MINIATURIST, German
(active around 810 in Aachen)

Lorsch Gospels

c. 810
Manuscript, 374 x 271 mm
Biblioteca Documenta Batthyaneum, Alba Julia, Romania

In the Vatican, there is a library catalogue from around 830 which originated in Lorsch Abbey, one of the most important of the Carolingian royal abbeys. The catalogue mentions this codex, probably produced in Aachen around 810. Written in two columns per page with gold ink, this gospel book belongs to a school of writing and illumination whose works are known as the Charlemagne court school (formerly Ada Group). 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.

Together with the books associated with the Vienna Coronation Gospels, the sumptuous works produced by this privileged studio represents Charlemagne's own wishes and expectations regarding to the decoration of the liturgical books required for his Chapel in Aachen.

The Latin codex contains the four gospels and two letters from St Jerome. There are 5 full-page miniatures and 12 canon tables. The codex is divided: gospels according to St Luke and St John in Biblioteca Apostolica, Vatican (Pal. lat. 50); gospels according to St Mark and St Matthew in Biblioteca Documenta Batthyaneum, Alba Julia, Romania.

The picture shows two facing pages (folios 26v and 27r) at the beginning of St Matthew's gospel. The full-page miniature depicts Matthew writing his gospel with his symbol, the angel, above. Next to this is Christ's lineage. Christ is shown enthroned in a mandorla, being greeted by three times fourteen men with their right hand raised. They represent three times fourteen generations of Christ's ancestors. The three men portrayed as half figures are Abraham, David and Jeconiah.