The Pericopes of Henry II is one of the most exquisite examples of Ottonian illuminated manuscripts from the early middle ages to survive. Also known as Das Perikopenbuch Heinrichs II, the codex was written and illuminated in the early 11th century in the heart of Europe, namely the Benedictine abbey of Reicheneau on Lake Constance. With its more than 20 beautifully illuminated miniatures and several initials, it is a superb example of Ottonian art.
Liuthar Group Production
Iconographically-wise, the manuscript of Pericopes of Henry II belongs to a group of codices stylistically related, generally known as the Liuthar group, considered to represent the pinnacle of Ottonian Renaissance and named after a monk who went by the name of Liuthar, around the year 1000.
The Pericopes, unlike the gospel, features only passages which are to be read in the course of the mass, making it easier for the priest to find the correct reading.
Ottonian Art of the Pericopes of Henry II
The Richeneau Scriptorium created an Ottonian art that betrayed a departure from classical traditions. Among the several miniatures, the figures show a bold expressivity coupled with expansive and imperious gestures. Finally, the iconographic apparatus features schematized forms and colors.
Henry II: Commissioner and Patron
The commissioner of the codex, as the title itself suggests, has been identified in the figure of Henry II (973-1024) who commissioned the work for Bamberg Cathedral, dedicated in 1012. Evidence of the identity of the commissioner are the dedicatory poem and a full-page miniature depicting Henry and his wife Cunegunda.
Beautiful Example of Carolingian Minuscule
The Pericopes of Henry II provides a beautiful example of Caroline or Carolingian minuscule, generally featuring a contrast of light and heavy strokes. It is worth noticing the use of some ligatures such as st, and the use of long s in addition to the standard one.
The binding, which has been largely preserved until modern times, was not produced in Reichenau, but possibly in Regensburg or Bamberg. It is possible that the enamels of Christ and the Apostles came from the heritage of Otto III, provided by emperor Henry II.