Illuminated manuscript from University Library exhibited in Vilnius

28 Jun 2022

The prayer book of Lithuanian Grand Chancellor Albertas Goštautas was created by one of Poland’s most illustrious artists in the first half of the 16th century.

Prayer book of Albertus Gastold

Dr. Sven Kuttner, LMU, and Dr. Dalia Jonynaite, National Museum of Lithuania | © Unibibliothek

At a special exhibition by the National Museum of Lithuania / Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, the Old Polish Prayer Book of Albertas Goštautas will be on display until the end of August. The illuminated manuscript with 16 full-page miniatures belongs to the priceless books collection at LMU University Library.

The prayer book of Lithuanian Grand Chancellor Albertas Goštautas was created in the first half of the 16th century by one of Poland’s most illustrious artists, Stanisław Samostrzelnik (c. 1480–1541), who was a monk at the Cistercian Abbey of Mogiła near Krakau, where he practiced his art. His client was one of the most influential Lithuanian statesmen of the early modern period, head of government of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania for many years and staunch advocate of Lithuanian statehood and political independence, the Lithuanian Grand Chancellor and Voivode of Vilnius Albertas Goštautas (c. 1480–1539).

The prayer book may well have come to Bavaria as part of the substantial dowry of money and precious objects, with a value of some two million Reichsthaler, of Duchess of Poland and Lithuania Anna Katharina Konstanze Vasa, daughter of the king of Poland-Lithuania and titular king of Sweden Sigismund III Vasa, when she married Count Palatine and Duke of Neuburg Philipp Wilhelm in Warsaw in 1642. Later, the book was in the collection of Jesuit priest and art collector Ferdinand Orban in Ingolstadt. After the suppression of the Jesuit order in 1773, Orban’s entire collection of art and curiosities came into the possession of the University Library, then located in Ingolstadt.

Prayer book of Albertus Gastold

The illuminated manuscript has 16 full-page miniatures. | © Unibibliothek

Albertas Goštautas, whose tomb is in Vilnius Cathedral, is a key figure in the historical consciousness of Lithuania to this day. The original manuscript is being displayed outside of Munich for the first time, and the significance of the event for Lithuania was highlighted by the presence of Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė at the launch. Quickly the exhibition became a crowd puller: Just three hours after the museum opened its doors, around 1,000 people had already admired the prayer book.

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