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les Enluminures

[Choir Book] Antiphonal (Franciscan Use)

In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment with musical notation
Spain (Seville), 1572, with additions 1662 and 1798

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ii (pastedown, leaf from the 17th-century manuscript also used as the back pastedown; partial parchment bifolium, the first leaf folded in half length-wise and pasted down on the original pastedown; with another paper leaf pasted on the verso of the second leaf) + 162 + i (parchment with a partial pastedown from the same manuscript as the front pastedown), 18th-century foliation, 1-163 (including the missing f. 56 in the count), missing two leaves (collation i-vi8 vii2 viii8 [-6, f. 56, with loss of text] ix-x8 xi3 [beginning f. 75, added leaves] xii4 xiii8 [-1, before f. 82, with loss of text] xiv6 xv-xvii8 xviii8 [-7, one leaf following f. 124, cancelled no loss] xix8 xx8 [-8, one leaf following f. 140, cancelled with no loss of text] xxi3 xxii4 xxiii2 xxiv4 [quires 25-28, ff. 154-163v, are added leaves]: xxv2 xxvi4 xxvii2 xxviii2), ruled in lead with the top and bottom horizontal rules full across, double full-length vertical bounding lines, rastrum 40 mm. (justification 400-398 x 236 mm.), written in a large formal rounded liturgical gothic script, square musical notation on red five-line staves, red rubrics, numerous decorative cadel initials (equivalent to one-line of text and a stave), numerous large red or blue initials with very refined penwork in the opposite color in the distinctive Spanish style (c. 63 mm. high), f. 1v, DECORATIVE FRONTISPIECE with a large 122 mm.-high parted red and blue initial with decorative infilling of vine scrolls, flowers, and leaves (in white with shading) and penwork in red and blue, and an ‘L’-SHAPED PENWORK BORDER extending the full length of the outer and lower margins, with a circular medallion in the middle with a coat of arms (possibly added, not the Ribera family arms), added leaves from at least two different manuscripts 154v-163v: some with astonishingly large script and a rastrum of 77 mm.: [1] and with large gold decorative initials in colors, with green and pink flowers and fruit, in silver frames, and [2] ff. 156, 156v; ff. 158, 160, 162v [and also inside front and back covers], red initials, with vines and birds on a stippled purple background, ff. 140v and 118v are trimmed with some loss in the outer margin, spotting and thumbing (lower outer corners consistently dirty), occasional wax stains (for example f. 14), several marginal defects with old patches, for example, ff. 7, 60, 60v, 61v, 63v, 64rv, 67-69v, and other folios, slight rubbing to text in places, some text sections painted over and revised, for example, ff. 14v-15, three lines of text rewritten on a white gesso(?), lower margin of ff. 54-55, 58v patched and partially re-written.  Massive EARLY BINDING of brown leather over heavy wooden boards, dating from 1798 (cf. the index added in that year, Provenance below) with seven brass fittings on each board (brass corner pieces, two on fore edge, and large center ornament with a cross and an arm(?), remnants of two clasps and straps (fastened front to back), spine with six raised bands, remarkable short decoratively-shaped metal rod with three ribbon place markers sewn into the vellum repair at the top of spine, inner covers with vellum from another liturgical manuscript, binding somewhat rubbed and worn, head of spine with early vellum repair, some splits and flaws restored, inner hinges cracked, but holding, spine cracking along back board. Dimensions 484 x 318 mm.

Made for the well-connected abbess of a Franciscan convent in Seville, this massive, exuberantly decorated Antiphonal is signed and dated by the scribe and was used in the same convent over two hundred years.  Its well-preserved binding includes brass fittings and a particularly lovely and unusual bookmark made of ribbons and metal.  Here is an excellent and complete example of an important genre of interest for the evidence it offers not only on women’s monastic life but on the importance of music in the lives of Catholic nuns, a topic of emerging scholarly interest.


1. Made for an Andalusian noblewoman of the Ribera family, a Franciscan Abbess, Catalina de Ribera, signed by the scribe Alonso Ruiz in 1572 on f. 1, “Este libro escriuio Alo[n]so Ruiz siendo abadesa la Illustrissimi senora Domina Catalina de Ribera An[n]o de M.D.lxxii”; Catalina’s convent is not mentioned, but two of the oldest convents in Seville were founded especially for the daughters of the nobility, and are likely possibilities: Santa Clara, founded in 1289 by King Sancho IV of Castille, and Santa Inés, founded in 1376  (Perry, 1990, pp. 77-78).

Our Catalina de Ribera was almost certainly was a descendant of Catalina de Ribera (d. 1505), benefactor of Seville, founder of the Hospital de las Cinco Llagas, and patron of the arts (Bernal, 2005). 

