Lorsch Gospels

Lorsch Gospels

Aachen (Germany) — ca. 810

Held in the hands of Emperor Charlemagne, adorned with a masterful ivory cover: a world famous highlight of Carolingian book art

  1. Gold Gospel book, originating ca. 810 at the Palace School of Emperor Charlemagne in Aachen

  2. Written completely in gold ink, every page is adorned with unique frames and furnished with two ivory covers

  3. A union of stylistic influences, which had a great influence on Carolingian art

Lorsch Gospels

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (3)
Description
Lorsch Gospels

The Lorsch Gospels is a splendidly furnished evangeliary manuscript written entirely in gold ink. According to contemporary research, it is considered to be the newest of a significant series of splendid manuscripts from the court scriptorium of Charlemagne and is generally dated ca. 810. With each of its five-piece ivory plates, the evangeliary represents a true synthesis of the arts. In its splendid, immeasurably precious book illustrations, it combined nearly every stylistic influence that affected Carolingian art.

Lorsch Gospels (Ivory Binding Edition)

A perfectly-formed artwork that Charlemagne held in his hands originated ca. 810 at the Carolingian Court School in Aachen. It Is the Lorsch Gospels. It is written from front to back in gold ink and is considered to be the youngest of a significant series of splendid manuscripts from the court scriptorium of Charlemagne. The work gets its name from the Lorsch Monastery, in which it was housed from the 9th century until the dissolution of the monastery in 1556. With both of its ivory covers, each consisting of 5 pieces, it represents a downright complete synthesis of the arts. It simultaneously combines all of the stylistic influences that had an impact on Carolingian art. The evangeliary played a decisive role in the development of book art worldwide. It was divided into two parts, which are found today in the Vatican Library and in the branch of the Romanian National Library in Alba Julia. The ivory plates belonging to the book cover are to be found in the Vatican Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Precious Materials

The monumental illuminated manuscript from the Carolingian court school is a work unsurpassed in its rich adornment, which possess inconceivable worth due to its gold script from end-to-end. Each page of the manuscript is adorned by gold frames richly furnished with forms. Splendid, full-page illustrations enchant through their monumentality. Harmonious canon tables, as well as portraits of the Evangelists in the respective forewords, or the splendid beginnings of the Gospel texts exhibit gold and silver in abundance. Precious purple and vivid, luminous colors were employed in the miniatures. The Lorsch Gospels is undoubtedly the most beautiful and precious achievement of the Carolingian court artists, who belonged among the most important representatives of their profession worldwide at that time.

The Journey of the Masterpiece

The precious manuscript probably came to Lorsch from the court of the Kaiser under the Abbot Adalung, where it was recorded in a catalog of the monastic library during the 9th century. In Lorsch, the great royal- and imperial abbey, the manuscript survived the centuries. In the year 1479, it was rebound and was probably already divided into two at that time. After the dissolution of the monastery in 1556, both parts reached the famous **“Bibliotheca Palatina”, the court- and university library of Heidelberg, through Ottheinrich, the bibliophile Prince-Elector of the Palatine, along with many other valuable books from the old monastic library. It was likely gifted to Pope Gregory XV by Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria along with the rest of the collection as a spoil of war in 1623.

A History as Exciting as a Thriller

The second part of the evangeliary, along with the so-called Christ plate, reached the Vatican Library, where it is still diligently kept safe. The Christ plate is displayed in the Vatican Museum. The fate of the first part with its ivory plate depicting the Blessed Mother was disparately adventurous: the Greek scholar Leone Allacci organized and supervised the transportation of the Palatina, escorted by armed knights, from Heidelberg to Rome in 1623. He appears not to have been able to resist the temptation to put aside some books from the rich collection for his own library. Along with numerous other works from the Palatina, he bequeathed the Lorsch Gospels to the Collegium Graecum in Rom, which for its part sold pieces of its library. Since 1711, the splendid evangeliary was considered to be lost. It was probably jealously guarded in a private library in Rome during that time. The ivory plates were separated from the manuscript before 1785. They were a template for a copperplate engraving from the middle of the 18th century – the Carolingian original first resurfaced in 1853 at an auction, reached England, and finally was presented to the Victoria and Albert museum in London where it remains to this day.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Lorscher Evangeliar
Codex Aureus of Lorsch
Size / Format
473 pages / 37.0 × 27.0 cm
Origin
Germany
Date
ca. 810
Language
Script
Uncial
Illustrations
6 full-page miniatures. Entirely written with gold ink, each page shows colorful frames which are unsurpassed in form and style
Content
The Four Gospels written entirely in gold ink
Previous Owners
Otto Henry, Elector Palatine (1502–59)
Prince-Elector Maximilian I of Bavaria (1573–1651)
Christoph Bartholomäus Anton Migazzi, Prince-Archbishop of Vienna (1714–1803)
Bishop Ignác Batthyány (1741–98)

Available facsimile editions:
Lorsch Gospels – Pal.lat.50
Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2000
Limited Edition: 333 copies (Ivory Binding Edition)

Lorscher Evangeliar (Library Binding Edition)
Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2000
Limited Edition: 60 copies (Library Binding Edition)

Lorscher Evangeliar
Prestel Verlag – Munich, 1967
Limited Edition: 900 copies
Detail Picture

Lorsch Gospels

Incipit Page: Gospel of John

The sheer amount of gold leaf dedicated to this masterful incipit page is indicative of how important the opening words of the Gospel of John are to Christian theology. This elegant sentence combines the idea of Jesus’ divinity with the Ancient Greek philosophical tradition of the Logos (word), representing cosmic reason. In principio erat verbum et verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat verbum “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jn. 1:1)

Lorscher Evangeliar (Ivory Binding Edition)
Single Page

The Lorsch Gospels

Christ in Majesty

Also known as the Maiestas Domini, this is one of the most popular images in Western Christian art, which depicts Christ enthroned as ruler of the world. This specimen is dominated by expensive gold leaf and purple dye, indicating that this had to be a commission of the Emperor Charlemagne from his Court School, which is known for its ornate and ostentatious style.

The blend of Byzantine and Insular elements is clear: the figure of Christ is Byzantine with classical robes, flattened, standardized features, and piercing eyes while the intricate patterns framing the image are clearly Hiberno-Saxon. Within the band of the mandorla circling Christ, Insular-style Evangelist symbols appear next to small portraits reminiscent of Late Antique imagery.

Lorscher Evangeliar (Ivory Binding Edition)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Lorscher Evangeliar (Ivory Binding Edition)

Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2000
Lorsch Gospels – Pal.lat.50
Lorsch Gospels – Pal.lat.50 Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2000
Limited Edition: 333 copies (Ivory Binding Edition)
Binding: Complete with reproductions of the ivory covers, in full accordance with the original, and for the first time in 500 years combined in one book, as it was originally intended.
Commentary: 1 volume by Hermann Schefers
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: €€€€ (7.000€ - 10.000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!

#2 Lorscher Evangeliar (Library Binding Edition)

Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2000

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 2000
Limited Edition: 60 copies (Library Binding Edition)
Binding: Brown leather
Commentary: 1 volume by Hermann Schefers
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.

#3 Lorscher Evangeliar

Prestel Verlag – Munich, 1967
Lorscher Evangeliar
Lorscher Evangeliar Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Prestel Verlag – Munich, 1967
Limited Edition: 900 copies
Binding: Linen binding with vellum spine
Commentary: 1 volume by Wolfgang Braunfels
Language: German
1 volume: 478 plates, some of them colored 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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