Gospel Book from the Bamberg Cathedral (Reichenau Gospel)

Description

The gospel from the cathedral of Bamberg is one of the most important masterpieces of book painting from the Benedictine abbey on the island of Reichenau in Lake Constance in southern Germany. In the 10th and 11th centuries, this abbey was the site of what was probably Europe’s largest and most influential school of book illumination. Book production reached its artistic peak between around 970 and 1010–1020, a period known as the Ottonian Renaissance (after Otto I, Otto II, and Otto III, German kings and Holy Roman Emperors of the Saxon dynasty who ruled during this time). These richly illustrated codices were in most cases commissioned by high-ranking persons. This manuscript was made for Emperor Henry II (ruled, 1002–1024), the successor of Otto III, who presented it to the Bamberg Cathedral. The gold cover is one of the most beautiful examples of Ottonian book binding. The principal theme of medieval bindings—the Glorification of Christ—is represented by gold work of extraordinary artistry. The cross of triumph, with a large oval agate at its center, dominates the composition. The introductory picture shows Christ, as victor and source of life, in the Tree of Life, surrounded by the symbols of the evangelists. In the lunettes of the evangelists, the symbol of each evangelist is linked with one of the major events of salvation. The iconography of the manuscript, with its rich and unusual array of references, is unique in Reichenau illumination. The illuminated manuscripts from the Ottonian period were inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2003.

Last updated: January 31, 2014