Godescalc Evangelistary

Godescalc Evangelistary

Germany — 781–783

Commissioned by Charlemagne, completed by the scribe Godescalc in his Aachen court school: a Carolingian-Insular masterpiece in gold and purple

  1. Charlemagne (742–814) and his wife Hildegard commissioned this Carolingian masterpiece between 781 and 783

  2. Originating in the Palace School at Aachen, the manuscript's adornment is dominated purple, silver, and gold

  3. Named after the scribe Godescalc, it masterfully combines Insular elements with those from late Antiquity

Godescalc Evangelistary

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
Godescalc Evangelistary

Between 781 and 783, Charlemagne (747/8–814) personally commissioned the Godescalc Evangelistary together with his wife Hildegard (ca. 758–783) from the scriptorium of his Court School at Aachen. It came to be one of the most glorious manuscripts from the Carolingian period to survive today. The text of the Gospel readings is written in gold and silver ink on purple parchment and were accompanied by six full-page miniatures showing the four Evangelists, Christ, and a fountain of life. Glimmering initials and interesting ornamental borders additionally adorn the entire liturgical luxury manuscript. The easily recognizable transition between the Insular and antique-like illumination. Thus, one can find wave bands, acanthus ornaments and wickerwork patterns in the frames of the miniatures.

Godescalc Evangelistary

The Godescalc Evangelistary is one of the most beautiful and costly manuscripts from the Carolingian period to survive to the present. It was made at the behest of no less than Charlemagne (747/8–814) and his wife Hildegard (ca. 758–783) in the scriptorium of his Court School at Aachen between 781 and 783, and is furnished with particularly rich and noble materials. Stretching across 254 ages altogether, the text of the Gospel readings glimmers in precious gold and silver ink on purple parchment. The manuscript was introduced by six full-page miniatures showing the four Evangelists, Christ, and a fountain of life, while richly ornamented and sparkling initials accompany the entire text.

Noble Materials with Significance

A manuscript personally commissioned by Charlemagne is obviously going to be furnished with every art of painting and writing available at the time. Nevertheless, aside from its decorative purpose, the noble materials have a symbolic meaning: the splendid luminosity of gold, silver, and purple supposed to be reminiscent of the heavenly kingdom and eternal life.

First Class Miniatures Straight from Aachen

The luminous manuscript originated in the scriptorium of the Court School of Charlemagne in Aachen. Today, there are still eight complete manuscripts and a fragment originating from this scriptorium, of which the Godescalc Evangelistary is the oldest. The liturgical manuscript owes its name to the scribe Godescalc who accompanied Charlemagne on his journey to Italy.

Stylistic Variety of the Miniatures

The stylistic variety of the miniatures is extremely interesting to observe. One is able to find both Insular wickerwork patterns as well as antique-like wave bands and acanthus ornaments. This variety of motifs is appended by the already modeling use of color, which lends the figures and space more plasticity. This pursuit of a logical connection between the figures and the space in which they find themselves is style building for the subsequent works of the Aachen scriptorium.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Godescalc Sacramentary
Godescalc Gospels
Godescalc Gospel Lectionary
Godescalc-Evangelistar
Évangéliaire de Godescalc ou de Charlemagne
Evangelistario di Godescalco
Size / Format
254 pages / 31.0 × 21.0 cm
Origin
Germany
Date
781–783
Language
Illustrations
Six full-page illuminations: The four Evangelists, Christ in Majesty and the Fountain of Life. The hole text is written in gold and silver on purple parchment.
Content
Readings from the Gospels for the Mass
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Godescalc Evangelistary – Ms. Nouv. Acq. Lat. 1203 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
Faksimile Verlag – Munich, 2017
Limited Edition: 980 copies

Godescalc Evangelistary - library edition
Faksimile Verlag – Munich, 2015
Limited Edition: 98 copies (+20 copies in Roman numbers)
Detail Picture

Godescalc Evangelistary

Incipit Page: Christmas Vigil

On the left, the huge gold leaf initials are a mesmerizing cosmos of interlace patterns. The neatly written text in the right column consists of alternating lines of gold and silver, the latter of which has tarnished black so that it is barely legible against the purple background, but would have shimmered brilliantly when it was made over 1,200 years ago. It is a phenomenal incipit page made with only the finest materials, even the backgrounds are dyed with incredibly expensive purple ink.

Godescalc Evangelistary
Single Page

Godescalc Evangelistary

Portrait of John the Evangelist

This is simultaneously the earliest known Carolingian manuscript and one of the finest, as this Evangelist portrait can attest to. Only the richest materials – gold, silver, and purple parchment – were worthy of Charlemagne. John is given special status as his miniature is facing that of Christ in Majesty.

This sparkling composition is presented within a frame of Insular interlace. Holding a codex as he inks his stylus, John is depicted recording Christ’s life as a witness without adding his own creativity. John is seated on a throne – an allusion to Charlemagne’s authority over Rome, which he had recently saved from the Lombards, conquering them in 774 to claim the Iron Crown of Italy, an event commemorated by this commission.

Godescalc Evangelistary
Facsimile Editions

#1 Godescalc Evangelistary

Faksimile Verlag – Munich, 2017
Godescalc Evangelistary – Ms. Nouv. Acq. Lat. 1203 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
Godescalc Evangelistary – Ms. Nouv. Acq. Lat. 1203 – Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Munich, 2017
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Leather cover decorated with dry-stamped motif, two clasps
Commentary: 1 volume by Fabrizio Crivello, Charlotte Denoël and Peter Orth
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: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!

#2 Godescalc Evangelistary - library edition

Faksimile Verlag – Munich, 2015
Godescalc Evangelistary - library edition
Godescalc Evangelistary - library edition Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Munich, 2015
Limited Edition: 98 copies (+20 copies in Roman numbers)
Binding: Leather cover decorated with dry-stamped motif
Commentary: 1 volume by Fabrizio Crivello, Charlotte Denoël and Peter Orth
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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