Four Byzantine Manuscripts
April 25 – October 20, 2013
FOUR BYZANTINE MANUSCRIPTS offers a glimpse into the world of handwritten illuminated texts of the New Testament. While book production flourished in the Early Byzantine period (4th to 6th centuries), it waned during Iconoclasm (726-784) when it became controversial to depict Christ and the saints. When holy images were reinstated in the early 9th century, manuscript production quickly and steadily increased.
Manuscripts were laborious and costly investments. Written in ink and illuminated with natural pigments and gold, they were commissioned for private use or given to churches and monasteries by wealthy patrons. Displayed on the altar, read to the congregation, carried in processions, and venerated in churches or libraries, the manuscripts were already rare and precious at the time of their making. Ultimately, they were produced to confirm, conserve, and spread the word.
The volumes on display are also digitally available online: Gospel Lectionary MS1, Psalter and New Testament MS3, Gospel of Luke and John MS4, and Gospel Book MS5. They present four book types with varied textual compositions and accompanying illuminations. The painted miniatures, whether initials, portraits, and narrative images, emphasize the sacredness of the texts.