Conceived on the threshold of manuscript and print culture, this Missal of the very rare use of Olmütz was made for the important Cathedral of St.-Wenceslas in Olmütz. Written by hand, then revised a little more than a decade later for use in nearby Passau and simultaneously illustrated with a fine hand-colored woodcut Crucifixion also appearing in its more pristine black-and-white form in printed editions of the Prague Missal, the present Missal is presented in an attractive contemporary binding also from Olmütz.
1. Based on the text (identical with the Missale Olomuncense), watermarks (Munich, 1474), and binding (using the same tools as an Olmütz binding), this Missal was probably made for the Cathedral of St.-Wenceslas in Olmütz in c. 1475. Olmütz was the ecclesiastical metropolis of Moravia, c. 1475. Its most prominent foundation is the cathedral, built in the fourteenth century and restored c. 1883-86, which contains the tomb of King Wenceslas III, who was murdered there in 1306. The calendar is identical with the diocese of Olmütz (see Grotefend): Ludmilla martyr (September 16, with her translation on November 10), Procopius, Abbot of Prague (July 4); Adalbert, bishop of Prague (April 23); Wenceslas, king (September 28, with translation March 4, in red, in Breslau, Gnesen, Krakau, Olmütz, and Prague). Celebration of Stephen, King of Hungary, on August 21 is peculiar to Olmütz. These saints also appear in the Sanctoral. Other Prague saints are also included, Sigismund, Benedict and his brothers, Vitus, etc.
2. Almost immediately thereafter the manuscript was adapted to Danubian use, most likely in the diocese of Passau, because of the saints added in another hand in the calendar, as follow: Valentinus bishop of Passau (January 7, with translation August 4 only in Passau), Erhard, bishop of Regensburg(January 8 Passau, Regensburg, and Salzburg), Vigilius bishop of Trient, translation January 31; in Passau, Salzburg, and Trient); and Rupert bishop of Salzburg (translation September 24, Passau, Salzburg, and Regensburg, etc. Sts. Leopold of Austria (canonized 1484) and Wolfgang, bishop of Regensburg (especially Passau, Regensburg, Salzburg) added on ff. 207-08.
f. 107v, Crucifixion woodcut laid down on paper (watermark not visible), with Mary and John on the left and right of the cross respectively, and three angels each catching the blood of Christ in chalices, one at the bottom and one under each arm, the sun and the moon in the upper margin, contemporary hand-coloring in watercolor washes of red, thick and shiny, yellow, green, and brown, a prayer to the Holy Cross written about the woodcut on the cross, which reads: “Deus qui sanctam crucem ascendisti et mundi tenebras illuminasti: tu corda et corpora nostra per virtutem sancte crucis illuminare, visitare, et et confortare dignare. Qui vivis....” Typically, this prayer accompanies the Hours of the Cross, thus offering an interesting connection between liturgical use and private devotion.
The woodcut is close to a woodcut Crucifixion that illustrates the Canon of the Mass in a Missal for the use of Prague published in Leipzig in 1498 (Missale emendatum juxta rubricam Pragensis ecclesia, Leipzig, C. Kachelofen, 24 July 1498; for the edition see Weale, p. 139; and for the woodcut, Heitz, pl. 21) and closer still, including the detail of the three angels with chalices, to one in an edition of the Prague Missal published in the same year in Nuremburg (Incipit missale intergrum … Archiepiscopatus Ecclesie Pragensis, Nuremburg, Georg Stuchs ex Sultzpach, 1498, reprinted in 1503 and 1508; see Weale, pp. 139-140, and Heitz, pl. 33). These comparisons raise the possibility that the woodcut was a later addition to the manuscript, c. 1498, when it was emended for use in the Danube region (Passau ?), since the date of the woodcut appears to be a decade or so later than the composition of the original manuscript.
Relatively few manuscripts preserve their original woodcut illustration at the moment when interactions between print culture and manuscript culture were frequent (see the useful studies by Areford and Hernad). The present exemplar therefore survives as an important document in the history of the book. Compare to a Prague Missal from approximately the same date, but smaller, more abbreviated textually (not really a full Missal), and with a dotted woodcut (London, Christie’s, 20 November 2002, lot 34, est. $32,000-47,000. (now Yale University, Beinecke Library).
The woodcut fits in a stylistic evolution of other Crucifixions from the same region, the faces, especially that of Saint John, typical of Austro-Bohemian style. The more elaborate conception, with the angels, the chalices, the setting of the cross, and the fine articulation of the figures, their faces and hands, show it to be a more advanced rendition of a composition that starts mid-century (see Heitz, 1910, for the sequence and variety of examples).
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