Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Arch. Cap. S. Pietro. C.129

Codex of Saint George Facsimile Edition

Our price

More Buying Choices

Request Info

The Codex of Saint George is a Christian liturgical manuscript that incorporates a biography of Saint George by the book's patron, Cardinal Jacopo Stefaneschi. The manuscript's illuminator—dubbed the Master of the Codex of Saint George after his work in this book—trained in Florence. He illuminated this codex when the cardinal resided in Avignon, but whether the book was made there is uncertain. It dates from between 1313 and Stefaneschi's death in 1341 or 1343. It boasts eighteen historiated initials and a dramatic and enchanting bas-de-page scene.

The manuscript is a portion of a missal, a book comprising the text and music of the mass, the Christian sacrament in which bread and wine are consecrated and consumed. Stefaneschi's 100-page text devoted to the life and miracles of Saint George (fols. 16v-69v) and his prayer service for the saint (fols. 69v-81r) are incorporated into this liturgical framework.

Initials That Tell Stories

Painted initials with subjects relating to the commemorated event or person embellish the missal's major feasts. One of the prayers for the feast of the Annunciation to the Virgin, for example, opens with a historiated D: the Virgin Mary is pictured enthroned against a burnished gold ground within the body of the letter. The kneeling angel Gabriel addresses her from outside the letter, and the dove of the Holy Spirit approaches from above (fol. 1v). The subject appears again with more economy in the initial that opens the Gospel reading for the feast (fol. 4v).

Saint George in Life and in Death

Scenes relating to the legend of Saint George occupy three initials: the saint grievously wounding a dragon to save a princess (fol. 18v), his martyrdom by beheading (fol. 42v), and his head held by Pope Zacharius (fol. 68r). The episode of the saint's attack on a dragon recurs in a scene of high drama that extends across the lower and outer margins of a page (fol. 85r). Included here are the lake—complete with waterfowl and fishes— from which the dragon emerged to threaten a city, the city's gate, and the citizens looking on. The saint on his mighty white horse rushes up to the dragon and thrusts his spear into the beast.

The Author at His Desk

The Master of the Codex of Saint George brought attention to detail not only to action scenes. He twice depicts Jacopo Stephaneschi writing (fols. 17r and 41r). In both images, the cardinal is shown with quill and penknife in the act of writing at a desk. In the more elaborate, the back of his chair forms a cupboard full of books, and his cardinal's hat is perched above (fol. 17r).

The cardinal is pictured not only in the two author portraits but also kneeling before Saint George (fol. 85r) and presenting a book to the recently canonized Saint Peter Morrone (1215-1296), who served as Pope Celestine V and founded the Celestine order (fol. 123r).

Fit for a Cardinal

The manuscript is a book of consummate artistry. The text, elegant and spacious, is in Gothic Rotunda script incorporating colored inks and featuring both painted and intricate pen-flourished initials. The master's illumination is in a rich palette and of the highest quality, the figures solid yet graceful. The current binding of gold-tooled brown leather dates from the seventeenth century.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Codex of Saint George": Vita des heiligen Georg facsimile edition, published by Belser Verlag, 2019

Request Info / Price
Manuscript book description compiled by Elizabeth C. Teviotdale.
Please Read
International social justice movements and the debates that ensued prompted us to start considering the contents of our website from a critical point of view. This has led us to acknowledge that most of the texts in our database are Western-centered. We have asked the authors of our content to be aware of the underlying racial and cultural bias in many scholarly sources, and to try to keep in mind multiple points of view while describing the manuscripts. We also recognize that this is yet a small, first step towards fighting inequality.

If you notice any trace of racist or unjust narratives in our communications, please help us be part of the change by letting us know.

Vita des heiligen Georg

Zurich: Belser Verlag, 2019

  • Commentary (German) by Grebe, Anja
  • Limited Edition: 299 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Codex of Saint George: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.


Full-leather binding with two clasps. Facsimile and commentary volume in acrylic case.

Our Price

More Buying Choices

Request Info