Guta-Sintram Codex

Guta-Sintram Codex Facsimile Edition

Marbach Abbey, Upper Alsace (France) — 1154

Augustinian rules, medicine, and prayers: the result of an extraordinary collaboration between a canoness and a canon

  1. This manuscript is the result of an extraordinary collaboration between Guta von Schwarzenthann and Canon Sintram

  2. At the heart of the mid-12th century manuscript lies 35 splendid double-page calendar illustrations

  3. The prayer book for Schwarzenthann Cloister also records deceased abbots, provosts, nuns, etc.

Guta-Sintram Codex

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Guta-Sintram Codex

The Guta-Sintram Codex is a compilation resulting from an extraordinary collaboration that gives a unique glimpse into the world of a Romanesque cloister. It was completed in 1154 by Canoness Guta von Schwarzenthann and Canon Sintram, both members of the Augustinian Order of the Marbach Abbey in Alsace. Next to the prayer texts, legal decisions, and important information about monastic life, the work gives medical advice and is especially famous for its lavishly adorned, humorous monthly calendar. It is richly adorned with 230 colored miniatures including 3 full-page miniatures, 26 historiated initials, and numerous smaller initials including 35 double-page illustrations decorated with large initials, banderoles, zodiac signs, and groups of people. The Guta Sintram Codex is one of the most precious Alsatian manuscripts ever created and is considered to be a treasure of European culture because of its age, its exceptional Romanesque illumination, and its contents.

Guta-Sintram Codex

In 1154, an incomparable manuscript emerged from the Marbach Monastery in the Upper Alsace region. It is a combination of a a prayer book, a law book, a necrology, a collection of sermons, and an especially lavishly designed calendar. The 326-page work is richly ornamented with an artistic core of 70 pages presenting a comprehensive monthly calendar with medical advice, which represents a true masterpiece of early book illustration. The codex is probably the costliest manuscript from Alsace and belongs to the cultural heritage of the European Middle Ages.

A Gifted Duo

The Guta-Sintram Codex was the result of an exceptional collaboration and is named after both of its authors. The duo consisted of Guta von Schwarzenthann, a canoness, and Canon Sintram, both of them were members of the Augustinian Order of the Marbach cloister in Alsace. Guta is responsible for the beautiful script while the wonderful full page illustrations and countless decorative initials come from Sintram. They completed the work in 1154 and dedicated it to the Virgin Mary. The Marbach cloister was founded in 1089 and was the springboard for the founding of important cloisters in the Upper Rhine region of southern Germany and Switzerland.

A Surprising Wealth of Information

The codex was originally compiled as a prayer book for the women of the Schwarzenthann cloister. It offered and still offers much more than a collection of prayers and liturgical texts. The work contains references to the lifestyle of the women of the cloister, it contains a transcript of the papal privileges of the convent and also offers its legal basis, a register of martyrs and other saints, as well as a register of the deceased abbots, provosts, monks, prioresses, and nuns of the cloister. Furthermore, a collection of sermons corresponding to the readings of the day are to be found in the work as well as a collection of the customs and practices of the cloister. There is no other work from this time, that makes such a detailed glimpse of daily cloister life in that time possible.

An Artwork of Illumination

There are many admirable, at times full-page miniatures of extraordinary quality in the book, but the layout of the calendars truly gives proof of Canon Sintram’s talents. The 35 double-page illustrations are decorated with large initials, banderoles, zodiac signs, and groups of people. The banderoles provide instructions for bloodletting, give dietary advice, or recommend medicines derived from plants or animals. The monthly calendar is lovingly crafted with jokes and humor and depicts a truly unique glimpse into the monastic medicine of the Middle Ages.


Alternative Titles
Codex Guta-Sintram
Size / Format
326 pages / 35.5 × 27.0 cm
230 colored miniatures including 3 full-page miniatures, 26 historiated initials, numerous smaller initials
Comprehensive monthly calendar with medical advice, prayer texts and sermons; legal decisions, privileges and charters; martyrology; necrology, customs, and practices of the cloister
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Convent of Schwartzenthann
Marbach Abbey

Available facsimile editions:
Guta-Sintram Codex – Ms. 37 – Bibliothèque du Grand Séminaire (Strasbourg, France) Facsimile Edition
Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 1982
Limited Edition: 930 copies
Detail Picture

Guta-Sintram Codex

“P“ Initial with Dragon

Aside from the manuscript’s humorous calendar pages and elaborate full-page miniatures, the décor of the text pages is extraordinary. Here we see a golden “P” initial with diamond-patterned silver bands and a green-blue-red filigree background. A winged dragon with a second head on the end of its tail is depicted climbing up between the columns of text in red, yellow, and orange. The clear, uniformly-written text in black and red ink completes the perfection of this Romanesque masterpiece.

Codex Guta-Sintram
Single Page

Guta-Sintram Codex

Portrait of St. Augustine

This manuscript originated from the Upper Alsace region, specifically in Marbach Monastery, an Augustinian monastic community. As such, here we find the obligatory miniature dedicated to the founder of the order, St. Augustine. Even though the order would not formally be founded for another century, this 12th century manuscript contains inter alia the Rule of St. Augustine.

This rare Romanesque portrait is evocative of an Evangelist portrait in the Insular style and presents the saint flanked by two nuns and two tonsured monks. In comparison to the smaller, lightly shaded figures to the left and right, St. Augustine is portrayed front and center in rich primary colors. His eyes are fixed upward and his expression is sublime.

Codex Guta-Sintram
Facsimile Editions

#1 Codex Guta-Sintram

Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 1982

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 1982
Limited Edition: 930 copies
Binding: The pages are trimmed according to the original, stitched by hand, and reproduced in their current condition. The original's luminous and differentiated richness of color is presented in a confusingly similar manner and fully displayed. The magnificent work has been furnished with a cowhide binding true to the 17th century original.
Commentary: 1 volume (240 pages) by Béatrice Weis, Pierre Bachoffner, Gérard Cames, Marie Popin, Joseph Siegwart, Luc Verheijen, Robert Will, Cyrille Vogel, Jean Châtillon, Raymond Etaix, and Michel Parisse
Languages: French, 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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