Gradual of Gisela von Kerssenbrock

Gradual of Gisela von Kerssenbrock

Cistercian convent of Rulle, Osnabrück (Germany) — ca. 1300

In use for over 500 years: the hymn book and masterpiece by the Cistercian nun and choir master Gisela von Kerssenbrock

  1. This hymnal was written by the conductress Gisela von Kerssenbrock (d. ca. 1300) and used for nearly 500 years

  2. Gisela recorded the notation for the Latin hymns and masterfully illustrated her work with gilded initials

  3. It contains nearly 1,500 hymns at a time when most codices of this type contained only around 650

Gradual of Gisela von Kerssenbrock

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Gradual of Gisela von Kerssenbrock

The Gradual of Gisela von Kerssenbrock is a medieval hymnal for the Gregorian choir of the Cistercian order at Marienbrunn bei Osnabrück. It was created around 1300 by the conductress Gisela von Kerssenbrock and was used at the Marienbrunn nunnery for around 500 years. The work was renowned for its 53 magnificent and valuable initials, which were elaborated into miniatures.

The Gradual of Gisela von Kerssenbrock

A gradual is a collection of all Latin hymns, which accompanied daily mass in monastic orders and were sung by Gregorian choirs. Such a gradual of truly exceptional quality originates from the Marienbrunn Convent in Rulle bei Osnabrück. The Gradual of Gisela von Kerssenbrock was drafted around 1300 by its namesake, Gisela of Kerssenbrock. She wrote down the notation for the Latin hymns and masterfully illustrated the pages of her work with gold initials on a polished gold background. In total the codex contains 53 embellished initials, some taking up a whole page. Additionally, there are 15 blue and gold initial entangled with flaming red tendrils, as well as 200 small, blue deposited gold initials.

The Word of God in Daily Hymns

The Gregorian choral singing was probably the most important and indispensable element of mass in medieval cloisters. The accompanied the important liturgical sacraments such as the entrance into the church, the preparation of the Eucharist, and the act of Communion. Usually a gradual from the 13th century contained around 650 hymns. The Gisela codex had a much greater volume. Nearly 1,500 hymns were contained therein in either an abbreviated or completed form.

Gisela – A Great Figure of the Abbey

Numerous depictions of nuns in their habits are recorded in the codex. One of the nuns depicted is explicitly identified as Gisela. Thereby it is verifiable that this was the Westphalian noblewoman Gisela von Kerssenbrock. She was the conductress of the choir in the Cistercian cloister of Marienbrunn. She organized the choir and the soloists, selected pieces for mass several times a day, instructed her fellow sisters in song, oversaw the library and scriptorium of the cloister, and was responsible for the production of musical manuscripts. She had one of the most important positions within the convent and applied herself to this assignment with devotion. The Gisela codex is her most magnificent and elaborate work of art.

An Exceptional Treasure Trove of Images

As was usual in medieval graduals, the Gisela codex limits its pictorial decoration to initials. This example is certainly decorated to so great an extent as no other work of its type. The initials were elaborated partly with whole page miniatures, which are upheld in tones of luminous blue and red and are set apart with shimmering gold backgrounds. The mistress Gisela impressed her deeply felt beliefs with sensible, ingenious pictures of biblical scenes. The meaning of respective hymns can be understood through the size of the text and the richness of the decoration.

A Significant History

The Gisela Codex is the artistic embodiment of the convent Marienbrunn bei Osnabrück. The gradual was in use for 500 years in one of the first 25 Westphalian nunneries of the Cistercian Order. During the period of secularization, the work came into the possession of the suffragan bishop of Osnabrück Karl Klemens, and is stored in the Diocese Archive of Osnabrück.


Alternative Titles
Codex Gisle
Rulle Gradual
Graduale von Gisela von Kerssenbrock
Graduel de Gisela von Kerssenbrock
Size / Format
344 pages / 35.5 × 26.0 cm
ca. 1300
53 historiated initials
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Karl Klemens von Gruben, Bishop of Osnabrück (1769–1827)

Available facsimile editions:
Gradual of Gisela von Kerssenbrock – Inv. Nr. Ma 101 – Diözesanarchiv (Osnabrück, Germany)
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2014
Limited Edition: 480 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Codex Gisle

Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2014

Publisher: Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2014
Limited Edition: 480 copies
Binding: Faithful replica of the original: leather with embossings, corner pieces, and two brass clasps
Commentary: 1 volume by Harald Wolter-von dem Knesebeck, Fabian Kolb, and Hermann Queckenstedt
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: €€€€€ (over 10,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
You might also be interested in:
St. Peter Pericopes from St. Erentrud
St. Peter Pericopes from St. Erentrud
Monastery of St. Peter, Salzburg (Austria) – Around 1150

The richest picture program of a high medieval Gospel manuscript: 55 masterful Romanesque miniatures on a shiny gold background

Experience More
Pericopes of Henry II
Pericopes of Henry II
Monastery of Reichenau (Germany) – 1007–1012

Made at Reichenau by order of Germany's only canonized emperor: one of the most beautiful, splendid, and largest masterpieces of Ottonian illumination

Experience More
Blog articles worth reading
Filter selection