Considered the most critical and valuable manuscript kept in Bohemia, the Coronation Gospels of King Vratislaus is a unique testimony of the Romanesque time and the oldest document to be related to the Czech environment.
A brief excursus on the Czech King
In 1086 the first Czech king - Vratislav I former Prince Vratislav II - was crowned, after long years in exile, and then ruled until 1092. He was well-known for his peculiar character, both extremely cautious and hard: history notes his numerous altercations with his brother Jaromír, who became the Bishop of Prague in 1068.
Most of all he stood out for his use of diplomacy, not only in politics but also in his marriages.
After the death of his first wife, he wedded the daughter of the Hungarian Emperor, and when she in her turn died, he married the daughter of the Polish prince.
Before this date, the Czech State was nearly a kingdom, and after it, since the title couldn't be inherited, Bohemia remained a duchy until 1212, when the Holy Roman Emperors Frederick II made it a hereditary empire.
Codex Vyšehradensis: the flagship manuscript of a historical triptych
According to recent researches, the Vysehrad Codex and two other manuscripts were most likely written in the environment of a Bavarian monastery school with clear influences from the Regensburg School of Art. Codex XIV A 13 stands out not only due to its essential purpose but also for the number of illuminations and its unique style. In addition to that, his valuableness is secured by the presence of themes which are extremely rare to find elsewhere, such as paintings representing Christ’s genealogy.
It consists of 108 parchment sheets with 26 illuminations: the first pages have pictures of the Evangelists, further on we find Christ’s Genealogy and other illustrations inspired by the Old Testament.
There are plenty of scenes taken from Christ’s life which either take up the whole page or fill two or three stripes.
Many initials decorate the manuscript through golden vegetable motifs.
The Nativity scene
One of the most captivating painting is that of the Nativity: at the center of the picture takes his place the Crib with Christ Blessing, on the right we can appreciate a scene of the “Announcement to the Shepherds,” while on the left, we have the character of St. Joseph.
Above, angels are pointing downwards with their heads and approaching the terrestrial scene in a circular arrangement. In all of the corners of the golden framed background, four angels carry a mandorla with Christ seated on a rainbow. Symbols of the Evangelists accompany the mandorla.
Currently held in a binding made of wooden boards covered in leather and fragments of the original remaining linen, it is remarkable thanks to a superb piece of Romanesque embroidery representing “Christ in a Mandorla,” placed in the center of the back cover.