Egmond Gospels

The Egmond Gospels are beyond doubt one of the highlights of Dutch cultural history of the early Middle Ages. This medieval manuscript is one of the oldest surviving church treasures. It includes the oldest depictions of 'Dutch' people and buildings.

It contains the text of the four gospels, and was written in the third quarter of the ninth century in Reims in Northern France, as may be deduced from certain characteristics of its script. After some time it must have found its way to more western regions, where a rich decoration of canon tables, portraits of the evangelists, and ornamental pages in the ‘Franco-Saxon’ style were added. Around 975 it belonged to Dirk II, Count of Holland from about 939 to 988, who had it bound in a rich binding adorned with gold and precious stones. He subsequently presented the manuscript to the Abbey of Egmond, probably on the occasion of the dedication of the Abbey church, which he had rebuilt in stone. On that occasion he had two miniatures added, which record the donation.

The first illustration (above) portrays Dirk and his wife Hildegard laying the book on the altar in the church, which is depicted in the typical medieval combination of cross section and exterior view that was customary in the Middle Ages. On the right-hand miniature, both spouses pray to St. Adalbert, the patron saint of Egmond, for intercession with Christ. Each representation is elucidated by a Latin verse, of which the left one reads in translation: ‘This book was donated by Dirk and his beloved wife Hildegard to the merciful father Adalbert, that he may righteously remember them in all eternity’.

Egmond Gospels

Egmond Gospels. Reims, third quarter of the ninth century; Northern France, c. 900; Flanders, c. 975. Vellum, 218 leaves, 231 x 207 mm. Provenance: Oud-bisschoppelijke Klerezij in Utrecht, 1830. 76 F 1, fol. 214v

The Gospelbook remained in Egmond till the sixteenth-century iconoclastic disturbances, when it was brought to safety in Haarlem and later on in Cologne; the richly decorated binding was, however, lost during those days. The manuscript was rediscovered in Utrecht at the beginning of the nineteenth century and placed in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek after being purchased by the Dutch government for its historical importance.

Literature

  • Schatten van de Koninklijke Bibliotheek. 's-Gravenhage 1980, no. 12, 13
  • A.S. Korteweg, 'Thierry II, count of Holland, and his wife Hildegard and their donations to Egmond Abbey', in: Byzantium and the Low Countries in the tenth century. S.l. 1985, p. 147-156, fig. 1-2
  • De verluchte handschriften en incunabelen van de Koninklijke Bibliotheek. 's-Gravenhage 1985, no. 411; P.C. Boeren.
  • Catalogus van de liturgische handschriften van de Koninklijke Bibliotheek. 's-Gravenhage 1988, no. 43.
  • Vor dem Jahr 1000: abendländische Buchkunst zur Zeit der Kaiserin Theophanu. Köln 1991, no. 49
  • Bernward von Hildesheim und das Zeitalter der Ottonen. Hildesheim 1993, no. v-8.