The accompanying volume of The Commentaries contains the complete catalogue of all illuminations, with detailed dimensions, the order in which they are read, their exact page location in the facsimile and the folio markings. The intro was written by Branka Ivanic, and the catalogue itself by Veljko Topalovic and Dusan Mrdjenovic, who also took all the measurements. The first page of Gospel contains the images of only three apostles; absent is Matthew.

Selected initials representing saints as well as mere mortals.

Selected initials representing birds.

Selected initials representing animals.

Selected initials representing plants and decorative ornaments.

The two books, produced together with the reprint as supplementary material, discuss the manuscript itself, its importance and history.

The additional book entitled Miroslavljevo jevandjelje - Komentari (Miroslav`s Gospel - Comments), collects the most essential facts and texts, connected with the manuscript itself: a catalogue of the initials, the order of reading, how paints and the parchment of medieval books were made, and also a few words about the damage, binding and present state of the manuscript.

11X8.5 inch
172 (80 color pages)
Hard cover, leader binding, with emboss

Reč uz Miroslavljevo jevanđelje
A few words about the Miroslav`s Gospel
(Dejan Medaković)

O inicijalima Miroslavljevog jevanđelja
(Branka Ivanić)

Katalog inicijala Miroslavljevog jevanđelja
(Veljko Topalović, Dušan Mrđenović)

Pregled čitanja Miroslavljevog jevanđelja

Pregled Jevanđelja po jevanđelistima

Raspored i sadržaj čitanja Miroslavljevog jevanđelja
Čitanje u vreme Pashe
Čitanja po Pedesetnici
Čitanja po Novom letu
Čitanja Velikog posta
Praznična, prigodna i jutarnja jevanđelja
Zapis Gligorija dijaka
(Ljubomir Stojanović, Veljko Topalović)

Tehnologija izrade i osobine materijala

Blok rukopisa i povez
Pismo i minijature
(Vera Radosavljević)

Photos by:
Veselin Milunović

Cover designe:
Aleksandar Palavestra

Dr. Vera Radosavljevic, who wrote THE TECHNOLOGY OF PUBLISHING AND THE PROPERTIES OF MATERIALS, was able to begin restoration and protection of the original only after the Facsimile Edition was published. In the course of eight centuries many pages had been damaged. Occasionally words end immediately before scratches in the parchment, indicating pre-existing damage (page: 356; folio: 179 r). Traces of hair point to improperly treated parchment (page: 224; folio: 113 r).

Damage caused by green ink, which bled through from a previous page (pages: 144 and 208; folio: 73 r and 105 r). The cross-section of this damage, the reaction of green and cyan, and the cross-section revealing the layer of brown that covers the damaged portion of the parchment.

(Except for A few words about Miroslav's Gospel , the text is in Serbian language, Cyrillic.)


Dejan Medakovic,
President of the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts

If there is truth in the Latin saying Habent sua fata libelli, it certainly applies to the manuscript known as the Miroslav’ s Gospel. Copied and illuminated in the last quarter of the 12th century for Prince Miroslav of Hum, brother of Stevan Nemanja, this Evangelistria survived the turbulent centuries of Serbian history from the time of the regional warlords to the rise and fall of medieval Serbia. The manuscript then survived the long centuries of Turkish occupation when it formed part of the library at Chilandari monastery, the date and means of its acquisition unknown. To the question of how long this precious manuscript had been in the library, the elders at Chilandari would succinctly answer: Always. Although the claim is indefinite and based on ancient legend, it can nevertheless be supposed that it was acquired after Nemanja's abdication in 1195 and his final retreat to Mt. Athos. Prior to that fateful year for the Serbian state and the Nemanjic dynasty, in 1190 in Zahumlje ended the reign of Nemanja's brother Miroslav, whose territory was inherited by the youngest son of the Raska Grand Zhupan, Rastko, until he, too, withdrew to Mt. Athos. This was one step further towards the linking of Raska and Zeta and finally consolidating the influence of Byzantine culture as opposed to the Romanesque tradition of Zeta. Although these encounters of two cultural zones were strongly felt, it cannot be denied that medieval Serbia accepted them and that its rulers were aware that taking place on their state territory was a special cultural symbiosis of east and west, thus giving the Serbian state a unique feature.

