Gebetbuch Karls des Kahlen

Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen


The small-format prayer book (14.2 x 11.5 x 3.7 cm) was part of the personal property of Charles the Bald (823-877), grandson of Emperor Charlemagne (747-814) who in 843 became Western Frankish king and would be crowned as emperor in Rome in 875. The 46 parchment sheets of the manuscript were lavishly ornamented between 846 and 869 in the so-called "court school" of Charles the Bald. The book includes prayers of penitence and the liturgy of the hours, psalms as well as prayers for diverse occasions that had been adapted for Charles's use. The text is written completely in gold lettering, in part on purple background, the pages are framed with ornamented borders and decorated with initials. On the double page before a prayer worshipping the Holy Cross (fols. 38v-39r) are the only figurative depictions of the manuscript, two full-page miniatures that show the ruler praying to Christ Crucified. The prayer book of Charles the Bald in the Schatzkammer (treasury) of the Munich Residenz (Residence) is the oldest surviving royal prayer book of the Middle Ages. It belongs with a group of luxurious manuscripts of the highest quality, which were created on the commission of Charles the Bald and represent a final high point in Carolingian book art. From the fourteenth century to the Reformation, the manuscript is attested at the Great Minster of Zurich. Next, it arrived at Kloster Rheinau (Switzerland), where Duke Wilhelm V von Bayern (1548-1626) was able to acquire it in 1583 and to take it to Munich. The present cover made of leather with gold embroidery and Bavarian pearls was probably commissioned by Elector Maximilian I von Bayern (1573-1651) after 1635. This cover replaced the original board, which according to historical descriptions displayed two ivory reliefs with depictions of the Annunciation and Visitation and of the Nativity. Neither of these can be traced with any certainty today.

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