Initial page to the Gospel of St. Luke – Gospel book of Emperor Otto III, Reichenau, ca 1000

Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, CLM. 4453, fol. 104r

This ornamental page illustrates the first words of the gospel of St. Luke. Splendidly illuminated, as are the introductory pages to the other three gospels in the same manuscript, it is part of the famous book written for the Emperor Otto III c. 1000 in the monastic scriptorium of the Reichenau. The island monastery had one of the leading workshops of its time and thus the gospel book forms part of the renowned tradition of Reichenau, and German, book illumination.

The four pages showing the great initials attached to the gospel texts and the only initials to be decorated in the whole codex follow a common plan. The initials stem from a long tradition of illumination and are stamped with the Reichenau spirit. A perfect aesthetic combination is achieved between geometric severity and enflamed motion. The colour, gold ornament and dignified elegance of the “Q” here is typical of all four initials in the codex.