The Manuscripts of the Carolingian Period

The Carolingian era, after the fall of the Roman Empire, was a period of political, religious and cultural renovation. In his empire, Charlemagne (768–814, emperor from 800) sought to achieve standardisation – the creation and use of reliable texts played therefore an important part. With the Carolingian minuscule a new type of writing was introduced. After the first monasteries were founded in the seventh century, in Bavaria an ecclesiastical structure of organisation was created with the bishoprics of Ratisbon, Freising, Passau and Salzburg in 739. Within this structure the monastic writing activities and art of illumination could be developed.

Within the multitude of forms adopted during the early times, the braided band with a high number of changing patterns played an important role. In addition, stylised shapes of leaves and an animal ornamentation consisting of fish and bird motifs. Oftentimes artistic influences from the Italian and Anglo-Saxon territories may be recognised. There are few figurative depictions at this point. Great emphasis was laid on the design of the initials. More frequent occur iconographic images of the evangelists which refer to the influence of Byzantine and ancient traditions.

For the history of the early-mediaeval book illumination in the German-speaking territories Saint Gall and Reichenau play extraordinary roles. Either of the Alemannic monasteries exercised particularly strong impulses on the development of ornamentation.

(cf: Elisabeth Klemm, "Die Handschriften der Karolingerzeit." In: Pracht auf Pergament. Schätze der Buchmalerei von 780 bis 1180. Exhibition catalogue. Munich 2012, pp. 49–57.)

The other part collections of "Splendour on Parchment" available in bavarikon

>> This collection is part of the holdings of "Splendour on Parchment" of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library) and of the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg (State Library Bamberg).