7 May 2018 - 28 Jul 2018

EXCELLENT: UNESCO Memory of the World

Staatsbibliothek Bamberg

Early mediaeval manuscripts for the bishopric of Bamberg. An exhibition in the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg 

Excellent: UNESCO Memory of the World
In the years 2003 and 2013, the UNESCO included three of the most important mediaeval manuscripts of the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg in the "Memory of the World Programme": the Bamberg Apocalypse and the Song of Songs with Commentary, both created on the monastic island of Reichenau in Lake Constance, and the Lorsch Pharmacopoeia, a medical compendium from the time of emperor Charlemagne. When the German king Henry II founded the bishopric of Bamberg in the year 1007, he requested books from monasteries all over Europe for the churches and cathedral school. Thus, manuscripts from all famous scriptoria in Germany, Italy, France and Belgium came to Bamberg. Today, the Staatsbibliothek still preserves 165 manuscripts written before the emperor's death in 1024 - an incomparable treasure of unique books.


Books for Education: The Cathedral School of Bamberg
As a result of the book donations by emperor Henry II, the schools of Bamberg enjoyed an excellent reputation as early as the 11th century. Abbot Gerhard of Seeon in Bavaria praised Bamberg as a city of books which surpassed even Athens. The seven liberal arts were taught intensively. The 'trivium' imparted linguistic skills in Latin, style and reasoning. On the basis of works by Classical and mediaeval authors, the pupils learned grammar, rhetoric and dialectics. In the 'quadrivium', the mathematical disciplines followed: arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy or rather astrology. A Bamberg manuscript with the works of Boethius contains the oldest image showing four of the seven liberal arts with their attributes. However, the Bamberg curriculum extended far beyond these canonical subjects. Unlike many other 11th-century schools, the Bamberg cathedral was well endowed with a large range of Classical texts. Thus, pupils in Bamberg could study the work of the Roman historian Livy and familiarize themselves with Classical medicine from the Lorsch Pharmacopoeia.

The Lorsch Pharmacopoeia (c. 800) is a milestone in the history of medicine, as it combines for the first time medicine from pagan Antiquity with concepts from the Christian faith.

The four lines at the bottom of this page were added to the collection of recipes 200 years after it was written down in the Benedictine abbey of Lorsch:

This entry contains an inventory of an imperial library of the early Middle Ages. It lists twelve books which were waiting to be collected by emperor Otto III in Piacenza, including the Lorsch Pharmacopoeia (Medicinale unum).

The main part of the Lorsch Pharmacopoeia consists in a collection of 482 medical recipes. Here, the last page of the second chapter of the collection...

...and here, the first page of the third chapter are shown. The Latin text recommends cures for diseases of the heart and stomach as well as a paste for cleaning black teeth and a remedy for headaches.

P as in pronoun - this initial with knotwork decorates a manuscript of the Latin grammar by Priscian. The first subject taught in mediaeval schools was grammar, the most elementary of the seven liberal arts.

The manuscript dates from the first half of the 9th century and was produced in Tuscany or Rome. The wide margins and large script show that the manuscript was not simply a schoolbook, but a valued treasure.

Even more lavish initials enhance this manuscript...

which was created in Tours around the year 845 and contains a work on arithmetic, an introduction into the Classical theory of numbers from the school of Pythagoras.

A full-page miniature illustrates the text. Painted figures of women represent the arts of music and arithmetic...

...as well as geometry and astronomy with their attributes.

The group of women personifies the four higher liberal arts, the so-called quadrivium.

The origin and provenance of this manuscript is uncertain. King Henry II probably acquired it from the legacy of emperor Otto III, who may have received the book from his teacher Gerbert of Reims, later pope Silvester II.

The manuscript contains a literary work by Martianus Capella on the seven liberal arts. In this passage, an introduction into geometry is given, and diagrams accompany the text.

This manuscript with Livy's History of Rome was written in central Italy. The work is one of the most important sources for early Roman history and on the war of the Romans against the Carthagians led by Hannibal.

On this page, an account of the mythical foundation of Rome and of the murder of Remus by his brother Romulus can be read by those familiar with Latin: ...ibi in turba ictus Remus cecidit (there in the crowd, Remus fell struck down).

From geometry to geography: This image shows the climate zones of the Earth and illustrates a manuscript of the work De re publica of the Roman politician, orator and philosopher Cicero - a philosophical treatise about the state.

The Earth is depicted as consisting of two parts. In the temperate zone of the Northern hemisphere, Italy can be seen; on the far left, the Orkney Islands are marked (orcades).

Literary texts from classical antiquity are not easy to understand. In a minute script, glosses have been added in the margins in order to explain the main text in the centre of the page...

...a work by the Roman poet Horace, which was written down in this manuscript in Lotharingia or Belgium around the year 1000. The book was heavily used in the school of Bamberg cathedral, where many annotations were added.

Like the Lorsch Pharmacopoeia, this manuscript is a miscellany. The book contains not just one work, but several: a few short treatises and a didactic as well as a practical introduction to music, another liberal art.

The musical notation used here is called Daseian notation. The system was an early attempt to write down polyphonic music. However, it did not gain wide acceptance.


