Detail map of Reichenau, Reichenau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany,Trier, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany Overview map of Reichenau, Reichenau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany,Trier, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany

A: Reichenau, Reichenau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, B: Trier, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany

The Codex Egberti, Containing the Earliest Picture Cycle of the Life of Christ in Manuscript Illumination

Circa 977 CE to 993 CE
Egbert codex

Egbert Codex, f. 13: The birth of Christ, proclamation to the shepherds. Schatzkammer der Stadtbibliothek Trier.

A portrait of Egbert, Archbishop of Trier, from the Codex Egberti. (View larger)

The Codex Egberti, commissioned by Egbert, Archbishop of Trier between 977 and 963, opens with a dedication and a portrait of the Bishop on a double page in gold and purple. Two monks at Egbert's feet, Kerald and Heribert of the Benedictine Abby on the Island of Reichenau, present the volume to the donor. This is followed by four impressive full-page illustrations of the Evangelists, and 51 narrative pictures comprising the earliest picture cycle of the Life of Christ in the history of manuscript illumination. Some of the images have been attributed to the Master of the Registrum Gregorii.

“The Reichenau school reached its apogee in the last third of the tenth century and was productive into the first half of the eleventh. Without being strongly rooted there  the 'Master of the Registrum Gregorii', one of the most important Ottonian book illuminators, whose activity had been in the upper Rhine region and in Trier, stood connected with it. Reichenau manuscripts were in such demand  that pope Gregory V 'pensionis nomine' requested that the abbot of the monastery should delivery a scaramentary, an epistolary, and a gospel book to Rome for the confirmation of his installation " (Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and Middle Ages [1990] 220).

The manuscript is preserved in the Stadtbibliothek Trier.

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