen canonical panels, four evangelical paintings, and other artistic jewelry adorn the grandly crafted calligraphy, all of which is crowned by a lavishly expensive and artful cover. The masterfully crafted golden cover is a work Late Gothic goldsmithing by Hans von Reutlingen, who created 700 years later in the 15th Century in order to emphasize the significance of the Coronation Gospels.

Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire

The Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire, also known as the Vienna Coronation Gospels, represents a highpoint of Carolingian manuscript art. This work is centrally important, as it is one of the imperial crown jewels on which any of the Roman-German Kings must take their coronation oath. It is opulently appointed and arranged in an evangelistary fashion. Sixteen canonical panels, four evangelical paintings, and other artistic jewelry adorn the grandly crafted calligraphy, all of which is crowned by a lavishly expensive and artful cover.

Precious Materials and Art in the Ancient Tradition

The Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire is a tremendous work of inestimable significance. All of the 236 pages are purple parchment, a writing material of the highest worth and also therefore possessing great symbolism, the luxury manuscript contains the four Gospels, each prefaced with an Evangelist portrait. Throughout these fine purple pages, the biblical passages are written in gold and silver, with each Gospel text prefaced by a great initial. The Four Evangelist paintings most likely originate from various hands, who nonetheless attempted uniformity in style as they aimed to mimic the ancient painting techniques in their depiction of bodies and space. Wrapped in supple white raiment, the Evangelists are enthroned like ancient philosophers in the middle of the paintings, with a wide landscape and endless sky in the background. The artists of this manuscript, who presumably were from the Byzantine world, were part of Charlemagne's Palace School in Aachen .The 16 canonical archways are similarly underlined with the architectural elements of a combined ancient and medieval character.

The Binding

The magnificent binding of this manuscript catches one’s eye from the very first glance. The masterfully crafted golden cover is a work Late Gothic goldsmithing by Hans von Reutlingen, who created 700 years later in the 15th Century in order to emphasize the significance of the Coronation Gospels. A delicate relief with image of God the Father on His throne is in the middle of the scene of Annunciation, surrounded by the four Evangelist symbols in the corners, decorates the writing within. In this fine handmade work of craftsmanship, the glory of the gold is strengthened by the illumination of small diamond shards, with much more attention focused on the sapphire placed on the chest of God.

Historical Significance

Created ca. 800 at the behest of Charlemagne, this manuscript was used for centuries in the coronation of all Roman-German king, all of which took place in Aachen until 1531. The candidates took their oath on the codex by placing their hand on the opening page of the Gospel of John as they took their oath. A legendary event illustrates the importance of the manuscript: according to legend, when the tomb of Charlemagne was opened in the year 1000, the coronation gospel lay on his knees. As a result, it was revered in Aachen as a relic of Charles and to Vienna in 1811 reached Paderborn, where it is kept today together with the other imperial jewels. The magnificent cover is exhibited in the treasury of the Kunsthistorisches Museum as a highlight of the collection, the manuscript itself is too fragile for permanent exhibition after more than 12 centuries and is kept as a valuable treasure in a climate controlled safe.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Codex Aureus
Krönungsevangeliar des Heiligen Römischen Reiches
Coronation Gospels of Charlemagne
Vienna Coronation Gospels
Treasury Gospels
Krönunsgevangeliar Karls des Großen
Wiener Krönungsevangeliar
Size / Format
472 pages / 34.0 x 26.5 cm
Date
Shortly before 800
Language
Illustrations
16 canon tables, 4 full-page evangelist portraits
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Krönungsevangeliar des Heiligen Römischen Reiches (De Luxe Edition)

Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire

Portrait of John the Evangelist

During their coronations, candidates would swear their solemn oaths by laying their hand upon the Gospel of John. Such Evangelist portraits were a defining feature of Carolingian art, mixing Insular influences with Byzantine ones. This miniature is believed to have been made by a monk named Demetrius who, judging by the design, must have been classically trained in Italy.

Usually depicted as either a white-haired old man or a beardless youth, John is depicted as a man in his prime here. He faces the beholder directly and is seated in front of a classical architecture wearing a toga. He holds a pen or stylus in his right hand, which is gilded along with his halo, the frame, and the background, while holding his Gospel in his left hand.

2 available facsimile edition(s) of „Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire“

Krönungsevangeliar des Heiligen Römischen Reiches (De Luxe Edition)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
Coronation Gospels of the Holy Roman Empire – SCHK.XIII.18 – Kunsthistorisches Museum, Weltliche Schatzkammer (Wien, Austria)
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Krönungsevangeliar des Heiligen Römischen Reiches (De Luxe Edition)

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Faksimile Verlag – Munich, 2012
Limited Edition
333 copies
Binding
The decorative cover of the binding is made of copper; it is nickel- and silver-plated, gold-plated and patinated by hand; on the cover are 19 ornamental stones: amethysts, smoky quartz, a tourmaline, rhinestones and a synthetic sapphire; the frames are engraved, and gilt catches and five gilt book studs on the back cover of the facsimile complete the edition. The casket consists of a base covered with black velvet and maple wood elements, together with a cover made of UV-absorbing acrylic glass.
Commentary
1 volume (180 pages) by Franz Kirchweger, Florentine Mütherich, Herrmann Fillitz, Fabrizio Crivello and Matthias Exner
Language: German
Price Category: €€€€€
Edition available
Price: Login here!
Krönungsevangeliar des Heiligen Römischen Reiches (Library Binding Edition)
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Krönungsevangeliar des Heiligen Römischen Reiches (Library Binding Edition)

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Faksimile Verlag – Munich, 2012
Binding
Red velvet
Commentary
1 volume (180 pages) by Dr Franz Kirchweger, Florentine Mütherich, Herrmann Fillitz, Fabrizio Crivello and Matthias Exner
Language: German
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