The Abbreviated Jerusalem Chronicles is a fine illuminated codex of the most exquisite Flemish art. It was made at the instructions of Philip III, "Philip the Good", Duke of Burgundy, at David Aubert's workshop in Bruges around 1455 created in roll form, and later guillotined and bound.
Account of the First Crusade
The text, written in French, in minuscule Burgundian Bastard script, delicately embellished with golden initials, polychrome borders and beautiful miniatures, tells the story of the conquests of the Holy Places during the First Crusade, in the late 11th century, describing how the knights took Jerusalem and many other areas from the Turks.
Some of the historical events recounted are the story of the kingdom of Jerusalem until its fall and the conquest of the Holy City, as well as a short biography in the form of a genealogy of its governors and significant court personalities and knights, including the Order of the Knights Templar.
Lavishly Detailed Iconography
There are beautiful illuminations depicting cruel battles, lengthy sieges and violent assaults on the cities, reproducing in lavish detail weapons and war machines, the armies' clothing and armour, cavalry, ships and ports in the cities, green meadows and winding hills on which stylised buildings are poised, as well as richly decorated luxurious and noble castles, with majestic coronations taking place in their throne rooms.
The text and the illuminations are framed with subtie polychrome margins of plant motifs, such as acanthus leaves and flowers, small birds and sumptuous peacocks.
Abbreviated Jerusalem Chronicles: Interesting Format
Its peculiar long and horizontal format is due to being a chronicle and a genealogy. Genealogies tended to be drawn up on a parchment which could be rolled up and the entry for this manuscript in an inventory of the Court of Burgundy made when Philip the Good died (1467) indeed says: "tournant en manière de ròle". Through having been cut for binding in codex format, the text written in columns does not follow on to the next column.
Part of Royal Collections
The codex was kept at the Court of the Dukes of Burgundy until at least 1487, the date of its first catalogue classification. In 1517 it appeared as belonging to Emperor Charles V of Germany and I of Spain. In 1619 it was mentioned in the inventory of Matthias, the third son of Maximilian II. On 20th December 1752 it was fortunately transferred from the Imperiai treasury of Vienna to the Court Library, Ósterreichische Nationalbibliothek, where it has been kept in perfect condition ever since.
- Images courtesy of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek
We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Chronicles of Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem":
- Les Chroniques de Jérusalem facsimile edition published by Scriptorium, 2017
- Les Chroniques de Jerusalem Abregées facsimile edition published by Idion Verlag, 1980