Faksimile Editionen

The Passau Evangelary

The Romanesque Art of Manuscript Illumination in Gold and Silver

Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 16002

Passau, the famous Bavarian city of three rivers, produced an especially beautiful example of southern German Romanesque manuscript illumination: The Passau Evangelary produced around 1170–1180 in St Nikola, the first monastery of the Canons Regular of St. Augustine in Germany. The miniatures and initials that decorate the readings from the Gospels glimmer with gold and silver. The readings for the most important church feast days were assembled in it and splendidly decorated by two manuscript illuminators: on 44 folios measuring ca. 32.5 × 22.5 cm, 49 large decorative initials and 8 full-page miniatures charm the viewer. A manuscript that served the canons of the Romanesque period and later as a glorification of God and object of meditation can be admired today as authentic proof of the artistry and profound faith of a bygone age.


The Magical Power of Images

Whether the miniatures or the historiated initials, on nearly every page of the Passau Evangelary, images of incredible intense colour and radiant gold invite the viewer to meditate on the Biblical stories. The 49 decorative initials of gold on a colourful background are richly and imaginatively decorated and inhabited with silver animals and flowers, figures and colourful tendrils. The initials are full of life and often seem like autonomous miniatures.


Nearly the only testimony to a rich tradition of manuscript illumination – available for the first time

In the 12th century, scriptoria in Passau produced precious manuscripts that were greatly admired by secular and religious rulers. However, fires and earthquakes have destroyed nearly everything from this rich tradition of manuscript illumination. That only makes the Passau Evangelary even more invaluable, because it is nearly the only surviving evidence of the highly artistic and autonomous manuscript illumination of Passau in the Romanesque era. This fine art facsimile edition will enable you to plunge into the fascinating Romanesque period and to discover a true treasure of which lovers and scholars of illuminated manuscripts are only now becoming aware.


Byzantine influences brilliantly transformed in the miniatures

The Passau Evangelary is the work of two kindred manuscript illuminators who produced layered miniatures and initials. Each is known by the subject of his major miniature: The Master of St Peter and the Master of the Ecclesia. The Byzantine stylistic elements that travelled via Salzburg to southern Germany found expression in the Passau Evangelary as well. These included large flat gold backgrounds and the style of the faces and flesh tones. The long, curved noses with projecting tips, the fixed gazes and the severe expressions also conform in general terms to Byzantine types. The powerful modelling of the faces, with olive-green shadows, white heightening and red spots on the cheeks all closely resemble Byzantine depictions of saints.

The miniatures of both masters feature the sculptural forms of bodies and garments that are characteristic of Romanesque manuscript illumination. The fabric is not just a stiff shell, but is rather placed around the figures in a way that makes the forms of their bodies stand out. Similarly, the folds of their garments are designed in a way that emphasizes the volumes of their bodies. In several miniatures, the drapery is so stylized that it takes on its own graphic and ornamental value, quite independently of the bodies underneath it.


The art of Romanesque letters of the highest standard

All 49 large decorative initials are written with radiant gold; they are filed with colourful, curving vines, and many are also inhabited with animals and flowers in silver. There are historiated initials whose figures very specifically illustrate the text of the readings from the Gospels, others with the church feast day as their subject and still others that have no connection to the subject matter but simply please the eye as ornament.


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Das Passauer Evangelistar

Das Passauer Evangelistar

Das Passauer Evangelistar

Das Passauer Evangelistar

The Passau Evangelary at a glance

Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 16002

Made: 1170–1180
In: Passau (St Nikola)
Format: 32,5 × 22,5 cm
Extent: 88 pages (44 folios)
Contents: Evangelary for the fesat days
Language: Latin

Provenance: The Passau Evangelary is one of the very few surviving manuscripts of the Passau School of manuscript illuminators. As part of the Secularization of 1803, the Passau Evangelary was transferred to the Munich Court Library – now the Bavarian State Library.

The fine art facsimile edition of the Passau Evangelary will be published in winter 2017 / 2018 by Quaternio Editions Lucerne.