Otto II, heir to the Saxon throne and Roman co-Emperor of Otto the Great, and the Byzantine princess Theophano, niece of the Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimisces, married on 14th April 972. The wedding was concluded by Pope John XIII in Rome and symbolised the close relations established by the Byzantine and the Western Empires, whereby the sovereign of the West was confirmed and acknowledged in his imperial function by the head of the Byzantine Empire.
This political wedding of the highest order additionally guaranteed the stability of international treaties and provided the opportunity for intensive cultural exchange.
The finest document of the Ottonian period
Composed of three pieces of parchment, the coloured roll measures an impressive length of 144.5 cm and a width of approximately 39.5 cm. Written in precious gold script, the text is set on an elaborately decorated ground of solemn indigo and written on purple medallions, framed by finely executed gold bars.
Western and Byzantine art and Western and Eastern courtly traditions combine to form a luxurious and historically important masterpiece.
A work of art full of symbolism
The manuscript presents a great number of items of early medieval number symbolism. The number three, for example, plays a role in the number of colours used, red, blue and gold as well as in the composition of gold text on white parchment with blue frames.
The author of the manuscript also paid special attention to the description of polarities, such as Byzantine Western, woman and man, the spiritual and the secular world – displaying the inherent tensions of these natural contrasts while honouring the ideal of harmony.
The Imperial Chapter of Gandersheim
This fascinating document has survived almost 1000 years in nearly original condition thanks to its careful conservation at the Gandersheim Abbey during 800 years. Empress Theophano had strong links to the Abbey in many ways.
At the Abbey she gave birth to her daughter Mathilda and there her daughter Sophia grew up. Roswitha von Gandersheim, niece of Emperor Otto I and Abbess at Gandersheim is a glorified in the historical poems.