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Christianity Altar Gospels, Gilt Binding from the Reign of Catherine the Great

Evangelie naprestol'noe [Altar or Elevation Gospels], in Church Slavic. Moscow, 1791. NYPL, Rare Book Division.

This sumptuous binding, the work of French-influenced Muscovite craftsmen in 1795, intentionally draws attention to the Word of God and signals the importance of the Gospels. Displayed prominently on the altar during the Divine Liturgy, it would have been raised and held aloft just prior to that day's Gospel reading, to be seen by the entire congregation; thus, its alternate name of Elevation Gospels.

The binding is of heavily gilded silver, with five enameled miniatures in surrounds of green semiprecious stones. The central medallion of Christ in Majesty depicts him in the vestments of a Russian bishop. The four corner medallions depict the four Evangelists, with their symbols or attributes, and the clasps represent Saints Peter and Paul.