Golden Book of Pfäfers

Cod. Fabariensis 2 - Stiftsarchiv St. Gallen (St. Gall, Switzerland)

Alternate Titles:

Das Goldene Buch von Pfäfers

Facsimile edition
Our price
$ 932
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Alternate Titles

Das Goldene Buch von Pfäfers

Extent / Format

106 pages / 28.1 x 18.8 cm

around 1070-1450

31 gold initials and 4 full-page miniatures and pen-and-ink drawings

Short description

The Golden Book of Pfäfers represents a sumptuous 11th century manuscript of purple and gold protected by a sumptuous leather Renaissance binding. Aside from its lavishly decorated Gospel texts with purple backgrounds, full page miniatures, and large gilded initials, the manuscript includes a full list of Abbots at Pfäfers and provides a vivid picture of monastic existence there. Today, the luxury manuscript is one of the great treasures of the monastic library at St. Gallin.

Facsimile editions available


A Golden Reichenau Manuscript

The so-called Golden Book of Pfäfers owes its name to the extremely lavish gold decoration of its miniatures and initials as well as to the gilded silver ornaments of its sumptuous Renaissance binding. The finely chased relief decoration applied on red velvet date from 1590 and bear testimony to the great religious and political significance which the abbey at Pfäfers enjoyed in that period.

A Magnificent Jewel in Gold and Purple

The viewer is above all fascinated by the manifold artistic expression visible in the manuscript. The book consists of three sections made in three different epochs. The first section comprises the Gospels whose illumination encompasses four full-page depictions of the Evangelists as well as numerous luminous gold initials. This section was produced in the late 11th century, undoubtedly influenced by the illuminators’ workshop at Reichenau. It is followed by a complete list of abbots who were active at Pfäfers as well as by a number of legal texts in both German and Latin which are illustrated throughout with colored pen drawings made around 1400 in Pfaefers. Glittering gold and imperial purple lend the codex its valuable character. The significance and economic strength of Pfäfers Abbey are evidenced in the exquisite decorative program. Four full-page representations of the Evangelists, framed in the manner of panel paintings and set on precious marbled purple grounds, mark the beginning of each individual Gospel. Colorful backgrounds and outlining further enhance the luminosity of the golden, vine-covered shafts of the masterly executed initials. The value of the Golden Book, however, goes far beyond these observations. By combining different texts regarding both the spiritual and material basics of life, the codex draws a vivid picture of monastic existence at Pfäfers.

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