The royal mausoleum monastery of Studenica certainly represents the most outstanding architectural example of this symbiosis, although clear traces of these concepts are found later, even during the period when the Serbian state was approaching its political zenith. This symbiosis of Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine elements triumphed in the construction of the monastery church of Decani, built by Fra Vita, a Franciscan from the “royal city” of Kotor.

Not departing from a predominantly Byzantine commitment, the patrons of Serbian churches were completely reconciled to parallel stylistic influences coming from the western parts of the Serbian state. These ideas were not connected exclusively with architecture, where coastal builders were influential, but also reflected in the first steps taken by medieval Serbian literature. Since the Miroslav’ s Gospel date from the very beginning of state development and is distinguished by a wealth of painted ornamentation, linguistic complexity and a variety of models, it is not surprising that it aroused scholarly interest as early as the 19th century. It is generally assumed that the first to draw the attention of international Slavic scholarship to the Miroslav’s Gospel was Russian scholar Vladimir Stasov. In his album, on plates XIV and XV, he published several illuminated initials and thus introduced this Serbian manuscript to international Slavic studies. Since then, owing to the exceptional value of this late 12th century manuscript, scholars have continued to show interest in the Miroslav’s Gospel, the related literature constantly growing. After Vladimir Stasov, the Gospel miniatures attracted the attention of a great connoisseur of old Russian art, Fiodor Ivanovich Buslayev, who established the general characteristics of Serbian illumination. Buslayev was also the first to point out the western elements in the Gospel paintings, which naturally added further questions about its illustrations, given the Byzantine foundation underlying most of the ornamentation. Of course, such an artistically rich and complex manuscript attracted the attention of Russia’s great Byzantine scholar Nikodim Pavlovich Kondakov, 1876. However, all these viewpoints concerning the Miroslav’s Gospel were based on only partial acquaintance and study of the manuscript, which was then still preserved in the library of Chilandari monastery. A turning point in scholarly interest in the Gospel came in 1897 when the complete manuscript of the Miroslav’s Gospel was published in Vienna in heliogravure technique by Ljubomir Stojanovic under the patronage of King Aleksandar I Obrenovic. Only a year earlier King Aleksandar I had visited Mt. Athos, and in particular Chilandari. On this occasion the king richly endowed the monastery, at the time very poorly situated financially. As an expression of gratitude, the monks gave King Aleksandar I the manuscript of the Miroslav’s Gospel and the monastery’s founding charter granted by Grand Zhupan Stefan Nemanja in 1196. Thus, owing to what was a luxurious facsimile for the period, the Miroslav’s Gospel once again became a subject of study for various scholars, while the literature about it increased in volume. Since this is the earliest document written in Serbian, it is quite understandable that the Miroslav’s Gospel was not studied only by art historians and that other aspects besides the painted illustrations, primarily language, were also of interest. Particularly significant in this respect were the studies of S. Kuljbakin, Aleksandar Belic and finally J. Vrana. Of exceptional significance is a book by the learned theologian, Lazar Mirkovic Miroslav`s Gospel. In this important monograph, the first of that kind to be published about the Miroslav’s Gospel, Mirkovic devoted special attention to the Menaia, establishing their Constantinopolitan origins, which served the Serbian scribe as a prototype.

Finally, in his book Lazar Mirkovic made a detailed analysis of the work of the scribes and illuminators of the Gospel, with new insights about the main scribe, the sinful disciple Gligorije, and the mysterious Varsameleon. At the same time, as a brilliant iconographer, Mirkovic in great detail and with supreme competence deciphered the symbols in the miniatures, all the fantasy at the service of religious interpretation. It is quite clear that Mirkovic was well acquainted with medieval texts drawn from the Greek Physiologus, which had been translated into Latin, and after the 12th century into other European languages, the moralizing teachings expressed in the text itself. True, Mirkovic did not find direct confirmation for this linking of picture and text in the Miroslav’s Gospel, deciding that “... this fauna, real or fantastic, in the initials of the Miroslav’ s Gospel has only decorative value. The illuminator painted his collection and treasury of animal prototypes merely for decoration. Out of 28 animals from the Greek Physiologus and 27 animals from the Serbian-Slavonic Physiologus (translated from Greek) the Miroslav’s Gospel depict the following ten animals: dove, eagle, lion, panther, lark, serpent, deer, peacock, cock and wolf.”

