Morgan Crusader’s Bible

MS M.638 - Morgan Library & Museum (New York, United States of America)
Ms Nouv. Acq. Lat. 2294, fols 2, 3 - Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris, France)
**Ludwig I 6 - Array (Los Angeles, United States of America)

Alternate Titles:

Crusader Bible, Shah Abbas Bible, Bible of Louis IX, Maciejowsky Bible, Biblia de los Cruzados, Kreuzritterbibel Ludwigs des Heiligen, Kreuzritter Bibel

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Alternate Titles

Crusader Bible
Shah Abbas Bible
Bible of Louis IX
Maciejowsky Bible
Biblia de los Cruzados
Kreuzritterbibel Ludwigs des Heiligen
Kreuzritter Bibel

Extent / Format

92 pages / 39.0 x 29.5 cm

Around 1250

King Louis IX, St. Louis (1226 - 1270)

Artist / School

Six different painters


283 miniatures in total: 43 leaves illustrated on recto and verso with full-page miniatures

Former owners

Alfonso X, the Wise (1221 - 1284), King of Castile, León and Galicia
Charles of Anjou (1285)
Bernhard Maciejowski, Bishop of Cracow
Abbas, Shah of Persia (1604)
Sir Thomas Philipps

Short description

The Morgan Crusader Bible is probably the most extraordinary work from the book collection of King Louis IX. The pure picture book illustrated the events of the Old Testament in 283 high-quality miniatures. The codex is famous the world over and had a few important owners who allowed explanatory commentaries to append the pictures in various languages.

Facsimile editions available


Morgan Crusader’s Bible

The Crusader’s Bible, also known as the Picture Bible of King Louis IX, known as Saint Louis, arose ca. 1250 in a Parisian art studio. It is a purely illustrated book that depicts the story of the Old Testament in a total of 283 monumentally and elaborately designed miniatures. The work begins with the Creation Story and goes up to the reign of King David. A particular focus is paid to the **military events of the Testament, e.g. the doctrine of just war. The luminously colored pictures were lent a special gloss in almost every miniature by subtly applied gold. The Crusader’s Bible is a highpoint of the great manuscript collection of Saint Louis.

At the Behest of the King

King Louis IX, the Saint, was probably the most Christian king of France. He was a passionate crusader and set himself to the task of calling up his dependents to go to war for the conquest of the Holy Land. With his Crusader’s Bible, his crusading ideal was illustrated in richly detailed and intense pictures and was offered to his contemporaries as an incentive. The sequence of images was not to be disrupted by unimportant text. Only later were explanatory passages added in several languages.

An Exciting Story

Today the Crusader’s Bible can look back on an adventurous journey throughout the whole world. The work remained in the hands of its commissioner for 50 years after its genesis, and was brought to Louis’ relative in Naples, Charles of Anjou, ca. 1300. He allowed the picture bible to be furnished with Latin texts, which explained the biblical scenes in summary. After that all traces of the codex were lost until 300 years later when the codex resurfaced in the possession of the Bishop of Krakow, Bernhard Maciejowski. He consigned the work to a papal delegation, which was supposed to win over the Persian Shah Abbas for an alliance in the fight against the Turks. The bible was meant to be presented to him as a persuasive gift. The Shah allowed Persian comments on the images to be added and had three pages removed, which showed the resistance of Absalom against his father. The Shah probably wanted to keep these anti-royal readings a secret from his own son. From here on the history of the work is once again obscure. The Persian commentary was translated into Hebrew probably during the 17th century. In the 19th century, the valuable manuscript found itself in the possession of a Greek named Joannes Athanasiou. Sir Thomas Philipps bought it at auction and left it to his heir, who sold it in 1916 to the present owner John Pierpont Morgan.

Extraordinary Illumination

The picture book of monumental magnitude contains 283 miniatures, which are less reminiscent of book painting in their quality than they are of the stained glass and mural paintings of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Therefore the masters, among which six can be distinguished, can also be supposed to be among the designers of the chapel. This was consecrated two years before the completion of the Crusader’s Bible. The large format miniatures show the important wars, battles, and famous people and events of the Old Testament. Details such as clothing, armor, and weapons were contemporarily depicted in the tradition of the 13th century. It was supposed to be suggestive to the beholder that Louis IX himself was to be recognized in courageous battle. Particularly artful was the employment of gold in the most diverse variations. Luminous gold leaf alternates with subdued, matte brushed gold. Thus every page of the splendid codex becomes an individual masterpiece.

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