Although the monastery’s beginnings are uncertain, an important scriptorium had been established at Schuttern Abbey by the early 9th century, and the foundation was in contact with other monasteries.
The Schuttern Gospels were written in around 820 and are thought to be the oldest surviving book produced by the local scriptorium.
Numbering four hundred parchment pages, with ornamental borders and elaborately illuminated capitals, the gospel book was commissioned by Abbot Beretrich. We know from an account by the abbot that the scribe was a deacon called Liutherius.
The magnificent Gospels are one of the few Schuttern manuscripts to have survived. They were apparently stolen by French soldiers in 1702 and sold to Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester, who owned an extensive private library. In 1952, the Gospels were acquired by the British Library, and they remain in its care today. The University of Heidelberg has digitized the volume and made it available for download free of charge.
To enjoy a glimpse of the Schuttern Gospels in all their glory, simply tap on the link on your screen now.
The names of the scribe Liutherius, and of Abbot Beretrich, are also recorded in the Reichenau Fraternity Book, which was written a few years after the Gospels and lists members of the communities at monasteries allied with Reichenau.
The local monks had names like Reginhardus, Altmannus, Gundoltus and Sigismundus. In all, the fraternity book lists 70 names of Schuttern brothers – a significant number!
Which explains why Schuttern appeared in a capitulary, or ecclesiastical ordinance, of Louis the Pious in 817. It’s listed as one of 16 monasteries assigned to a “first category”, which carried an obligation to provide military aid and gifts to the Frankish Empire.