The most important book in the Middle Ages
The Coronation Gospel Book can justifiably be called the most important book in the Middle Ages because it was present at the coronation of every Roman-German king from the 12th century, if not earlier, and as the "Schwurbibel" (oath bible) it is even thought to have been a key component in the ceremony. The original Carolingian manuscript was bound with a cover of gold and glittering precious stones in about 1500 to emphasise its symbolic and procedural significance, and this made it a worthy component of the imperial insignia of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Today, these imperial insignia are kept in the treasury of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
Aachen 795 and 1000 AD
The Coronation Gospel Book was written and illuminated in Aachen in about 795. It was always intended to be an outstanding work: written in golden ink on purple pages, it underlined Charlemagne's claim that he was following in the tradition of the Roman emperors, although his coronation as emperor would not take place for another five years. Charlemagne lived up to this claim in full in the opinion of his contemporaries and of subsequent generations down the centuries. However, he took the book, the earnest of his ambition, with him to his grave when he died in 814.
We still do not know exactly where his grave is. And so we do not know either where the legendary event which is so important for the manuscript took place in 1000; when Otto III had the grave opened and discovered the codex on the knees of the emperor, who had been buried in a sitting position. He removed the book and thereby laid the foundation for its ascent as the central work of book art in the empire. During coronations, which always took place in Aachen until 1531, the book was opened in accordance with tradition at the first page of St John’s Gospel, and the future king swore his oath under the eyes of St John the Evangelist on the words "In the beginning was the word".
We are publishing this unique and complete facsimile of the Coronation Gospel Book in an edition of just 333 hand-numbered copies. The facsimile volume comprises 472 pages measuring 34 x 26.5 cm, like the original. Each page in the book is completely purple. The four full-page portraits of the Evangelists are gilt with real 23-carat gold. We have replicated the gold on the 16 liturgical tables, the four initial pages and the text pages with gold leaf.
Each individual sheet is stamped out according to the original contours of the sheet and stitched by hand in single quires to form five real double bands to which a hand-stitched headband is attached at the head and foot. The adorned cover is made of copper which has been nickel-, silver- and gold-plated and then patinated by hand.
It has 19 ornamental stones: amethysts, smoky quartz, a tourmaline, rhinestones and a synthetic sapphire. The frames are engraved. Gilt catches and five gilt book studs on the back cover of the facsimile complete the edition.
The casket consists of a base covered with black velvet and maple wood elements, with a cover made of UV-absorbing acrylic glass.