Joshua Roll

Joshua Roll Facsimile Edition

Imperial Court School of Byzantium, Istanbul (Turkey) — 10th century

The Old Testament Book of Joshua thoroughly and impressively illuminated: one of the last Christian scrolls and a unique artistic treasure from Byzantium

  1. One of the last Christian scrolls, it presents the Old Testament Book of Joshua in an illustrated cycle

  2. The 10th century work of the Imperial School is absolutely unique and unrivalled in the whole world

  3. This gem may have been created in celebration of the Byzantine reconquest of the Holy Land

Joshua Roll

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Joshua Roll

The scroll, which was common in antiquity, was replaced by the bound codex between the 2nd and 4th centuries. Only the codex made it possible to apply colors thickly and to interrupt the text with framed images. In the scroll, on the other hand, the images still flowed into one another, which can be studied in detail in the illustrated cycle of the present copy. Not only the pictures, which are touching despite the warlike content, but also the fact that it originates from the Byzantine court school no later than the 10th century make this scroll a jewel unique in the world. It is possible that contemporary military successes of the Byzantines in the Holy Land led to the selection of the often warlike Book of Joshua. In any case, this has resulted in a unique artistic treasure from Byzantium!

Joshua Roll

One of the most magnificent surviving manuscripts of the Imperial Court School of Byzantium is the Joshua Roll now kept in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana in Rome. It was made in the 10th century, at the time of the so-called Macedonian Renaissance, and presents the Old Testament Book of Joshua in an illustrated cycle resembling a frieze, executed in grisaille painting. These illustrated book rolls could well have been derived from classical triumph columns whose artistic contents were rediscovered at the time when our manuscript was made. The Joshua Roll is generally thought to go back to Greco-Roman forms and painting. It was executed in two or three stages in the 10th century by artists of the Imperial School who worked in a team and bestowed to it the appearance that we know today. Both the drawings and paintings contained in the book are the work of various hands, and we may rightly assume that the coloring was added at a later stage. The text is a mixture of Greek majuscule and minuscule forms, containing extracts from relevant Bible scenes as well as some additions to ensure a better understanding of the individual episodes.

One of a Kind Byzantine Art of the Royal Court in Scroll Form

The Joshua Roll is absolutely unique and unrivalled in the whole world. Although little is known about the occasion for which this monumental manuscript of the Old Testament Book of Joshua was made, it seems likely that the codex was intended to glorify the military success of the Byzantine people in the Holy Land. For the first time after an extended period of defense, they were finally able to reassert themselves against the Arabs in the 10th century. Although a small part is missing at the beginning of the Book of Joshua, the central piece of this sixth book of the Old Testament – according to the current counting method – has survived in a complete and full version. Its Greek Bible texts correspond to the Septuagint.


Alternative Titles
Size / Format
15 segments of scrolls / 80.0 × 32.0 cm (total length: 10.6 metres)
10th century
Greek cursive
The Book of Joshua in an illustrated cycle resembling a frieze, originally executed in grisaille painting with some color added later
Book of Joshua, Chapter II – Chapter X
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Joshua Roll – Cod. Vat. Ms. Pal. graec. 431 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City) Facsimile Edition
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1983
Limited Edition: 800 copies
Detail Picture

Joshua Roll

The Stoning of Achan

In the Book of Joshua, Achan greedily hordes some of the plunder from the Sack of Jericho in defiance of Joshua’s order and as a result the Israelites are defeated during their first attempt to capture the city of Ai. When Achan’s sin is discovered the people turn on him: “And Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.’ So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.” (Jos. 7:25)

Die Josua-Rolle
Single Page

Joshua Roll

Before the Battle at Gibeon

In the Book of Joshua, the Israelites are tricked into forming an alliance with the people of Gibeon and as such are drawn into a war with a coalition of Amorites, a Semitic-speaking collection of peoples in southern Mesopotamia. The other Amorites, angered by their alliance with the Israelites, lay siege to the city of Gibeon, whose ambassadors plead for aid from Joshua.

Joshua is pictured enthroned, holding a spear, and anointed with a halo as he turns to the supplicants from Gibeon. Meanwhile, his army looks on awaiting Joshua’s orders and are shown on the right entering battle with the Amorites. Yahweh intervenes in the battle, stopping the Sun and Moon (shown above) and sending large hailstones to aid the Israelites’ victory.

Die Josua-Rolle
Facsimile Editions

#1 Die Josua-Rolle

Limited Edition: 800 copies
Binding: The manuscript is reproduced according to the original in form of a roll on two woodcores. Paper margin cut according to the original. Facsimile in a hinged and solid book case mounted with cloth.
Commentary: 1 volume (90 pages) by Otto Mazal
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: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Log in here!
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