The codex Cremifanensis 243, one of the first and most exceptional manuscripts containing the Speculum Humanae Salvationis or "Mirror of Human Salvation" is preserved in the collections of the Benedictine Abbey of Kremsmünster, Austria. Its 192 feather drawings possess a great 'idea of space', are sometimes in red and blue color and allow the reader to fully immerse in the mysteries of the Christian faith.
The Speculum Humanae Salvationis: Unique in Many Ways
Not only is this codex among the first decorated manuscripts of the Speculum Humanae Salvationis, it is also the first ever bilingual version with the original Latin and an abridged German text present side-to-side. This 'mirror of human Redemption' by Jesus and the Virgin, is somehow a picture Bible that includes carefully selected episodes from the two Testaments with the aim of providing the reader with a summary of the contents of Christian belief.
The Illuminations: a Mirror to 14th Century Life
Its contents aside, the Speculum Humanae Salvationis excites the reader as he/she beholds its simple though profound illustrations. The figures are left in the same color as the parchment and are at great contrast with the red or blue backgrounds. The characters' expressions are often amicable, charming and seem to be somehow sympathetic with the reader. On the contrary, the faces of evil characters is tainted black. But one of the most interesting features are the daily objects that fill the depictions: just like in a photograph, we are able to understand 14th century culture through the people's vestments, the architecture and every day items.
Religious Meditation in the Late Middle Ages
The list of typical behavioral examples taken from the Bible to encourage reader meditation is very precisely structured. An 'anti-typus' is described first: a character or situation from the New Testament, which is closely mirrored by three relevant and similar episodes from the Old Testament that seem to prefigure the anti-typus. While allowing the reader to meditate upon the scenes, the latter offer a summary of God’s plan of salvation, which the faithful see as a consequential whole throughout the Bible. With its extensive depictions, the Speculum Humanae Salvationis wasn't late in becoming one of the most widespread and appreciated text in the late Middle Ages