St. Nicholas Saga
Helgastaðabók: Nikulás Saga

One of the greatest treasures among Icelandic Medieval manuscripts is the Helgastaðabók: Nikulás Saga (Book of Helgastadir) by medieval hagiographer Bergr Sokkason, containing the Life of St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra, with three full-page pictures of St. Nicholas and fifteen figured initials. It was most unusual to have more than one full-page illumination for such a book and no other Icelandic manuscripts equal the quality of these illuminations. It was reprinted in a special edition in 1982 by the Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi and Lögberg Publishers. The volume was likely in private hands, no longer at the Church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Saint Nicholas in Helgastadir, before 1659. It was acquired in 1683 for the Swedish College of Antiquities and the original manuscript is now in Royal Library in Stockholm.

[The book] is a veritable treasure, and no pains or expense have been spared in making the illuminations as magnificent as possible.  .  .  .The book must have gleamed with gold, especially in the background to the miniatures, but also in the people’s clothing, even in their hair. Most of the gold has now disappeared, leaving only the occasional gleam to be seen, but under the gold there was every colour from pale yellow to brown.*
Illumination
First full-page illumination of Saint Nicholas
Illumination
Consecration of Nicholas as Bishop of Myra
Illumination
A variation on the familiar St. Nicholas story with the tub: here he is by a waterfall with the rich couple who killed three merchants and threw them into the waterfall. Below, St. Nicholas brings them back to life.
Illumination
St. Nicholas
Illumination
Nicholas, the schoolboy, reading, with schoolmaster behind
Illumination
Nicholas lowering dowry money to save the three girls
Illumination
Suffragen bishop receiving vision showing who is to be the new Bishop of Myra
Illumination
Miracle of the baby left unharmed over the fire
Illumination
Nicholas appears in a dream to Constantine, telling him to free the three generals
Illumination
The generals being released
Illumination
Bishop Nicholas, sick in bed, heals a woman brought to him of her malady
Illumination
The death of Nicholas; a bishop giving a blessing as Nicholas’ soul ascends to heaven
Illumination
Goldsmith giving precious chalice to the man who had vowed to give it to God and St Nicholas
Illumination
The son falls into the water with the golden cup
Illumination
The son appears, having been saved by St Nicholas, to place the precious cup on the altar
Illumination
The deceitful borrower cheating his lender
Illumination
Cedron (Basilios) returned, still bearing the emir’s golden cup
Illumination
Variation of the patriarch who rejected Nicholas icon; here a prior who outlawed the singing of the newly composed Office of St Nicholas

* “The Illuminations in Helgastaðabók” by Selma Jónsdóttir, Helgastaðabók: Nikulás Saga: perg. 4to nr. 16 (Book of Helgastadir), by Selma Jónsdóttir, Stefán Karlsson, Sverrir Tómasson; Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi and Lögberg, 1982, page 202-203.

SOURCE
Helgastaðabók: Nikulás Saga: perg. 4to nr. 16 (Book of Helgastadir), by Selma Jónsdóttir, Stefán Karlsson, Sverrir Tómasson; Stofnun Árna Magnússonar á Íslandi and Lögberg, 1982. Permission pending.

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