• Stjorn_38r
  • stjórn001
  • stjórn 023
  • stjórn 71
  • stjórn88
  • stjórn 115
  • stjórn Amo
  • stjórn AMO2


unknown artist ca. 1350

A number of images have been preserved from various times depicting stories from the Old Testament. Among the oldest Icelandic works are illuminated manuscripts or illustrations in manuscripts. After the formal Christianisation of Iceland at Althing in 1000 AD, books written in Latin started arriving and translations from Latin were among the first texts written in Icelandic. Among them was the first half of the Old Testament, called Stjórn. Some manuscripts of Stjórn are beautifully illuminated such as the one on display here.

The manuscript contains a few full page illustrations and these are replicas of them in their original size, printed on vellum. A close inspection reveals that at some point the top of the pages were cut off and so the top parts of the illustrations are missing. The images depict stories from the Bible and appear at the beginning of their relevant chapter. In addition to the large narrative initials, most of the manuscript's pages are decorated with smaller initials at the beginning of each chapter. The letters are simple, with a clear form, on a rectangular, decorated square with sprouts that spiral into the page's margin. Small leaves grow out of the sprouts in various places and at the tips the sprouts split into little branches that end in more leaves. The illustrations of Stjórn are both lively and delicate. The manuscript's style is high Gothic and is thought to have been made in the Benedictine monastery at Þingeyrar in the mid 14th century. Scribes and artists worked in the monastery and it can be assumed that three to five people had a hand in this magnificent piece that contains some of the most beautiful Icelandic manuscript illuminations of the Middle Ages.

AM 227 fol.
The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies