Previously unknown copy of the mystical series of prophecies, derived from the Leo Oracles, that commingle fantasy, the occult, and history in a chronology of the popes. Executed in Florence, during the exile there of the Roman Curia, our manuscript can be specifically connected to the stormy pontificate of Pope Eugene IV through unusual textual and pictorial elements. Only four copies of this rare work are in North American collections, and the last copy to appear at auction was in 1989.
Written c. 1440 in Tuscany, most likely Florence, based on the watermarks and on the opening poem, which is a treatment of eclipses of moon and sun for the years starting c. 1436 and ending 1440. Toward the end of the poem the text states "dato in Toscana." The stormy pontificate of Eugene IV (elected 1431, deposed 1439, reinstated 1440, died 1447) witnessed the production of a cluster of Vaticinia manuscripts, and the present manuscript's execution during his reign would seem to be confirmed not only by the watermarks and the opening text, but by certain peculiarities of the text and illustration, as noted below. In 1440, Eugene IV was in Florence, during the Council of Florence, and it is likely that the manuscript dates during, or just after, the council was in session. The last-named Pope, Paul II (reigned 1464-71), on f. 16v is clearly an addition by a later hand (a so-called "false friend" that Grundmann, 1929 already warned against in the dating of the manuscripts). Certain orthographic peculiarities (frequent use of "z" for "j") point to a Venetian scribe, which would not be surprising since Eugene IV himself was from Venice, and their would have been many Venetians present in the city during the council.
2. Private Collection.
f. 1, Resurrection and Last Judgment. Above, God appears in a roundel flanked by angels blowing trumpets. In the middleground, the resurrected climb out of their tombs. In the foreground, there are two crowds of clerics, both including popes; those on the left are led into paradise by a figure holding two keys, perhaps St. Peter; those on the right are consumed by the fires of hell. The two groups are separated by a tree.
f. 1v, Virgin and Child, the Virgin is being crowned by two angels, other angels play a lute, a harp, and tambourines. Gold stars decorated the blue ground.
f. 3v, Saint Peter enthroned, holding a book in his left hand and keys in his right hand, a standard with a red cross on a green ground by his side;
f. 4, Pope Nicolas III, seated with two small bears at his feat, to whom he is tossing round, yellow objects–coins or seeds–while in his left hand is perched a crow-type bird surrounded by eight stars;
f. 4v, Pope Martin IV standing in the countryside, holding a book in the left hand, and in his right he holds the handle of a processional cross, the other end of which is in the beak of a bird as if they are struggling over it;
f. 5, Pope Celestine V, standing in prayer before a tree, behind him a dog holding a banner with a red diagonal cross on a white ground appears to be leaping up to make the pope take it from him, but the pope is fixated on the tree, from which a hand appears;
f. 5v, Pope Boniface VII, standing holding the keys of Rome in his left hand, in his right a pike with which he is stabbing a dove on the ground, while a cock alights on the shaft, and behind him a monk sits holding a club, while a flying eagle hovers between them;
f. 6, Pope Benedict XI, standing pointing toward a bear that stands on a dragon clasping a tree, while behind is a large crow or raven;
f. 6v, Pope Clement V, riding out on horseback, hawking, while behind him a woman stands in a doorway in an attitude of prayer or concern;
f. 7, Pope John XXII, standing holding a leafy plant in his right hand, next to which are seven stars, and in his left hand two keys of Rome on which a small bird has alighted, while from his mouth hangs a sword on which is impaled the Lamb of God, and to his left is a human-headed serpent;
f. 7v, Pope Benedict XII, standing holding a book in his left hand, with his right making a gesture of blessing over a bleeding dog's head, a crow and a constellation of seven stars, while on his right a papal tiara floats in the air;
f. 8, Pope Clement VI, standing in a boat, with his right hand holding a processional cross, the end of which has been seized by a sea-monster emerging from the water, and with his left he holds the two keys of Rome; a snake perhaps added later is reaching up to seize them;
f. 8v, Pope Innocent VI, standing on a gigantic imperial crown holding two keys and a wine-harvesting knife, as two dogs leap up at him;
f. 9, Pope Urban V, seated and holding the two keys in his left hand, in his right he holds a flail over a peacock, while a hand emerges from the starry heavens to seize the flail, and on his left stands an angel who reaches out toward him;
f. 9v, Pope Gregory IX, standing on the left holding a large lance, and on the right a mailed and armored figure who stands holding a sword and with two further swords and three spears;
f. 10, Pope Urban VI, in the form of a two-headed dragon, his front head as a tiara-crowned human, the head on the tail that of a beast, standing in a sea of flames;
f. 10v, Pope Boniface IX, standing holding his robe closed, while two bears crouch before him, and a third bear is shown above his head;
f. 11, Pope Innocent VII, but with the picture for prophecy XIX, the pope standing holding a book in his left hand, and a banner with a red cross on a white ground in his right, while at his left an eagle attacks a snake;
f. 11v, Pope Gregory XII, the pope sitting blessing a young man kneeling before him, while on his left a unicorn climbs onto his shoulder, and a bird settles on the tiara;
f. 12, Pope Alexander V, but with prophecy XVII, showing three stone columns, on the left an emperor's crowned head, in the center a monk, on the right a disembodied hand;
f. 12v, Pope John XXIII, a monk standing on a red carpet or floor, holding a scythe in one hand and a red flower in the other, on the floor is a shacke, on the right a disembodied leg;
