The Gospels of Henry the Lion

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2015-06-26 10:52:08

The Gospels of Henry the Lion is a 266 page book containing the text of the four gospels with 50 full page illustrations. The book was commissioned by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony.

The book

Henry the Lion, prince of what, at the time, were the kingdoms of Saxony and Bavaria, commissioned the book in 1188 in honour of the consecration of the St. Mary’s alter in Braunschweig Cathedral. The work was completed by the monks of the Benedictine Helmarshausen Abbey to be placed on the alter at Brunswick Cathedral.

The book is made up of 266 handwritten pages, of which 50 are full page colour illustrations, decorated with gold leaf which was very rare for the time. The use of gold was intended to symbolise Henry’s wealth and power.

History of Ownership

It is believed that the book was kept in Prague Cathedral for centuries until it was sold to the King of Hanover in 1861. When the King of Hanover was dethroned in 1866, he took the book with him to Austria.

Helmar Hartel from the Herzog August Library told German television station ZDF that the gospels were offered to the King of England in 1945 but he refused.

In 1983, the Gospels were sold at a Sotheby’s auction in London. The book was bought by the West German government for £8,140,000, which at that time, was the highest price paid for any work of art.

Since then, the Gospels have been kept in the Herzog August Library in Germany.

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