Reims Gospel

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Reims Gospel (Реймське євангеліє; Reimske yevanheliie). One of the oldest extant Church Slavonic literary monuments. It consists of (1) parts of the Gospels (the last 16 of 35 folios) in the Cyrillic alphabet, which the Holy Roman emperor Charles IV acquired somewhere in Hungary and presented to the Emmaus Monastery in Prague; and (2) 31 folios of readings from the Gospels and Epistles transcribed in the Glagolitic alphabet from a Croatian original by a Czech monk at the Emmaus Monastery in 1395 for use in Roman Catholic services. The entire codex was taken to Istanbul, most likely by Hussites after the Emmaus Monastery burned down in 1421. There it was bought by Cardinal Charles of Lorraine and presented to the cathedral in Reims, France, where it was preserved from 1574 and later given to the Reims Municipal Library. In 1793 the gems inlaid in its cover were plundered. The gospel is legendary: it has been said that French monarchs used it during their coronation oaths, and that the Cyrillic text was first read from it by Tsar Peter I in 1717 or by a Russian emissary in 1728. A facsimile edition of the gospel was first published by S. de Sacy in Paris in two volumes in 1843. The text, together with that of the Ostromir Gospel and a parallel Polish translation, was published by V. Hanka in Prague in 1846. An 1852 edition of the text with a Latin translation was funded by Tsar Nicholas I and published in Paris. A fourth edition of the text was published by Louis-Paul-Marie Léger in Reims in 1899. Its language was studied by P. Rakovsky-Biliarsky (1847), who believed the Cyrillic parts were a 14th-century Romanian copy of a Serbo-Croatian original, and by Aleksei Sobolevsky (1887), who claimed they were of 11th- or 12th-century East Slavic origin. According to one legend, this book was part of the library of Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise of Kyivan Rus’ and was taken to France by his daughter Anna Yaroslavna. The text, along with a history of the scholarship, was published by L. Zhukovskaia in Moscow in 1978.

Oleksa Horbach

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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