Gospels of John of Opava

Gospels of John of Opava Facsimile Edition

Bohemia (Czech Republic) — 1368

The "founding work" of the Austrian National Library, written entirely in gold ink, with its magnificent original binding: a Bohemian Codex Aureus with breathtaking historiated initials and miniatures

  1. The priest and canon John of Opava created this evangeliary at the behest of Duke Albert III of Austria (1298–1358)

  2. Written entirely in gold ink in 1368, it features outstanding Gothic miniatures, initials, and more

  3. Extravagantly filigreed book covers of gilded silver protect this masterpiece of Bohemian illumination

Gospels of John of Opava

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Gospels of John of Opava

As a great lover of precious books, Albert III, Duke of Austria (1349–1395), commissioned the priest and canon John of Opava with a particularly splendid evangeliary. Opava said himself that he wrote the text with pure-gold ink in the year 1368. Having said that, Opava received the support of an assistant and the miniaturist of the Missal of Johann von Neumarkt for the decoration of the 348 pages with five picture pages, four decorative initial pages, 85 historiated initials, and numerous borders with spurs. The two filigree book covers, each with stylized sunbeams and five gold-plated silver lion heads, effectively highlight the manuscript.

Gospels of John of Opava

As the founding codex of the Austrian National Library, the splendid Gospels of John of Opava occupies a special position in that collection. The manuscript comprising 384 pages originated in 1386 in northern Czechia at the behest of Albert III, the Duke of Austria (1349–1395). He was already known by his contemporaries as a bibliophile and lover of the arts. The priest and canon John of Opava was responsible for the design of the text, the five large image pages, the four decorative initial pages, and the 85 historiated initials. The imposing overall impression of the manuscript was rounded out by the forging of the two gilded silver book covers.

The Signature of John of Opava

John of Opava informs the reader of the four Gospels of the New Testament that he himself wrote the text as a priest and canon of Brno in 1368 with pure gold ink. Although the manuscript can be dated with certainty, it can be assumed that Opava had support in producing the manuscript. In this way, three different hands can be distinguished in the decoration: those of the priest as the chief master, those of an assistant, and those of the miniature painter of the Missal of Johann von Neumarkt.

Richly Detailed Depiction from the Lives of the Evangelists

The decorative pages, which are at the beginning of each Gospel and are always based on the same basic scheme, are quite masterly. On the left side there are 12 scenes from the Legende Aurea depicting stories from the life of the evangelist with impressive accuracy. Opposite is a lavish ornamental page with the corresponding initial letter of the Gospel. Furthermore, 85 beautiful initials spread over the text mark the beginning of each chapter. Additionally, all text pages are decorated with a bright blue frames and enchanting spurs.

Gleaming Metal Book Covers

A very special characteristic of the Bohemian manuscript are the extremely filigree worked book covers made of gilded silver. Each consists of four tracery strips forming an infield, which is filled by stylized sun rays, which leak into thin peaks. In the four corners and in the center you can find a lion's head with a mane designed as a radiant wreath. As the only surviving original metal book cover of the Austrian National Library, this outstanding smithery is of particular value.


Alternative Titles
Evangeliar des Johann von Troppau
Evangeliar des Johannes von Troppau
Size / Format
384 pages / 37.3 × 25.5 cm
5 full-page illuminations, 4 full-page initials, 85 historiated initials. Every gospel begins with a double-page illumination: 12 scenes on verso illustrating the lives of the evangelists and the initial letter on recto. The whole text written in gold
Albert III, Duke of Austria (1349–1395)
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, 1415-1493
Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, 1503-1564

Available facsimile editions:
Gospels of John of Opava – Codex 1182 – Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria) Facsimile Edition
Coron Verlag – Gütersloh, 2005
Limited Edition: 333 copies
Detail Picture

Gospels of John of Opava

Martyrdom of St. Mark

Mark the Evangelist was the founder of the Church of Alexandria and the city’s first bishop. In the year AD 68, the idolatrous citizens of Alexandria revolted against his attempts to Christianize them, dragging him through the city until he was dead. His relics remained there until they were stolen by two Venetian merchants in 828 and thereafter became the focal point of St. Mark’s Basilica. His martyrdom is depicted here in a series of miniatures resembling a macabre comic book.

Evangeliar des Johann von Troppau
Single Page

Gospels of John of Opava

Christ in Majesty

This miniature presents Christ in Majesty, bearing the stigmata, surrounded by three angels holding a cross with the crown of thorns, trumpet, spear, and sponge, as well as the rest of the Holy Family. Upon closer inspection, the pink mandorla is filled with angels, the so-called Heavenly Host. The background is a perfectly executed pattern, which is painted with a deep blue pigment and gold leaf.

Light shades of red and green have been employed for both framing the entire scene as well as the mandorla, even creating bands upon which Christ is seated and rests his feet. Brilliantly burnished gold leaf has been masterfully applied to the haloes of the figures as well as the wings of the angels. This is an exemplary specimen of the Gothic style from Bohemia.

Evangeliar des Johann von Troppau
Facsimile Editions

#1 Evangeliar des Johann von Troppau

Coron Verlag – Gütersloh, 2005

Publisher: Coron Verlag – Gütersloh, 2005
Limited Edition: 333 copies
Binding: Cowhide with two fine clasps. Front and back cover with decorative silver gold work showing 5 lion heads each, according to the original.
Commentary: 1 volume (160 pages) by Andreas Fingernagel, Ulrike Jenni, Maria Theisen, Karel Stejskal and Alexander Sauter
Languages: 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.
Regular price without login (like new)4,890 
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