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les Enluminures

Breviary (Use of Rome)

In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment
Northern Italy (Verona?), dated 1456

TM 517


ii (parchment) + 450 + ii (parchment) folios on parchment, protective tissue interleaved before illuminated leaves, early foliation in Arabic numerals in ink, top outer corner recto, some trimmed, supplemented by modern foliation in pencil, complete (collation, i6 ii-xl10 xli8 xlii-xliii10 xliv12 [-8, following f. 437, cancelled with no loss of text] xlv10 [-10, cancelled, with no loss of text]), horizontal catchwords, middle lower margin, no signatures, ruled lightly in brown ink with the top horizontal rule full across and with full-length single vertical bounding lines, (justification, 86-83 x 65-64 mm.), written below the top line in small, rounded Italian gothic bookhands probably by two scribes in two columns of thirty lines, guide letters within the initials, majuscules in text touched with pale yellow, red rubrics, one- to two-line alternately red and blue initials, four- to three-line alternately red and blue initials with contrasting pen decoration in purple and red, THREE ILLUMINATED initials, with decorative borders in the outer margins, ff. 7, 7v and 411, and TWO HISTORIATED INITIALS WITH FULL BORDERS, ff. 93 and 283 (described in detail below), in very good condition, although the ink on a number folios is faded and has partially powdered away as is not uncommon in Italian manuscripts (occasionally rewritten in darker ink), f. 1, darkened, text smudged and partially rewritten and repaired in the inner margin, f. 93v, slight damage to border, lower margin, f. 417v, lower half darkened, f. 413, small stain, trimmed, with slight loss of decoration in the upper margins on a few folios, although generous margins remain. Bound in Italy in modern polished pink leather, binder’s stamp, inside front cover, “R. Gozzi. Modena,” front cover, coat of arms in gilt (azure, three bends or, in chief, gules three towers or, with a crown above), spine with five raised bands, bordered by gilt rules, elaborate embossed silver clasps, with both clasps, front and back covers, depicting the sacrifice of Isaac (?), and the connecting fastener depicting Moses holding the tablets (possibly from an earlier Italian binding, or in an earlier style; compare the eighteenth-century Italian embossed silver binding, New York Grolier Club, MS 11, which includes a similar depiction of Moses), silk doublure and facing flyleaves, gilt edges, in excellent condition, slight wear at front hinge, in slipcase. Dimensions 137 x 101 mm.

This Breviary follows the liturgy of the Papal Curia, which was first adopted by the Franciscans in the thirteenth century. It is a luxurious volume, carefully written, with attractive penwork initials and five illuminated pages, including two full borders. It includes very few signs of daily use, and was certainly made for a person of wealth, perhaps the patron of a Franciscan monastery. Dated, this Breviary can be localized to Northeastern Italy, probably Verona. It includes an unidentified coat-of-arms, which when identified should help complete the story of its origin.


1. The Breviary was copied on July 17, 1456 (dated on f. 93, see below). The rubrics identify it as Use of Rome, that is the liturgy of the Papal Curia, adopted by the Franciscans in the thirteenth century and popularized by them. A comparison of the text with the Franciscan Ordinals supports this; the Sanctorale, for example is very close to that printed in Van Dijk, 1963, pp. 121-173, and the litany, ff. 269v-272, includes Francis, Anthony, Bernardinus (canonized 1450), Leonard, Dominic, Elizabeth, Clare and Ursula.

The calendar as well includes a number of Franciscan saints, such as Clare, 12 August, in red; Louis of Toulouse, 19 August, in red (the scribe incorrectly identified him as Louis, King of France; King Louis, on 25 August, is in black, and labeled as Louis the Confessor); and Elizabeth of Hungary, 19 November, in red. It is, however, odd that the translation of Francis, 25 June, is lacking. Francis himself, 4 October, is in black rather than red, and Anthony of Padua (here 12 July, rather than 13), is an addition. The calendar lacks Bernardinus of Siena, 20 May, canonized in 1450, who is however included in the litany.

Although it may not be warranted to read too much into these small oddities, the calendar, together with the generally pristine condition of this luxurious volume, suggest that it was not a Breviary intended for everyday use by a Friar, but rather one made for a wealthy patron, and either kept for him, or presented to a Franciscan House.

