History of Alexander the Great

Ms. 11.040 - Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique (Bruxelles, Belgium)

Alternate Titles:

Historia de Alejandro Magno, Geschichte Alexanders des Großen, Histoire d’Alexandre le Grand, Storia di Alessandro Magno, História de Alexandre Magno

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Historia de Alejandro Magno
Geschichte Alexanders des Großen
Histoire d’Alexandre le Grand
Storia di Alessandro Magno
História de Alexandre Magno

Type
Extent / Format

180 pages / 24.0 x 18.0 cm

Date
13th century
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Philip the Fair, King of France

Illustrations

100 illuminated miniatures on a gold and silver background

Short description

Made in Brussels, this manuscript details the story of Alexander the Great and counts as one of the most impressive and important products of Middle Age prose. The Codex was finished for the French King Phillip IV “The Fair”. The clear influence of the gorgeous, artisitic layout of old French texts can be seen. Miniatures of the highest quality illustrated the adventurous tales out of the life of Alexander the Great, which are all richly crafted in precious gold and silver. The manuscript, with its wonderful gothic miniatures and wonderful minuscule script, counts as part of the high point of French book painting of the 13th century.

Facsimile editions available

Description

History of Alexander the Great

Made in Brussels, this manuscript details a novelized story of Alexander the Great and counts as one of the most impressive and important products of Middle Age prose. The Codex was finished for the French King Phillip IV “The Fair”. The clear influence of the gorgeous, artisitic layout of old French texts can be seen. Miniatures of the highest quality illustrated the adventurous tales out of the life of Alexander the Great, which are all richly crafted in precious gold and silver. The manuscript, with its wonderful gothic miniatures and wonderful minuscule script, counts as part of the high point of French book painting of the 13th century.

One of the Most Important Rulers in History as the Hero of a Novel

Entwining around numerous depictions of Alexander the Great in the special medieval fashion of ** myths and legends** are biographical facts, which are creatively embroidered. Complete in the tradition of Middle Aged enthusiasm for heroes and legends, the life of Alexander the Great offers enough material for a substantial adventure novel. Ascribed with an extensive education, he applied as an ideal ruler. Subsequently, Alexander the Great was identified as being in lines with the ideals of courtly culture. Reception of this concept of hero from Antiquity was especially present in France in form of the famous Roman d’Alexandre, the old-French novel on Alexander. It depicted a legendary expansion of the life of Alexander the Great, decorated with rich tales of adventure and travel. The novel was second only to the Bible as the most widely distributed book in Europe. In uncountable illustrations, the manuscript retains the story of Alexander the Great in book-form, with historical facts peppered in around the illustrations and text.

Wonderful Miniatures and Illustrations of Adventure

Today one of the most gorgeous editions of the tradition is found in the collection of the Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique in Brussels. Originated in the 13th century, the manuscript contains a total of 180 pages of 100 grandiose miniatures, which illustrate the text. The text, which is split between two columns in gothic miniscule, is the old-French edition of the novel. The miniatures are conveniently placed and integrated within the text. Before the magnificent golden background or the finely divided ornament-pages, the artists depicted wonderful architectural representations and splendid scenes of battle. Decorated horses carry valorous knights into the awful pitch of battle, as whole armies fight with terrifying monsters. Alexander stands ever as the protagonist of the novel and as the center of the historical narrative.
The manuscript, with its true masterpiece of ostentatious miniatures, was commissioned by the King Philip IV “The Fair”(1268-1314). This powerful ruler is known even today for his comprehensive and impactful political reforms for his empire as well as the Kingdom of France. He wanted to own a copy of the influential and famous novel of one of the greatest rulers in history, which could be considered to a King to be artistically adequate in design.

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