MS 4, Golden Legend leaf

Dublin Core


MS 4, Golden Legend leaf


Initially entitled Legenda sanctorum (Readings on the Saints), The Golden Legend was compiled about the year 1275 by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa and a member of the Dominican Order. The Golden Legend was, perhaps, the most widely read book in the Middle Ages, after the Bible. A substantial portion of Jacobus' text was drawn from two collected lives of the saints, one is Abbreviatio in gestis et miraculis sanctorum (Summary of the Deeds and Miracles of the Saints) and the other is Epilogum in gesta sanctorum (Afterword on the Deeds of the Saints) both of which were written by Dominicans. The Golden Legend was written in Latin and is a compendium of saints’ lives and liturgical and doctrinal instruction. During the Middle Ages it was translated into nearly every language in Europe with seven French translations and two English translations. The Golden Legend has a prologue and over 180 chapters from “The Advent of the Lord” to “The Dedication of a Church.” The lives of saints constitute 153 chapters in The Golden Legend; the “non-hagiographic chapters,” i.e., the chapters not devoted to the lives of the saints, describe Church doctrine during the Middle Ages and were intended for instruction and teaching. Approximately 800 copies of the manuscript version are extant. The Golden Legend provides the reader with insight into the religious thought during the Middle Ages.

The Life of Saint Bartholomew, partially shown here, is the 123rd chapter of The Golden Legend. Being one of the Twelve Apostles, Bartholomew’s name appears in each of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) while the name “Nathanael” in the Gospel of John is believed, according to most biblical scholars, to refer to the same person. The saint is known for having traveled to India and Greater Armenia, where he exorcised demons from the daughter of King Polymios and eventually inspired the royal family and many of their subjects to be baptized into Christianity. Enraged by the mass conversion of the local people, the king’s brother ordered Bartholomew’s capture and execution. Like Peter, Bartholomew was crucified upside down, preaching the Gospel until his moment of death.

Further Reading:

de Voragine, Jacobus. The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. Translated by William Granger Ryan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.

OCA. “Apostle Bartholomew of the Twelve.” The Lives of the Saints.


Jacobus de Voragine


The Golden Legend




13th century


Davidson, Alec & Theberge, John


1 leaf : parchment ; 17 x 34 cm








Jacobus de Voragine, “MS 4, Golden Legend leaf ,” Gomatos Reading Room, accessed September 25, 2018,