Rabbula Gospels

Rabbula Gospels

The Rabbula Gospels, or Rabula Gospels, (Florence, Biblioteca Mediceo Laurenziana, cod. Plut. I, 56) is a 6th century illuminated Syriac Gospel Book. One of the finest Byzantine works produced in Asia, it is distinguished by the miniaturist's predilection for bright colours, movement, drama, and expressionism.


The Gospel was completed in 586 at Monastery of St. John of Zagba (Syriac: _sy. ܒܝܬ ܙܓܒܐ, "transl|syr|Bēṯ Zaḡbā"), which, although traditionally thought to have been in Northern Mesopotamia, is now thought to have been in the hinterland between Antioch and Apamea. It was signed by its scribe, Rabbula ( _sy. ܪܒܘܠܐ, "transl|syr|Rabbulā") about whom nothing else is known. In their current condition the folios are 34 cm (13.4 in) by 27 cm (10.6 in). Their original size is unknown because they were trimmed during previous rebindings. The text is written in black or dark brown ink in two columns of a variable number of lines. There are footnotes written in red ink at the bottom of many of the columns. The text is the Peshitta version of the Syriac translation of the Gospels.

The manuscript is illuminated, with the text framed in elaborate floral and architectural motifs. The Gospel canons are set in arcades ornamented with flowers and birds. The miniaturist obviously drew some of his inspiration from Hellenistic art (draped figures), but relied mainly on the ornamental traditions of Persia. The miniatures of the Rabbula Gospels, notably those representing the Crucifixion, the Ascension and Pentecost, are real pictures with a decorative frame formed of zigzags, curves, rainbows and so forth. The scene of the Crucifixion is treated with an abundance of detail which is very rare at this period.

The French Orientalist Edgard Blochet (1870-1937) argued that some of the folios of the manuscript, including the pictorial series, were an interpolation no earlier than the 10th or 11th century. Since the original legend accompanying the miniatures is of the same paleographic character as the main text of the manuscript, this theory was rejected by Giuseppe Forlani and by Carlo Cecchelli in the commentary of the facsimile edition of the miniatures published in 1959. [ [http://sor.cua.edu/Bible/RabbulaMs.html Miniatures from the Rabbula Gospels ms.] ] .

The history of the manuscript after it was written is vague until the 11th century when it was at Maipuc. In the late 13th or early 14th century it came to Kanubin. In the late 15th or early 16th century, the manuscript was taken by the Maronite Patriarch to the Laurentian Library in Florence, where it is today.

Overview of the illustrations

*fol. 1a [http://adventskalender.bistum-speyer.de/Bildkommentare/Bild17.html Election of the Apostle Mathias by the Eleven]
*fol. 1b [http://adventskalender.bistum-speyer.de/Bildkommentare/Bild18.html Theotokos (Virgin Mary) with the infant Jesus]
*fol. 2a Christ receives a book from two monks (dedication) / [http://adventskalender.bistum-speyer.de/Bildkommentare/Bild19.html The saints Eusebius of Caesarea and Ammonius of Alexandria]
*fol. 3b-12b The canon tables of Eusebius with smaller marginal miniatures
*fol. 9b [http://adventskalender.bistum-speyer.de/Bildkommentare/Bild20.html Matthew and John]
*fol. 13a "Crucifixion of Christ" / "Three Marys at the tomb"
*fol. 14a "Ascension of Christ" / [http://adventskalender.bistum-speyer.de/Bildkommentare/Bild22.html Christ with four monks]
*fol. 14b "Gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost"

See also

* Syriac versions of the Bible


*citation|last1=Walther|first1=Ingo F.|first2=Norbert|last2=Wolf|title=Codices Illustres: The world's most famous illuminated manuscripts, 400 to 1600|location=Köln|publisher=Taschen|year=2005.
*citation|first=Kurt|last=Weitzmann|title=Late Antique and Early Christian Book Illumination|location=New York|publisher=George Braziller|year=1977.

External links

* [http://www.artnet.de/library/07/0704/T070485.ASP Grove Dictionary of Art (Rabbula Gospels)]
* [http://adventskalender.bistum-speyer.de Homepage des Bistums Speyer (mit Kommentaren zu einzelnen Bildern)]

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