The Prince-Bishop Evangeliary

The Prince-Bishop Evangeliary Facsimile Edition

Würzburg (Germany) — 1507

Created at the behest of the powerful Prince-Bishop of Würzburg: a magnificent German Renaissance Gospel Book with 30 full-page golden miniatures

  1. Commissioned in 1507 by Lorenz von Bibra, Prince-Bishop of Würzburg (1459–1519)

  2. 30 magnificent full-page miniatures masterfully illuminated by the Benedictine monk George Lester

  3. Intensely bright colors and shimmering gold were used for the depictions resembling panel paintings

The Prince-Bishop Evangeliary

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
The Prince-Bishop Evangeliary

In 1507, Lorenz von Bibra, the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg commissioned an exceptionally pure and splendidly decorated Evangeliary. With its 30 full-page miniatures, which impressively depict the life cycle of Christ, the Prince-Bishop's Evangeliary occupies a special position among the impressive manuscripts of the time. Intense colors and fine, shimmering gold make the pictorial depictions of the life of Jesus look like a collection of panel paintings in book form and show the extraordinary quality of the artistic implementation.

The Prince-Bishop Evangeliary

This incredible evangeliary commissioned by Lorenz von Bibra (1459–1519), Duke in Franconia and Prince-Bishop of Würzburg, is an outstanding testimony to the German Renaissance when it was still in its infancy. Although still strongly influenced by forms and conventions from the Gothic style, the masterfully executed miniatures possess the realism of the Italian Renaissance and the individualistic depictions of the figures is indicative of the humanist influence.
Made with only the finest pigments and illuminated with gleaming gold, this work, one would assume that, like most illuminated manuscripts of the period, it was most likely the product of a lay workshop of professional artists and scribes who specialized in the production of sumptuously furnished codices. However, this work appears to have been made by a monk named Georg Lester in the Benedictine Abbey of Würzburg ca. 1507, which makes the quality of its materials and the excellence of its execution all the more remarkable.

Lorenz von Bibra

Descended from the aristocratic Franconian von Bibra family, which had served the Bishopric of Würzburg for generations, the life of Lorenz von Bibra mirrored that of Emperor Maximilian I, whom he served as an advisor: both were born in 1459 and died in 1519. Lorenz was a dedicated humanist who attended university in Heidelberg, Erfurt, Bologna, and Paris and had the reputation for being a just, respected, and popular ruler who regularly arbitrated disputes. Würzburg enjoyed an extended period of prosperity under his rule, which began in 1495, He also had a relationship with Martin Luther (1483–1546), had Protestant sympathies, and it is speculated by many that had he lived longer that he would have embraced the Reformation in Würzburg.
Aside from his liberality, Lorenz was known as a patron of the arts and, aside from commissions elaborately illuminated manuscripts like the evangeliary at hand, had a personal relationship with the famous sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider (ca. 1460–1531). Riemenschneider completed several commissions for the Prince-Bishop, including his elaborate tomb in Würzburg Cathedral, which was only completed in 1522, three years after his death. In comparison with the neighboring Gothic tomb of his predecessor Rudolf II von Scherenberg, Lorenz’s tomb was executed in the new Renaissance style.

History of the Manuscript

The history of the manuscript stored today in the Laurentian Library is intertwined with the events of the tumultuous years at the turn of 19th century, in which Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) was either the protagonist or antagonist depending upon one’s perspective. It is believed to have remained in the abbey’s library in Würzburg until it was suppressed during Secularization in 1802. The fate of the manuscript for the next few years remains unknown, but the precious codex was eventually acquired by Grand Duke Ferdinand III of Tuscany (1769–1824). This probably occurred sometime after 1805, when he was made the Prince Elector of Würzburg and then the first Grand Duke of Würzburg over the territories of the now-defunct bishopric. What is certain is that Ferdinand III donated the precious work of German Renaissance book art to the Laurentian Library in Florence on the 11th of May 1823 with an accompanying letter indicating it had been purchased with the intention of donating it to the library.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Das Fürst-Bischöfliche Evangelistar
Size / Format
124 pages / 33.3 × 23.5 cm
Origin
Germany
Date
1507
Language
Illustrations
30 full-page miniatures
Patron
Lorenz von Bibra, Prince-Bishop of Würzburg (1459–1519)
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
The Prince-Bishop Evangeliary – Imago – Acquisti e doni 156 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy) Facsimile Edition
Imago – Rimini, 2021
Limited Edition: 399 copies
Detail Picture

The Prince-Bishop Evangeliary

Throne of Mercy

This richly colored miniature is an exemplary specimen of the sedes gratiae or “Throne of Mercy”, an archetypal depiction in Christian art that first appeared in the late 10th century. An enthroned God the Father, who looks at the beholder with a solemn gaze, holds a crucified Christ in his hands as a dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit appears between them. Glimmering gold has not only been used for the halos and God’s crown, but also splendidly illuminates inter alia the woodgrain of the cross.

Das Fürst-Bischöfliche Evangelistar
Single Page

The Prince-Bishop Evangeliary

The Last Supper

A solid, bare, but also airy building resembling a monastery or a church provides the setting for the Last Supper of Jesus with the Twelve Apostles. The betrayer Judas stands out among the latter, depicted receiving a morsel offered by Jesus and identifying him just that: “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” (Jn. 13:26)

Judas Iscariot is painted without a halo, but already has the bag with the thirty denarii around his neck behind his back to hide his true intentions. The disciple whom Jesus loved is also conspicuous because he sleeps in Jesus' lap: John the Evangelist according to tradition. A lamb lies on the golden platter in the middle of the table foretelling Christ’s sacrifice.

Das Fürst-Bischöfliche Evangelistar
Facsimile Editions

#1 Das Fürst-Bischöfliche Evangelistar

Imago – Rimini, 2021
The Prince-Bishop Evangeliary – Imago – Acquisti e doni 156 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy) Facsimile Edition
The Prince-Bishop Evangeliary – Imago – Acquisti e doni 156 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy) Facsimile Edition Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Imago – Rimini, 2021
Limited Edition: 399 copies
Binding: Rich gold embossing of the cover and bordered cat's eye in the center
Commentary: 1 volume
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 without login (used)7,480 
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