Jaharis Byzantine Lectionary


Illuminated manuscripts written in Greek were considered one of the greatest art forms by the highly literate and sophisticated clerical and secular elite of Byzantium. Over the centuries many works were commissioned for use in important churches. The calendar in this lectionary and the quality of the entire work suggest that the manuscript was made for the great church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

The Gospels were central to the liturgy of the Orthodox church. At the Little Entrance, which introduced the Liturgy of the Word, the deacon presented the Gospel to the faithful. In the middle Byzantine era, the lectionary replaced the Gospel book as the most widely used text by the church. In it Gospel texts were rearranged by the sequence in which they were read during the liturgical year, which begins at Easter in the Orthodox church. Often, as in this manuscript, the liturgical calendar and the lives of saints who were celebrated daily were included in the text. Highly trained scribes wrote the texts to which were added the elaborately colored initials for special readings and the illuminations that added great value to the work.

The Evangelist Matthew (fol. 43r)
The customary decoration for lectionaries included portraits of the Four Evangelists, beginning with John whose text is read at Easter. In this illumination, the white-haired, bearded evangelist Matthew sits before a city wall; his name is inscribed in Greek above. His pose echoes that of ancient philosophers as adopted for Christian use. God's hand descends from the arc of the blue heaven, directly inspiring the writer at his desk. The writing table includes all the implements needed by a scribe, including a scroll ready for the words of the text. The evangelist's face is subtly modulated; his garments and the cityscape behind are defined in pastel hues. The elegantly articulated border echoes the patterns widely seen in cloisonné enamel works of the period.

The incipit, or first letter, of the handsome script written in gold presents a small child raising his hands to a seated image of Christ. The scene reflects the first lines of the reading: "The Lord said: See that you never despise one of these little ones" (Matthew 18:10).

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 303

Folios 2v-3r, opening page of the Gospel of  Saint John

Public Domain

Folios 2v-3r, opening page of the Gospel of Saint John

Object Details

Date: ca. 1100

Geography: Made in Constantinople

Culture: Byzantine

Medium: Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment; leather binding

Dimensions: Overall: 14 1/2 x 11 5/8 x 4 7/8 in. (36.8 x 29.6 x 12.4 cm)
folio: 13 3/4 x 10 5/16 in. (35 x 26.2 cm)

Classification: Manuscripts and Illuminations

Credit Line: Purchase, Mary and Michael Jaharis Gift and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2007

Accession Number: 2007.286

Probably made for Hagia Sophia, the patriarchal seat of the Orthodox church; Chrysanthos Notaras, Patriarch of Jerusalem (1707-1731) ; Monastery, Mount Athos(probably given by Notaras, until 1866); Konstantinos Erbitsianos, Athens, Paris, and Romania (1866-1877); Claudin, Paris (1877); Henri Bordier, Châtelaine-Aïre, near Geneva (1877-d.1888); Baron Fernand de Schickler(until before 1898); Alliance biblique française, Paris (by 1898 -2006); [ Dr. Jörn Günther Antiquariat, Hamburg (2006-2007)]
Bordier, Henri. Description des Peintures et Autres Ornements Contenus dans les Manuscrits Grecs de la Bibliothèque Nationale. Paris: Honoré Champion Éditeur, 1883. pp. 21, 305-07, fig. 192-93.

Omont, Henri Auguste. Inventaire sommaire des manuscrits grecs de la Bibliothèque nationale et des autres bibliothèques de Paris et des départements. Vol. 3. Paris: Alphonse Picard et Fils, 1888. no. 78 bis, p. 390.

Gregory, Caspar René. Textkritik des Neuen Testaments. Vol. 1. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1900. no. 351, p. 418.

Soden, Hermann Freiherr von. Die Schriften des Neuen Testaments in ihrer ältesten erreichbaren Textgestalt. Vol. 1, pt. 1. Alexander Duncker, 1902. no. 2095, p. 173.

Gregory, Caspar René. Die griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments. Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs'sche Buchhandlung, 1908. no. 351, p. 133.

Porcher, Jean, Marie-Louise Concasty, and Charles Astruc, ed. Byzance et la France médiévale: Manuscrits à Peintures du IIe au XVIe siècle. Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1958. no. 42, p. 27.

Richard, Marcel. Répertoire des bibliothèques et des catalogues de manuscrits grecs. Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes. 2nd ed. Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1958. p. 188.

Astruc, Charles. "Précisions et Rectifications: Compléments à Gregory, Textkritik (sur le ms grec de la Société biblique de France) et à Dölger, Regesten (sur le Parisinus Suppl. Gr. 131)." Scriptorium 13 (1959). pp. 84-86.

Lazarev, Victor. Storia della Pittura Bizantina. Turin: G. Einaudi, 1967. p. 253 n. 51.

Voicu, Sever J., and Serenella D'Alisera. I.MA.G.E.S. = Index in manuscriptorum graecorum edita specimina. Rome: Edizioni Borla, 1981. pp. 467-68.

Anderson, Jeffrey C. The New York Cruciform Lectionary. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992. p. 9.

Aland, Kurt, ed. Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments. 2nd ed. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1994. no. l 351, p. 240.

Richard, Marcel, and Jean-Marie Olivier. Répertoire des bibliothèques et des catalogues de manuscrits grecs de Marcel Richard. Corpus Christianorum. 3rd ed. Turnhout: Brepols, 1995. p. 653.

Evans, Helen C., and William D. Wixom, ed. The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843–1261. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. p. 107.

Vogel, Carol. "The Met's Newest Gifts." The New York Times (September 21, 2007). p. E34.

Barnet, Peter. "Recent Acquisitions (1999-2008) of Medieval Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters, New York: Supplement." The Burlington Magazine 150, no. 1268 (November 2008). p. 793, fig. I.

Evans, Helen C., ed. The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions – Online Catalogue. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008.

Günther, Jörn Antiquariat Dr. Masterpieces. Vol. 9. Hamburg: Dr. Jörn Günther Antiquariat, 2008. no. 3, pp. 24-29.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 2007-2008." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 66, no. 2 (Fall 2008). p. 13.

Barnet, Peter. "Medieval Europe." In Philippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1977–2008, edited by James R. Houghton. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009. p. 23, 25, fig. 33.

Lowden, John. The Jaharis Gospel Lectionary: The Story of a Byzantine Book. New York, New Haven and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009. discussed and illustrated throughout.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012. p. 185.

Wüstefeld, Wilhelmina C. M., and Erene Rafik Morcos, ed. Parchment and Gold: 25 years of Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books. Catalogue 11. Stalden: Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books, 2015. p. 10, ill. p. 13.

Stein, Wendy A. How to Read Medieval Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. no. 15, pp. 68–69.