Ostromir Gospel

Greek Manuscript Gospels of the 6th - 13th Centuries

One of the most outstanding phenomena of the mediaeval culture is a Greek manuscript book from the Byzantine epoch. Indeed, Greek Gospels served as the source texts for translations into all languages of the ecumene, including Old Slavonic, and as models for book design. Many of them are genuine masterpieces.

The exhibition shows 11 Greek manuscripts, including various evangelic texts of various kinds: Tetraevangelions, Explanatory Gospels and Gospel Readings, arranged by calendar order. Exhibited manuscripts cover almost all periods of the Byzantine history and culture. The magnificent Purple (Sarmisahly) Tetraevangelion (no. 2) the earliest codex on view in the exhibition - was created in the 6th century, during the reign of Emperor Justinian I. Other Tetraevangelion (no. 3) represent, most likely, the last period of the iconoclast movement (the 9th century). The majority of manuscripts (no. 4 — 10) were produced during "the Golden Age" of Byzantium under the Macedonian emperors of the 10th–11th centuries, who joined to the Byzantine culture new Christians among Slavic peoples. Finally, two Tetraevangelions (no. 11, 12) date from the Komnenian period. The latest miniatures from one of them was painted in the 13th century, in the beginning of the last, Palaeologos period of the Byzantine Empire.

Most of the survived Greek manuscript heritage are manuscripts containing just the New Testament. The National Library of Russia holds 525 Greek manuscripts, relating to the Byzantine period of Roman history, of which 115 books are Tetraevangelions and Gospels with commentary, written on parchment or paper, and 71 codeces are service Gospels. The display features many precious gems of this valuable collection.

I. Lebedeva

© The National Library of Russia, 2007