British Library Series: A splendid Carolingian copy of the Four Gospels

Additional 11848
(Click on the image for an enlarged view.)
On Christmas day 800 the Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned emperor by the pope in Rome. Charlemagne was not only a great political and military leader, but also a scholar and patron of the arts who invited the most learned men of the day to his court. Some particularly lavish books were produced in the Carolingian period—this image shows a jewelled ‘treasure’ binding surviving on a manuscript written at Tours probably in the 820s. Very few medieval manuscripts still have their original bindings, although it is clear from accounts in saints’ lives and other literature that illuminated books were often given valuable covers. This example contains the bones of saints set within its wooden binding boards, making it also a reliquary. Part of its decoration was reconstructed in the nineteenth century.

 

 

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