The unidentified coat-of-arms in the lower margin on f. 7, presumably of the original wealthy owner or patron of this manuscript, combines the arms of the French royal family (gold fleur-de-lis on blue), with the Dukes of Austria (silver stripe in the middle of a red ground) and a variant of the Medici arms (five small red balls, topped with a blue ball on a gold ground): azure fleur de lis or party per pale quarterly gules a fess argent and or five torteaux and one hurt.

2. The manuscript apparently remained in Italy until modern times, when it was bound in its current rather lavish binding, complete with silver clasps, in Modena (described above).


ff. 1-6v, Calendar in red and black (not graded; later hand added “duplex” to a few feasts), including John the Almsgiver (3 February), Fusca (13 February), Herculanus II, bishop of Perugia (1 March, added), Albinus, bishop (2 March, added), Thomas Aquinas (7 or 9 March, added), Longinus (15 March, added), Joseph (19 March, added), Zenonis, bishop of Verona, in red (12 April), Peter martyr (29 April), Mercurialis, bishop of Forli (here on 30 April, often 23 May), Anthony of Padua (here 12 June, usually 13, added), nativity of John the Baptist, in red (24 June, later hand added “duplex”), Apparition of St. Mark, duplex (25 June, added), Marcelianus (1 July, added), Anne (26 July, added), Clare, in red (12 August), Louis “king of France” (sic), in red (19 August, the feast of Louis of Toulouse), Louis, confessor (25 August, feast of Louis, King of France), Francis (4 October), Gallus (16 October), Ursula, in red (21 October), Elizabeth, in red (19 November), and Conception of Mary and Zeno, both in red (8 December);

ff. 7-92v, Incipit psalterium feriale cum ymnis et antiphonis de feria per totum annum secundum ritum romane ecclesie …; ferial psalter with versicles, responses, hymns and prayers; Psalms arranged according to the order of the Office; initials with pen decoration at ff. 19v, 31, 39, 46, 52v, 62, and 80, Psalms 21 (prime), 26, 38, 52, 68, 80 (matins, feria ii-vi), and 109 (vespers); ff. 77v-79, Hymn for Saturday at lauds, “Aurora iam spargit” [ends f. 79v, near bottom column a; remainder blank]; f. 91rv, New Testament canticles, “Magnficat,” and “Te deum,” followed on ff. 91v-92, by the seasonal antiphons in honor of the Virgin Mary, “Alme redemptoris,” “Salve regina,” Regina celi,” and “Ave regina”; [Ends top col. a, f. 92; remainder and f. 92v, blank];

ff, 93-269v, M cccc l vi adi [sic] xviii Iulii [1456, 17 July]. In nomine domini nostri yhesu christi. Incipit odo breuiarii secundum consuetudinem romane curie, …; temporale from the first Saturday in Advent until the twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost, followed by the readings for August through November; penwork initials on f. 136v (Vigil of Epiphany), f. 224 (Vigil of Ascension), f. 229 (Vigil of Pentecost), f. 234 (Vigil of Trinity Sunday), and f. 253v (Sundays in the August);

ff. 269v-271v, Litany, including Francis, Anthony, Bernardinus, Leonard, Dominic, Elizabeth, Clare and Ursula;

ff. 271v- 272v, Blessings for Salt and Water [ends bottom column a, f. 272v, remainder blank];

ff. 273-275, incipit [in red], “Adventus domini celebratur ubicumque dominicus dies ….”;

Rubrice generales (General Rubrics); Van Dijk, 1963, 2:114-21;

f. 275rv, Rubrica qualiter ystorie ponuntur in mense septembris …, incipit [in red], “Si kalende dicti mensis fuerint …”;

Parisian table of Scriptural Readings for September; cf. Van Dijk, 1963, 1:168.

ff. 275v-278, De specialibus antiphonis … Prima tabula, incipit, [in red] “In illo anno in quo natiuitatis domini …”;

Parisian table of Antiphons; Van Dijk, 1963, 2:401-408.