Concluding his interpretation, Lazar Mirkovic says at the end of his study: “The Miroslav’s Gospel is an unusual document. Inscribed on its pages is a Serbian-Slavonic text, translated from Greek from a manuscript from St. Sophia in Constantinople. At the beginning of the manuscript the illuminator painted a Byzantine vignette, but throughout the manuscript alongside columns of Serbian-Slavonic text he introduced the West with its Romanesque miniatures in the initials of the Miroslav’ s Gospel, to a greater extent in its fantastic flora and fauna, monsters gnawing and biting each other and other animals, and also the letters around which they are grouped, or fighting with humans, and to a lesser extent in the illustration of the text in the initials. These miniatures do not correspond stylistically to the language of the original and text of this manuscript, or to the taste of the people among whom they were developed, and this art in miniatures was not continued very long among the Serbs.” Mirkovic’s ideas were expressed in 1950, and since then the Miroslav’s Gospel have been studied with renewed elan and new scholarly interpretations. Notable among these scholars is Svetozar Radojcic who made a special study of teratological style in 13th-century art. At the time S. Radojcic claimed West European origins for this kind of ornamentation. Having reviewed a large number of medieval manuscripts, Vladimir Mosin made a special study of illustrations in Serbian manuscripts and on this occasion presented his thesis concerning Russian and Byzantine influence on the development of Balkan manuscript ornamentation. In recent times, however, the problems connected with the Miroslav’s Gospel have been studied by Jovanka Maksimovic. In several important studies on the iconography and style of figural representations in the Miroslav’s Gospel Maksimovic has noticed certain identical motifs in the Gospel and the decorative sculpture at Studenica monastery, thus expanding the repertoire of these reciprocal influences. Finally, Jovanka Maksimovic summed up her major conclusions in her large book: Serbian medieval illuminations . This, at least for the time being, concludes the long procession of Serbian and foreign scholars who, each in his own way, drew attention to the splendid painted illustrations in the Miroslav’ s Gospel, a manuscript which has survived all the trials and tribulations of our history. After 1896 it was kept at the palace of the last Obrenovic king, after whose violent death it was lost for a time. Found again, the manuscript was deemed the most valuable state property, and as such was evacuated during the First World War. After its safe return the manuscript was kept in the Museum of Prince Pavle, from which in 1941 it was removed and hidden in the interior of Serbia, for the longest period at Raca monastery by the Drina River. As there was a danger that the manuscript might be found and lost during the occupation, Hegumen Platon secretly sent it to Belgrade where with the knowledge of the administration of the Prince Pavle Museum it was placed in the vault at the National Bank. Thus, this great treasure of Serbian culture was preserved and once again returned to the museum. Frequent changes of location and various conditions of preservation, mostly inadequate, caused changes in the manuscript and damage to the miniatures. Then the manuscript was sent to the conservation studio at the National Library where under the supervision of Dr Vera Radosavljevic preparations for its conservation were made. One way of protecting it for the future is certainly the publication of this facsimile, in the most modern graphic technique, achieving a remarkable degree of similarity with the original, which will be preserved under special conditions.

tright The editors of this reproduction, Dusan Mrdjenovic, Veljko Topalovic and Branislav Brkic, as well as its publishers, Dosije and Sluzbeni list, deserve the nation’ s gratitude for courageously embarking upon this exceptionally complex and costly undertaking. It is only thanks to their perseverance that its publication has been successfully completed, and after a hundred years we have another facsimile edition. As in 1897 the present facsimile is a unique example of the spiritual maturity of a generation that knows how to appreciate its cultural heritage.