Vergilius Romanus

Vergilius Romanus – Belser Verlag – Vat. lat. 3867 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)

Rome (Italy) β€” Around 500

The bridge between the art of antiquity and the Middle Ages: Virgil's most famous works in one of the most magnificently illuminated manuscripts of Late Antiquity, furnished with 19 gold-framed miniatures

  1. This is arguably the most brilliantly decorated manuscript to survive from Late Antiquity

  2. Virgil's (70–19 BC) Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid are united here into a manuscript from ca. 500

  3. The colorful, gold framed miniatures represent a bridge between ancient and medieval art

Vergilius Romanus

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

The Vergilius Romanus is one of the oldest illuminated manuscripts in the rich collections of the famous Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. It was created in Rome around the year 500 and is thus a rare document of the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages. The precious manuscript contains the most important poems of the Roman poet Virgil, which are compiled here and supplemented by 19 impressive, mostly full-page miniatures in precious frames of gold leaf, which elaborately illustrate certain events of the texts. They are among the few surviving pictorial works of antiquity, which makes them rarities that are as fascinating as they are historically significant. Stylistically, they are still rooted in the late antique tradition, but already indicate some features of early medieval book illumination.

Vergilius Romanus

The Vergilius Romanus codex is one of the oldest works housed in the Vatican Library. It contains the poems of the famous poet Virgil and a total of 19 pictures, which illustrate the events of the text. These images are counted among the main works of late-Antique illumination. It has been consulted by researchers in the examination of the connection between ancient art and medieval illumination. The thrilling, colorful miniatures are bordered with margins of pure gold leaf.

The Poet Virgil

Publius Vegilius Maro, better known by the name Virgil, was a Latin poet and epicist, who lived during the times of the Roman civil wars and the principate of Octavian. He is one of the most important authors of classical Roman antiquity. His works, The Eclogues, The Georgics, and The Aeneidrevolutionized Latin poetry. Already shortly after his death, these were repeatedly copied, edited, commented on, and intertextually distributed. The book edition Vergilius Romanus combines his masterworks in a single codex, which represents of one of the most important documents of ancient book art with breath-taking pictures.

Historical Illumination

The Vergilius Romanus codex is a book treasure that generates awe in its beholders. Only a few original illuminated codices from antiquity still exist today, and hardly any of these works is as attractively designed. The illustrations of the Vergilius Romanus exhibit stylistic features of the ancient painting tradition, as they were practiced in the 4th century. Nevertheless, the Vergilius Romanus signifies the departure from this classical canon of forms. Its illustrations exhibit in direct comparison with other works the further development of ancient illumination into medieval book art. The historical significance of the work is immeasurable. The exciting pictures are drawn in seven different colors and are set in a frame of valuable gold leaf.


Size / Format
618 pages / 33.2 Γ— 32.3 cm
Around 500
19 splendid, mostly full-page miniatures in golden frames; headings in red script
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Saint Denis Abbey in Paris
Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484)

Available facsimile editions:
Vergilius Romanus – Belser Verlag – Vat. lat. 3867 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1985
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Detail Picture

Vergilius Romanus

Tityrus and Meliboeus

This fine miniature appearing at the beginning of the Eclogues, also known as the Bucolics, and shows a dialogue between two shepherds named Tityrus and Meliboeus. Standing on the right, Meliboeus has been forced off his land and faces an uncertain future. Tityrus recounts his journey to Rome and the "god" (likely Octavian) he met there who allowed him to remain on his land. He offers to let Meliboeus spend the night with him. Tityrus is commonly believed to be Virgil’s alter ego.

Vergilius Romanus – Belser Verlag – Vat. lat. 3867 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Single Page

Vergilius Romanus

The Trojan Fleet in a Storm

The Aeneid begins with the Trojan fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean as it flees to Italy from Troy. Juno, having already been snubbed in the judgement of Paris, is wrathful because her favorite city of Carthage is destined to be destroyed by the descendants of Aeneas. She induces Aeolus, King of the Winds, to unleash a storm that devastates the Trojan fleet, which Aeneas and others only survive through the intervention of Neptune.

Set within a gold leaf frame, two Greek galleys make their way through a sea of dark purple, which is filled with fish and mythical sea creatures. The deities who have conspired against the Trojans can be seen in the sky above them stirring up the storm. With his arms stretched out, Aeneas exhorts his men to be brave.

Vergilius Romanus – Belser Verlag – Vat. lat. 3867 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Vergilius Romanus

Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1985

Publisher: Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1985
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Binding: Hand-sewn morocco leather
Commentary: 1 volume by Carlo Bertelli, Ezio Gallicet, Giovanna Garbarino, Italo Lana, Alessandro Pratesi, David Wright and JosΓ© Ruysschaert
Language: German
1 volume: 40 pages as exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size), the other in black and white 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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