Uta Codex

Date: ca. 1025
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Germany
Dimensions: 38 × 27 cm
Description: Uta, the abbess of the Niedermünster nunnery in Regensburg (Bavaria), was responsible for the creation of this sumptuous lectionary. The book opens with four frontispieces, whose main subjects are the Hand of God, Uta Presenting Her Book to Jesus and Mary, the Crucifixion, and St. Erhard. The codex also includes four evangelist portraits.

Understanding the pictures requires a viewer (in the Middle Ages and today) to ponder their many details and consider how they work together to create powerful messages. These include the nature of Creation, the universal implications of the Crucifixion, and Uta’s own role as the leader of a Christian monastery. In the Crucifixion, for example, small musical diagrams under the arms of the cross communicate the harmony of the cosmos over which the crowned Jesus rules; he wears a stole, worn by priests during the mass. On the facing page, Erhard, the patron saint of the convent, is performing the mass, and some of the luxurious objects depicted on the altar still exist. These include the late ninth-century Arnulf Ciborium (a miniature architectural canopy to hold the eucharistic host). This was a prized possession of Regensburg’s St. Emmeram monastery, where the codex was written and illuminated (the ciborium is now in the Munich Schatzkammer). In the top right corner of this page is a representation of the abbess, which emphasized her importance as spiritual and intellectual model for her foundation. The creation of such an impressive and costly book reflected Uta’s own social and religious status in Ottonian society.

The Uta Codex was kept in a jeweled gold box, also preserved in Munich. It boasts an imposing three-dimensional image of Christ enthroned and holding a book. This is decorated with the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, signaling the beginning (Creation) and the end (the Second Coming and Last Judgment). Whether seen during a liturgical procession, placed on the altar, or consulted in more private moments, the box communicated God’s eternal majesty and authority to the nuns of Niedermünster.
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 6
Image Credits: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

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Uta Codex, fol. 1v, Hand of God Uta Codex, fol. 3v, Crucifixion Uta Codex, fol. 4r, St. Erhard Performing Mass Uta Codex, fol. 5v, St. Matthew Uta Codex Book Box