Passau Evangelary

Passau Evangelary

Passau (Germany) — 1170–1180

Elements of the Romanesque and Byzantine styles wonderfully combined: a rare luxury codex from Passau with shiny miniatures on a gold background

  1. A 12th century manuscript is one of the only surviving testimonials to the great art of Passau's scriptoria

  2. Large historiated initials and miniatures blend Byzantine elements with the Romanesque style

  3. Surprising plasticity characterizes the figures and their garments, which are backed by burnished gold

Passau Evangelary

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Passau Evangelary

The richly illustrated Passau Evangelary originated ca. 1170–80 in the Augustinian Canon Monastery of St. Nikola at the convergence of three rivers in Passau. It contains text excerpts from the Gospels of the New Testament for readings on Sundays and holidays during the church year. 49 fantastic historiated initials and eight intensely colored full-page miniatures make the Romanesque manuscript a special testimonial to the artistry of the scriptoria in Passau. While the eye of the beholder is delighted by the historiated initials with small figures, animals, or artful tendrils, it is the Byzantine stylistic elements of the glimmering miniatures by two participating illuminators that make it interesting.

Passau Evangelary

An especially beautiful Romanesque illuminated manuscript originates from Passau, the famous city of three rivers, ca. 1170–80 in the Augustinian Canon Monastery of St. Nikola. Readings for Sundays and holidays during the church year are compiled in the Passau Evangelary, which originate from the Gospels. 49 large historiated initials as well as 8 full-page miniatures are found on 44 pages measuring 32.5 x 22.5 cm. Consequently, color-intensive pictures on nearly every page invite the beholder to immerse themselves in the biblical stories. Today, the medieval manuscript is an authentic testimonial to the artistry and deep faith of a bygone epoch.

Radiant Initials

The numerous radiant golden initials on a colored background are so richly and fantastically embellished with small animals, flowers, figures, or artful tendrils, they appear like individual miniatures. The historiated initials are particularly interesting, in which the figures illustrate the text of the Gospels concretely, or which have a church holiday as a theme. On the other hand, the adornment simply serves to delight the eye of the beholder.

Byzantine Stylistic Elements in Romanesque Illumination

Two illuminators altogether participated in the manufacture of the evangeliary, who were named after their primary miniatures. The Petrus Master and the Ecclesia Master created the miniatures in layers. Both of them demonstrated the plastic design of body and garment characteristic of Romanesque illumination. Thus, the fabric is not merely a rigid shell, but is fleshed out in such a way that it lies softly upon the figures and allows individual body parts to protrude. Garment folds additionally emphasize the body volume. Byzantine stylistic elements came to Salzburg in the southern German-speaking regions and were also precipitated in the Passau Evangelary. The extensively invested gold backgrounds and the design of the faces as well as the flesh tones are typical. The noses are mostly long and have an overhanging tip. The fixed gaze and the altogether stern expression of the figures are equally compelled by the Byzantine face shapes. The vigorous modelling of the faces with olive-green shadows, white heightening, and red spots exhibits their particular similarity with the depiction of Byzantine saints.

Passau Illumination as a Rarity

Scriptoria in Passau produced numerous precious manuscript in the 12th century that were highly prized by secular princes and princes of the church alike. The once rich tradition was almost completely extinguished over the course of the centuries by fires and earthquakes. The Passau Evangelary is almost the only surviving testimonial to the artistically superior and unique illumination of Passau during the Romanesque period, and so its worth can hardly be overestimated.


Alternative Titles
Gospel of Passau
Pericope Book of Passau
Passauer Evangelistar
L’Évangéliaire de Passau
Size / Format
88 pages / 32.5 × 22.5 cm
8 full-page miniatures and 49 gilded initials
Gospel lectionary
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Passau Evangelary – Clm 16002 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2018
Limited Edition: 680 copies
Detail Picture

Passau Evangeliary

Presentation in the Temple

Gold and silver dominate the scene in this extraordinary Romanesque miniature: the Virgin Mary presents Jesus to Simeon, the high priest, while the prophetess Hannah holds a basket of doves, a common sight in such scenes and an allusion to the Holy Spirit. Gold and silver leaf feature prominently in the scene and are used to contrast one another. The figures stand under an arched architecture among speckled columns – the artist’s attempt to replicate marble.

Das Passauer Evangelistar
Single Page

Passau Evangelary

The Last Supper

This Romanesque masterpiece is a testimonial to the scriptorium in Passau from which it came and to the ongoing influence of Byzantine art, especially in the Holy Roman Empire. The gold/green frame has a wonderful leaf pattern rendered in light blue and pink, save for the lower left corner which is painted green, and the scene is additionally framed by classical architecture.

The miniature is dominated by gold leaf, especially the Byzantine-style burnished gold background, which is alternated with silver in the halos. Expressive faces with long, curved noses, piercing eyes, and strong gestures are also distinctly Byzantine. Judas is pictured apart from the rest of the 12 Apostles and as he opens his mouth to receive the Eucharist, an evil spirit slips in.

Das Passauer Evangelistar
Facsimile Editions

#1 Das Passauer Evangelistar

Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2018
Passau Evangelary – Clm 16002 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)
Passau Evangelary – Clm 16002 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2018
Limited Edition: 680 copies
Binding: Bound in fabric patterned with pairs of lions and peacocks in diamond fields Acrylic Presentation Case
Commentary: 1 volume by Karl-Georg Pfändtner
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) The current binding of the manuscript is from a later period, historical textile specialists helped to create a fabric binding that is true to the Romansque original.
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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