Pannonhalmi Evangelistarium

Cod. lat. 113 - Universitätsbibliothek Budapest (Hungary)

Alternate Titles:

Pannohalmer Evangelistar

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Alternate Titles

Pannohalmer Evangelistar

Extent / Format

48 pages / 32.0 x 22.0 cm

Early 16th century

20 initials with biblical scenes, 6 initials in rectangular frame and 3 miniatures in square frame. Borders partly in the Italian Renaissance style, partly in the style of the Flemish Book of Hours

Short description

The Pannonhalmi Evangelistarium belongs among Hungary’s most beautiful manuscripts. It originated from the beginning of the 16th century in the west-Hungarian Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma and contains text passages from the four Gospels. Their illumination – 22 gorgeous historiated initials and bordures richly adorned with animals and flowers – is characterized by multiple European influences ranging from the Italian Renaissance to Flemish Gothic to Dürer’s Small Passion.

Facsimile editions available


Pannonhalmi Evangelistarium

Pannonhalma in western Hungary, not far from Raab, has had an important name in the history of the church since time immemorial: according to legend, St. Martin was born here, the famous apostle of Gaul and Bishop of Tours. The first Benedictine monastery on Hungarian soil arose in Pannonhalma. It was founded in the year 996 by the founder of Hungary, King Stephan I, also known as King Saint Stephen (947-1038). The monastery, which was already a school and theological university, developed simultaneously into an archabbey at the center of several abbeys comprising the Hungarian Benedictine Congregation and thereby a center of Hungarian culture and education.

The Benedictines Resist Decline

At the turn from the 15th to the 16th century, a decline of the spirit of the culture and knowledge of the Benedictines occurred across all of Europe, and in Pannonhalma as well, under the secularizing influence of humanistic ideas. Archabbot Mate Tolnai (1500-1585), who probably retained close links with the monks of Melk Abbey and the Scottish Monastery in Vienna, endeavored to reverse this process.
For the implementation of his goals and for the introduction of reforms, Archabbot Tolnai wanted above all to furnish his order with ritual books, initially with printing the missals, which could be produced or procured in greater quantities. The Benedictine’s printed missals were gradually released starting in the last quarter of the 15th century. Unfortunately, since no missals were produced in the Benedictine ritual, which could be adapted to the Hungarian connections, a selection of foreign editions had to be adopted. Among those in Pannonhalma – according to the orientation of the archabbot – the Melker Edition of 1490 was used above all. However, the local references pointing to Pannonhalma were lacking therein, a defect, which could only be rectified through individual manuscript specimens. The Pannonhalmi Evangelistarium, the representative liturgical manuscript of the archabbey’s library and a beautiful monument of illumination, arose to realize this aspiration.

The Pannonhalmi Evangelistarium

The evangeliary belongs among the group of ritual books. It is a codex that contains every text fragment of the four gospels in order as was read by the priest on Sundays and church holidays as well as on weekdays in the framework of the liturgy or as applied to his sermons. The Pannonhalm codex consists of two parts, of which the evangeliary makes up the first. The second part is the so-called Forgách Codex, which contains the benediction and the description of Pannonhalm’s profession ritual. Their function and painting indicates that both parts belong together, from which it can be deduced that they originally comprised one volume and were made for the same patron. Whereas an entry in the Forgách Codex verifies that it was copied between 1515 and 1516 by Thomás Losonci Forgách, the Pannonhalm monk Father Pál, and eventually also painted, the evangeliary contains no information regarding the time and place of its origin. The content (fol. 15r “in Natali seti patris nostris Benedicti,” fol. 22r “in festivitate seti Martini Patronihuius loci”) and the coat of arms of the one who ordered it (Matre Tolnai) point to Pannonhalm.

Book Art from across Europe

The evangeliary consists of 24 pages measuring 32 x 22 cm. It is written in Gothic script and is embellished with golden and red headings, text introductions, and initials of red and blue. Three kinds of marginal decoration are found on the pages: 1st, late-Gothic acanthus leaves, flowers, and vines enriched around small gold coins and appended with Renaissance cherubs, birds, animals, vases and bouquets of flowers as well as other ornaments, 2nd, bordures on white or colored backgrounds with embellishments from Italian Renaissance illumination and also known in Buda/Ofen (calendars, vases, bouquets, cherubs, and ornaments), as well as motifs with a certain meaning and symbolism, 3rd, embellishments from Flemish illumination consisting of famous naturalistic flowers. The contemporary German-, Nuremberg-, Augsburg-, and Danube-schools helped with the design of the compositions of the 22 scenic initials and a large proportion of the figures. Academic literature points to the influence of the Small Passion by Albrecht Dürer from 1511 for the sophisticated initials of the birth of Christ, the entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Resurrection, Christ’s Ascension, and the disbursement of the Holy Ghost, whereas the typical initials resemble the copperplate series of the Basel Hours of 1496 that came from Dürer’s entourage.

The Binding

The gilded brown-red leather binding of the codex originates from the 18th century. It probably came from Pannonhalm. The volume came into the library of the Royal University of Ofen as a result of the order’s secularization in 1786 and was bequeathed with its collection to the library of the University of Budapest, where it received the shelf mark Cod. Lat. 113.

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