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The Vita Kiliani
An imperial Ottonian relic treasure
Hanover, Niedersächsische Landesbibliothek, Ms. I 189, Fulda, around 975



Further Pictures


This manuscript constitutes a unique testimony to early medieval book production. Here, we encounter for the first time the book type ”libellus”, a ”small book” usually dedicated to the life of a Saint. In this rare case, the book deals with two saintly persons, whose lives and deaths are recounted in the manuscript and illustrated with numerous miniatures. One of them is Saint Kilian, an Irish bishop who spread the Christian faith in Franconia. He was active in Würzburg around 680 and confronted the ruling class with Catholic ethics and the canon law, thus sealing his martyrdom.

Saint Margaret also died as a martyr. She was among the most highly venerated saintly women, both in the Occident and the Orient. Legend has it that she was born in Antioch and lived at the peak period of Christian prosecution under the Roman emperor Diocletian (early 4th century). When she refused to renounce her faith, she was tortured and finally beheaded.

21 miniatures of outstanding quality

The most important episodes in the lives of both Saints are illustrated in sumptuous golden miniatures. However, the richly embellished initials and interlaced bands also draw the viewer’s attention. The overall decoration is of such high quality and luxury that we may rightly assume that the codex was made on request of the Ottonian court, probably in Fulda.
The Passio Kiliani et Margaretae executed in 975 thus ranks among the most impressive testimonies to the magnificent art of illumination practised in the era of the Ottonian kings.

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