Harley Golden Gospels


The Harley Library was founded in 1704 when Robert Harley purchased 600 manuscripts. The library was later given to the nation and is now held by the BritishLibrary.

It comprises over 7,000 manuscripts, 14,000 charters and 500 rolls. Included is the ‘Harley Golden Gospels’, written entirely in gold.

This manuscript, with some others in the Harley collection, is closely associated with Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, whose capital was Aachen or Aix-la-Chapelle. These works reflect his tastes.

In this frontispiece to St Mark’s Gospel, the Evangelist is portrayed at a writing desk, dipping his pen in ink. He holds a book open at chapter 13: 35–36, the last words of which spill over onto the background.

Above him, a lion holds a scroll bearing the beginning of the Gospel of St Mark. On the opposite page, the first letter of the text is decorated with interlace patterns and a roundel of Christ, while the Latin word I(nictius) meaning ‘beginning’, is written in large gold letters. Mark’s name appears in the central column in red.

See the Harley Golden Gospels in full via our Digitised Manuscripts website

Full title:
Harley Golden Gospels
1st quarter of the 9th century , Germany
Manuscript / Illuminated manuscript
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Harley MS 2788

Full catalogue details

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Article by:
The British Library

Wonder at these amazing hand-painted books of past ages and marvel at the vibrant colours used – these are works of art that were made for kings and queens, monasteries, bishops and counts.

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