Godescalc Evangelistary

The Godescalc Evangelistary or Godescalc Gospel Lectionary (Paris, BN is an illuminated manuscript Gospel Book made by the Frankish scribe Godescalc circa 781 - 783 C.E. Commissioned by the Carolingian king Charlemagne and his wife Hildegard and produced in his court scriptorium at Aachen, the manuscript was intended to commemorate Charlemagne's march to Italy, his meeting with Pope Adrian I, and the baptism of his son Pepin. The crediting of the work to Godescalc and the details of Charlemagne's march are contained in the manuscript's dedication poem.

The manuscript, a product of the Carolingian Renaissance, is the earliest example of the Carolingian Illumination Style. This style was characterized by naturalist motifs in the decoration, and a fusion of the Insular, early Christian (late Classical) and Byzantine styles. The artist used natural illusionism techniques to create the appearance of volume in the characters, and used elaborate shadings in light and dark to give characters depth. The Carolingian illumination style was the earliest style to regularly utilize minuscule script, the precursor to our modern lower case letters.

The manuscript was written in gold and silver ink on 127 pages of purple parchment. The codex is decorated by six miniature figures. The first four are Evangelist portraits, of the authors of the gospels. The fifth is a Christ in Majesty. The sixth image is of the Fountain of life, or fons vitae.


  • Walther, Ingo F. and Norbert Wolf. Codices Illustres: The world's most famous illuminated manuscripts, 400 to 1600. Köln, TASCHEN, 2005.

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