Color of the Middle Ages Reimagined : A Retrospective of Dr. Carl Nordenfalk and his 1976 Exhibition of Medieval Manuscript Facsimiles

Codex Aureus Epternacensis or The Golden Gospels of Echternach

Facsimile Reproduction: 
The Golden Gospels of Echternach, Codex aureus Epternacensis.
New York: Praeger, 1957
Text Based on the German by Dr. Peter Metz 
Thirteen Plates in Color and Gold, Ninety-Six Monochrome Plates 

Original Manuscript
Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Shelfmark Hs. 156142, ca. 1030 −
Benedictine Abbey of Echternach, Germany

The Golden Gospels of Echternach:
From an iconographic standpoint, the Golden Gospels of Echternach is justly considered to be one of the most magnificent Ottonian manuscripts, as it features 60 pages of pictorial decorative work and over 500 initials, more than any other manuscript of the same era, with the exception of the Golden Gospels of Henry III.

Some ornamental pages (those preceding the gospel texts) with their use of purple and animal medallions seem to echo Byzantine silk fabrics. In terms of decorative apparatus, the Golden Gospels of Echternach exhibits a somewhat earlier tradition from Trier which saw the use of contrasting bands of colors, specifically, green and purple.

Narrative Illustrations and Color Scheme
The full-page miniatures – each providing three scenes – are to be considered a very useful narrative tool. An example are the illustrations relating to the parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus (f. 78r): one scene displays the rich man eating from a wealthy selection of food while the beggar is outside starving to death.

The other two scenes show the results of each figure’s actions, so, while Lazarus is welcomed by Abraham in Paradise, the rich man’s soul is shown to be dragged to Hell, for he had a privileged life surrounded by mourners that he refused to help.

The color scheme of the miniatures is certainly helpful for a better comprehension of the images, so the readers can generally associate the color blue with more soothing contexts, while the color red to more negative representations – usually the fire of Hell.

Binding description
Unlike many medieval manuscripts, the Golden Gospels of Echternach still bears its original cover, dates about half a century earlier than the work it contains. The cover appears to have been made in Trier beween 985 and 987 bestowed by Empress Theophanu and her son Emperor Otto III.

This page has paths:

This page references: