Novgorod Tetralogical Gospel pages 

For An Tir Kingdom Arts and Sciences, I wanted one of my entires to be scribal based. My favorite style is the Novgorod tetralogical style, so I decided on a Gospel opening in that style. I picked the Gospel according to John after asking the eventual recipient (Tvoromir Danilov) what their favorite Gospel was.

I have written and illuminated the first two pages from the Gospel of John in Old Church Slavonic, illuminated in the tetralogical style typical of 14th and 15th century Novgorod, Russia, with an evangelist minature of St John, on hand made paper, using period pigments and inks or analogues. My reconstruction is an attempt to design in this style and create pages appropriate to the mid 15th c.

The main elements of the tetralogical style are a very flat seeming negative space knotwork, including creatures and people on a blue, green or very occasionally red background. Multiple colored backgrounds, most often blue/green are also are found, but are less typical. Outlines are red, additional black penwork, and gold  or yellow highlights. (Smirnova)

Tetralogical frames. From Smirnova , Popova and Vzdornov
Evangelists in church shaped Tetralogical frames. From Smirnova , Popova and Vzdornov
I used tetralogical ornaments throughout, with an evangelist frame of mostly geometric elements arranged in a church shape. I am creating this piece as a synthesis of the style, and not basing it on any one exemplar.

Consistent elements in the portrayal of St. John are stylized rocks, often a cave and or his assistant Prochoros, a portion of the sun from the upper left, a bald head, and writing. He is often seated at a desk if he is depicted by himself, and will have a halo. (Smirnova) My miniature has John on his own, writing in front of a cave in the midst of stylized rocks, with the sun above.

Depictions of St John. From Smirnova.
My text is the opening pages of a Gospel of John, as Gospels are a common illuminated manuscript in this place and time. The text is in Old Church Slavonic, the liturgical language of the medieval and current Russian church. I have taken this text from a extant gospel, cross checked with a current Church Slavonic gospel. I have chosen to use the spelling and abbreviations found in the extant gospel. Source:

Opening of St John circa 1480. From Smirnova.
My calligraphy is based on this piece and other manuscripts of the time.

I chose to use a handmade paper, as paper was a common manuscript support in Novgorod in the 15th c. (Smirnova)

I have used mostly period pigments or their synthetic equivalents, with substitutes based on cost and toxicity.

I used a hand cut quill for writing and drawing in ink.

Text and ruling done
Header transferred and heading written.

Header and initial outlined
Transferring the sketch for the frame.

Frame outlined.

Blue backgrounds done.

Gold highlights
Black penwork

Basic colors on the miniature.

Finished miniature.. or so I thought.

St. John needed a halo.
My display at An Tir KASB 2017.

Full documentation here:



The Russian Ornament Sourcebook: 10th-16th Centuries. London: Vivays Pub., 2011. Print.

Popova, Olga. Les Miniatures Russes Du XIe Au XVe Siècle = Russian Miniatures of the 11th to the 15th Centuries. N.p.: n.p., 1975. Print.

Smirnova, Ė S. Iskusstvo knigi v srednevekovoi Rush : Lit︠s︡evye Velikogo Novgoroda, XV Vek. Moskva: “Severnii Galomnik”, 2011. Print.

Thompson, Daniel V. The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting. New York: Dover, 2009. Print.

Vzdornov, G. I. Iskusstvo Knigi v Drevneĭ Rusi : Rukopisnai︠a︡ Kniga Severo-Vostochnoĭ Rusi XII – Nachala XV Vekov. Moskva: Iskusstvo, 1980. Print.



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