Speyer Pericopes

Speyer Pericopes – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Bruchsal 1 – Badische Landesbibliothek (Karlsruhe, Germany)

Speyer or Trier (Germany) β€” Around 1220

A cover of precious stones, miniatures made of gold: an extraordinarily magnificent gospel book for feast days at the Speyer Cathedral, created by no less than eight talented illuminators

  1. A truly unique book of pericopes was produced for use on feast days at Speyer Cathedral

  2. Eight artists worked on the masterful illumination of shining gold, deep blue, and luminous red

  3. The binding is studded with countless precious stones and is gird with a gilded Christ figure

Speyer Pericopes

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€€€
(over 10,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Speyer Pericopes

The Speyer Pericopes is the splendid manuscript of the Speyer Cathedral and was produced around 1220 by eight talented book artists from Speyer or Trier. To this day, the vivid miniatures and initial pictures have not lost any of their charisma or intensity. The binding of the work is especially valuable, which is studded with countless precious stones and is gird with a gilded Christ figure.

The Speyer Pericopes

A pericope contains readings from the gospels that are organized around church festivals and were recited at religious services. For the readings on feast days at the Speyer Cathedral, a truly unique pericope was produced that is astounding to this day. The Speyer Pericopes consists of 154 pages with 17 full page, intensely colored miniatures. These are divided into 21 individual pictures and depict scenes from the New Testament. Furthermore, there are four full page depictions of the gospels and 70 richly appointed historiated initials. The exceedingly magnificent binding of the codex underlines its importance for the bishopric of Speyer and makes the work one of the most beautiful manuscripts of late German Romanic.

A Successful Collaboration

The Speyer Pericopes was commissioned around 1220 by the late bishop of Speyer, Konrad IV of Tann. He wanted to give birth to a showcase work that was intended for use on feast days. In total eight involved artists can be distinguished. For the script, in which particularly important passages were highlighted with gold, blue, or red-black, five artists were responsible. They probably came from an educated monastic background. The exceptional miniatures and decorative initials were derived from the hands of three fabulously talented masters from Speyer or Trier who set a new standard with their painting.

New Creative Influences

In the early 12th and 13th centuries, German book illuminators came to grips with the artistic achievements of the Mediterranean and Byzantine cultural sphere. This was a result of the Crusades and the Staufer domains in Italy. These new artistic trends strongly influenced occidental art and changed their style and aesthetic permanently. The painters of the Speyer Pericopes also integrated Byzantine impulses in their painting. They carefully paid attention to the individual facial features of their figures, depicting most people in conversation with one another, paid attention to realistic representations of garments, and achieved advancements in the anatomically correct depiction of people. They also included completely new pictorial composition in their work, for example the birth of Jesus was not depicted in a stable but in a hollow. With powerful colors they underscored the liveliness and plasticity of their miniatures. The backgrounds of the pictures are an intense blue for the most part, which create a stark contrast with high-luster polished gold in nearly every depiction.

An Immeasurable Richness of Book Decoration

The initials of the work also exceed the usual decoration of large letters, the 70 initials are miniatures unto themselves. They pictorially depict scenes from selected Bible readings and capture the Byzantine motif of the miniatures in a similar fashion, for example the washing of the Christ child. The costliest element of the Speyer Pericopes is nonetheless its monumental binding. It consists of over 150 individual parts. A gilded silver figure of Christ on his throne is embedded in the middle, which is surrounded by countless relief-like gold ornaments and precious stones. Using the so-called niello technique, small stones were infused in silver. Precious stones from around the world are found in the binding, among them amethyst, lapis lazuli, agates, and pure quartz. Only a few manuscripts from the 13th century still possess their original bindings. The binding was also probably reworked in the 15th century, it was on this occasion that the gilded Jesus figure was applied as a replacement for a previous figure and the work was affixed with a golden frame.


Alternative Titles
Speyerer Evangelistar
Speyerer Perikopenbuch
L’ÉvangΓ©liaire de Spire
Size / Format
154 pages / 33.2 Γ— 25.3 cm
Around 1220
17 full-page miniatures with 21 individual images, 5 full-page portraits of the Evangelists and Christ and 70 richly ornamented and historicized initials
Konrad IV von Tann, cathedral curator and Bishop of Speyer (1233–36)
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Speyer Pericopes – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Bruchsal 1 – Badische Landesbibliothek (Karlsruhe, Germany)
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2012
Limited Edition: 280 copies
Detail Picture

Speculum Humanae Salvationis from Einsiedeln Abbey

Portrait of John the Evangelist

Saint John is depicted as a bearded man of advanced age with his brow furrowed in thought and a golden halo embossed with delicate patterns. He is sitting at a lectern with an animal head, a stylus in his right hand and a small pen knife in his left. An eagle with spectacular plumage and its own gold leaf halo, his Evangelist Symbol, appears to have just flown into the scene, perching itself in front of Saint John as though it is turning the pages with its talons.

Speyer Pericopes – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Bruchsal 1 – Badische Landesbibliothek (Karlsruhe, Germany)
Single Page

Speyer Pericopes

Adoration of the Magi

This dynamic miniature is split into two registers, with the scene in the lower register preceding the one on top. Guided by the Star of Bethlehem, which is outside of the frame, the Magi ride from the East through the mountains by night, indicated by their blue crowns. They are dressed in contemporary court fashions with black tights and colorful, flowing robes.

The upper register depicts the archetypal scene of the Magi presenting their gifts to the Baby Jesus and Virgin Mary, who both make iconic hand gestures associated with holiness. No manger is present, nor are they pictured in the humble surroundings described in the Gospels. Instead, Mary is enthroned like a queen receiving the supplications of her vassals to their newborn king.

Speyer Pericopes – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Bruchsal 1 – Badische Landesbibliothek (Karlsruhe, Germany)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Speyerer Evangelistar

Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2012

Publisher: Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2012
Limited Edition: 280 copies
Binding: The cover of the facsimile is a faithful copy of the magnificent medieval cover. It features a gilded, sculpted figure of Christ on the front, along with ten silver niello plates, ornamented with either figures or floral design, and it is set with fifty-four decorative stones and gems. Back and spine are covered in Bordeaux red velvet and edged in a gilded framework. Two leather clasps are ornamented with decorative fittings.
Commentary: 1 volume by Harald Wolter-von dem Knesebeck and Ute Obhof
Languages: English, 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: €€€€€
(over 10,000€)
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