Gospel Book from St. Médard, Soissons, Court School of Charlemagne, beginning of the 9th century

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, Lat. 8850, fol. 6v

At Easter in the year of 827 a ceremony took place in which the relics of St. Sebastian of Rome were transferred to the church of St. Médard at Soissons, northwest of Reims. On this occasion, Emperor Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne and his wife, Empress Judith, who both attended the ceremony, presented the church with several precious objects from the treasury of Charlemagne and this magnificent Gospel Book were among them. It remained in Soissons until 1790, then it was taken to Paris and at the beginning of the 19th century, entered the National Library.

The precious manuscript is called a “Codex Aureus”, not only for the reason that the miniatures are illuminated with gold also because the text of each of the four gospels is also written in pure gold. The codex contains 239 folios. It is decorated with twelve Canon tables, four evangelist portraits, and two further miniatures: the Adoration of the Lamb (FOL. 1v) and this our picture of the Fountain of Life (FOL. 6v) which precedes the Canon Tables. The codex was produced shortly after the year 800 in one of the workshops which were connected with Charlemagne`s Court School”. There were several monastic schools and scriptoria where Charlemagne’s idea of an educational reform was realized – even before he established his permanent residence and a central “Palace School” in Aachen. The most important centers of the Court Schools were the monasteries of Tours and Metz, Saint-Denis and Reims, where the St. Médard Gospels may have been produced.