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The Codex Purpureus Rossanensis
A Byzantine magenta evangeliary in gold and silver
Rossano Calabro, Museo dell´ Arcivescovado, Asia minor, 6th century

CODICES SELECTI, Vol. LXXXI

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Further Pictures

 

The Codex Purpureus Rossanensis or Rossano Gospels created nearly 1500 years ago, is arguably one of the most valuable and fascinating manuscripts in the world for a variety of reasons, the most astounding of which is that it is one of three of the oldest purpureus illustrated manuscripts in the world. It enraptures the viewer with 15 pages of perfectly designed miniatures which constitute an invaluable and irreplaceable testimony to Byzantine art during the 6th century. Its appearance expresses a purely regal air and the well-known purple dyed parchment sheets found within have made this manuscript famous worldwide.
The Greek text stretches over 386 pages and is written in silver and golden majuscules throughout. Unfortunately the manuscript is today incomplete, as half of its original 800 pages have been lost over the ages. The current version encompasses the complete Gospel of Saint Matthew and almost the entire Gospel of Saint Mark.

15 exclusive miniatures

The significance of this book is further strengthened by the fact that only a few of the purple parchment codices created during the Late Classic Period were illustrated with miniatures.
Some of the luxurious miniatures painted by the most talented artists of the time cover entire pages while others are set above or between flowing text creating a frieze-like style. Both theme and presentation style are based on  earlier models, most likely monumental wall paintings. The miniatures are said to be the finest examples of early Byzantine art preserved to this day.


The oldest picture of an Evangelist in the history of illumination

Of particular interest is the author’s portrait of Saint Mark, as it constitutes the oldest representation of an Evangelist in the history of illumination. The Codex Rossanensis stands apart from older manuscripts of the same kind due to its novel and peculiar stylistic design. The miniatures manifest a strong inclination toward Byzantine art and fascinate the viewer due to their representative and monumental expression. In our codex, the classical way of painting was abandoned for the first time and a new step was taken forward toward a more abstract early Byzantine art. This makes the Codex Purpureus Rossanensis  one of the most significant documents of Eastern illumination.

The facsimile edition

All 386 pages of the manuscript in the format of 31 x 26 cm, including 15 miniature pages, are reproduced true to the original and down to the finest detail. The text is written in gold and silver throughout. The binding consists of solid wooden boards and a half leather cover. The facsimile edition is limited to 750 copies worldwide. The commentary volume provides a comprehensive, detailed introduction to the codex and its miniatures.

   
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