Harley Golden Gospels


The Harley Golden Gospels is a magnificent copy of the Four Gospels written entirely in gold and decorated on every page. This manuscript is closely associated with Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor from 800-814, and it was probably made at his court in Aachen at the beginning of the 9th century. It opens with canon tables (lists of parallel and unique passages in the Gospels) set in architectural frames and richly decorated with patterns and animals. At the beginning of each Gospel text there is a miniature of the Evangelist holding a copy of his Gospel with his symbolic creature above, as well as large initial letters to open the text.

Charlemagne sought to recreate the splendor of ancient Rome through the revival of Roman artistic style. In the Harley Golden Gospels, the marbled columns framing the Evangelists and the canon tables call to mind the Roman porphyry columns that Charlemagne brought back to Aachen to decorate his palace chapel. The classicising style of the Evangelists, the modelling of their faces, and even the utensils they use to write out their inspired text all betray the vision of a recreated classical, yet Christianised world for the new Holy Roman Emperor.

View images of the entire manuscript via our Digitised Manuscripts website.

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

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK. Please consider cultural, religious & ethical sensitivities when re-using this material.

Held by
British Library
Harley MS 2788

Full catalogue details

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