One of the most glorious complete bible manuscripts ever created, the Biblia Sacra of San Paolo fuori le Mura, or San Paolo Bible, is a wonder of Carolingian book production. The enormous tome of over three hundred folios contains the complete text of the bible as well as traditional prefatory material. Produced in Rheims from 870 to 875, it was commissioned by Charles the Bald as a gift for Pope John VIII, presented to him during Charles’s coronation as Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day, 875. Nearly every page abounds in exquisite calligraphy, glimmering gold, and brilliant color.
The manuscript contains twenty-four full-page illuminations acting as frontispieces to individual biblical books including a dedicatory image of Charles the Bald. For narrative books, the images present important events that take place and for works such as the Psalms or Gospels, the illumination acts as an author portrait. Thirty-five additional incipit pages in gold and purple are of the highest quality. Ninety-one additional large decorated initials are found throughout the text introducing major sections and chapters. Overall, this incomparable manuscript represents the apotheosis of Carolingian calligraphy and illumination.
A Luxurious Carolingian Bible
One of the great ninth-century Carolingian bibles, the San Paolo Bible is a large manuscript decorated throughout. It originally had twenty-five full-page paintings full of rich details and vibrant color.
The four evangelist portraits that precede the books of the Gospels are especially dramatic with their sweeping titular arcs and energetic, painterly style.
Gold writing on purple-dyed parchment, elaborate interlaced large initials, perfectly crafted Roman capitals, and thousands of gold and colored minor initials places this book among the most glorious medieval manuscripts.
Exquisite Medieval Calligraphy
The main biblical text is written over fifty-eight lines in two columns in a miniature Caroline minuscule. But the glory of the manuscript is found in the exquisite thirty-five full-page incipit pages and nearly one hundred large calligraphic initials throughout the work.
These are often accompanied by continuations and captions in Roman Square Capitals of the highest quality. The precision and craftsmanship of the script give the manuscript a timeless quality at once both ancient and modern.
A Lavish Royal Manuscript
The San Paolo bible was commissioned by Charles the Bald in the year 870 as a papal gift. It features a frontispiece commemorating this patronage with a portrait of Charles above a dedicatory poem which is copied in a later hand at the end of the manuscript. It was presented to Pope John VIII on the occasion of Charles’ coronation as Holy Roman Emperor, which took place in Rome on Christmas Day in 875.
The book remained with the Holy See until the reign of Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085) when it was given to the Benedictine abbey of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Bible of St. Pauls Outside the Walls": Biblia Sacra: Codex Membranaceus Saeculi IX facsimile edition, published by Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato, 1993Request Info / Price