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The Golden Book of Pfäfers - Normal Edition
A golden Reichenau manuscript
Monastery Archives, St. Gallen, Cod. Fabariensis 2, Monastery of Reichenau and Pfäfers, around 1070-1450

CODICES SELECTI, Vol. XCIV

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Available as Vol. 17 of the series "Glanzlichter der Buchkunst"

The so-called Golden Book owes its name to the extremely lavish gold decoration of its miniatures and initials as well as to the gilded silver ornaments of its sumptuous Renaissance binding. The finely chased relief decoration applied on red velvet date from 1590 and bear testimony to the great religious and political significance which the abbey at Pfaefers enjoyed in that period.

A magnificent jewel in gold and purple

The viewer is above all fascinated by the manifold artistic expression visible in the manuscript. The book consists of three sections made in three different epochs. The first section comprises the Gospels whose illumination encompasses four full-page depiction's of the Evangelists as well as numerous luminous gold initials. This section was produced in the late 11th century undoubtedly influenced by the illuminators’ workshop at Reichenau. It is followed by a complete list of abbots who were active at Pfaefers as well as by a number of legal texts in both German and Latin which are illustrated throughout with coloured pen drawings made around 1400 in Pfaefers. Glittering gold and imperial purple lend the codex its valuable character.

The significance and economic strength of the Abbey at Pfaefers are evidenced in the exquisite decorative apparatus. Four full-page representations of the Evangelists, framed in the manner of panel paintings and set on precious marbled purple grounds, mark the beginning of each individual Gospel. Colourful backgrounds and outlining further enhance the luminosity of the golden, vine-covered shafts of the masterly executed initials. The value of the Golden Book, however, goes far beyond these observations. By combining different texts regarding both the spiritual and material basics of life, the codex draws a vivid picture of monastic existence at Pfaefers.

   
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