Legenda Aurea - Anjou Legendarium

Vat. lat. 8541 - Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)

Alternate Titles:

Heiligenleben, Ungarisches Legendarium, Legendarium der ungarischen Anjou, Legenda Aurea - Goldenes Legendarium, Golden Legend, Vitae Sanctorum

Facsimile edition
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Alternate Titles

Ungarisches Legendarium
Legendarium der ungarischen Anjou
Legenda Aurea - Goldenes Legendarium
Golden Legend
Vitae Sanctorum

Extent / Format

212 pages / 28.0 x 21.5 cm

Circa 1330

King Charles I of Hungary (1288-1342)

Artist / School

School of Bologna


105 mostly full-page miniatures /each page with 4 scenes), illuminated in gold

Former owners

Charles' son Prince Andrew, Duke of Calabria (1327-1345)

Short description

The Legenda Aurea from Hungary originated from around 1330 and was commissioned by the Hungarian King Charles I (Charles Robert) as a gift to his son. The work contains 105 vivid miniatures, sometimes set against a gold background. Scenes from the lives of important saints are depicted therein.

Facsimile editions available


Legenda Aurea - Anjou Legendarium

Around 1330 King Charles I of Hungary, known as Charles Robert of the House of Anjou commissioned a manuscript, which he gave his three year old son Andrew. The manuscript was an enlargement of the famous Legenda Aurea by the Dominican monk Jacobus de Vorraigne. It deals with a collection of life stories about saints and the Acts of the Saints. As a result, the Hungarian Legendarium places particular emphasis on people who had a special meaning for the Anjou family. A splendid picture cycle of 105 mostly full page miniatures on a gold background illustrates the valuable manuscript.

A Picture Book for the Prince

The Legenda Aurea is a picture book intended for children, in which short texts describe the scenes depicted in the book. Early on, King Charles I of Hungary wanted his son to be familiarized with the legends of the saints, whom were associated with the Anjou family. Scenes are depicted from the lives of important biblical figures from various epochs. Among them are apostles and martyrs, monks, the Virgin Mary, but also high church officials from Hungary and Poland.

A Gothic Masterpiece

The qualitatively valuable miniatures probably originate from an important Late Gothic studio. The page-filling miniatures are separated into four scenes, respectively, that are framed by excitingly-patterned bordures. The dramatic and elegant miniatures on golden backgrounds shine in a vivid variety of luminous colors. Who exactly illustrated the codex is not knowable today. Nevertheless, the master was probably from Bologna, the school of painting of the so-called Trecento. The style referred to as Trecento is the one that preceded the Renaissance. The miniatures of the Hungarian Legendarium show stylistic elements of unsophisticated Gothic painting and are already characterized by stylistically-changing influences of the Renaissance.

A World-Famous Book Treasure

The Legenda Aurea from Hungary, with its splendidly-colored miniatures, which are sometimes decorated with elaborately-worked golden backgrounds, is a fine specimen of Gothic book art. The work was divided into several parts and are to be found today in some of the most renowned libraries worldwide. The main part of the manuscript is housed in the Vatican Library. 20 miniatures are in the Morgan Library in New York. Five further pages are located in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

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