The codex comprises passages from the four Gospels in the order they are read in church services. Its folios are made of parchment (specially treated animal skin). The beginning of each Gospel is decorated with an elaborate and polychrome headpiece as well as the representation of the respective Evangelist. The text is arranged in two columns, written in brown but also red ink, and bristles with historiated initials and frontispieces in gold, red, light blue and green colour. The leather binding features impressed ornaments and twisted metal fittings (namely clasps).
The largest part of the codex dates back to the 11th century. It seems, however, that the manuscript remained in continuous use for many centuries, as indicated by a memoir written in 1500 as well as a signature of 1899, but mainly because many new folios were added in different time periods. For instance, the portrait of the Evangelist Mark (f. 203) comes from a smaller Gospel book of the 11th–12th century that apparently was added in the 18th century to replace a missing folio. Correspondingly, the portraits of the Evangelists John, Matthew and Luke possibly belong to the late 12th or the early 13th century. As they have been rendered in different colours and style from the rest of the manuscript’s portraits, it can be deduced either that they formed part of a different codex or that they were specifically created to be incorporated into this Gospel book that originally lacked miniature illuminations.
The codex was documented in the BCM Refugee Heirlooms inventory around 1940; however, it may have entered the Museum up to ten years earlier. It originates in Saint Gregory of Nyssa church in Trebizond, the capital of Pontus on the Black Sea coast. Before 1922, in Trebizond lived a particularly prosperous Greek Orthodox community. Its members occupied themselves with trade mainly and placed great emphasis on the role of education. Organized education in the wider region of Pontus emerged since 1682, when the famous Phrontisterion (Greek High School) of Trebizond was established. From that time onwards, educational institutes, such as the School of Greek Letters, the Music School, the Girls’ School and the Ecclesiastical School, operated uninterruptedly. The Treaty of Lausanne (1923) put an end to any kind of Greek activity in Asia Minor and Pontus.