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les Enluminures

Breviary (Sanctorale and Common of Saints), Cistercian Use

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
Southern France, c. 1185-1191, with additions, c. 1240-1250, and c. 1255

TM 749


i (parchment) + 220 + i (parchment) folios on parchment, missing a leaf following f. 95, and with gap in the text following f.77v (collation i1 [only one leaf remains, probably originally of 8] ii-ix8 [through f. 65v] x8 xi2 xii2 [beginning f. 76] xiii12 xiv12 [-7, following f. 95, with loss of text] xv-xx12 xxi-xxiv12 [last four quires all with 6 and 7 single]), no catchwords, no leaf or quire signatures, composed of four sections of different origins:  I, copied by two scribes with varying formats, scribe one, ff. 1-17v, 42-65v, 76-77v, (quires 1-3, 7-9, 12) ruled in lead with the top three and bottom two horizontal rules usually full across, single full-length vertical bounding lines (justification 119-117 x 70 mm.), written on the top line in an upright twelfth-century minuscule script in twenty long lines, red rubrics, two- to one-line red initials, some with simple pen decoration in the other color, 2-line alternately red and blue initials (with ‘I’ up to 4-line), with pen decoration in the other color; ff. 18-41v (quires 4-6), (justification 124 x 75 mm), written on the top line in twenty-one long lines, one- to two-line red initials with an occasional blue or brown initial; II. ff. 66-75v, quires 10-11, ruled in brown crayon with single vertical bounding lines (118-103 x 70-65 mm.), written above the top line in a gothic bookhand, using punctus circumflexus, red rubrics, blanks for 4- to 2-line red initials; III. ff. 78-100v, quires 13-14, ruled very lightly in lead, single vertical bounding lines (justification 115 x 75-60 mm.), copied on the top line in a rounded upright southern gothic bookhand (abbreviating “qui” in the northern fashion, and without letter unions, using punctus circumflexus) in seventeen long lines, red rubrics, two- to three-line alternately red or blue initials with violet or red pen decoration respectively, harping; IV. ff. 101-220v, quires 15-24, ruled very lightly in lead (often indiscernible) (justification 103-101 x 70-73 mm.), copied above the top line in a rounded southern gothic bookhand (abbreviating “qui” in the northern fashion, with letter unions, using punctus circumflexus) in twenty long lines, red rubrics, four- to two-line alternately red or blue initials with violet or red pen decoration respectively, three- to four-line red and blue parted initials with violet and red pen decoration, some original holes in parchment (e.g. ff. 37, 39, 49, formerly sewn, and 51), trimmed, marginal notes on ff. 17 and 35v, partially cut away, light staining, ff. 48-49v, and ff. 119v-120, darkened lower outer corners from use, a few folios with script faded (e.g. f. 98v, 99m 160v-161), f. 164, slit in lower edge, final leaf, f. 220, darkened, with most of the script damaged on the recto, and all of it damaged on the verso, which is now illegible.  Bound in France or Italy in fifteenth- or sixteenth-century blind-stamped brown leather over wooden boards extending beyond the bookblock, tooled with three sets of three, four, and four fillets, forming two narrow outer frames around a narrow rectangular center panel, all filled with three different small interlace stamps, the stamps in the central panel alternating with small blank rectangles, rounded spine with three raised bands, fastened front to back, now with two brass catches lower board, and two straps and clasps, upper board (only the top strap remains, a replacement?, since it is too short to be functional), with catches lower board (one damaged), pastedowns and flyleaves wormed, in good condition, minor wear to joints.  Dimensions 140 x 100 mm.

The earliest known Breviaries date from the eleventh century; twelfth-century Breviaries are comparatively rare (and all are of interest).  Here we have a Cistercian Breviary that combines sections copied in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.  The Cistercians were called to preach against the Cathar heretics in Southern France in the twelfth century.  Given its date and origin, it is possible that this small Breviary was copied for one of these travelling preachers.


1. Reconstructing the origin of this volume is complex, since it is now composed of four different sections, ranging in date from the end of the twelfth through the middle of the thirteenth century.  The opening section (roughly one third of the volume) is from a twelfth-century Breviary and includes part of the Sanctorale.  This twelfth-century volume was completed, or more likely, restored, in the thirteenth century by three scribes, writing at two or possibly three different times. There is a single twelfth-century leaf from the Temporale bound at the beginning with the same format and script as the remaining twelfth-century leaves, lending support to the theory that the original twelfth-century Breviary was damaged, and then restored in the thirteenth century.  The volume was rebound in the fifteenth or sixteenth century (probably in France, but possibly in Italy).