ff. 278-281v, Incipiunt rubricae nove et earum declarationes que defectuose in breuiariis reperiunt. Et primo de mense decembris, incipit [in red], “In primis sciendum est quod nulla ystoria ….” [Ends top col. b, f. 281v; remainder and f. 282rv, blank];

Rubricae novae; see Mercati, 1903, Batiffol, pp. 172-173; another version described in Van Dijk, 1963, 1:166-167.

ff. 283-410v, Sanctorale from Saturninus (29 November) to Katherine (25 November), as in Van Dijk, 1963, 2:121-73, with the following additional feasts: the Conception of Mary, Anthony of Padua (included in Van Dijk, 2:142-3, from manuscripts A and G), Vistitation, Christopher, Festum nivis, and Clare of Assisi [end top column a, f. 410; remainder and f. 410v, blank];

ff. 411-432v, Common Saints;

ff. 432v-438, Incipit officii ordo beate marie …; Office of the Virgin Mary (Van Dijk, 1963, 2:185-91,

ff. 438-442, Incipit officium in agenda mortuorum …; Office of the Dead, use of Rome (Ottosen, pp. 137-140, and 269-273; Van Dijk, 1963, 2:191-195);

f. 442rv, Incipit officium passionis domini nostri ihesu christi editum a domino pape iohanne duodecimo et concessit omnibus dicentibus semel in die unum annum indulgentie ….;

ff. 442v-444v, Incipit ordo ad benidicendum mensam per totam annum…; f. 444, Benedictio panis, incipit, “Benedic domine hanc creaturam panem …,” Benedictio ovorum, incipit, “Subuenitur quis de benedictionis gratia haec ouuorum …”; Benedictio agni, incipit, “Deus qui uniuerse carnis …”; Benedictio ad omnia que uolueris, incipit, “Bendic domine creaturam N. …”; Bendictio Vue, incipit, “Benedic domine hos fructose nouos vue ..”;

The Order of Grace (blessing for meals); Van Dijk, 1963, 2:199-203, followed by additional blessings of bread, eggs, lamb, for various occasions and grapes.

ff. 444v-445v, Missa in honore uirginis marie. In festo uisitationis gloriossisime uirginis marie …; [Ends top col. a, f. 445v; remainder and ff. 446-450v, blank].

The origins of the Franciscan Order can be traced back to its charismatic founder, St. Francis of Assisi, who presented himself and his small group of followers to Pope Innocent III in 1210, and were granted permission to live Francis’ radical vision of a life of complete apostolic poverty. From these humble beginnings, the Franciscan Order grew rapidly, attracting members across Europe. Since they were an international order, the need for some uniform liturgy was felt from an early point in their history, and the Rule of 1223 specified that the Friars were to follow the Office “according to the order of the Roman Church.” This “order of the Roman Church” -- actually the liturgy used at the Papal Court -- became the basis for the Franciscan liturgy. Haymo of Faversham (d. 1244), who was born in England, and served as the fourth minister general of the Franciscan Order from 1240-1244 was responsible for a new Ordinal for the Breviary in 1243-44. The Franciscan Use, or Use of Rome, was destined to have a great influence on the subsequent history of the Roman liturgy, since it was the basis for the liturgy mandated by the Council of Trent to be used throughout the Roman Catholic Church.

The Divine Office consists of prayers said throughout the day and night by members of religious orders at the offices of Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. A Breviary is the liturgical manuscript that contains all the texts required for the celebration of the Office -- prayers, hymns, antiphons, readings (many, but not all of which are from the Bible), responsories, versicles, and the Psalms. This is a secular Breviary, which includes nine lessons at Matins for major feasts, following the use of the Roman curia, adopted by the Franciscans in the thirteenth century, and popularized by them.


The style of illumination, in particular the large golden balls, usually decorated with protruding black spikes, the initials ending with curling, lush acanthus, and the people depicted half-length against deep blue grounds, is in keeping with the style generally popular in Northeastern Italy, including Verona, Venice and Padua in the middle to the third quarter of the fifteenth century. Some of the decoration appears to have executed in in two stages -- or possibly by two artists, with one artist painting the initials, which are infilled and terminate in lush acanthus leaves, and the other artist adding the borders, which include flowers and other decorative motifs set within a curling black ink vines, with gold balls, all copiously decorated with short rays of black ink (for example, see ff. 7, 7v and 411); the decoration on f. 283 all appears to be executed by the second hand; the border on f. 93 is done in a different style, with motifs not found elsewhere, including grapes and purple fleur-de-lis, all on a gold ground. The illumination is distinguished by a vibrant and attractive color palette featuring deep red, vivid green, and purple.

