Wenceslas Bible

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Wenceslas Bible
Vienna, Austrian National Library (Cod. 2759–64)
Bible vaclav.jpg
Initial of the book of Genesis – 7 days of creation.
Place of originPrague
Blason Bo Bohême.svg Bohemia, Holy Roman Empire
Illuminated byFrána
and others
PatronWenceslaus, King of the Romans and King of Bohemia
Size1,214 leaves
Format530 x 365 mm
ContentsOld Testament (Daniel, Minor Prophets and Maccabees missing)
Illumination(s)654 miniatures

The Wenceslas Bible[1] (German: Wenzelsbibel) or the Bible of Wenceslaus IV (Czech: Bible Václava IV.) is a multi-volume illuminated biblical manuscript written in the German language. The manuscript was commissioned by the King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia (that time also the King of the Romans) and made in Prague in the 1390s. The Wenceslas Bible is unique and very precious not only because of its text, which is one of the earliest German translations of the Bible, but also because of its splendid illuminations. This oldest German deluxe Bible manuscript[2] remained uncompleted.[1]

Historical context[edit]

Portrait of the King Wenceslaus with his wife Sophia

The Wenceslas Bible contains the text of one of the earliest Bible translations into German. The translation from the Latin Vulgata was commissioned by the wealthy burgher of Prague Martin Rotlev about 1375–1380.[1]

Although Wenceslas' father Emperor Charles IV forbade Bible translations from Latin into vernacular languages as heresy in 1369, king Wenceslas with his second wife Sophia disrespected his father's order by their patronage of this spectacular edition of the new German Bible translation. Their own patronage confirms an inscription in the manuscript. It indicates the close relationship between the Bohemian royal court and the nascent Bohemian Reformation.[3]

The Wenceslas Bible was never completed. The Book of Daniel, the Minor Prophets and the Books of Maccabees are lacking from the Old Testament and the New Testament was not even begun. The Bible contains 654 miniatures and initials; some were only scratched. The scribe left free spaces for more than 900 other illustrations. If the Bible were completed, it would have comprised about 1,800 leaves with circa 2,000 illuminations and would accordingly have surpassed all other medieval manuscripts in length, dimensions and wealth of artistic ornament.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d Boehm, Barbara Drake; Fajt, Jiří (editors) (2005). Prague: The Crown of Bohemia, 1347–1437. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. pp. 220–222. ISBN 9780300111385.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ "The Wenceslas Bible – Complete Edition". www.adeva.com. Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt Graz. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  3. ^ Boehm, Barbara Drake; Fajt, Jiří (editors) (2005). Prague: The Crown of Bohemia, 1347–1437. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 99. ISBN 9780300111385.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)

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