The Guta-Sintram Codex is one of the most valuable manuscripts of Alsace whose age and extraordinary Romanesque decoration as well as whose most interesting contents make it one of the most eminent art treasures of Europe. The fact that we know the names of the scribe and the illuminator as well as the date when it was made, makes this manuscript very special and unique.
The Result of Extraordinary Teamwork
The Guta-Sintram Codex is the common oeuvre of the Augustinian Canons Guta von Schwarzenthann and Sintram von Marbach, an abbey close to Schwarzenthann. While the beautiful script betrays the hand of Guta the Canoness, Sintram the Canon was responsible for the wonderful embellishments including a number of full-page illustrations and countless large and small initial letters.
In 1154, they completed their magnificent work together and dedicated it to the Virgin Mary. Marbach Abbey in Upper Alsace was founded in 1089 by Manegold of Lauterbach who established the Augustinian Canons there. This famous monastery was later to become the centre of many important new monastic establishments on the Upper Rhine, in the South of Germany and in Switzerland.
A Manuscript Unique in its Kind
The Guta-Sintram Codex is a prayer book compiled for use by the nuns of Schwarzenthann abbey. But this would be a very modest statement of its value, for it goes far beyond the narrow limits of a usual prayer book: the codex reveals the daily living patterns and sources of income of the Canonesses.
It served also as a legal compendium, as it contains a list of the Papal privileges granted to the convent. Furthermore, it deals with the daily schedule of the cloister's community, and we find very precise instructions on the use of the calendar, the calculation of Easter as well as a comprehensive agenda with a martyrology.
The book furthermore includes a list of all abbots, provosts, monks, prioresses and nuns who died in either Marbach or Schwarzenthann, classified according to the months and framed by architectural borders.
This unique work also contains a collection of sermons corresponding to the Gospel of the Day (a homily) and finally the Augustinian Rules commented by Hugo of St. Victor as well as the Consuetudines, a collection of the procedures and customs used in Marbach abbey. The work is completed with an illustrated calendar.
Health Tips from the Romanesque Period
The most important element of the Guta-Sintram Codex, however, is the lavishly embellished calendar which extends over 70 pages of the manuscript and received the most magnificent decoration.
Its pages are decorated with a series of pictures reaching across a full double page and filled with initial letters, with the signs of the zodiac as well with groups of three persons. Instructive medical, pharmacological and health advice appear on banderoles, such as instructions for bloodletting or tips for healthy eating and bathing.
Corresponding to the months, they recommend cures based on plants or animals, therapeutic mixtures or diverse diets. This humorous and witty monthly diet calendar provides an insight into monastic pharmacy and the medical practices of the Middle Ages. In the whole world it is a unique example of its kind.
Leather binding of the 17th century