Gospel Book


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 304

Charlemagne and his successors, who valued learning, accorded outsize value to books of all kinds. The Gospel Book, which contained the Bible’s several versions of the life of Jesus, reigned supreme. No churchman, court advisor, noblewoman or king would want to be without one. Its pages and covers were consistently deemed worthy of the highest quality decoration.
In this example, perhaps made for a queen, painted illumination is reserved for the Canon Tables, an elaborate concordance used to compare and contrast passages from the four gospel texts. Here, splendid arcades organize the essential information. The decoration is so varied and lively–to the point of whimsy at times–that turning the pages approximates an extraordinary architectural tour.

Gospel Book, Ink and opaque watercolor on parchment; modern leather binding, Carolingian

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Folios 6v-7r, Canon Tables