Codex Aureus Escurialensis

Vitr. 17 - Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain)

Alternate Titles:

Codex Aureus Escorialensis, Golden Codex, Speyerer Evangeliar, Salisches Kaiserevangeliar, Códice Áureo, Golden Gospels of Henry III

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Codex Aureus Escorialensis
Golden Codex
Speyerer Evangeliar
Salisches Kaiserevangeliar
Códice Áureo
Golden Gospels of Henry III

Type
Extent / Format

342 pages / 50.7 x 33.5 cm

Origin
Date
1043-1046
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor (1016 - 1054)

Artist / School

Propably six book painters

Illustrations

13 full-page and 43 half-page miniatures, 12 canon tables, 44 decorative pages

Former owners

Emperor Maximilian
Margaret of Mechelen
Philip II, King of Spain and Portugal (reigned 1556 - 1598)

Short description

The Codex Aureus Escorialensis, also known as the Speyer Gospels, the Golden Gospels of Henry III or simply as the Liber Vitae, is counted among the most significant manuscripts of Ottonian illumination. The patron of this outstanding document was Henry III, the Holy-Roman Emperor from the Salian Dynasty. The Codex Aureus Escurialensis was made in the famous scriptorium of Echternach Abbey. The manuscript, with stately measurements of over 50 x 33 cm, contains exuberant visual adornment consisting of 56 full- and half-page miniatures, splendid vine-covered initials and text continuously written in gold ink! The manuscript carries political significance as a manifestation of Salian rule, but takes center stage nonetheless as an unbelievable gem of 11th century illumination!

Facsimile editions available

Description

Codex Aureus Escorialensis

The Codex Aureus Escorialensis, also known as the Speyer Gospels, the Golden Gospels of Henry III or simply as the Liber Vitae, is counted among the most significant manuscripts of Ottonian illumination. The patron of this outstanding document was Henry III, the Holy-Roman Emperor from the Salian Dynasty. The Codex Aureus Escurialensis was made in the famous scriptorium of Echternach Abbey. The manuscript, with stately measurements of over 50 x 33 cm, contains exuberant visual adornment consisting of 56 full- and half-page miniatures, splendid vine-covered initials and text continuously written in gold ink! The manuscript carries political significance as a manifestation of Salian rule, but takes center stage nonetheless as an unbelievable gem of 11th century illumination!

The Golden Gospels of Henry III

Emperor Henry III (1016-1054) from the Salian Dynasty had his famous Golden Gospels, the Codex Aureus Escorialensis, made on the occasion of the consecration of Speyer Cathedral’s high altar. The imperial gift for the Speyer Cathedral, which was meant to manifest Henry’s rule, is considered to be one of the primary works of Ottonian illumination to this day. In addition to the designation Codex Aureus Escurialensis – after its modern repository in the famous library of the royal San Lorenzo de Escorial Monastery – the manuscript bears other titles: Codex Aureus Spirensis (an indication of Speyer as the site it was originally dedicated to), the Salian Imperial Gospels, the Speyer Gospels, and the Golden Gospels of Henry III are all present in research. Henry III himself named the codex Liber Vitae, Book of Life.

Grandiose Miniatures and Golden Text

The Codex Aureus Escurialensis is a work from Echternach Abbey. The Ottonian codex was completed in the years 1043-1046 in the famous scriptorium there, where a multitude of significant manuscripts were produced. Seven miniaturists presumably participated in the completion of the codex. The manuscript shows off with 13 full-page and 43 half-page miniatures, in addition to 12 canon tables and 44 decorative pages. Countless vine-covered initials adorn the pages with text written entirely in gold ink! In addition to this interior splendor, its exterior indicates its imperial status: the Codex Aureus Escurialensis has the stately dimensions of 50.7 x 33.5 cm and as a result, it is the “largest medieval evangeliary ever created!”!

A Royal History of Ownership

The visual décor of the splendid Ottonian manuscript follows a strict numerical symbolism based on the divine order. Alongside the golden text of the codex, the visual adornment of the document is comprised of thoroughly high-quality illumination. The splendid dedication picture is only an example of this outstanding quality: the Emperor Henry III and his wife Agnes kneel in silent prayer on either side on an enthroned Virgin Mary in the center of the splendid architectural backdrop of the Speyer Cathedral, which had not yet been finished at the time of the codex’s completion!
By way of Maximilian I, the manuscript came into the possession of Margaret of Austria, Mary of Hungary, and finally came to Spain through King Philip II. Today, the Codex Aureus Escorialensis is counted among the greatest treasures of the El Escorial Library.

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