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Encyclopedia > Theophilus Presbyter

Theophilus Presbyter (approx. 1070-1125) was a Benedictine monk and author of a Latin text containing detailed descriptions of various medieval applied arts. The collection of his writings is designated Schedula diversarum artium ("List of various arts") or De diversibus artibus ("On various arts") and was written between 1100 and 1120. The oldest handwritten copies of the work are found in Vienna (Austrian National Library, Codex 2527) and in Wolfenbüttel (Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Codex Guelf 69). Gotthold Ephraim Lessing rediscovered the document when he worked as librarian in Wolfenbüttel.

Theophilus' Schedula allows detailed insights into the techniques used in the applied arts in the high Middle Ages. The work is divided into three volumes. The first covers the production and use of painting and drawing materials (painting techniques, paints, and inks), especially for illumination of texts and painting of walls. The second deals with the production of stained glass and techniques of glass painting, while the last deals with various techniques of goldsmithing. It also includes an introduction into the building of organs. The work has been translated into English, French, Polish, Hungarian, and German, mostly in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Based on recent research (particulary by E. Freise), it seems likely that Theophilus is the same person as the artisan monk Roger of Helmarshausen. Roger appears to have come from the Stavelot cloister in the Meuse River region. He was active as an artist and author between 1100 and 1107 in St. Pantaleon church in Cologne, moving to the cloister in Helmarshausen in 1107. The identity of the two men has been argued among researchers for some time, and Freise's conclusions have not yet been accepted by all researchers.

Theophilus, as the author of a "handbook", could be described as the theorist, where Roger is a well-known practitioner of the arts. At least two portable altars were created by Rogerus, both kept in the cathedral treasury at Paderborn. Rogerus also founded a artisan's workshop in the cloister at Helmarshausen, which produced several important works of the Romanesque style in the 12th century, including various illuminated codices, including the Book of the Gospels of Henry of Leuven as well as many pieces of jewellery.


  • De diversis artibus or Schedula diversarum artium (3 volumes, approx. 1125)


Two editions of Theophilus's work in English:

  • Dodwell, C.R. The various arts. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.
  • Hendrie R. Of many arts. London, 1847, 1961

The following references are in German:

  • Brepohl, E. Theophilus Presbyter und das mittelalterliche Kunsthandwerk. Cologne, 1999. (2 volumes).
  • Freise, E. "Roger von Helmarshausen in seiner monastischen Umwelt". In Frühmittelalterliche Studien, 15, 1981.
  • Ilg, A. (Editor). "Theophilus Presbyter. Schedula diversarum artium". In Quellenschriften für Kunstgeschichte, volume 7. Vienna, 1874.
  • Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim. Vom Alter der Ölmalerey aus dem Theophilus Presbyter. Berlin, 1774.
  • Theobald, W. Technik des Kunsthandwerks im 10. Jh. Des T. Schedula Diversarum Artium, Berlin, 1933, 1953 and 1981. (Includes translations and explanations of sections of the work.)

External links

  • Latin text of De diversis artibus (http://www.fh-augsburg.de/~harsch/Chronologia/Lspost12/Theophilus/the_da00.html)

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Theophilus agreed to co-operate with him in the restoration of concord; and Acacius, bishop of Berea, and Isidore, whom Theophilus had proposed as a candidate for ordination instead of John, were sent on an embassy to Rome.
Theophilus readily promised to do as they requested; but as time passed away, and nothing more was effected for them, and it became evident that Theophilus was pretending, they again repaired to him, renewed their entreaties, and pressed him to be faithful to his engagement.
Theophilus, perceiving that there could be no l danger in following the example of Epiphanius, who was the object of popular praise, and who was admired for the virtue of his life, whatever his opinion might be, passed a vote similar to that of Epiphanius, with the concurrence of the bishops under his jurisdiction.
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