“Pracht auf Pergament” in München shows a precious treasure of Early Medieval illuminated manuscripts
The Bavarian State Library has decided to show its treasures to the public. 72 extraordinary codices from 780-1180 have been brought out of the vault. Together with three loans from Bamberg State Library the Kunsthalle presents an overwhelming number of some of the most precious manuscripts in Medieval History. Especially the nucleus of Ottonian manuscripts is remarkable.
Secular and ecclesiastical rulers commissioned liturgical manuscripts from the best writing schools and illumination centres. These gospels, pericopes and sacramentaries were richly decorated with luminous colours and gold. Their ingeniously tooled luxurious bindings are encrusted with numerous precious stones, cameos and ivory reliefs, including spolia dating from the Classical, Byzantine and Carolingian periods. Such manuscripts played important rules at festive masses or whenever important bishops, kings or other important magnates took part in religious ceremonies in Abbeys, Convents or Cathedrals. Their symbolic role was to signify the high status of the participants and the festive character of the celebrations.
The oldest manuscript on display dates the era of the last Agilolfing duke, Tassilo III, who was deposed by Charlemagne. He is also know for the famous chalice, which his wife donated to the Abbey of Kremsmünster in 777. Next follows a series of Carolingian codices from the production centers of Salzburg, Tegernsee and Freising. This may then be compared to the great achievements from the 10th century with their magnificent depictions of sovereigns.
Four of the sumptuous codices made in the imperial scriptorium at the Abbey of Reichenau are shown, including the gospels of Otto III and the pericopes of Henry II.
Further, Regensburg, which was another centre for the creation of such jewels, is represented by two magnificent liturgical manuscripts, the Codex commissioned by the Abbess Uta and the Sacramentary of Henry II.
Other selected manuscripts from the Bavarian State Library illustrate the continuity into the 11th century and beyond, thus demonstrating the development of Romanesque book illumination and its flourishing in the following century up to Emperor Frederick Barbarossa (1122–1190).
In five selected manuscripts, the page shown in the exhibition will be occasionally turned, in order for dedicated visitors to be able to see more illuminations during the run of the exhibition.
This is really a chance in a lifetime. Owing to their extraordinary fragility, these highly valuable works can hardly ever leave the library’s vault. This exhibition of original manuscripts therefore offers a unique opportunity.
But: Already over-spent your budget for travelling 2012? Hope is here. In connection with the exhibition the Library has digitized nearly all the codices. They may be studied here
Pracht auf Pergament
Kunsthalle der Hypo Kulturstiftung
19.10.2012 – 13.01.2013
Pracht auf Pergament. Schätze der Buchmalerei von 780 bis 1180
Published by Bayerische Staatsbibliothek und Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung. Hiermer Verlag 2012
Photo: Evangeliar Ottos III., Reichenau, um 1000, Der Evangelist Lukas, Clm 4453, fol. 139v, © München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek