Prayer Book of Queen Beatrice

Prayer Book of Queen Beatrice – Helikon – Cod. 2484 – Benediktinerstift Melk (Melk, Germany)

Italy — Second half of the 15th century

Golden Marian prayers and magnificent Renaissance book art in the smallest of spaces: the private prayer book of the Queen of Hungary, written entirely in gold ink and a gorgeous testimony to her powerful patronage

  1. Beatrice of Aragon (1457–1508) was Queen of Hungary and Bohemia and a great patron of Renaissance art

  2. She commissioned a small prayer book, written entirely in gold ink, to be made for her in northern Italy

  3. A miniature of Christ, ornate decorated initials and gold adorned borders complement the golden texts

Prayer Book of Queen Beatrice

Cod. 1845 Benediktinerstift Melk (Melk, Germany)
  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Prayer Book of Queen Beatrice

The Benedictine Abbey of Melk preserves a true gem of the Italian Early Renaissance, created in the second half of the 15th century in Upper Italy for Beatrice of Aragon (1457–1508), Queen of Hungary and Bohemia and daughter of the King of Naples. The prayer book of the influential patron of humanist Renaissance art and literature contains a compilation of Christian prayers addressed to the Virgin Mary, which were compiled by Bonaventure. The texts have not only been brought onto the small parchment pages of the codex in the highest calligraphic quality, but also shine completely in gold ink. The artistic chrysography is complemented by a magnificently designed incipit page, a large miniature of Christ, countless gorgeous decorated initials and gold-embellished borders, which make this manuscript a brilliant testimony to Beatrix's efforts to bring the new developments in art from her homeland to Hungary.

Prayer Book of Queen Beatrice

In the second half of the 15th century, a decidedly splendid little prayer book was made in Italy for Queen Beatrice of Aragon (1457–1508), which is not only an expression of her personal piety, but above all illustrates her activity as a patroness and lover of Italian Renaissance art and culture. Born in Capua, the daughter of the Italian King Ferdinand I of Naples (1424–1494) brought numerous humanist scholars and artists from Italy to Hungary after her marriage to the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus (1443–1490) and had the first Renaissance palace outside Italy built in Visegrád. Through her influence as a patroness and also her political ambitions, Hungary quickly developed into a new center of the Renaissance in Eastern Europe. So it is hardly surprising that her private prayer book is also a literally shining gem of elaborate Upper Italian art.

Marian prayers in golden garments

Throughout the codex, the Latin prayers and psalms were written in the finest chrysography, meaning in gold script, on the small-format parchment pages. Although the gold ink of the Gothic rotunda has been somewhat eroded at some points over the centuries, the ancient splendor of this calligraphic masterpiece still captivates the viewer on every page. Golden and colored initials with sweeping red and blue fleuronnée ornaments that evolve into elaborate graphic borders complement the gold-glowing texts on almost every page. Compiled in the 13th century by the Italian scholastic and Franciscan Bonaventure, these are addressed throughout to the Virgin Mary.

Italian Renaissance art in the smallest of spaces

Measuring only 10.5 × 7.6 cm, the prayer book is introduced by a magnificent incipit page framed entirely by a lush, wide border of filigree golden vines and colorful leaves and flowers. The bas-de-page features the patroness's coat of arms on a blue background in a medallion incorporated into the border, and which is repeated in the large historiated initial in the text. After two more decorated initials with gorgeous gold-embellished borders follow on fol. 98r and 109v, a large miniature of the resurrected Christ in a sumptuous frame concludes the penultimate part. With a dramatically outstretched, bleeding hand, the naturalistically depicted "Son of God" invites the user of the manuscript to meditate on his fate and resurrection.

A Hungarian gem

Written by a later 17th century hand, a note below the last prayer indicates that the royal prayer book was later owned by Nicholas Pálffy of Erdőd (1512–1568) and Peter Koháry (1564–1619), two Hungarian military officers and noblemen. Today, the Renaissance gem is kept in the library of the Benedictine Abbey of Melk under the shelfmark 1845.


Alternative Titles
Psalterium Beatae Mariae Virginis. Das Gebetbuch der Königin Beatrix
Das Gebetbuch der Königin Beatrix von Ungarn
Prayer Book of Queen Beatrice
Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis
Stundenbuch Beatrix von Ungarns
Size / Format
352 pages / 10.5 × 7.6 cm
Second half of the 15th century
Gothic Rotunda
1 large miniature, 1 historiated initial, 2 large ornamental initials and countless pen-flourish initials, ornate borders on 4 pages, chrysography
Beatrice of Naples, Queen of Hungary and of Bohemia
Previous Owners
Nikolaus Pálffy of Erdőd
Péter Koháry

Available facsimile editions:
Facsimile Editions

#1 Psalterium Beatae Mariae Virginis. Das Gebetbuch der Königin Beatrix

Helikon – Budapest, 1991

Publisher: Helikon – Budapest, 1991
Binding: Dark brown gold embossed leather binding with clasp in gold embossed velvet covered case
Commentary: 1 volume by Csaba Csapodi
Language: English, German, Hungarian, Italian
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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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