The Cistercian origin for this Breviary is quite certain; major feasts are observed with twelve lessons at Matins, a characteristic of monastic Breviaries.  It includes the Office of St. Bernard, observed by the Cistercians from 1175, and the first lesson on f. 102 begins “Ad sanctissimi ac beatissimi patris nostri …” (our most holy and blessed father).  The three later scribes all follow Cistercian customs of using the special punctuation mark known as the punctus circumflexus.  The text suggests it was copied for Cistercian monks rather than nuns (prayers mention the brothers, “fratres”).

One of the characteristics of the Cistercian Order was their concern with establishing uniform customs and liturgical practices throughout the Order, and establishing a regular system to ensure this (annual general councils and visitations).  The saints included here are the standard ones for Cistercian books of this date; the only feast not mandated by Cistercian legislation is that of Justus and Pastor (August 6), two early martyrs venerated in Catalonia (Barcelona), and Narbonne.  This feast is also found in a twelfth-century Cistercian Sacramentary, Paris, BnF, MS lat 2300, probably  from the diocese of Langres, and in a printed Cistercian Breviary of 1487 (Backaert, 1950-1951, p. 312, note 156), and it would be unwarranted to localize this manuscript just on this basis.  However, the parchment, rather rounded script, use of violet for the pen initials, the abbreviations and the way the scribes write ‘z’, all make an origin in Southern France seem very likely.

2. The carefully regulated liturgy also helps dating the various sections within this volume.  The first section, ff. 2-65v, and 76-77v, was copied by two scribes (f. 1 is the related leaf from the Temporale).  The script exhibits a number of features allowing us to date it to the second half of the twelfth century (use of both the ampersand and tironian ‘7’ to abbreviate “et” (and), lack of letter unions, some use of e-cedilla, ruling in lead); liturgical evidence suggests this section was copied after 1185, since it includes Vincent (22 January), observed with twelve lessons from 1185, but before 1191, based on the saints that are not included.  The feast of Thomas of Canterbury (29 December) was omitted (a note was added in the margin of f. 17 about his feast).  Thomas, canonized in 1173, was observed with one Mass by the Cistercians in 1185, and with twelve lessons in 1191.  Also lacking are William, 10 January, observed from 1218, Anthony, 17 January, observed from 1198, Julian, 29 January, observed from 1193, and Peter of Tarentaise (8 May), observed by the Cistercians from 1196. 

3. Ten leaves were added in the thirteenth century, ff. 66-75v, in a gothic bookhand; the text begins with Mark, and duplicates text found in the previous section, but with new (updated?) lessons; after this section, there are two leaves from the twelfth century section, and the text flows perfectly from one to the other.  This section dates after 1255, since it includes the offices of Robert (29 April from 1224) and Peter Martyr (30 April), observed by the Cistercians from 1255.  Based on the script a date around the middle of the thirteenth century is likely.

4. The remainder of the manuscript dates from the thirteenth century, and was copied by two scribes.  The first scribe copied ff. 78-100v, perhaps before 1255, since it lacks Dominic.  Features of this script would support a date for this section as early as c. 1220-40, but it is equally possible (and less complex) to assume that this section was copied at the same time the final section, perhaps by an older scribe.  The final section is copied in a more mature gothic bookhand; based on the script, style of decoration, and the liturgical evidence, we suggest it was copied c. 1240-50.  It does lacks many of the saints added to the Cistercian liturgy in the thirteenth century, including Francis (4 October), observed from 1229 with a commemoration, and from 1259 with twelve lessons, Malachi  (5 November), 1191, Edmund (6 November), 1247, Elizabeth (19 November), 1235, and Katherine (25 November), from 1207 with a commemoration, and from 1214, with twelve lessons.  It does include, however, Dionysius (9 October), observed with twelve lessons from 1239, the Octave of the Nativity of Mary (15 Sept), from 1245, and Lambert (17 August), observed from 1246 with twelve lessons.  The evidence is therefore not completely straightforward, but perhaps this section was copied from an older exemplar, slightly emended to reflect the current liturgy.

5. There is no evidence within the codex left by from modern owners, auction houses or book dealers (pastedowns and flyleaves are blank).

