Biblia Pauperum

Pal. lat. 871 - Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)

Alternate Titles:

Bible of the Poor, Biblia picta, Armenbibel

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Alternate Titles

Bible of the Poor
Biblia picta

Extent / Format

Part 1: 46 pages
Part 2: 20 pages / 36.2 x 27.5 cm

Part 1: Second quarter of the 15th century; Part 2: 1349 and ca. 1400

Short description

The Biblia Pauperum is a codex that originates from 15th century Germany. The work was commissioned by the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg. It contains comprehensible and artistically appealing images, which represent selected scenes from the New and Old Testament.

Facsimile editions available


Biblia Pauperum

In the collection of the Vatican Library there is a so-called Biblia Pauperum, which represents the events of the New Testament in 50 vivid illustrations. This codex was commissioned in the 15th century by Friedrich von Hohenlohe, the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg. The Bible of the Poor consists of two parts, the first of which was made in the second quarter of the 15th century in North Hesse. The second part of the Bible arose between 1349 and 1400 in Bamberg. The manuscript’s 66 pages in total display important scenes from the Bible in the finest Gothic illumination.

What is a Bible of the Poor?

A medieval Bible of the Poor, Biblia Pauperum in Latin, is a collection of chosen scenes from the New and Old Testaments. Typically, a Bible of the Poor shows a biblical depiction of an event from the New Testament in the life of Christ. These scenes are encircled by four illustrations at most, which show people or events from the Old Testament. These Old Testament scenes are arranged around the central depiction from the New Testaments and were thus arranged in reference to one another. The biblical stories were depicted in a purposeful linkage of Saints’ Legends. Bibles for the Poor were less expensive than complete Bible codices, which is also where the designation came from.

A Simple, Appealing Style

The Bible for the Poor from Bamberg arose from the desire to make the community acquainted with the Bible through pictures. The greater part of the population could neither read nor write in the Middle Ages. The illuminator of the work designed his miniatures so that they were easily understandable and appealing. He chose luminous colors for his figures and positioned the pictures from the Old and New Testament so that the interconnecting stories were easily understood. The miniatures were supported by clarifying passages of text, which were adorned with colorful initials.

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