Lorsch Gospels

Pal.lat.50 - Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)
Inv. Nr. 138-1866 - Array (Alba Iulia, Romania)
Victoria and Albert Museum] (London, United Kingdom)

Alternate Titles:

Lorscher Evangeliar

Facsimile edition
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$ 8,259
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Alternate Titles

Lorscher Evangeliar

Extent / Format

473 pages / 37.0 x 27.0 cm

Around 810

Charlemagne (747-814)


6 full-page miniatures. Entirely written with gold ink, each page shows colourful frames which are unsurpassed in form and style

Former owners

Otto Henry, Elector Palatine
Elector Maximilian of Bavaria
Christopher Count Migazzi (Cardinal Bishop of Vienna)
Ignaz Bishop of Transilvania

Short description

The Lorsh Gospels is a splendidly furnished evangeliary manuscript written entirely in gold ink. According to contemporary research, it is considered to be the newest of a significant series of splendid manuscripts from the court scriptorium of Charlemagne and is generally dated ca. 810. With each of its five-piece ivory plates, the evangeliary represents a true synthesis of the arts. In its splendid, immeasurably precious book illustrations, it combined nearly every stylistic influence that affected Carolingian art.

Facsimile editions available


Lorsch Gospels (Ivory Binding Edition)

A perfectly-formed artwork that Charlemagne held in his hands originated ca. 810 at the Carolingian Court School in Aachen. It Is the Lorsch Gospels. It is written from front to back in gold ink and is considered to be the youngest of a significant series of splendid manuscripts from the court scriptorium of Charlemagne. The work gets its name from the Lorsch Monastery, in which it was housed from the 9th century until the dissolution of the monastery in 1556. With both of its ivory covers, each consisting of 5 pieces, it represents a downright complete synthesis of the arts. It simultaneously combines all of the stylistic influences that had an impact on Carolingian art. The evangeliary played a decisive role in the development of book art worldwide. It was divided into two parts, which are found today in the Vatican Library and in the branch of the Romanian National Library in Alba Julia. The ivory plates belonging to the book cover are to be found in the Vatican Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Precious Materials

The monumental illuminated manuscript from the Carolingian court school is a work unsurpassed in its rich adornment, which possess inconceivable worth due to its gold script from end-to-end. Each page of the manuscript is adorned by gold frames richly furnished with forms. Splendid, full-page illustrations enchant through their monumentality. Harmonious canon tables, as well as portraits of the Evangelists in the respective forewords, or the splendid beginnings of the Gospel texts exhibit gold and silver in abundance. Precious purple and vivid, luminous colors were employed in the miniatures. The Lorsch Gospels is undoubtedly the most beautiful and precious achievement of the Carolingian court artists, who belonged among the most important representatives of their profession worldwide at that time.

The Journey of the Masterpiece

The precious manuscript probably came to Lorsch from the court of the Kaiser under the Abbot Adalung, where it was recorded in a catalog of the monastic library during the 9th century. In Lorsch, the great royal- and imperial abbey, the manuscript survived the centuries. In the year 1479, it was rebound and was probably already divided into two at that time. After the dissolution of the monastery in 1556, both parts reached the famous **“Bibliotheca Palatina”, the court- and university library of Heidelberg, through Othheinrich, the bibliophile of the elector princes of the Palatine, along with many other valuable books from the old monastic library. It should have been gifted to Pope Gregory XV by Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria along with the rest as a spoil of war in 1623.

A History as Exciting as a Thriller

The second part of the evangeliary, along with the so-called Christ plate, reached the Vatican Library, where it is still diligently kept safe. The Christ plate is displayed in the Vatican Museum. The fate of the first part with its ivory plate depicting the Blessed Mother was disparately adventurous: the Greek scholar Leone Allacci organized and supervised the transportation of the Palatina, escorted by armed knights, from Heidelberg to Rome in 1623. He appears not to have been able to resist the temptation to put aside some books from the rich collection for his own library**. Along with numerous other works from the Palatina, he bequeathed the Lorsch Gospels to the Collegium Graecum in Rom, which for its part sold pieces of its library. Since 1711, the splendid evangeliary was considered to be lost. It was probably jealously guarded in a private library in Rome during that time. The ivory plates were separated from the manuscript before 1785. They were a template for a copperplate engraving from the middle of the 18th century – the Carolingian original first resurfaced in 1853 at an auction, reached England, and finally was presented to the Victoria and Albert museum in London where it remains to this day.

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