Ways to discover the collection

Book illumination

Books were not just a simple everyday commodity in the Middle Ages. They were made by hand, the texts written out in fair copy on parchment, and, depending on their designated use, picturesquely embellished with costly paints and gold and then bound with sumptuous book covers that were studded with ivory carvings and gemstones. This transformed the books used for divine services into treasured objects. These included books of the Gospels with the complete Gospel texts, evangelistaries that contained those sections of the Gospels read during Mass arranged in the order of the church year, psalters as well as antiphonaries, the liturgical hymn books. Books of hours for private devotion were also lavishly illustrated. Books were ornamented with embellished historiated initials, initial letters spanning several lines that began sections or chapters, borders of plants, arabesques and various renderings of animals and miniatures, actual pictures of scenic images filled with figures.

For reasons of conservation, works of book illumination are not included in the permanent exhibition.

 Carolingian Book of Gospels, Saint-Amand, c. 860-880, parchment, 26 x 19.2 cm, binding, Cologne, c. 1160-1170, Inv. No. G 531, fol. 151v-152r, picture of St. John the Evangelist and title page, © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Carolingian Book of Gospels
Picture of St. John the Evangelist and title page
Saint-Amand, c. 860-880

 Single Page from the Albani Psalter. Three initials of prayers respectively show how Christ answers prayers of supplication, kills devils or saves souls, St. Alban, c. 1130-1135, parchment 27 x 17.6 cm, Inv. No. M 694, © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Single Page from the Albani Psalter
St. Alban, c. 1130-1135

 Leaf from a Canon with the Crucifixion of Christ, Cologne, c. 1220-1230, parchment, gouache, 29 x 21.5 cm, Inv. No. M 500, © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Leaf from a Canon
Cologne, c. 1220-1230

 Evangelistary (Gospels arranged according to the church year) and Ordo missae (Order of the Mass and prayers of the priest), Cologne, 2nd quarter of 12th cent., binding: Cologne, 1st quarter of 14th cent., parchment, 18 x 12 cm, binding: wood cover, velvet casing, gilded sheet silver, 19.5 x 12.5 cm, Inv. No. G 532, © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Evangelistary and Ordo missae
Cologne, 2nd quarter of 12th cent., binding: Cologne, 1st quarter of 14th cent.

 Leaf from a Canon with the Crucifixion of Christ, Cologne, c. 1430, parchment, gouache, 26.3 x 18.5 cm, Inv. No. M 700, © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Leaf from a Canon with the Crucifixion of Christ
Cologne, c. 1430

 Book of Hours, Ghent or Bruges, c. 1500/1530, parchment, leather binding, 14.8 x 11.6 cm, Inv. No. M 707, fol. 102v-103r, King David, © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Book of Hours
Ghent or Bruges, c. 1500/1530

 Antiphonary of Anna Hachenberch from the Convent of St. Cecilia, Cologne, c. 1520-1530, parchment, 41 x 25.5 cm, binding: wood, pigskin, 59 x 40 cm, Inv. No. C 44 a-b, © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Antiphonary of Anna Hachenberch
Cologne, c. 1520-1530