Munich Serbian Psalter

Codex Monacensis Slavicus 4 - Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)

Alternate Titles:

Münchner Serbischer Psalter, Serbischer Psalter, Psautier Serbe de Munich

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Münchner Serbischer Psalter
Serbischer Psalter
Psautier Serbe de Munich

Type
Extent / Format

229 pages / 28.0 x 19.7 cm

Date
Late 14th century
Style
Genre
Content

The Psalms, the canticles, and the Akathist to the Theotokos

Language
Serbian
Patron

Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović of Serbia (c. 1329-15 June 1389) or his son Stefan Lazarević, the Tall (c. 1377–19 July 1427)

Illustrations

148 miniatures, which often occupy whole pages, painted on a gold background and framed by red and blue lines

Former owners

Moravian Serbia and Serbian Despotate (14th–15th centuries)
Privina Glava Monastery in Syrmia (17th century)
Wolfgang Heinrich of Gemell zu Flischbach
Gotteszell Monastery in the Bavarian Forest (1689–1782)
St Emmeram's Monastery, Regensburg (1782 – c. 1800)

Script

Uncial

Short description

The impressive Munich Serbian Psalter, which is housed today in the Bavarian State Library, is the most important evidence of Serbian illumination in the Middle Ages. The Serbian illuminated manuscript originated from the Balkans at the end of the 14th century and has extensive pictorial adornment: altogether, 148 mostly-full-page miniatures on a splendid gold background illustrate the Old and New Testaments in addition to the Psalms. As such a significant treasure of Slavic illumination, the codex was highly coveted and can look back on an eventful provenance.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Munich Serbian Psalter

The impressive Munich Serbian Psalter, which is housed today in the Bavarian State Library, is the most important evidence of Serbian illumination in the Middle Ages. The Serbian illuminated manuscript originated from the Balkans at the end of the 14th century and has extensive pictorial adornment: altogether, 148 mostly-full-page miniatures on a splendid gold background illustrate the Old and New Testaments in addition to the Psalms. As such a significant treasure of Slavic illumination, the codex was highly coveted and can look back on an eventful provenance.

A Princely Commission

The impressive Serbian manuscript, known as the Munich Serbian Psalter, was probably the commission of the Serbian Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović or his son Stefan Lazarević. Hrebeljanović (ca. 1329-1389) is considered to be a significant Serbian feudal lord, famous above all for his struggles against the Ottomans. The Prince of Serbia fell in the Battle of Amselfeld and was sainted in the Serbian Orthodox Church for his service to his fatherland. Stefan Lazarević (1377-1427), his son and heir, is famous as a patron of art and literature, Serbian literature was foundedat his court inter alia.

Slavic Art on a Splendid Gold Background

As a princely commission, the psalter presents itself in overflowing splendor. The visual adornment comprises 148 miniatures on 229 pages measuring 28 x 19.7 cm. These mostly-full-page depictions in blue and red frames on gold backgrounds illustrate the text of the manuscript in the Slavic style with distinct Byzantine influences: the Old and New Testaments, the Psalms, and doxologies in Serbian. The spectrum of themes ranges thereby from the Good Samaritan to the birth of Christ to the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. As a result, the Munich Serbian Psalter is the most comprehensive illuminated manuscript of Serbian Orthodoxy.

The Way from Serbia to Bavaria

The psalter found itself in the possession of the princely Serbian Branković family and reached the Privina Glava Monastery on Fruška Gora mountain (Srem) by the 17th century at the latest. During the turmoil of the Turkish Wars, the manuscript came as plunder to Bavaria and into the possession of Wolfgang Heinrich von Gemell zu Flischbach, who gifted the codex to Gotteszell Abbey in Lower Bavaria. It found its way from there to St. Emmeram in Regensburg in 1782 and finally came to Munich in 1810 during the course of Secularization. Stored under the shelf mark Codex Monacensis Slavicus 4, today the Munich Serbian Psalter is one of the treasures of the Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek.

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