f. 13, Pope Martin V, wearing an imperial crown, a cow attempts to rear up against him, above the cow two disembodied heads with imperial crowns, another imperial crown surmounting a stone column on his left;
f. 13v, Pope Eugene IV, standing in open countryside, before his feet a serpent, to his left a bear suckles two cubs, a dog leaps behind him, and an eagle flies above his head;
f. 14, Pope Nicolas V, imprisoned in a tower within a walled city with many armored guards with banners on the walls;
f. 14v, Pope Callixtus III, in an apparently abandoned city with the caption Roma caput mundi, a drawbridge and gate are open;
f. 15, Pope Martin V, standing watching a wolf which is carrying off in its mouth two keys and three banners;
f. 15v, Pope Eugene IV, with a haloed naked figure sitting on a tree stump, face-to-face with a well-dressed young man bound by a chain to the stump, an angel flying over him, while in the front of the stump are two pails, one upright into which objects fall, the other upturned;
f. 16r, Pope Pius II, a haloed figure in ecclesiastical dress, holding a papal tiara over a brood of puppies, behind him an eagle approaches;
f. 16v, Pope Paul II, showing an angel placing a papal tiara on the head of a praying figure;
[interpolated picture and prophecy]
f. 17, Gog and Magog, two young men standing in a craggy hillside, below them a river;
[interpolated picture and prophecy]
f. 17v, the last three unnamed popes, showing a city scene, with a group of well-dressed men and women sitting under a balcony on which a pope with a tiara and halo speaks;
f. 18, an unnamed pope enthroned holding a book, while two angels hold a cloth behind him;
f. 18v, a monk with a halo appearing to bless a human-headed goat, which is wearing the papal tiara;
Text and images are so closely linked in all versions of the Vaticinia that is seems clear that the images were an integral part of the original conception. An excellent study, with reproductions from different manuscripts, of the Genus nequam picture tradition forms part of Fleming's study. There are four parts to each prophecy: an enigmatic text, an emblematic picture, a motto, and an attribution to a pope starting with the Orsini family pope, Nicolas III. In the present manuscript the disposition of these elements is such that the enigmatic text is transcribed at the bottom of each page, the attribution to a pope is along the upper margin, and the motto occupies the picture field and is actually transcribed across the picture. With the exception of the two added pictures at the beginning and the inserted pictures of Gog and Magog and a Pope preaching near the end, the cycle of pictures in the present manuscript follows closely the same models as used in the Kremsmünster manuscript (see below under online resources).
Whereas certain specific popes were routinely attached to the same texts and pictures, since a strictly chronological order was observed, there is some variation in the manuscript tradition, especially for the more recent popes. Such variation can be an index of localization and date, referring in a polemical fashion to contemporary events and thus using the text as a prophetic weapon or, alternatively, as a historical record of prophecy gone awry.
In the case of our manuscript, two atypical features are particularly noteworthy. The first is the doubling back of Martin V (1417-31) and Eugene IV (1431-47), who occur once attached to prophecies 21 and 22 and then again, attached to prophecies 23 and 25, after the intervention of Nicolas V (reigned 1447-55) and Callixtus III (reigned 1455-58), attached to prophecies 23 and 25 (25 comes before 24 in the manuscript, deliberately, it appears). This deviation from chronology and seemingly needless repetition appears to favor these two popes. The second feature is that, in fact, the repetition allows the association of Eugene IV with a prophecy that has a special place in the tradition, prophecy 26 (originally Vaticinium XI in the Genus nequam group). In the Kremsmünster manuscript, for example, it is Paul II who is associated with prophecy 26, an observation which underscores the import of the unusual association our manuscript puts forth. Prophecy 26, read in series with the next four prophecies (thus Vaticinium XI through XV in the Genus nequam), begins a narrative that signals the calling forth of an "angelic pope." According to Fleming, the series were to be read as a "series of popes, the angelic pope and his three holy successors" (Fleming, p. 199).
Events during the stormy pontificate of Eugene IV could well account for these unusual features in the manuscript. Successor to the great Martin V, with whom he is closely linked in the present sequence, Eugene IV, moved the Roman curia to Florence in 1434 (our manuscript is Florentine), following a dispute with the Council of Basle. He was suspended, then deposed, by the constituents at Basle, who elected in his place an antipope Duke Amadeus of Savoy as Felix V and created a schism. However, thanks to a series of decrees in Florence, pledging support of other European rulers, Eugene IV secured his position in Italy, and he was formally reinstated by the Council of Florence in 1440. Indeed, if our hypothesis is correct, and note that text and image in the present manuscript move swiftly from Eugene IV to the unnamed angelic enthroned pope (f. 18) and finally to the Antichrist (f. L18v), this codex would seem to insist on the legitimacy, even supremacy, of the papacy of Eugene IV, itself very much an issue in the years around 1440.
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Vaticinia Sive Prophetiae Abbatis Ioachimi et Anselmi Episcopi Mariscani, Una cum Praefatione, et adnotationibus Paschalini Regiselmi, Venettis MDC Apud Ioannem Baptistam Bertonum.
Online color facsimile of Stiftsbibliothek Kremsmunster, CC Cim. 6, Vaticinia Ponificum of the early fifteenth century from northern Italy
University of Zurich research project on Vaticinia de summis pontificibus, under project leader Frank Schleich