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Speculum Humanae Salvationis
The oldest bilingual illuminated manuscript of the Heilspiegel (mirror of healing)
Vienna, Austrian National Library, Codex Cremifanensis 243, 1325-1330

CODICES SELECTI, Vol. XXXII

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Further Pictures

 

Available as Vol. 1 of the series "Glanzlichter der Buchkunst"

One of the most beautiful and most ancient manuscripts of the Speculum Humanae Salvationis or “Mirror of Human Salvation” is the so-called codex Cremifanensis 243, today in the Benedictine Abbey of Kremsmünster in Austria. Its 192 miniatures, all feather drawings outlined by a sure hand and with a great feel for the use of space, are sparsely coloured in red and blue and make the reader familiar with the very foundations of Christian belief.
This codex is not only the oldest illustrated manuscript of the Speculum Humanae Salvationis but also its first bilingual edition, containing the original Latin text and a somewhat abridged German version.
The Speculum Humanae Salvationis is a mirror of human Redemption by Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, a picture Bible containing systematically compiled reports from both the Old and the New Testaments thus forming an extensive synthesis of the Christian history of salvation.

The pictures – impressive reflections of their period

The true value of the Kremsmünster manuscript resides in its numerous miniatures which, in outspoken simplicity, greatly impress the beholder. Blue and red backgrounds alternate while the figures before them emerge in the natural colour of the parchment. Their faces are generally lit with friendliness, charm and a sympathetic mood. Evil faces, in contrast, are smeared in black.
The objects of daily use represented, architecture and vestments provide an interesting insight into the culture of the early 14th century, making the manuscript a true treasure trove for the cultural history of this period.

A late medieval book for religious edification

The Speculum shows the close relation between the New and the Old Testaments, in a number of archetypal series, each of which treats four episodes in both picture and text. A so-called anti-typus opens the series with an event of salvation taken from the canon of the New Testament, thus determining the subject being treated. This is followed by three relevant preview scenes from the Old Testament. The interrelation of these four events allows the reader to apprehend the inner context of the salvation topic treated. The presentation offers a synthetic view of God’s plan of salvation, as declared both in the Old and in the New Union. Though the Salvation deed of God according to the New Testament is always preferred as the greater achievement.
The great number of biblical scenes shown, and not least its extensive illustration cycle, have made the Speculum Humanae Salvationis the most popular book of religious edification and one of the most widespread works of the Late Middle Ages.

The commentary volume

The expert commentary of the facsimile edition provides the key to understanding the manuscript. Willibrord Neumüller O.S.B. describes not only the contents but also the pictures of the book and gives an introduction to the typology of Specula.

   
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