One of the most richly illuminated manuscripts in Central Europe: Czech history conveyed in religious images

Velislav's Bible

Prague (Czech Republic) — 1349

Velislav's Bible

Velislav's Bible

Prague (Czech Republic) — 1349

  1. This splendid Czech manuscript with 747 miniatures originated at the behest of Velislav the Canon (d. 1367)

  2. He served at the court of King John I of Bohemia (1296-1346) and his son, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (1316-78) in Prague

  3. With an image program resembling a modern comic book, this is the most richly illuminated Central European manuscript

Velislav's Bible

Alternative Titles:
  • Velislaus Bible
  • Velislai biblia picta
  • Wenzislaus-Bibel
Velislav's Bible  – National Library of the Czech Republic (Prague, Czech Republic)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

This fine work of Gothic art represents the richest illuminated manuscript to originate from Central Europe in the Middle Ages. Created over the course of nearly 25 years in the 14th century by a team of artists working in Prague during the first flowering of Czech illumination, it is a picture Bible whose form resembles that of a modern comic book, and boasts an incredible 747 miniatures.

Velislav's Bible

This splendid Czech manuscript originated at the behest of Velislav the Canon (d. 1367), who served as notary at the splendid court of King John I of Bohemia (1296-1346) and his son, Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (1316-78) in Prague. It is a large format picture Bible measuring 30.7 x 24.5 cm that is sometimes misidentified as a Biblia pauperum, but this work is grander and has a far larger image cycle than a pauper’s Bible. Nonetheless, it is not a complete Bible, but is limited to the books of Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, Judges, and Judith as well as an Antichrist cycle, Christological cycle, the Apocalypse, the deeds of the Apostles, and a cycle about the Czech patron saints Wenceslaus (ca. 907-35) and Ludmila. Czech history is incorporated into the history of salvation, making this a work of both a religious and national character, which is now stored in the Czech National Library.

A Cornucopia of Miniatures

The 747 miniatures rendered in pen and ink dominate the text, which is limited to titles and brief explanations, originate from the hands of a team artists between 1325 and 1349 who likely worked in a secular workshop. This manuscript represents the most comprehensive illuminated Bible from Central Europe. Velislav, who is believed to have been closely involved with the manuscript’s design, is depicted in portrait on fol. 188r kneeling before a statue of St. Catherine, the patron saint of theologians and philosophers. Although a member of the clergy, he is depicted in secular clothes. The presentation of the imagery and text gives it the appearance of a medieval comic book. This work reveals the intention of Velislav to create a work with a universally European character.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Velislaus Bible
Velislai biblia picta
Wenzislaus-Bibel
Date
1349
Style
Gothic
Language

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Velislav's Bible “

Velislav's Bible
Velislav's Bible  – National Library of the Czech Republic (Prague, Czech Republic)
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Velislav's Bible

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Tempus Libri – Prague,
Limited Edition
799
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