Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 4456

Sacramentary of Henry II Facsimile Edition

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The Sacramentary of Henry II is one of the last highlights of Ottonian illumination. A great-grandson of the founder of the dynasty of Saxon emperors, Henry II ordered this book in Regensburg for the ceremonial celebration of the masses, while he still occupied the throne. The son of Henry the Wrangler, as the quarrelsome Duke of Bavaria was also called, was the last of the Ottonian kings to refer back to the tradition of Charles the Great.

Henry II considered himself as "ruler in the house of God" and he drew his legitimation exclusively from God, an attitude that is not only reflected in the two majestic ruler portraits in his Sacramentary: "All our visible belongings, now or in the future, have come from Him who has created us through His power from nothingness and has guided us in mercy to our present condition". These words are said to stem from Henry II himself since they so entirely expressed the attitude of the Emperor who considered himself the executive power of God on earth.

Regensburg - Bamberg - Munich

The name of the church or abbey for which this magnificent Sacramentary was originally intended has disappeared in the mists of time.

Whether the manuscript was made to accompany ceremonial masses at Regensburg Cathedral, side by side with the St. Emmeram Codex, or whether it was created to determine the liturgy in form of a missal at the Old Chapel, Henry's court church, is unknown.

One thing, however, is certain: the volume once was among the most beautiful gems ever kept at the Cathedral of Bamberg, a bishopric that Henry II had founded in 1007 and magnificently endowed with the finest treasures, among them his Sacramentary.

The founding of the See of Bamberg was one of Emperor Henry's major achievements. Through rich endowments, he turned it into a centre of spiritual and cultural development in Germany.

Emperor Henry II was finally sanctified in 1146. In the course of secularisation, his Sacramentary was transferred to the Court Library of Munich where it now features among the most valuable holdings of this indeed far from modest collection.

A Sumptuous Gem, Resembling an Imperial Crown

Shortly after his coronation in Mainz Cathedral through Archbishop Willigis to whom we also owe the Prayer Book of Otto III, the successor of the earlydeceased emperor ordered one of the most significant painted manuscripts of the Middle Ages.

For this book, the former Henry IV, Duke of Bavaria, meanwhile King Henry II of East Francia, relied on the artists of the Benedictine Abbey St. Emmeram in Regensburg, the most significant illuminators of the day. It was intended to be a particularly lavish volume which impressively underlined the claim to power of the emperor to be.

The skins of around 100 sheep and calves were necessary in order to produce the parchment for the 179 bifolios of the splendid manuscript – accounting for 718 pages in the finished book.

How much gold and silver was used for the execution of its painted and decorated miniature pages, the calendar pages, the pages containing the High Offices written in gold script, and the gold and silver initials is hard to tell – not to mention the splendid goldsmith's binding which was added to underline the material value of this missal that was expressly made for the ruler himself.

This luxury binding made of gilded silver sheet metal and a precious ivory plate protects a work of art whose text was embellished by the Regensburg scribes with 343 initials up to 15 cm high, 21 luminously imaginative marginal frames, and 14 illustrated pages that even today constitute a true highlight of German art.

A liturgical book and work of art

Like all manuscripts of its kind, the Sacramentary of Henry II contains the prayers said by the priest or bishop when celebrating mass. Richly decorated with gold and silver initials in the Ottonian style, these texts are inserted after an extensive picture cycle, full-page ornamental texts, and a calendar in chrysographic script.

The illuminated manuscript opens like fireworks introducing a big celebration: the plates of the months are followed by a coronation picture and a picture of Henry II on the throne, expressing the very essence of how the last Saxon emperor saw an ideal rulership.

In addition to other luxury pages, Gregory the Great is honoured with an imposing author's picture. After a concluding page with the Lamb of God, the Sacramentary begins – no longer written and painted on vellum but on fine sheep's parchment.

Binding description

As was the case with many other medieval manuscripts made for important rulers of the time, the fine parchment leaves, lavishly painted with miniatures and initials alike, and the binding were intended to form a cohesive artwork. We may assume that the individual elements of its cover were associated with the Sacramentary right from the original production, a book that – both in terms of style and function – was always linked to the codex aureus, the Golden Book of St. Emmeram from the Palace School of Charles the Bald. The front cover of the volume shows a magnificent ivory plate framed with golden sheet metal, illustrating the same biblical events that are also pictured in the manuscript: the Crucifixion and below it the events of the Easter morning with the Three Marys at the Tomb. No less impressive is the back cover of the book, which on a silver plate shows Pope Gregory the Great writing his text. He is inspired by the Holy Spirit who in the form of a dove seems to whisper in his right ear.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Sacramentary of Henry II": Das Sakramentar Heinrichs II facsimile edition, published by Faksimile Verlag, 2010

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Manuscript book description compiled by Facsimile Finder Staff.

Das Sakramentar Heinrichs II

Lucerne or Munich: Faksimile Verlag, 2010

  • Commentary (German) by Griebel, Rolf; Gullath, Brigitte; Pippal, Martina; Renhart, Erich; Weinfurter, Stefan
  • Limited Edition: 333 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Sacramentary of Henry II: 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.

The commentary volume to this facsimile edition features a number of inspiring and easily understandable essays in which reputed experts provide a wealth of information on the provenance, the function, and the artistic contents of the manuscript.


Front cover of facsimile vol. has two scenes in faux ivory plate framed in gold leaf. The first scene is of the crucifixion and the second scene is of the three Marys at the empty tomb on Easter morning. Back cover of facsimile vol. has image of Pope Gregory the Great in silver plate.

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approx US$ 11,403

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