The illumination in this manuscript has not been attributed to a particular artist; nonetheless, manuscripts attributed to Antonio de Stefano in Verona use similar decorative motifs, including the combination of lush acanthus and copious use of black-ink lines on the edges of flowers and other decoration (for example Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Canon liturg. 384, Castiglioni and Marinelli, 1986, p. 52, III.7, and Vienna, Nationalbibliothek, Cod. s.n. 3783, p. 54, III.8); see also, Pächt and Alexander, 1970, no 888, Canon. Liturg. MS 170, Franciscan Breviary, 1476-81, Cremona (?), and plate LXXVIII.

Two historiated initials with full borders:

f. 93, 11-line purple initial with an extension of 11-lines, depicting a bearded saint, ½-length, holding a sword, set within green foliage and against a deep blue ground, initial ends with curling red and green acanthus on a gold ground, with a full brushed gold border, including in the bottom margin a small figure of a saint, half-length, and a horse, seen from behind (slightly damaged) and lush blue, red and purple acanthus and other foliage including clusters of purple grapes, a purple fleur-de-lis and black ink sprays;

f. 283, six-line red initial depicting a bearded saint, shown half-length, holding a book on a gold ground, extending into a full border of a narrow gold bars, intertwined red, blue, green and purple flowers, set in black ink sprays, with small gold balls.

Three ten- (with extension of six-lines) to five line red, or red and purple initials, ff. 7, 7v, and f. 411, infilled with green foliage or red and green acanthus on deep blue grounds, with curling red and green acanthus extending from the initials on polished gold grounds, heavily edged in black, extending into borders in the inner margins of blue, red, purple and green flowers, set in black ink sprays, with large gold balls with decorative spikes. Bottom margin, f. 7, coat of arms, surrounded by a laurel wreath (described above, provenance).


Battifol, P. History of the Roman Breviary, tr. A. Baylay, London and New York, Longman, Greens, 1912.

Castiglioni, Gino and Sergio Marinelli. Miniatura veronese del Rinascimento, Verona, Museo di Castelvecchio, 1986.

Harper, John. The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy from the Tenth to the Eighteenth Century, Oxford, 1991.

Hughes, Andrew. Late Medieval Liturgical Offices: Resources for Electronic Research; Sources and Chants, Subsidia Medievali 24, Toronto, Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies, 1996.

Mercati, G. “Appunti per la storia del Breviario Romano nei sec. XIV-XV tratti della ‘Rubricae Novae’,” Rasegna Gregoriana 2 (1903), pp. 397 ff.

Ottosen, Knud. The Responsories and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead, Aarhus, 1993.

Pächt, Otto and J.J.G. Alexander, Illuminated manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1966-1973.

Plummer, John. Liturgical Manuscripts for the Mass and Divine Office, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 1964.

Salmon, Pierre. The Breviary through the Centuries, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1962.

van Dijk, S.J.P., ed. Sources of the Modern Roman Liturgy: The Ordinals of Haymo of Faversham and Related Documents, 1243-1307, 2 vols. Leiden, 1963.

Online resources

Introduction to liturgical manuscripts
“Celebrating the Liturgy’s Books”

Jean-Baptiste Lebigue, « Livres de l’office. L’office des heures », dans Initiation aux manuscrits liturgiques, Paris-Orléans, IRHT, 2007 (Ædilis, Publications pédagogiques, 6)

The History of the Breviary
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02768b.htm (Catholic Encyclopedia, “Breviary”)

“The Roman Breviary” (text of modern Roman Breviary in Latin and English, with historical introduction):

Robinson, P. “Franciscan Order,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York, Robert Appleton Company, 1909

The Franciscan Archive; Sources for Franciscan History