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Bible of Saint-Yrieix

This gigantic Bible of 23 kilos is transcribed on 376 parchment leaves, in calfskin, goatskin and sheepskin. The text is the Latin translation of the Bible by Saint Jerome (Vulgate): the piece of work includes the entirety of the Old Testament Books but the New Testament is incomplete (in that which follows Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians): it is supplemented with forewords, arguments and symbols in the margin, suggesting that some extracts did not belong to the Hebrew Bibles: in Caroline script (Carolina), it is spread on two columns.


The Bible of Saint-Yriex astounds at first glance by its dimensions and thickness : 376 folios, 585 mm x 410 mm. Its atlas format is inherited from gigantic Bibles produced during the Carolingian period in the Scriptorium of Saint-Martin de Tours.  Its imposing format, the quality of the leaves, the care given to the page lay-out and to the script, the richness of the illustrations constitute a tribute to the Holy Scriptures.


(Source - Marianne BESSEYRE / Les chapitres séculiers et leur culture)

Despite some damage on the pictorial layer, Saint-Yriex Bible is a very tended and luxurious manuscript. The colour spectrum expands to more less unadulterated gold and silver powders, as is often the case during the Romanesque period with the use of  composite mixtures meant to spare precious materials.


Full-page paintings are lacking. The painter privileged the illustrated vertical bands as seen in the heading of the Book of Genesis, or small tabulations acting as frontispiece, as seen at the beginning of the Third Book of the Kings.

Versal letters which are alternately foliated, zoomorphic or anthropomorphic, demonstrate a remarkable wealth of innovation which validates the pictorial mastery of the primary painter. The artist blends as he pleases ornamental and figurative (motives) to make sense of the scenery


(Source - Marianne BESSEYRE / Les chapitres séculiers et leur culture)


Paintings of the abbey Salles-Lavauguyon

The Bible and Romanesque sculpture


There is now much evidence that manuscripts’ decorations were a major source of inspiration for the Romanesque sculptors in Limousin. It is plausible that right from the early trials in the XI century, they cast in stone images from the manuscripts through drawings copied from the precious books.

Miniatures of the Bible of Saint-Yriex, time and again, feature a particular type of foliage, invariably folded in half along a lengthwise axis with distinctly outlined veins. Still, similar foliage is frequent in a certain trend of Romanesque sculpture in Bas-Limousin during the second quarter of the XII century. In Collonges, it is found on the frieze on the border of the ‘spandrel’, but most often, in sculptures, folded foliage is an indiciating additional sophistication: veins are embellished with rows of pearls, as seen notably on the Porch of Lagrauliere. This detail also features in the Saint-Yriex Bible and more frequently in illuminations in the Mazarin Bible with which it is widely associated by art historians.

Another unique pattern readily gives evidence on the association between the Saint-Yriex Bible and the most prestigious Romanesque sculpture site in Limousin. This pattern can be seen twice on the beautiful initial opening the Book of Ezekiel, folio 130. From fan-shaped leaves, painted in pale blue, arise three wavy cones, in red colouring which could be thought of as pistils. However, this unusual pattern features on the South portal lintel in the Abbey of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne. This pattern’s uniqueness and rarity are convincing evidences of the affinities between the decoration of the Bible and the sculpture site in Beaulieu, so much so that this very pattern features, leaning in front of a smooth leaf at the corners of a capital in the Chapter Hall of this very Abbey.


(Source - Evelyne Proust / Les chapitres séculiers et leur culture)



This manuscript was most likely produced in Limoges at the very end of the XIth century or early in the XIIth century. It is part of the manuscripts which showcase the height of Romanesque illumination in Aquitaine and in Limousin.  It represents a true and valuable resource, in situ, in the Municipal Library of Saint-Yriex-la-Perche. 

Some historians think that its author was a fresco painter too (crypt of Limoges Cathedral); that he was also acquainted with the Scriptorium of Saint-Martial Abbey in Limoges and and had assimilated the Byzantine Art of the Ottonian manuscripts; its known work comprises at least three more manuscripts: a Bible preserved in the Mazarin Library in Paris (lat. I and II), the Sacramentary of the Cathedral of Saint-Etienne in Limoges preserved in the National Library of France (lat. 9438), the Compendium of Saint Gregory‘s Homilies from the Abbey’s collection (old collection of Chester Beatty of Dublin).


According to Danielle Gaborit-Chopin’s works, Canon Peter del Casta, mentioned in the Abbey’s manuscript, could be either its author, or the sponsor  of Saint-Yriex Bible. More recent investigations point out to a creation carried out not by a single and unique painter but by a team of painters. Therefore, the decoration of Saint-Yriex Bible suggests the involvement of two, may be three different personalities.

 One can assume that this manuscript was intended for the Canons of Saint-Yriex Collegiate Church: presumably confiscated in the name of the Nation in 1790, it became property of the district (commune).

(Source - Digital connection via this link: lien)

The Bible and ornamental paintings


Along with formulas developed by these painters, one has to record a continuity in the way of painting and using colours in XII century Limousin: it correlates this group of manuscripts linked to the Saint-Yriex Bible to later Romanesque novels, painted in the nave of Saint-Junien and of in that of Salles-Lavauguyon. Although included in both the large group of Western France paintings and in the well-known trends at the second-half of the XII century, these two examples differ through the specificity in their characters processing, their colouring, and lastly in their graphics and an innovative ornamental diversity.

 The style of Saint-Junien and Salles-Lavauguyon painters admittedly seems  engrained in a formal and ornamental range perceived through the filter of early XII century Limousin manuscripts,  allowing even more analogies between them to be collated. It is striking that these analogies specifically trend towards pieces of work clustered around the Sacramentary’s painter.


A staging-post between monumental works of art and manuscripts could have been perceived in the Romanesque paintings in the Crypt of Limoges Cathedral since they were close (in style) to the art of the painter of Saint-Yriex Bible, and ultimately attributed to him.


(Source - Eric Sparhubert / Les chapitres séculiers et leur culture)


Portal of the Abbey of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne

Enluminures Bible
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