Metz Codex

Metz Codex

Metz (France) — ca. 810

Based on the ancient writings of Aratus of Soloi: an astronomy manual for Bishop Drogo of Metz, the illegitimate son of Emperor Charlemagne

  1. This classically-styled codex was made at the behest of Drogo, Bishop of Metz (801–55), a great art patron

  2. The illegitimate son of Charlemagne (742–814) was also responsible for the embellishment of Metz Cathedral

  3. The astronomical manual is based on old manuscripts by Aratus von Soloi (ca. 310–240 BC)

Metz Codex

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Metz Codex

The famous Metz Codex is an astronomical manuscript from the early 9th century. The codex was made at the behest of Drogo, Bishop of Metz and one of the sons of Charlemagne. Drawing on a manuscript from late antiquity as a template, the Metz Codex possesses an astronomical calendar for the precise calculation of church feasts or the like. The gorgeously colored figures, which illustrates the pages, are particularly interesting: representations of ancient zodiac symbols. The manuscript is a historical source of the first rank and offers a magnificent glimpse into the mysteries of 9th century astronomy.

Metz Codex

The famous Metz Codex is an astronomical manuscript from the early 9th century. The codex was made at the behest of Drogo, Bishop of Metz and one of the sons of Charlemagne. Drawing on a manuscript from late antiquity as a template the Metz Codex possesses an astronomical calendar for the precise calculation of church feasts or the like. The gorgeously colored figures, which illustrates the pages, are particularly interesting: representations of ancient zodiac symbols. The manuscript is a historical source of the first rank and offers a magnificent glimpse into the mysteries of 9th century astronomy.

A Carolingian Zodiac Cycle

This precious manuscript from the Carolingian period is stored in the Spanish National Library. The fascinating 9th century work of astronomy unfolds on 152 pages measuring 31.5 x 25 cm. Drawing on ancient manuscripts, the astronomical handbook contains expositions on cosmology and chronology according to the constellations of Aratus. The astronomical calendar made seemingly precise calculations of the church feasts possible, but also had a religious and political dimension.

The Famous Patron

The patron of this astronomic treatise was Drogo, Bishop of Metz. Drogo (801–855) was a son of Charlemagne and half-brother to Louis the Pious. He was originally the Abbot of Luxeuil and was eventually named Bishop of Metz in 823. The powerful Carolingian was a great patron and lover of the arts. The splendid décor of the Metz Cathedral was his doing.

Recourse to Antiquity

The Metz Codex was presumably made ca. 810 at the Benedictine Abbey in Prüm. The wonderful Carolingian manuscript is also designed in a most artistic fashion. Symbolic figures of the constellations illustrate the manuscript, entirely as prescribed by the classical conception of figures. The reversion to Roman and Greek examples from Antiquity is clear here. The ancient signs of the zodiac were copied from a late-antique manuscript as a template. Each of the pages is illustrated with two to three finely colored, naturalistic figures of great artistry, respectively. The manuscript was originally subdivided into seven books, unfortunately only five of them remain today.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Códice de Metz
Codex de Metz
De ordine ac positione stellar in signis
Codex aus Metz
Size / Format
152 pages / 31.5 × 25.0 cm
Origin
France
Date
ca. 810
Language

Available facsimile editions:
Metz Codex – Ms. no. 3307 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)
Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1993
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Metz Codex

Hercules

One of the most beloved figures of ancient mythology, a Christianized version of Hercules continued to be praised during the Middle Ages as an allegorical figure and role model for bravery, wisdom, and morality. He is identifiable by his gnarled club and the pelt of the Nemean lion, which he killed with his bare hands – the first of his Twelve Labors. Hercules is depicted here as a muscular, nude figure running across the sky to bring his prize to King Eurystheus, his cousin.

Códice de Metz
Single Page

Metz Codex

Centaurus and Serpens

Holding a double-headed spear in one hand and a dead hare in the other, the constellation Centaurus, one of Ptolemy’s original 48, is presented in the upper register. He is the father of the race of centaurs, who are said to be wild, savage, and lustful. However, Centaurus is not to be confused with his more warlike cousin Sagittarius, who is distinguishable by his bow.
Adorned with a raven and an amphora of wine, the constellation Serpens is painted blue. This depiction is based on an ancient atlas that separates the constellations Serpens and Ophiuchus, which is unusual because of their mythological association: Ophiuchus represents the healer Asclepius, who learned how to revive dead people after witnessing the resurrection of a snake he killed.

Códice de Metz
Facsimile Editions

#1 Códice de Metz

Metz Codex – Ms. no. 3307 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)
Metz Codex – Ms. no. 3307 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Testimonio Compañía Editorial – Madrid, 1993
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: Hand sewn and bound in brown goatskin, embossed on both sides with motifs of the original. Bronze fittings designed after the original.
Commentary: 1 volume (56 pages) by Manuel Sánchez Mariana and Enrique Montero Cartelle
Language: Spanish
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: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
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