Oxford Menologion

Oxford Menologion – AyN Ediciones – Ms. Gr. th. f.1 – Bodleian Library (Oxford, United Kingdom)

Thessalonica (Greece) — 14th century

The histories and martyrdoms of the saints in golden images: a Byzantine masterpiece with no less than 430 splendid miniatures on a golden backgrounds

  1. No less than 430 magnificent miniatures on gold backgrounds adorn this luxurious Byzantine manuscript

  2. A menologion is a collection of detailed lives of the saints ordered according to the dates of feast-days

  3. It was likely a commission of Demetrios Angelos Doukas Palaiologos (ca. 1297 – after 1343), Despot of Thessalonica, the empire's second city

Oxford Menologion

Regular price (new)1,980 
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Oxford Menologion

The Oxford Menologion, which gets its names from its modern abode in the Bodleian Library of Britain’s Oxford University, is a primary work of Byzantine book art with its 430 splendid miniatures set against a noble gold background. The masterpiece from ca. 1330 was probably created by a group of the most talented court artists of the Byzantine Empire. The manuscript is believed to be a commission of Demetrios Angelos Doukas Palaiologos, the Despot of Thessalonica, which was the second most important city of the empire after Constantinople.

Oxford Menologion

This so-called menologion is one of the most splendidly painted Byzantine manuscripts to survive to this day. The term menologion or menology first and foremost connotes a collection of detailed lives of the saints. These works are ordered according to the dates of feast- and memorial-days for the honored saints of the Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches, who are celebrated throughout the liturgical year. A variant of the menologion with the lives of saints in abbreviated form is designated as a Synaxarion. The artful Oxford Menologion is just such a text. This codex numbers among the primary works of the excellent Byzantine style of illumination and is illustrated with over 430 splendid, richly furnished miniatures with noble gold leaf.

At the Behest of the Sovereign

The Oxford Menologion was made ca. 1330 at the behest of the Despot of Thessalonica, Demetrios Angelos Doukas Palaiologos (ca. 1297 – after 1343). He came from the Palaiogian dynasty and was the Despot of Thessalonica from 1322 to 1340. The city of Thessalonica was truly flourishing in the Byzantine Empire, experiencing a golden age, so to speak. After Constantinople, Thessalonica was the second most important city in the empire for a long time and was the Byzantine Emperors’ secondary seat of power. Thessalonica was not only one of the most important trade metropolises in the Orient, but was also a capital of knowledge and the arts. Wondrous architectural monuments filled the exceedingly wealthy city, as did artistic and literary masterpieces, some of which survive to this day and continue to cast their spell on beholders centuries later. The Oxford Menologion counts among the last evidence of this artistic golden age.

An Important Hagiographic Manuscript

The collection of abbreviated saints’ vitae was made for liturgical use in Byzantine church rites. The manuscript was written in Greek, in so-called “pearl script” on high-quality parchment sheets. Generally, a page consists of a six-line text, for which a painter created an image of a saint, group of saints, or a ceremonial act honoring the saints. The pictures, which number over 430, are an important example of hagiography, the veneration of saints, in the book art of Byzantium. Texts and images depict only half of the Byzantine liturgical year, only the months September through February are illustrated. Therefore, it can be assumed that a second volume of the work existed, which unfortunately went missing in the course of history.

Trailblazing Book Art

With his work, the artist who contributed the images to the Oxford Menologion created a breath-taking magnum opus of medieval Illumination. He depicted the people in his miniatures in a way that was revolutionarily perspectival and realistic. With that, he modified the flat method of representation that was commonly practiced in most illuminated codices of the Middle Ages. The gestures of the figures and their garments’ fall of folds were vividly depicted and the architecture portrayed in the background of the pictures attests to the unbelievably fine observational skills of the artist. The facial expressions of the people were also reproduced in a natural way, something that few artists were able to achieve to a similar extent during this period. This is a painting style that is sometimes identified as Macedonian Renaissance, in which artists drew heavily from great ancient examples.


Alternative Titles
Menologion Bizantino de Oxford
El Menologio de Oxford
Menologion of Despotes Demetrios
Oxforder Menologion
Byzantinisches Menologium
Greek Menologion
Oxforder Bildmenologion
Size / Format
112 pages / 12.6 × 9.5 cm
14th century
No less than 430 magnificent miniatures on gold backgrounds
Collection of detailed lives of the saints ordered according to the dates of feast-days
Demetrios Angelos Doukas Palaiologos (ca. 1297 – after 1343), son of the Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Oxford Menologion – AyN Ediciones – Ms. Gr. th. f.1 – Bodleian Library (Oxford, United Kingdom)
AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2007
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Detail Picture

Oxford Menologion

Anointing of Christ's Body

Although less common in the West, the scene of Christ’s body being prepared for burial is extremely important in the tradition of Orthodox art. Christ is laid out upon an anointing-stone that appears as though it is floating. The Three Marys and another woman are pictured lamenting over the body as their male helpers look on, possibly including John the Evangelist and Joseph of Arimathea. Their golden halos contrast with the dark blues and blacks of this mournful scene.

Oxford Menologion – AyN Ediciones – Ms. Gr. th. f.1 – Bodleian Library (Oxford, United Kingdom)
Single Page

Oxford Menologion

The Death of the Virgin

This full-page miniature, although small, is remarkable for the richness of its adornment, especially the burnished gold leaf that dominates the page and gives the scene a timeless and spaceless feeling. Although slightly damaged, with some flaking gold leaf, it is an exemplary specimen of Byzantine art with a remarkable color palette.

The Twelve Apostles have miraculously assembled from their missionary work across the world and wear uniformly solemn faces. Within a bright blue mandorla flanked by angels, Christ appears dressed entirely in golden robes to signify that he is not there physically but in spirit. The baby he holds is the spirit of his mother, who is at peace and reunited with her son – their roles are now reversed as he holds her in his arms.

Oxford Menologion – AyN Ediciones – Ms. Gr. th. f.1 – Bodleian Library (Oxford, United Kingdom)
Facsimile Editions

#1 El Menologio de Oxford

AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2007

Publisher: AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2007
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Binding: Brown leather
Commentary: 1 volume (233 pages) by Cristina López Menaza and Irmgard Hutter
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.
Regular price (new)1,980 
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