Pious Gifts for the Salvation of the Soul: Book Art from the Reichenau
Already during the Carolingian empire, a Benedictine abbey existed on the island of Reichenau in Lake Constance, which early on developed into an outstanding centre of culture and scholarship. This position required a productive scriptorium. The monastic scribes and painters did not only create manuscripts for the monastery's own use. Prominent clerics and rulers ordered illuminated books which spread the fame of the Reichenau workshop all over Europe. One of them was emperor Henry II, who died in 1024. Splendid images depicting the ruler on his throne symbolize his attachment to the book. The manuscripts from the Reichenau now preserved in the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg, particularly the famous Apocalypse, are of incomparable quality. A total of 58 illuminated codices from the Reichenau workshop have survived world-wide. Ten of them were added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme in 2003, including the two best-known Bamberg manuscripts. Four other codices from the Reichenau are preserved in the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg.

The double-page image showing the ruler on his throne was not originally intended for this manuscript with the History of the Jewish War by Flavius Josephus, but added to it later.

Four female figures bearing crowns as well as bowls and cornucopias with gifts are approaching the ruler from the left.

Above their heads, faded inscriptions can be spotted. They identify the women as the provinces Sclavania, Gallia, Germania and Italia.

An inscription in the gold background above the emperor's head is hardly legible. It identifies the ruler as Henry II, but originally, the name read Otto. Therefore, the painting must have been created before the death of emperor Otto III in January 1002.

The Apocalypse or Secret Revelation of John is the last book of the New Testament. The text records prophecies about the end of the world and the creation of a new world. The Bamberg Apocalypse contains a total of fifty miniatures which provide an expressive and dramatic account of the world's final days. Here, John receives the book from the hands of an angel.

Full digital facsimile of the manuscript

Only the lamb of God can open the book with seven seals.

After the book with seven seals has been opened, angels blow seven trumpets to announce the end of the world. A series of catastrophes begins.

Terrible creatures emerge from the ground,

and frightful dragons threaten mankind.

Later, the angels pour seven bowls with the wrath of God...

...over the creation. Humans are shocked by the sun turning dark, and monsters emerge from the sea.

Unmoved, the author John records his visions in a book.

In a ferocious battle,

the forces of evil are slain.

After the world has been destroyed and the Antichrist has been defeated, the last judgment begins.

The dead rise from their tombs,

...and Christ divides the Elect from those doomed for hell.

After the Apocalypse, the ruler who commissioned the manuscript is shown. The youthful king may be emperor Otto III, who died in 1002 aged 21, but according to an inscription on the (lost) binding, it was Henry II who donated the book to Bamberg.

Originally, the binding of the Bamberg Apocalypse was decorated with this large agate stone. Together with another 46 precious stones, the agate was placed in the centre of the front cover made from gilt silver. The agate stone is today kept in Munich, Schatzkammer der Residenz - Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

This manuscript is a collection of Gregorian chant for liturgical use. It also contains intercessions in which emperor Otto III is named. Thus, the book must have been written before the emperor's death in 1002.

A full-page miniature for Christmas depicts Mary and Joseph and the new-born Christ child in the stable with an oxen and a donkey...

... while angels announce the birth of the Saviour.

Precious stones and pearls decorate the gold binding of a book with the four gospels which Henry II gave to Bamberg cathedral. (Today in Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 4454)

An oval agate stone is placed in the centre, which bears an amulet stone with encised arabic letters.
Video produced by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, Institut für Bestandserhaltung und Restaurierung.

This manuscript with the prophecies of Isaiah from the Old Testament was also created on the Reichenau and decorated with miniatures.

The image on the left shows Christ...

surrounded by six seraphs, angels with six wings.

Christ's right hand holds a scroll, while his left directs the viewer's eye towards the opposite page, where the text begins with a lavishly decorated initial V, the first letter of the word visio.

This manuscript contains the Song of Songs by king Solomo, a collection of love poems from the Old Testament, which were interpreted in an allegorical manner in the Middle Ages. Christ is identified with the bridegroom, while the bride represents the Church.

On the left-hand page, a procession of the faithful moves towards Christ on the cross. The believers are led by a woman holding a chalice in her right hand and pointing towards the crucified Christ with her left.

The woman is an allegory of the Church which preserves the memory of Christ's passion in the eucharist.

Mediaeval manuscripts presented the text of the Song of Songs in different layouts. In this copy, the biblical text is written in larger letters in the centre of the page, while a commentary explaining the allegorical meaning has been added in the margins. Thus, the reader could focus his attention mainly on the biblical text...

...while in this version, the commentary alternates with the biblical text, but is written in a smaller script than the Song of Songs. Thus, the reader had to read both texts.

Staatsbibliothek Bamberg
Credits: Story

Excellent: UNESCO Memory of the World
Exhibition of the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg
7 May - 28 July 2018

Staatsbibliothek Bamberg

Full digital facsimiles of all three UNESCO manuscripts in Bamberg

Full digital facsimiles of all manuscripts donated by emperor Henry II

Texts: Bettina Wagner and Stefan Knoch
Photos: Gerald Raab
Layout: Yvonne Spindler and Carolin Benz

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions (listed below) who have supplied the content.
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