Wenceslas Bible

The Wenceslas Bible

Exhibited in the hotel lobby, you can admire and study the Wenceslas Bible; the first German deluxe Bible manuscript.These pages were completely hand-painted and decorated with innumerable miniature pictures and ornamental drawings.

Almost 150 years before Luther’s translation of the Bible was first published, one of the most reputed schools of illumination in Prague produced the first German deluxe Bible manuscript. The Wenceslas Bible, with its 646 miniatures and rich, frequently symbolical and narrative marginal decoration, was written out on request of King Wenceslas I of Bohemia between 1390 and 1400.
Wenceslas had summoned the best illuminators of Europe to his court in Prague where they created this unique manuscript. Unfortunately, the artists have all remained anonymous.
A chef-d’œuvre of Wenceslas’ workshop and a major achievement of European illumination, the Wenceslas Bible had till now only raised the interest of art historians. Its distinction as a bibliophile gem of the first order should, however, not make us forget that with more than 2,400 pages, it also constitutes a highly important, if not the most important and finest, text document of pre-Reformation Bible translation.
Of the three volumes originally planned (two tomes for the Old, one for the New Testament) only the two of the Old Testament were executed. By the 18th century the manuscript had grown to enormous size and filled six volumes, when it found its way from the Bohemian court to the ownership of the Habsburg dynasty. Today, the giant-size books are kept in the Austrian National Library.

The fascinating world of drolleries: Almost as fascinating as the miniatures of the Wenceslas Bible are its marginal decorations. These drolleries are characterised by an unmistakable sense of humour. Among the main protagonists is a girl dressed in a short, shirt-like garment whose attributes – a bucket and a sponge – identify her as a bathing maiden. She is accompanied by a male figure, probably King Wenceslas himself, who frequently appears captured in the letters W and E. In addition, countless allegorical creatures, such as the wild man or the kingfisher.