6. European Private Collection.


 f. 1 [single leaf] Office for the days following Pentecost; begins imperfectly with an antiphon for the second feria, incipit, “Spiritus[?] domini repleuit orbem terrarum …,” and concludes with the collect for the Saturday, incipit “Mentibus nostris quesumus domine spiritum sanctum benignus infunde … Per dominum in unitate eiusdem”;

Script and layout are identical with those used by the first scribe (beginning on f. 2), but this is the only leaf in the volume with text from the Temporale.  This may be the sole surviving leaf of the first half of the volume, or, if it was copied in two volumes, an isolated leaf from the first volume.

I. ff. 1-65v:  ff.  2-17v, Sanctorale, from Stephen (12 December) to Fabian and Sebastian (20 January), Thomas of Canterbury added in the margin on f. 17 (observed by the Cistercians with one Mass in 1185, and with twelve lessons from 1191).  Also lacks William (10 January) (12 lessons) 1218, and Anthony Abbot (17 January), observed with a commemoration in 1198;

ff. 18-41v, Contemporary, or slightly later, but different scribe (slightly different layout and initials), from Agnes (21 January) through the Purification (2 February), includes Vincent (22 January), observed with twelve lessons from 1185, lacks Julianus (29 January), observed with a commemoration from 1193;

ff. 42-65v, Completes the Purification (2 February) through the sixth lesson for Mark (25 April), lacks Cuthbert (20 March), observed with a commemoration from 1226, lacks Robert (17 April; 1222, in 1224 transferred to 29 April – see below) [copied by the first scribe].

Sanctorale from Stephen (26 December) to Mark (25 April), ending imperfectly at the sixth lesson.  Matins for solemn feasts observed with twelve readings (three nocturns of four readings), here given in full.

II. ff. 66-75v, [ten leaves, a quire of eight and two added leaves, added in the thirteenth century], Sanctorale, beginning in the first lesson for Mark (25 April) (with a different text than the previous section), and continuing through the Invention of the Holy Cross (3 May), ending in the Gospel reading at John 3:11, incipit, “… hec ignoras.  Amen amen dico tibi”//”;

Includes the offices of Robert (29 April), from 1224) and Peter Martyr (30 April), from 1255 (see the rubric on f. 68v);

I. ff. 76-77v, [two leaves copied by the first scribe], Sanctorale, beginning in the Gospel readings from the Invention of the Cross (3 May), continuous with the previous folio (“// quia quod scimus loquamur …”) through Primus and Felicianus (9 June), lacking Peter of Tarentaise (8 May), observed by the Cistercians from 1196, and Edmund (8 June), observed from 1247; also lacks Servatius, 13 May, observed with a commemoration from 1232;

III. ff. 78-100v, [new hand and decoration], Sanctorale from Mary Magdalene (observed from 1175, 21 or 22 July) begins imperfectly, incipit, “//deprecata sum …” (21 or 22 July, observed from 1175) through the Assumption (15 August).

There is a gap in the text between the end of the last section and the beginning of this section, with the Offices for the saints from Primus and Felicianus on 9 June to Mary Magdalene on 21 or 22 July; one leaf missing following f. 95 with lessons 6-9 for the Assumption, lacks Dominic (5 August), 1255, and lacks the Crown of Thorns (11 August), observed from 1241 in France.  Includes Justus and Pastor (August 6) (see Provenance above).

IV. ff. 101-162v, Sanctorale from the Assumption (15 August) through Thomas apostle (21 December), includes Bernard (August 20), observed from 1175; lacks Francis (4 October), lacks Malachi (5 November),  lacks Edmund (6 November), lacks Elizabeth (19 November), lacks Katherine (25 November), lacks Barbara, 16 December (commemoration, 1227), but includes NicHolas (6 December) celebrated with 12 lessons and two masses in 1199, Dionysius (9 October), 1239, Octave of the Nativity of Mary (15 Sept), 1245, and Lambert (17 August), 1246;

IV. ff. 162v-220v, Common of saints from apostles, martyrs, (note collects on f. 180v for Vincent and Lawrence), many martyrs (collect on f. 186 for Fabian and Sebastian, on f. 192v, Maurice and companions), confessor (f. 197, collect mentioning Nicholas), confessor (collect, f. 203, mentioning Silvester); f. 205, collects, for Benedict, In commemoratione ac conuersione sancti Pauli, Beati Iheronimi presbiter, many confessors, virgins, and concluding with the dedication of a church; the text on f. 220rv, is almost totally obliterated from damage, but appears to be the conclusion of the dedication.

