MINIATURIST, German
(active 780s in Aachen)

Godescalc Gospels

781-83
Manuscript (Ms. nouv. acq. lat. 1203), 310 x 210 mm
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

This liturgical book (an evangelistary) contains the pericopes (extracts from the gospels)read out during mass in the course of the church year. The 127 folios are illustrated with six full-page miniatures as well as ornamental decoration used for frames, initials and decorative pages. The manuscript was probably presented to Saint-Sernin in Toulouse by Charlemagne's son, Louis I the Pious (reigned 813-840).

The four evangelists are depicted in full-page miniatures sitting at their desks against a background divided up into several horizontal bands of different colours. The evangelists face their symbols. Folios 1v depict Mark with the lion.

The evangelistary was prepared on the orders of Charlemagne, it was copied by the scribe Godescalc. The emperor had assembled a staff of scribes and miniaturists at his palace in Aachen, and they were responsible for a number of manuscripts, of which the Godescalc Gospels is thought to be the earliest. Eight of the magnificent works produced by this court school have survived entire, along with a fragment of another. The latest of these, the Soissons Gospels and the Lorsch Gospels date from the early ninth century.