Gospel story such as the Birth and the Presentation of the Virgin, the Nativity, the Baptism, the Presentation of Christ, the Annunciation, the Transfiguration, and eventually the Dormition of the Virgin. These are not arranged in the order in which they took place in historical time but in the order in which they are celebrated in the course of a single church year. This calendar section of a Gospel lectionary (entitled in some manuscripts a menologion, in some a synaxarion) starts with 1 September and ends with 31 August. The Gospel passage that is to be read on that day may be written out in full, or there is merely a cross-reference if it has already been written out in full earlier in the manuscript. There is a great range of types of illustration of the Gospel lectionary, from full-page feast images in one manuscript to little more than a couple of figured initials in another. One Gospel lectionary (Vaticanus graecus 1156) undertook to represent each saint and event celebrated, within the text and in the margins of the relevant notice; in others the illustration was limited to Evangelist portraits, some miniatures of the major feasts and portraits only of the more notable saints.35
The Gospel lectionary removed the events in the life of Christ from their historical sequence and arranged them into a sequence based on the church calendar instead. This liturgical reordering retroactively influenced the illustration of certain Gospel books, which have a miniature of an event in the life of Christ preceding each Gospel, but the subject chosen reflects the feast at which the Gospel passage was read.36
The two other books of scripture readings were the praxapostolos (readings from the Acts and Epistles) and the prophetologion (Old Testament readings). The latter was never illustrated; the former was illustrated primarily with portraits of the authors of this section of the New Testament.
Kurt Weitzmann argued that the illustrated Gospel lectionary was the source for the images of the Gospel feasts encountered on the walls of Byzantine churches of this period.37 If one assumes that every image had
35 Oriente cristiano e santita (Milan: Centro Tibaldi; Rome: Ministero per i beni culturali e ambientali, 1998), no. 18. The miniatures go as far as December 31. On illustrated gospel lectionaries, see J. C. Anderson, The New York Cruciform Lectionary (University Park: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992); M.-L. Dolezal, 'Illuminating the liturgical word: text and image in a decorated lectionary (Mount Athos, Dionysiou Monastery, cod. 587)', Word & Image 12 (1996), 23-60. On liturgical manuscripts in general, see N. P. Sevcenko, 'Illuminating the Liturgy: illustrated service books in Byzantium', in Heaven on earth, 186-228.
36 C. Meredith, 'The illustrations of Codex Ebnerianus. A study in liturgical illustration of the Comnenian period', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 29 (1966), 419-24.
37 Many of his studies on the subject have been reprinted in K. Weitzmann, Byzantine liturgical psalters and gospels (London: Variorum, 1980).
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