The Divine Office (today known as the Liturgy of the Hours) was the daily prayer of the Church, recited (or chanted) by priests, and other religious, including monks and nuns, beginning with Matins, said during the night, and continuing through the day, with Lauds at dawn, followed by Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and concluding with Compline.  These are the prayers modeled on the scriptural teaching to pray without ceasing (for example, I Thessalonians 5:17-18 “Pray without ceasing.  In all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you,” and many other passages).  The regular observance of the Office was particularly important to monastic life.  This is a monastic Breviary, which includes twelve lessons at Matins for major feasts. 

The prayers and readings for the Office are included in a Breviary.  Early in the Middle Ages, the Divine Office was chanted in choir from a variety of different books (the biblical readings from different books of the Bible, the psalms in the Psalter, the antiphons and chanted responses in Antiphonals, hymns in the Hymnary, collections of prayers, in the Collectar, and other readings in hagiographic and Patristic Lectionaries).  Beginning in the eleventh century one begins to see efforts to collect all these texts into one book, known as the Breviary – suitable for occasions when the Office was said privately, instead of collectively in the choir (for example, when a monk was travelling). The Breviary was only established as the primary book for saying the Office in the thirteenth century, when it was adopted by the Franciscans and Dominicans, whose religious life was itinerant by definition.  In the twelfth century when the Breviary described here was copied, however, Breviaries are still relatively uncommon (Huglo, Online resources), mentions twelve eleventh-century Breviaries, and thirty-nine twelfth-century Breviaries in French collections today).

Twelfth-century Breviaries are therefore all of interest.   This is quite a small volume in its overall dimensions.  Given its date (even if part of it was copied in the thirteenth century), its size, and its likely origin in Southern France, the fact that it is Cistercian is quite intriguing.  Monks following the Rule of St. Benedict, including the Cistercians, took vows of stability.  They were supposed to live out their life in their monastery, and were not, ordinarily, to leave.  The growth of heresy in the twelfth century was a formidable challenge to the Church, and the Church responded to this challenge by a new and vigorous return to preaching, which included sending preaching missions to Southern France led by Cistercian monks (Kienzle, 2001).  We cannot, of course, know for certain that this early portable Breviary was used by a Cistercian monk called to preach against the Cathar heretics, but it is possible.  Postulating such an origin would even explain the composite nature of this Breviary; was it damaged while it was carried about, and then left at a Cistercian house in Southern France, where it was subsequently restored in the thirteenth century?  Comparing this volume with the full corpus of extant Cistercian Breviaries from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries might provide evidence to make this more than a hypothesis.


Backaert, Bernard. “L’évolution du Calendrier cistercien,” Collectanea Ordinis Cisterciensium Reformatorum 12 (1950), pp. 81-94, 307-316; 13 (1951) pp. 108-127.

Battifol, P. History of the Roman Breviary, London and New York, 1898.

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

Hughes, Andrew. Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office: A Guide to Their Organization and Terminology, Toronto, 1982.

Kienzle, Beverly Mayne.  Cistercians, Heresy, and Crusade in Occitania, 1145-1229:  Preaching in the Lord's Vineyard, Rochester, New York, 2001.

King, Archdale.  Liturgies of the Religious Orders, Milwaukee, 1955.

Lekai, Louis J.  The Cistercians:  Ideals and Reality, Kent, Ohio, 1977.

Palazzo, Eric. A History of Liturgical Books from the Beginning to the Thirteenth Century, trans. Madeleine Beaumont, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1998.

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

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

Online Resources

Schneider, Ambrosius, ed.  Die Cistercienser:  Geschichte, Geist, Kunst, Cologne, 1986.

Huglo, Michel. “Breviary.” Grove Music OnlineOxford Music Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 6 September 2015. http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com.turing.library.northwestern.edu/subscriber/article/grove/music/03961

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

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

Gildas, M. (1908), “Cistercians,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York, Robert Appleton Company.

“Order of St. Benedict:  The Cistercians” (links to short history and other resources)

Calendrier Cistercien

Gildas, M. “Cistercians,” in Catholic Encyclopedia, New York, 1908

Introduction to liturgical manuscripts:

“Celebrating the Liturgy’s Books”:

Jean-Baptiste Lebigue,  Initiation aux manuscrits liturgiques, Ædilis, Publications pédagogiques, 6, Paris-Orléans, IRHT, 2007

TM 749