Front cover of The Lorsch Gospels
Carved elephant ivory
Width 26.7cm x height 38.1cm
Museum no. 138-1866
These five ivory panels formed part of the front cover of a copy of the Gospels from Lorsch Abbey (Germany) the back cover of which is now in the Vatican Museum (Rome). The Gospels are accounts of the life of Jesus Christ written in the first century AD by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The subjects and figures represented in the panels are referred to in the various Gospel accounts. The Virgin Mary and Christ Child are shown in the central panel. To the left is John the Baptist, and to the right Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. Above two angels hold a medallion with a beardless Christ. Below are scenes related to Christ's birth, known as the Nativity and the Annunciation to the shepherds.
The panels were carved at Aachen (modern Germany), then the capital of Charlemagne's extensive empire. Under Charlemagne (b.742-d.814) and his Carolingian successors interest in the art and learning of the Roman Empire was reinvigorated. Carolingian art referred back to the distant Roman past but also followed more recent models.