The Goslar Gospels, probably originating from the Lower Saxony, is a most exquisite creation from the Staufer period. Including a total of 30 images of scenes from the Bible, it was meant to teach the Word of God to both educated and lay readers. The Goslar Gospels combines different elements of the most diverse styles in a wonderful new harmony.
The Gospels were mainly used in church services where the Word of Salvation was read to believers. People thought that Christ himself was alive in the Gospels so the book, in this case the Goslar Gospels, was given the utmost veneration in liturgy. The manuscript, opened and showed to the faithful to be kissed, was carried around town in processions. It can thus be assumed that the Goslar Gospels was not only accessible to a few privileged visitors of a library but that the entire community could admire its beauty.
The Gospels, trusted by Christians
The structure of the Goslar Gospels is within the usual Gospel tradition. The prologue (containing epistulas, a preface by Saint Hieronymus, a letter of Saint Eusebius and a prologue on the Gospels by an anonymous writer) is followed by the four gospel texts which are introduced by a table of contents (capitula) and a prologue (argumentum).
Goslar Gospels, a masterpiece of book illumination from Germany
The sequence and the structure of the texts lead the decorative pattern of the Goslar Gospels. Before each Gospel, a full-page miniature and a full-page initial are made to give the beholder an overall idea of the text that follows. Saint Luke, highly regarded among all the Evangelists, was introduced by additional initial and miniature page. Richly embellished with gold, the miniature pages display two or more impressive scenes which are illustrations of the four Gospels.
The imaginative and inventive decoration with initials lend the text pages of the Goslar Gospels a very special charm: the initials are ornate in a different manner, according to the function they fulfil. Drolleries on a gilded ground and finely outlined initials, interlaced with fine scrollwork, decorate the Goslar Gospels.
A fine example of Gothic minuscule
The scribe of the Goslar Gospels compiled the manuscript using a beautiful script, the Gothic minuscule (textura), which was very typical during the first half of the 13th century. Apparently a very skilled scriptor, the text is laid down with great regularity, never negligent and with precise hand. Viewing the Goslar Gospels in its beauty, it's easy to feel the great dignity of the medieval scribe to whom copying the Gospels was in itself an act of real worship.
Although damaged, the binding of the Goslar Gospels is still impressive with its fittings of gilded silver plate, with magnificent ornaments, embossing, filigree, precious stones, vitreous pastes, and pearls. The upper plate shows a crucifixion scene in a Byzantine style, while the lower plate displays a silk embroidered Coronation of the Virgin. The topic illustrated on this plate leads us to assume that the embroidery might have been the work of the nuns of Goslar Convent who wished to honour the Virgin Mary to whom their church was consecrated.