The Bernward Gospels

Art, Memory, and the Episcopate in Medieval Germany

By (author) Jennifer P. Kingsley

Hardback - £63.95

Publication date:

10 January 2014

Length of book:

228 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271060798

Few works of art better illustrate the splendor of eleventh-century painting than the manuscript often referred to as the “precious gospels” of Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim, with its peculiar combination of sophistication and naïveté, its dramatically gesturing figures, and the saturated colors of its densely ornamented surfaces. In The Bernward Gospels, Jennifer Kingsley offers the first interpretive study of the pictorial program of this famed manuscript and considers how the gospel book conditioned contemporary and future viewers to remember the bishop. The codex constructs a complex image of a minister caring for his diocese not only through a life of service but also by means of his exceptional artistic patronage; of a bishop exercising the sacerdotal authority of his office; and of a man fundamentally preoccupied with his own salvation and desire to unite with God through both his sight and touch. Kingsley insightfully demonstrates how this prominent member of the early medieval episcopate presented his role to the saints and to the communities called upon to remember him.

The Bernward Gospels is a learned and well-written volume that contains innovative insights into the miniatures of one of the most important and famous medieval manuscripts. It is to the author’s credit that she makes fresh observations and draws important conclusions about a medieval work that has been studied continuously for well over one hundred years. Jennifer Kingsley demonstrates once again the sophisticated nature of the manuscript’s pictorial program and implicates the pictures in broader conversations about the proper function of medieval imagery, memory, and spiritual seeing.”

—Adam S. Cohen, University of Toronto