Martyrologium of Wandalbert of Prum

Martyrologium of Wandalbert of Prum

Monastery of Reichenau (Germany) — 848–855

A Carolingian masterpiece: the life and martyrdom of the saints together with depictions of everyday rural life in the 9th century

  1. This Carolingian work was composed by the Benedictine monk Wandalbert of Prum for Emperor Lothar I (795–855)

  2. The martyrs and saints of the entire church are listed along with the site of their grave or shrine

  3. The martyrology is accompanied by a calendar depicting everyday rural life in the 9th century

Martyrologium of Wandalbert of Prum

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Martyrologium of Wandalbert of Prum

The Martyrologium of Wandalbert of Prum was produced around 855 for Emperor Lothar I. The work was composed by the well-educated Benedictine monk Wandalbert of Prum, who is responsible for some of the most beautiful liturgical manuscripts of the Early Middle Ages. The Martyrologium contains, along with a directory of the saints’ feast days, a calendar poem, which depicts medieval rural life according to the progress of the year.

Martyrologium of Wandalbert of Prum

In around 839, the most important monastery to the Carolingians was the Benedictine abbey at Prum. At this time the highly educated monk Wandalbert was in this abbey. Not much is known about Wandalbert’s life. He was a deacon, influential theologian, and the most significant poet of the Prum monastery. High ecclesiastical officials had such great regard for the poet that they regularly commissioned him in the composition of splendid Latin manuscripts and set no financial limits on him for the design. Among these valuable manuscripts is the Martyrologium of Wandalbert of Prum. This treasure is the Benedictine monk’s most famous work.

What is a Martyrologium?

A martyrologium is a register of martyrs and other saints, most with statements about the circumstances of their life and the manner of their death. Since at least the 4th century, there were calendars with the festivals of the martyrs that were worshiped in individual local churches. Out of the assortment of such martyr catalogs emerged the Martyrologia, which listed the martyrs and saints of the entire church along with the site of their grave or their enshrinement. The individual entries were augmented since the Middle Ages with particulars from the life of the saint.

A Martyrologium for the King

The Martyrologium of Wandalbert was completed between 848 and 855. The liturgical calendar of saints is written in verse and was made for Emperor Lothar I (795–855). The Carolingian Lothar I was the son of Louis the Pious and his wife Irmingard. He was king of the Bavarians, the Lombards, and Roman Emperor until his death in 855. He died at the Prum Abbey, his mortal remains were buried in the abbey church. The splendid martyrology was possibly made in memory of Lothar and may have been presented to his brother King Louis the German (ca. 806–876).

Splendid Book Decoration

The text of the martyrologium was composed in Latin Hexameter. The main part of the work patterns the poetry on feast days of the saints. The actual martyrologium was accompanied by a calendar poem, which tells about the everyday affairs of life in the 9th century. The poem deals with the months and seasons. It describes the simple rural life, which is determined by the progress of the year. The hunt, fishing, orchards, and vineyards were depicted according to the cycle of the year. The manuscript is furnished with 12 full page, colorful miniatures. The illustrations, in an engaging naïve Carolingian style, are richly ornamented with gold. The pictures depict typical monthly scenes, for example the picture for the month of July shows a farmer with a scythe. The martyrologium is a valuable work of early medieval book art and is simultaneously a reliable historical source.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Reichenauer Martyrologium für Kaiser Lothar I.
Martyrologium von Wandalbert von Prüm
Size / Format
72 pages / 19.0 × 14.2 cm
Origin
Germany
Date
848–855
Language
Script
Carolingian Minuscule Uncial
Illustrations
12 full-page miniatures, numerous initials and important texts in gold ink, diagrams of Noah's Ark, the liberal arts, and a labyrinth
Content
Calendar with scenes from everyday life, matryrology based on Bede, four astronomical texts
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Likely intended for Emperor Lothar I or King Louis the German

Available facsimile editions:
Martyrologium of Wandalbert of Prum – Cod. Reg. lat. 438 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1997
Limited Edition: 900 copies
Detail Picture

Martyrologium of Wandalbert of Prum

July: Harvesting Wheat

This is a remarkable gilded miniature of a farmer swinging his scythe, which not only exceeds the frame but appears to stick out from the page at the beholder as though it were 3D. The man has taken a wide stance with bent knees and muscular calves. A crab looks on as the associated zodiac sign for Cancer, although it resembles more of an 8-legged beetle drollery with a human face. The two small figures holding up the columns represent the common people upon whom society rested.

Reichenauer Martyrologium für Kaiser Lothar I
Single Page

Martyrologium of Wandalbert of Prum

Presentation Miniature

This early martyrology presents images from the lives and deaths of saints as well as rural life in the Frankish Empire during the reign of the Emperor Lothar I, son of Louis the Pious. This classically-styled miniature depicts the presentation of this manuscript to the Emperor by its author, Wandalbert of Prum. Although worn, it is still a masterful depiction in the style of Late Antiquity.

Set within an architectural frame with a drapery, a tonsured Wandalbert kneels before the Emperor in a green tunic. A mustachioed Lothar wears a blue tunic and a red cloak, now faded to brown, and accepts the codex with his left hand. The figures’ faces are remarkably expressive: Lothar appears regal and serene while Wandalbert’s expression is more somber.

Reichenauer Martyrologium für Kaiser Lothar I
Facsimile Editions

#1 Reichenauer Martyrologium für Kaiser Lothar I

Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1997

Publisher: Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1997
Limited Edition: 900 copies
Binding: Half-Leather over wooden bords with medal on front side
Commentary: 1 volume (80 pages) by Hans-Walter Stork
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: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
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