Legenda Aurea - Anjou Legendarium

Legenda Aurea - Anjou Legendarium Facsimile Edition

Hungary — Ca. 1330–1340

Intended as a picture book for the son of the Hungarian king: a masterpiece with golden miniatures of the Trecento based on Jacobus de Voragine's famous tale of the saints

  1. This manuscript was commissioned by the Hungarian King Charles I (1288–1342) as a gift to his son

  2. The work contains 105 vivid miniatures, sometimes set against a gold background, with saints' vitae

  3. Although anonymous, the master was probably from Bologna and a representative of the Trecento

Legenda Aurea - Anjou Legendarium

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  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Legenda Aurea - Anjou Legendarium

A Gothic masterpiece by an Italian master created at the Hungarian royal court: the Legenda Aurea from Hungary originated ca. 1330 and was commissioned by the Hungarian King Charles I (Charles Robert) as a gift to his son. The manuscript contains 105 vivid full-page miniatures, always set against a glimmering gold background, depicting scenes from the lives of important saints in vivid colors. It is an enlargement of the work of the same name by Jacobus de Vorraigne and focuses in particular on saints with a connection to the Anjou family as well as high church officials from Hungary and Poland. Each miniature page is divided into four scenes divided by artful frames and the Gothic work already exhibits some of the stylistic changes of the nascent Renaissance.

Legenda Aurea - Anjou Legendarium

Around 1330, King Charles I of Hungary, known as Charles Robert of the House of Anjou, commissioned a manuscript for his three year old son Andrew. The manuscript was an enlargement of the famous Legenda Aurea by the Dominican monk Jacobus de Vorraigne. It deals with a collection of saints’ lives and deeds. As a result, the Hungarian Legendarium places particular emphasis on people who had a special meaning for the Anjou family. A splendid picture cycle of 105 mostly full-page miniatures on a gold background illustrates the valuable manuscript.

A Picture Book for the Prince

The Legenda Aurea is a picture book intended for children, in which short texts describe the scenes depicted in the book. Early on, King Charles I of Hungary wanted his son to be familiarized with the legends of the saints, whom were associated with the Anjou family. Scenes are depicted from the lives of important biblical figures from various epochs. Among them are apostles and martyrs, monks, the Virgin Mary, but also high church officials from Hungary and Poland.

A Gothic Masterpiece

The qualitatively valuable miniatures probably originate from an important Late Gothic studio. The page-filling miniatures are separated into four scenes, respectively, that are framed by excitingly-patterned bordures. The dramatic and elegant miniatures on golden backgrounds shine in a vivid variety of luminous colors. Who exactly illustrated the codex is not knowable today. Nevertheless, the master was probably from Bologna, the school of painting of the so-called Trecento, the style that preceded the Renaissance. The miniatures of the Hungarian Legendarium show stylistic elements of naive Gothic painting and are already characterized by stylistically-changing influences of the Renaissance.

A World-Famous Book Treasure

The Legenda Aurea from Hungary, with its splendidly-colored miniatures, which are sometimes decorated with elaborately wrought golden backgrounds, is a fine specimen of Gothic book art. The work was divided into several parts and are to be found today in some of the most renowned libraries worldwide. The main part of the manuscript is housed in the Vatican Library. 20 miniatures are in the Morgan Library in New York. Five further pages are located in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.


Alternative Titles
Ungarisches Legendarium
Legendarium der ungarischen Anjou
Legenda Aurea - Goldenes Legendarium
Golden Legend
Vitae Sanctorum
Hungarian Angevin Legendary
Legendario Angioino Ungherese
Legendar der Anjou
Vite dei Santi
Size / Format
212 pages / 28.0 × 21.5 cm
Ca. 1330–1340
105 mostly full-page miniatures (each page with 4 scenes) illuminated in gold
Scenes from the lives of important saints based on the Legenda Aurea
King Charles I of Hungary (1288–1342)
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Charles' son Prince Andrew, Duke of Calabria (1327–1345)
Gian Battista Saluzzo

Available facsimile editions:
Legenda Aurea - Anjou Legendarium – Vat. lat. 8541 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City) Facsimile Edition
Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1990
Limited Edition: 400 copies
Detail Picture

Legenda Aurea - Anjou Legendarium

Saint Ladislaus in Battle

Ladislaus I of Hungary was a chivalrous 11th century king who fought various battles in Transylvania against the Pechenegs and Cumans – nomadic Turkic horse archers from the steppes. A popular subject in Hungarian murals and manuscripts between the 14th and 16th centuries, the canonized king is shown here in battle against the invading heathens. As arrows fly through the air, Saint Ladislaus charges headlong against his enemies, who are characterized by oriental swords, headgear, and facial hair.

Heiligenleben - Legendarium der ungarischen Anjou
Single Page

Legenda Aurea - Anjou Legendarium

Martyrdom of Saint Peter

The Pope is often referred to as the “heir of St. Peter”, an Apostle who was martyred in Rome in the year 64, which is illustrated here. The cause is debated: some claim that it was part of recriminations against Christians who were blamed for the Great Fire of Rome, others claim it was simply because of his faith.

Peter is depicted with his iconic short-cropped beard and balding head in this gorgeous, richly gilded miniature. He is arrested and crucified on the orders of the Emperor Nero, who is depicted as a bearded medieval king. This was done with his head downward according to his own wishes, because he felt unworthy to die in the same way as Christ. The final scene, in which his body is wrapped, features a figure wearing a miter, an allusion to the papacy?

Heiligenleben - Legendarium der ungarischen Anjou
Facsimile Editions

#1 Heiligenleben - Legendarium der ungarischen Anjou

Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1990

Publisher: Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1990
Limited Edition: 400 copies
Binding: Blind embossed full leather binding with 10 metal fittings and 2 metal clasps
Commentary: 1 volume (168 pages) by Giovanni Morello, Heide Stamm and Gerd Betz
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. The facsimile brings together all surviving fragments of the Legendarium: 106 folios from the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vat. lat. 8541). 26 folios from the Pierpont Morgan Library (MS M.360.1-26) 5 folios from The State Hermitage Museum Gosudarstvennyĭ Ėrmitazh (16930-34) 1 folio from The Bancroft Library (f2MSA2M21300-37) 1 folio from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1994.516)
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
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