St Corneille Gospels


This remarkable Gospel-book was used at the royal foundation of St Corneille de Compiègne, in the north of Paris, where it remained until the French Revolution. Established by Charles the Bald (r. 843–77) near his palace as a collegiate church, the Foundation was staffed by clerics, or canons rather than monks. By the tenth century the Church was dedicated to the martyred Pope Cornelius (d. 253), whose relics were housed there.

Reflecting the Church’s eminent position the manuscript is highly decorated, and includes elaborate ‘incipit’ pages beginning the Gospels. For example, at the beginning of St Matthew’s Gospel the ornamentation is placed on the important imperial colour of purple as a background, with letters in white, perhaps emulating the silver ink used in earlier Carolingian luxury copies. This type of decoration, together with the luxurious vegetation, is typical of the kind of illumination being produced in Paris and surrounding areas such as St-Germain-des-Prés and St-Maur-des-Fossés at this time.

This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.

Full title:
St Corneille Gospels
1st quarter of the 12th century, Northern France
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
Bibliothèque nationale de France
Latin 17970

Full catalogue details

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French manuscript illumination

Article by:
Charlotte Denoël
Art and illumination, Making manuscripts, Christian religion and belief

Drawings and painted decoration in manuscripts ornamented the text as well as illustrated or commented on it. Charlotte Denoël outlines the history of manuscript art in early medieval France.

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