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The Berthold Sakramentary
Highlight of German Romanesque
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, Ms M.710, Monastery of Weingarten, between 1200 and 1232



Further Pictures


There are only very few books which stand out from the relatively large medieval production of prime quality manuscripts, one of them being the Berthold Sacramentary. It was produced upon the request of Abbot Berthold, probably immediately after the big fire of 1215 in which the library of the monastery was severely damaged, and surpasses all comparable books of the late Romanesque period in both formal and material aspects.

Incredibly rich book illumination

21 full-page miniatures, 7 historical paintings, 6 full-length, 12 half-length and 52 smaller decorated initials, 18 figural initials and 12 calendar plates form the decorative apparatus of the book which is covering a total of 165 parchment folios. This huge quantity of pictures is paralleled with truly extraordinary quality. They are the work of an anonymous miniaturist, referred to as the Berthold master, who was obviously far ahead of his time: a vigorous and dramatic representation of the narrative, a new plasticity achieved by modelling colour application, and an inexhaustible decorative proficiency, are all important features of the magnificent miniatures.

Gold and silver abound

All miniatures and the great majority of initials are set against gold and silver grounds thus enhancing the luminescence of colours. However, this generous application of metallic colours is not the only highlight of the elaborate decoration in the Berthold Sacramentary, as it is even further enriched by a total of 32 miniatures and initials on burnished golden grounds. Six pictures are set against golden backgrounds which were additionally ornamented with clearly elevated relief in an expensive technical process. The Berthold master reserved this ultimate level of decorative luxury for the illustration of the principal feast days in the Church year.
The book was written out by three different scribes, in calligraphic perfection befitting the quality of the pictorial decoration, thus making it a holistic work of art which is unrivalled in the history of book illumination.

The facsimile edition

All 330 pages of the manuscript are reproduced in the original format of 29 x 20 cm with luminous golden decoration. The binding is made of genuine leather and embellished with silver ornamental bands. The facsimile edition is limited to 280 copies and available in a protective case.
The commentary volumes explains on 288 pages all miniatures in great detail while also dealing with their historic and art historic context.

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