Worn out over many centuries, but now completely restored: an early Byzantine masterpiece as a gift for the Russian tsars

Lectionary of St Petersburg

Trabzon (Turkey) — 2nd half of the 10th century

Lectionary of St Petersburg

Lectionary of St Petersburg

Trabzon (Turkey) — 2nd half of the 10th century

  1. This decorative 10th century illumination is the work of several artists and shows both oriental and classical influences

  2. In 1858, the Russian Tsar Alexander II (1818–1881) was presented with this precious Byzantine Gospel Lectionary

  3. This 10th century Byzantine manuscript was badly worn, nearly unrecognizable, but has been fully restored

Das Lektionar von St. Petersburg

Lectionary of St Petersburg

The Last Supper

This unusual depiction of the Last Supper is nonetheless probably one of the most historically accurate insofar as how a meal probably would have been consumed in the Roman world at the time. Before a weathered but beautiful gold background, Jesus and the Twelve Apostles are shown lounging on couches surrounding a long oblong table with a black surface. As was typical in Byzantine art, Judas is identified in the foreground grasping for the food as the other’s wait with outstretched hands.

Lectionary of St Petersburg

Codex gr. 21, 21a National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Alternative Titles:
  • Lektionar von St. Petersburg
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Imageof
Regular price without login (like new)750 €
Login for a Better Price!
  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

A truly beautiful Byzantine manuscript with a long and fascinating story: the Gospel Lectionary of Saint Petersburg. It is a mysterious manuscript with an eventful history which was long kept in Trebizond, at the intersection between two cultures on the rims of the Black Sea, the Byzantine and the Ottoman, through the troubled ages of the crusades and Ottoman conquests. The artistic style of the manuscript, employing typical Byzantine elements such as burnished gold backgrounds, displays both clear oriental influences and a strong tendency toward classicism. This 10th century manuscript was used continuously for centuries and as such, was badly worn before its restoration with many miniatures being nearly unrecognizable, but is now restored to its former glory.

Gospel Lectionary of Saint Petersburg

The Gospel Lectionary of Saint Petersburg, also called the Gospel Lectionary of Trebizond, is considered a true jewel of Byzantine art. It is a mysterious manuscript with an eventful history which was long kept in Trebizond, at the intersection between two cultures on the rims of the Black Sea, the Byzantine and the Ottoman, through the troubled ages of the crusades and Ottoman conquests. The Golden Gospels, as it was also called for its rich gold embellishment, dates back to the 2nd half of the 10th century. Commissioned by an unknown patron, the rich use of gold and high-end craftsmanship indicate that it was made for a high ranking personality. In 1223, it was presented as a votive gift to the Virgin Mary by Andronikos Gidon in a cathedral which bore the name Gold-Headed Virgin, where it formed an integral part of Orthodox liturgy until the middle of the 15th century. The Gospel lectionary is valued above all for the great artistic quality of its miniatures. They are dispersed over nearly all the pages of the codex and illustrate individual episodes of the Gospels. The text, however, is written in Greek and is deserving great attention, as it is very old and grammatically astonishingly exact.

A Precious Treasure of Byzantine Art

The manuscript contains a total of 16 miniatures painted throughout in tempera on a golden ground to enhance their luminosity. The decorative apparatus is the work of several painters and displays both clear oriental influences and a strong tendency toward classicism. In line with the tradition of book illumination in the 10th century, the decoration contains a portrait of John the Evangelist in the classical style: John is presented as a classical philosopher, wearing a toga, and holding a scroll in his hands (folio 1r). The text is written in pale blue ink in liturgical uncial, a form of majuscule used in the 10th century. Some initials are especially highlighted through clear enlargement and the use of gold, cinnabar, blue and green. Neume notation was added at a later stage in a bright red color. As the Gospel lectionary was used in liturgy over long periods of time, it was until recently in a very bad state of preservation. The colors and the gold leaf of the grounds had peeled off in many places. A number of miniatures were almost entirely destroyed. The viewer can now admire this masterly work of art in its original state following its successful restoration.

A Profound Testimony to the Mysteries and Aesthetics of the Orthodox Church

The preserved text fragments of the Gospel Lectionary and the contents of the miniatures allow it to be ascribed to the tradition of typographic Gospel lectionaries, which** contained readings from the Gospels for each day, from Passion week and Easter down to Pentecost**. The book contains only Saturday and Sunday readings for all other weeks of the ecclesiastical year. In 1858, the precious Gospel Lectionary was presented to the Russian Tsar Alexander II as an aid for the construction of a church and thus moved to the collection of Greek manuscripts in the Imperial Library. The director of the library at the time proudly stated that "the Greek Gospels [takes] the most important place among the recent acquisitions of our library in the year 1858". The fragments from Trebizond were withdrawn from the Gospel lectionary to which they formerly belonged and finally bound separately. They have been kept in this leather binding ever since.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Lektionar von St. Petersburg
Size / Format
30 pages / 33.3 x 25.5 cm
Date
2nd half of the 10th century
Language
Illustrations
13 mostly full-page miniatures, 3 fragments of miniatures, 3 elaborated initials
Previous Owners
Das Lektionar von St. Petersburg

Lectionary of St Petersburg

Portrait of Mark the Evangelist

Presented before a timeless and spaceless background of gold leaf, this portrait of Mark the Evangelist is an extraordinary specimen of Byzantine illumination from the so-called Macedonian Renaissance. Despite exhibiting marks of use across ten centuries, this miniature page is preserved in remarkably good condition with minimal damage.

Dressed in a Roman toga, seated within a simple classical architecture, and surrounded by a frame of classically-styled acanthus leaves, this portrait of St. Mark is exemplary of the revival in classical forms and subjects that had been occurring in Byzantine art since the mid–9th century. At the same time, some stylistic innovations are observable, e.g. the stylishly angular fall of folds observable in Mark’s robes.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Lectionary of St Petersburg“

Das Lektionar von St. Petersburg
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Lectionary of St Petersburg – Codex gr. 21, 21a – National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Imageof

Das Lektionar von St. Petersburg

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1994
Limited Edition
700 copies
Binding
Leather with blind embossing (true copy of the original binding). All folios are cut according to the original.
Commentary
1 volume (42 pages) by Elena Schwarz
Languages: German, English

We were able to win the current ”keeper” of the codex, Mrs. Elena M. Schwarz from Saint Petersburg, as the most authoritative author. The commentary (German/English) comprises contributions on the environment of the manuscript, a codicological analysis, as well as a transcription of the Greek text.

Elena Schwarz, curator at the St. Petersburg National Library of Russia. 42 pp., in German and English, cloth.
More Information
All folios are cut according to the original.
Regular price without login (like new)750 €
Login for a Better Price!
  1. Matching Works
  2. Matching Background Articles

Matching Works

Codex Benedictus

Codex Benedictus

Commissioned by Abbot Desiderius: a magnificently illuminated lectionary with insights into the life of St. Benedict and the everyday life of the Montecassino Abbey

Experience More
Reichenau Pericopes Book

Reichenau Pericopes Book

A rarity from Reichenau Abbey: fascinating Ottonian illumination with preserved luxury ivory covers

Experience More

Matching Background Articles

Publisher