Gospels of John of Opava

Codex 1182 - Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna, Austria)

Alternate Titles:

Evangeliar des Johann von Troppau, Evangeliar des Johannes von Troppau

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Alternate Titles

Evangeliar des Johann von Troppau
Evangeliar des Johannes von Troppau

Extent / Format

384 pages / 37.3 x 25.5 cm


Albert III, Duke of Austria (1349-1395)

Artist / School

John of Opava


5 full-page illuminations, 4 full-page initials, 85 historiated initials. Every gospel begins with a double-page illumination: 12 scenes on verso illustrating the lives of the evangelists and the initial letter on recto. The whole text written in gold

Short description

As a great lover of precious books, Albert III, Duke of Austria (1349-1395), commissioned the priest and canon John of Opava with a particularly splendid evangeliary. Opava said himself that he wrote the text with pure-gold ink in the year 1368. Having said that, Opava received the support of an assistant and the miniaturist of the Missal of Johann von Neumarkt for the decoration of the 348 pages with five picture pages, four decorative initial pages, 85 historiated initials, and numerous borders with spurs. The two filigree book covers, each with stylized sunbeams and five gold-plated silver lion heads, effectively highlight the manuscript.

Facsimile editions available


Gospels of John of Opava

As the founding codex of the Austrian National Library, the splendid Gospels of John of Opava occupies a special position in that collection. The manuscript comprising 384 pages originated in 1386 in northern Czechia at the behest of Albert III, the Duke of Austria (1349-1395). He was already known by his contemporaries as a bibliophile and lover of the arts. The priest and canon John of Opava was responsible for the design of the text, the five large image pages, the four decorative initial pages, and the 85 historiated initials. The imposing overall impression of the manuscript was rounded out by the forging of the two gilded silver book covers.

The Signature of John of Opava

John of Opava informs the reader of the four Gospels of the New Testament that he himself wrote the text as a priest and canon of Brno in 1368 with pure gold ink. Although the manuscript can be dated with certainty, it can be assumed that Opava had support in producing the manuscript. In this way, three different hands can be distinguished in the decoration: those of the priest as the chief master, those of an assistant, and those of the miniature painter of the Missal of Johann von Neumarkt.

Richly Detailed Depiction from the Lives of the Evangelists

The decorative pages, which are at the beginning of each Gospel and are always based on the same basic scheme, are quite masterly. On the left side there are 12 scenes from the Legende Aurea depicting stories from the life of the evangelist with impressive accuracy. Opposite is a lavish ornamental page with the corresponding initial letter of the Gospel. Furthermore, 85 beautiful initials spread over the text mark the beginning of each chapter. Additionally, all text pages are decorated with a bright blue frames and enchanting spurs.

Gleaming Metal Book Covers

A very special characteristic of the Bohemian manuscript are the extremely filigree worked book covers made of gilded silver. Each consists of four tracery strips forming an infield, which is filled by stylized sun rays, which leak into thin peaks. In the four corners and in the center you can find a lion's head with a mane designed as a radiate wreath. As the only surviving original metal book cover of the Austrian National Library, this outstanding smithery is of particular value.

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