Starting today, Folia Magazine will be taking you on a journey of discovery through the pages of the Codex Purpureus Rossanensis, shown here for the first time in high definition. The Codex includes 13 illuminations regarding the life of Christ, one of the Four Evangelists, and one, in particular, depicting Saint Mark in the act of composing his Gospel directly inspired by the Sophia. Today, due to its significance, we will be talking about this last illumination.
The portrait of Saint Mark undoubtedly represents one of the most interesting sides in the history of the Codex Purpureus Rossanensis. The only figure of an Evangelist left in a Greek Gospel, the illumination depicts Saint Mark deeply focused in his writing, inscribing the title of his Gospel on a long roll of parchment. In front of him, the Sophia, the personification of Wisdom itself, watches on the Saint and lays a hand on his writing, symbolizing her delicate intercession on Mark's inspiration.
The importance of the illumination does not, however, only reside in its subject: the folio, in fact, is the only one that has been spared by the unlucky attempt of restoration made by Nestore Leoni in the early 20th century. Being the sole illumination that has reached us as it was originally created by the Bizantines, the portrait of Saint Mark has thus given scientists and scholars the opportunity to study in detail the techniques used in the production of the Codex.
Illumination from the "Codex Purpureus Rossaniensis", Gregory-Aland Σ or 042, f. 241r, ca. 550, Museo diocesano e del Codex, Rossano.