Ebbo Gospels

816-835 C.E.

Ink and tempera on vellum

Early Medieval


My name is Charlemagne. Not the one in the painting - that’s Matthew. I’m Charlemagne, the namesake of the era Carolingian, the Holy Roman Emperor. While I did not create The Ebbo Gospels, this one featuring the writer Matthew, I am the man whose influence made such a work possible. Compare this piece to that of other contemporary medieval Christian art and you will see the differences mingle with the similarities. The erratic hand work, and molded figure create a compelling difference singular to my reign. However the subject matter is in accordance, and depicts a day in the life of a monk - commonplace rhetoric.


As a devout Christian leader, some think it is imprudent for me to look to the Romans and Greeks for inspiration. But that’s where I look. I have my monks and members of my court study the scrolls of the Romans, and with this came a distinct difference in artistic style. Look at the quick handwork, adding to the mood of weariness expressed also by the monks eyes. What’s more is, the figure is made in relation to space, there are highlights and shadows, translating the depth of the composition.


Compared to other illustrations from similar eras, the figures are much flatter and static. That being said though, the subject matter is very much the same. Monks writing, using tools of the day is in theme with other depictions of day to day religious life. What really sets Carolingian work apart from other medieval work is the influence of the Romans.