Home page > Manuscripts > Ostromir Gospel > About the Manuscript > Place of Creation
Ostromir Gospel


About the Manuscript

Where the Ostromir Gospel was Written

There is still an open question about the place where the Ostromir Gospel was written. Indeed, the only source of information about the Gospel is the Epilogue of Deacon Gregory. It did not disclose where Ostrimir commissioned the book. The manuscript was made with great art and skill. This proves that the book was produced by masterly scribes and artists in a professional scriptorium. But where was this scriptorium? The Novgorod governor Ostromir was rich enough to order the manuscript not only in Kiev or Novgorod, but also in Constantinople.

The material of writing is extremely expensive. The parchment sheets are not perfect, but they are white and thin. Such good quality parchment could not be prepared in the 11th century Russia. On the other hand, Byzantine scribes often coated the parchment with egg white, before writing. However, the sheets of the Ostromir Gospel do not have traces of such covering. Obviously, the manuscript was created in Russia on "imported" material which could be delivered both to Kiev and to Novgorod.

Attempts to identify the nationality of the scribe aslo failed. The name of Gregory was widespread throughout all Christian world. So everybody: a Slav, a Greek, and a monk of the Roman Catholic Church could have this name. And it is hard to identify linguistic characteristics of the manuscript, because of the high professionalism of the scribe. The sacred text is written in the language that was common for all Slavs at that time. Deacon Gregory carefully and accurately copied the original without error. Only his Epilogue and a few Slavonic names of months in the calendar show that the deacon Gregory was an Old Russian man. Still no clue where he was from, from Novgorod or Kiev. And it doesn't matter. This can not help to determine the origin of the manuscript, because a professional scribe could move from one book center to another.

The proposition that the book, intended for Novgorod, was created in the same city, now are supported by some arguments. It is no accident that the athor of the afterword does not mention anything. No name of the clergyman is given. Explanation can be found in the church-political situation of the time.

At this time, the head of the Russian church was the Greek Metropolitan Ephraim, sent by Constantinople. And the Slavic Metropolitan Hilarion, who fought for the autonomy of the Russian church, was removed from the Kiev Metropolitan Chair.

A reference to the Greek Metropolitan in the book of state status was incorrect with regard to the general idea of the Gospel. At the same time, in Novgorod, the hierarch was absent. This explains the silence about the Bishop of Novgorod. So far as names of church hierarchs are omitted in the text, the significance of the start date is bigger. Choosing 21 October, Hilarion the Great' Day, Deacon Gregory could indirectly say of the Russian Metropolitan Hilarion. It becomes clear that Deacon Gregory had no need to concretize the place where he worked on the manuscript. The fact that the book was created in Russia was much more important for him and for the customer of the Ostromir manuscript.

Nevertheless, researchers continues to explore the question where the Ostromir Gospel was produced. Perhaps, some additional arguments can be obtained on the basis of comparative analysis. However, such research is impossible for lack of the comparative material: only few Slavic manuscripts have come down to our days from that distant era. But dozens of hundreds of Russian books, created over the following centuries, have been preserved. They have formed the richest thousand-year tradition of book art, which was established by the Ostromir Gospel.