Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Reg. lat. 438

Martyrology by Wandalbert of Prüm Facsimile Edition

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The Martyrology by Wandalbert of Prüm is an illuminated manuscript created at Reichenau for Louis, King of the East Franks, in the third quarter of the ninth century. It is a register of Christian saints followed by astronomical texts, all in Latin verse. The notices concerning the saints are presented in calendrical order, with each month originally introduced by a full-page miniature (of which eleven survive). The manuscript also boasts a full-page presentation miniature, an author portrait, and five diagrams.

The manuscript's illumination is executed in line drawing with colored washes (green, red, blue, and brown) and details rendered in gold. The gold backgrounds of the presentation and calendar miniatures, which must have been dazzling, have largely flaked away.

The Text Presented to the King

The opening miniature depicts Wandalbert offering his text to King Louis (fol. 1v). The inscription in gold Uncials informs the reader that the king has deigned to receive his servant's little gift. The tonsured monk Wandalbert holds a book up to the crowned Louis, seated on a faldstool with a decorated red cushion and holding a long scepter.

The Months and Their Signs

The personifications of the months appear with the zodiac sign dominating the night sky for most of the month. All are pictured as men clad in short tunics and leggings, except June, depicted in a voluminous green loin cloth (fol. 13r). The men, some young and beardless and others mature, are generally engaged in seasonal activity. July, for example, wields a huge scythe (fol. 15v), and December warms his foot over a fire (fol. 27v).

Wandalbert as Scribe

At the conclusion of the martyrology is an author portrait of Wandalbert (fol. 30r). He is tonsured and dressed in green, as in the presentation miniature. Seated in an elaborately decorated chair, he is engaged in writing his text, quill in his right hand and inkhorn in the left.

Diagrams among the anonymous astronomical texts explicate the solstices and equinoxes (fol. 33r), Noah's Ark (fol. 33v), branches of philosophy (fol. 34r), and the planets (fol. 34v).

Inks of Three Colors

The verses are written in Caroline Minuscule, with the first letter of each line a large gold capital (often Uncial in form) set off in the left margin. The martyrology also features texts written in red and green ink.

From the Collection of the Bibliophilic Queen

Although Wandalbert's martyrology was initially dedicated to the emperor Lothair I (795-855), the Vatican manuscript was made for presentation to Louis (804-876), Lothair's younger brother. It was in the library of Christina (1626-1689), Queen of Sweden, which was purchased for the Vatican in 1690. The book is bound in white pigskin over pasteboard.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Martyrology by Wandalbert of Prüm": Reichenauer Martyrologium für Kaiser Lothar I facsimile edition, published by Belser Verlag, 1997

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Manuscript book description compiled by Elizabeth C. Teviotdale.
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Reichenauer Martyrologium für Kaiser Lothar I

Zurich: Belser Verlag, 1997

  • Commentary (Italian, German) by Stork, Hans-Walter
  • Limited Edition: 900 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Martyrology by Wandalbert of Prüm: 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.


Half-leather binding with wooden cover and portrait medallion.

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