Leo Bible

Leo Bible – Belser Verlag – Reg. gr.1 B – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)

Court Scriptorium, Istanbul (Turkey) β€” Ca. 925–950

Created by order of the imperial treasurer Leo Patrikios: the oldest Byzantine picture Bible, furnished with some of the earliest depictions of Christian saints and a captivating dedication miniature

  1. The oldest Byzantine picture Bible, made in the 9th century for Leo Patrikios, a Byzantine official

  2. The precious biblical scenes are among the earliest pictorial depictions of the saints in Christendom

  3. Leo Patrikios presents the Bible to the Virgin Mary, who then presents it to her son in an opening scene

Leo Bible

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Leo Bible

With its 13 iconic full-page miniatures, the Leo Bible is the oldest surviving Byzantine illustrated Bible. The imperial treasurer Leo Patrikios had the splendid manuscript made in the court scriptorium of Constantinople between 925 and 950. Made of a wide range of colors and lavish golden details, the sumptuous images are among the earliest figural representations of saints in Christianity that still exist today, depicting graceful scenes from the lives of important Bible characters, a few miracles of Jesus Christ, and a remarkable devotional image of its patron. Numerous Greek inscriptions in red and black name the painted figures and explain within the surrounding frames the events depicted. This unique book treasure is now part of the famous manuscript collection of the Vatican Library.

Leo Bible

In the second quarter of the 10th century, Leo Patrikios, the highest chamberlain and treasurer of Byzantium, commissioned a biblical manuscript in Greek. The illustrated work is the earliest transmission of a Byzantine picture Bible. The manuscript, written in highly-valuable Greek script, contains 13 full page, iconic miniatures. The so-called Leo Bible is a true book treasure has survived the centuries.

Original Book Art

The Leo Bible originates from a court scriptorium in Constantinople. Gifted masters meticulously fleshed out the Greek script and valuable miniatures. The pictures are counted among the first painted bible scenes that were ever produced. The destruction of depictions of Christian saints in the course of the iconoclasm ended and the ban on Christian imagery had been lifted by the mid–9th century. The Bible pictures show graceful, iconic scenes from the lives of important biblical figures, a few miracles of Jesus Christ, and pictures of the veneration of Leo Patrikios.

Graceful Bible Scenes

The valuable miniatures of the work shine in a splendid variety of colors and are ennobled with expensive gold decoration. The opening scenes of the bible show an icon of the Virgin Mary, who in Greek is called Theotokos or β€œGod-bearer”. In this scene, Leo Patrikios presents the Bible manuscript to the Mother of God, who presents it to her son in typically iconic fashion. This and other awe-inspiring pictures take the modern beholder back into a long-gone age. Today the Leo Bible is housed in the Vatican Library.


Alternative Titles
Bible of Leo the Patrician
Bibel des Patricius Leo
Regina Bible
Vatican Greek Bible
Bible of Queen Christine of Sweden
Codex reginensis Graecus 1
Size / Format
1,134 pages / 41.0 Γ— 27.0 cm
Ca. 925–950
Greek minuscule
20 decorative pages, including 13 magnificent and gold decorated pages with full and half-page miniatures
Surviving volume of the oldest Byzantine picture Bible with the earliest pictorial depictions of the saints in Christendom
Leo the Patrician (Leo Patrikios)
Previous Owners
Queen Christine of Sweden (1626–89)

Available facsimile editions:
Leo Bible – Belser Verlag – Reg. gr.1 B – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1988
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Leo Bible

Eleazar before Antiochus

The story of Hanukah is contained in the Book of 1 Maccabees and takes place in the aftermath of the conquests of Alexander the Great, when the East was divided among the Hellenistic kingdoms. Judea fell under the rule of the Seleucids, who had respected and protected Jewish laws and customs until the rule of Antiochus IV, who initiated a wave of harsh persecutions that resulted in the Maccabean Revolt of 167-160 BC. The learned man Eleazar is shown here with his seven brothers and his mother.

Leo Bible – Belser Verlag – Reg. gr.1 B – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Single Page

Leo Bible

Dedication Miniature

The miniatures of this 10th century Byzantine manuscript are strongly influenced by classical artistic forms from Late Antiquity, as is evident in the splendid depiction at hand. The full-page miniature is surrounded by an explanatory Greek text in the simple orange frame, and on the architecture in the background, which is also adorned by draperies.

A long-haired, beardless man wearing a red cloak trimmed in gold presents the codex to the Virgin Mary, who is dressed in deep purple with a golden halo and dwarfs the cleric, indicating her importance. The Virgin Mary’s role as intercessor between the faithful and her divine son is reiterated here, it is implied that she will pass the codex on to Christ, who appears in the upper right corner.

Leo Bible – Belser Verlag – Reg. gr.1 B – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Die Bibel des Patricius Leo

Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1988

Publisher: Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1988
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Embossed leather with two clasps
Commentary: 1 volume by Suzy Dufrenne, Paul Canart, Cyril Mango, and Irmgard Hutter
Language: German, French
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. The 20 illuminated pages are reproduced. 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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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