Martyrology of Usuard

Museu Diocesà (Gerona, Spain)

Alternate Titles:

Martirologio de Usuardo, Martyrologium von Usuard, Martirologio di Usuardo, Martyrologe d’Usuard, Martirológio de Usuardo

Facsimile edition
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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Martirologio de Usuardo
Martyrologium von Usuard
Martirologio di Usuardo
Martyrologe d’Usuard
Martirológio de Usuardo

Type
Extent / Format

252 pages / 46.3 x 33.0 cm

Origin
Date
Around 1400
Style
Genre
Content

Catalogue of martyrs and other saints

Language
Patron

Wenceslas IV (1361-1419), King of Bohemia and emperor

Illustrations

705 miniatures illuminated in gold

Short description

The Martyrology of Usuard is a valuable illuminated manuscript, which was written by the monk Usuard in the 9th century and was decorated with high-quality miniatures ca. 1400. The work is considered to be the most beautiful of international Gothic art.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Martyrology of Usuard

Sometime in the middle of the 9th century a Benedictine monk named Usuard produced a manuscript, which travelled widely over the centuries and clearly influenced the book art of the Middle Ages. This manuscript is the Martyrology of Usuard. This codex is unanimously considered among art historians to be one of the most noble and extravagantly illuminated manuscripts of the Gothic era. The text of the work deals with saints, how they endured their martyrdoms, and is adorned with impressive miniatures. The work contains 700 colored miniatures with golden ornaments in all.

Who was Usuard?

The Benedictine monk was a member of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris and lived in the 9th century. Usuard was an important member of the monastic order and was famous for his astonishing martyrology, which was adapted countless times over the centuries. In the prologue of the manuscript, it is told how the monk presented his work to Charles the Bald. Ca. 1400 the codex was expanded by a few saints and received its breathtaking book adornment at the court of Wenceslas of Bohemia.

Courtly Illumination

The Martyrology played an important role in international courtly book art. The pictures of the manuscript are typical examples of the exquisite Bohemian painting of the Middle Ages and show distinctive influences of international art during the transition from the 14th to the 15th century. The miniatures show saints, who are either in the agonies of their martyrdom or whose remains are being buried. Each picture is captured in lively colors and is lavishly decorated with gold embellishments. The depictions are in round medallions, which are elegantly framed and connected with one another by naturalistic plant tendrils.

A Well-Travelled Manuscript

Usuard brought his codex along on his journey to Spain, where he was sent to transfer important relics. His Martyrology remained in Catalonia for centuries, and later came into the possession of important aristocratic houses in Austria, Hungary, Sweden, and Italy. In the 17th century the valuable manuscript was attained by the Museu Diocesà in the Spanish city of Girona, where it is still housed today.

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