Saint Gall World Chronicle

Saint Gall World Chronicle – Faksimile Verlag – Ms 302 Vad. – Kantonsbibliothek, Vadiana (Saint-Gall, Switzerland)

Zurich (Switzerland) β€” Ca. 1300

Two of the most popular verse narratives of the German Gothic period united in a unique codex: The World Chronicle and the History of Charlemagne in 58 precious, gold-decorated miniatures

  1. Two German verse narratives by Rudolf von Ems (ca. 1200–54) and the "Stricker" were combined in a single Codex with golden miniatures

  2. The history of the world and Emperor Charlemagne is reproduced in over 33,000 rhyming couplets and 58 expressive miniatures on gold backgrounds

  3. The original text was created at the behest of the Staufer King Conrad IV (1228–54)

Saint Gall World Chronicle

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Saint Gall World Chronicle

The World Chronicle of Rudolf von Ems and the biographical Legends of Charlemagne, written by the so-called "Stricker", were two of the most popular pieces of German Gothic writing and were combined into a unique codex in Zurich around 1300. However, it is not only the two epic texts that make the manuscript special, but especially its splendid illuminations, which adopt the French Gothic style. In the 58 large miniatures with luminous gold backgrounds, biblical elements, ancient heroic sagas and stories from the life of Charlemagne are translated into the late Middle Ages in an astonishing expressive and surprisingly lively manner. The unique and charming manuscript is now kept in the Kantonsbibliothek Vadiana in Sankt Gallen with the shelfmark Ms 302 Vad.

Saint Gall World Chronicle

Around the year 1300, two beloved documents of German Gothic poetry were combined in one codex, namely the World Chronicle of Rudolf von Ems and the heroic epic about Charlemagne by the so-called der Stricker. Both of the High Middle German tales in verse are written in rhyming couplets and are decorated with lively miniatures set against costly golden backgrounds. The contents of this work, whose commissioner probably hailed from a courtly environment, was aimed at a knightly audience and takes the modern beholder back to the Middle Ages, to recite the world and legends of Charlemagne around a Gothic table with meat and drink.

Two Works, Two Masters

The World Chronicle, as was typical in the Middle Ages, is oriented toward the Bible and was compiled by the Staufian court poet Rudolf von Ems. It was created at the behest of the Staufen King Conrad IV and relates the history of the Earth in over 33,000 rhyming couplets, from the creation of the Earth to the death of King Solomon. The biblical events were stylized for the time period: the book art accompanying the text depicts slender female figures in flowing garments and battling knights in armor. No name for the author of the Legends of Charlemagne is known, only his pseudonym β€œDer Stricker” (knitter). His script does not resemble that of a cleric or a knight, it indicates that the author was from the Burgher class. For the structure of his epic, the Stricker used the Song of Roland, which told of Charlemagne and his trusted knight Roland, who falls valiantly in battle against the Saracens. Charlemagne, who was called by Roland’s horn Oliphant too late, could not save his friend, but nonetheless defeated the enemy in a subsequent battle, which is seen as being symbolic for Christian victory over the heathen.

The most Expensive Book Paintings of their Time

The 58 miniatures of the codex, which were laid upon a background of gold leaf, involve truly extraordinary book painting. The images are not in the style of the Zackenstil, as in previous works, but rather show a strong influence from the French art of illumination. Biblical elements, ancient hero sagas, and stories from the life of Charlemagne were depicted in expressive and surprising liveliness. The gold background of the paintings makes the exceptional worth of the codex clear. Not only are the stories both informative and enjoyable, but also the thrilling illustrations make this work an especially magnificent specimen of medieval German bookmaking.


Alternative Titles
Rudolf von Ems: Weltchronik – Der Stricker: Karl der Große
Die Weltchronik - Karl der Grosse
Weltchronik Rudolfs von Ems
Cronaca del Mondo e Storia di Carlo Magno
Chronicle of the World and History of Charlemagne
Cronica del Mundo
Berlin World Chronicle
Rudolf von Ems: World Chronicle - Der Stricker: Charlemagne
Size / Format
582 pages / 29.5 Γ— 20.0 cm
Ca. 1300
58 vividly illuminated miniatures on gold backgrounds
Artist / School
Previous Owners
BartholomΓ€us Schobinger (1500–85)

Available facsimile editions:
Saint Gall World Chronicle – Faksimile Verlag – Ms 302 Vad. – Kantonsbibliothek, Vadiana (Saint-Gall, Switzerland)
Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 1982
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Detail Picture

Saint Gall World Chronicle

Roland Appointed Governor of Spain

Upper register: dressed in red, the famous paladin Roland kneels before Charlemagne, who is wearing a fur-lined cloak. Charlemagne bestows a crown and banner-lance as tokens of his authority as governor of Spain while Bishop Turpin and two arms bearers witness the ceremony. Lower register: Roland demonstrates his strength to Charlemagne and his entourage by driving a lance into a rock with such force that it sinks into it, which was taken as God’s endorsement of this appointment.

Saint Gall World Chronicle – Faksimile Verlag – Ms 302 Vad. – Kantonsbibliothek, Vadiana (Saint-Gall, Switzerland)
Single Page

Saint Gall World Chronicle

Conquest of Jerusalem

After David is anointed king over all Israel, he conquers the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites, making it his capital and bringing the Ark of the Covenant there. The miniature is innovatively integrated into the text and set against a burnished gold background. This unique scene has the feel of a snapshot that freezes a moment in the action.

The early Gothic illumination presents the soldiers fighting in typical high medieval armor: long mail shirts, kite shields, armed with swords, axes, bows, and crossbows. The host of the Israelites, led by Joab climbing the ladder with shield in hand, attacks the tower as arrows and stones rain down upon them. Beautifully colored, the battlements of the tower also feature Gothic quatrefoil windows at the top.

Saint Gall World Chronicle – Faksimile Verlag – Ms 302 Vad. – Kantonsbibliothek, Vadiana (Saint-Gall, Switzerland)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Rudolf von Ems: Weltchronik – Der Stricker: Karl der Große

Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 1982

Publisher: Faksimile Verlag – Lucerne, 1982
Limited Edition: 980 copies
Binding: True-to-original binding made from nappa cowhide ornately adorned with 16 brass fittings. The individual leaves have been trimmed according to the original and the headband is stitched by hand.
Commentary: 1 volume (307 pages) by Ellen J. Beer, Johannes Duft, Hubert Herkommer, Karin Schneider, Stefan Sonderegger, and Peter Wegelin
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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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