Beginnings and Prime of Ottonian Book Illumination

The political and military weakness which arose by means of the decline of Carolingian rule since the late ninth century, had led to incursions by foreign people. In southern Germany, Hungarian troops on horseback looted rich monasteries. It would take King Otto the Great (912–973, from 962 Emperor Otto I) until 955 to stop the Hungarians raids by his victory at the Battle of Lechfeld (south of Augsburg).

During the tenth century, a rebirth of religious life and of book illumination can be witnessed. Monasteries were rebuilt, the monastic libraries grew and a busy writing activity took place. These preconditions drove the German book illumination during the time of the Saxonian emperors and of their immediate successors to unusual artistic heights.

The main centres of book illumination were the great abbeys such as Tegernsee or Saint Peter in Salzburg with their organised schools for scribes and illuminators. There, splendid codices were created for emperors and for ecclesiastical princes but also manuscripts meant for daily use and scholarly composite manuscripts. Diverse styles were developed in the monastic scriptoria with the achievements of the monasteries on the island of Reichenau and of Saint Emmeram in Ratisbon.

(cf: Elisabeth Klemm, "Die Handschriften der Karolingerzeit." In: Pracht auf Pergament. Schätze der Buchmalerei von 780 bis 1180. Exhibition catalogue. Munich 2012, pp. 90–97.)

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).