2. Our manuscript was used for centuries and underwent several major revisions, in particular in 1798 when the volume was rebound, foliated, an index was added on a paper sheet, now glued to the verso of the second flyleaf, and changes were made to the text, including the addition of leaves, as described here in a detailed note at the end of the index: “Se en quaderno este libro el año de 1798 siendo Abb[addes] tercera vez la Ra M. S. Antonia Morales, y Vicaria de Choro, la M. S. Maria Dolores Cordero, quien lo costeo: y lo compuso, y se le añadieron algunos officious, el P. F. Antonio de Cordova, Predicador, y Vicario de Choro Jub[ilado] en el Conv[ento] Casa Grande de N.S.P.S. Fran[cisco] de Sevilla” (This book was bound in the year 1798, when the Abbess for the third time was the Reverend Mother Superior Antonia Morales, and Vicar of the Choir, the Mother Superior Maria Dolores Cordero, who paid for it; and it was made with some added offices, by the Franciscan Father Antonio de Cordova, Preacher and former Vicar of the Choir in the Convent of the Casa Grande de N.S.P.S. Francisco de Sevilla."

The added Offices mentioned above are almost certainly those found on ff. 74v-81v where the original leaves and initials were scraped off, and new, revised text was added.  Ten leaves were also added at the end of the volume, perhaps at this time; these leaves are from two sources, a Choir Book dated 1662, also used for the front pastedown, where an inscription was copied within the frame of the initial, mentioning Margarita de la Vega with the date 1662, and another much larger book. 

Two nuns are named, the Abbess, Antonia Morales, and the choir director, Maria Dolores Cordero; the Friar mentioned here, Antonio de Cordovo is described as a preacher and former choir director of the Casa Grande Convent of St. Francis, the most important Franciscan foundation in Seville, evidence of the role the Friars played in the life of these Clarissan nuns.

3. Belonged to Antonio Capucho, small engraved bookplate pasted on f. ii verso, with an engraved date, 1958.


Front flyleaf, verso, [table of contents on paper glued onto parchment flyleaf], Indice de Loque contiene este Libro, … [added in 1798; see Provenance above];

f. 1, [Opening rubric as a title page, with the scribe’s colophon below], Hic est sanctorale secundum consuetudinem ordinis fra[trum] franciscus. In festo sancti Andre ad vesperas a.,[lower margin, scribal colophon in a large formal script; see provenance above];

ff. 1v-94v, Sanctorale:

ff. 1-74, Anthony, [f. 5], Lucy; [f. 5v], Agnes; [f. 9], Conversion of Paul; [f. 12], Agnes secundo; f. 12v, Purification; [f. 16v], Agatha; [f. 17], Cathedra of St. Peter; [f. 17v], In festivitatibus sanctorum ad pascha usque pentecostes; [f. 19v], Philip and James; [f. 22v], Invention of the Cross; [f. 25v], John before the Lateran Gate; [f. 26], Anthony of Padua; [f. 31], Nativity of John the Baptist; [f. 36], John and Paul; [f. 36v], Peter and Paul; [f. 40], Triumph of the Cross; [f. 43], Mary Magdalene; [f. 45], Peter in Chains; [f. 47], Lawrence, ending f. 50v; [f. 51, blank except for rubric for St. Clare]; f. 51v, Clare [missing one leaf, f. 56, with loss of text]; [f. 59v], Vigil Assumption; [f. 63], Decollation of John; [f. 65v], Nativity of Mary; [f. 69], Exaltation of the Cross; [f. 71v], Dedication of Michael;

ff. 74v-81v, [extensively revised, including the addition of new leaves, some from another manuscript, evidenced by the old folio numbers in red roman numerals visible beginning on f. 78, and changes were made to the existing leaves, which were scraped and rewritten], Anthony, f. 77v, Invitatorio del officio de s. Antonio; f. 78, Commuicanda de la Misa de S. Josef; f. 78v, Misa de la Traslacion de N. S.P.S. Francisco, …;

ff. 82, [Original manuscript resumes], Vigil All Saints; [f. 87], Martin; [f. 87v], Cecelia; [f. 88], Raphael;

ff. 94v-114v, Common of Saints, concluding with the Dedication of a Church;

ff. 114v-118v, Invitatory for Christmas and Sundays;

ff. 119-153v, Settings of the Venite exultemus, and Gloria patri, including the Venite extultemus for Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Holy Spirit, Corpus Christi, Incarnation, and Thomas Aquinas;

Ends top f. 153v with a catchword at the bottom of the page, so presumably more text may have once followed, but this text is complete.

ff. 154, Musical notation, added, no text;

ff. 154v-163v, [Added texts assembled from two different manuscripts], incipit, “Dispersit dedit pauperibus …”; [f. 156], Invitatorio de la sanctissime Trinidad …; [f. 156v], Invitatorio de la Encarnacione …; [f. 158], incipit, “Ave regina celorum ….

The study of the history of women in religion in the Middle Ages and the early modern period has flourished in the last decades, and direct sources from convents of Nuns are always of interest. Women’s monastic life in Spain is of special importance, given the influence of the Counter-Reformation Church on Spanish culture and society, and the percentage of women, especially wealthy and noble women, who lived in convents in the early modern period.  Our manuscript was used by Franciscan nuns in their daily liturgy for centuries. Although we have not identified the exact convent in Seville where this was made, it seems very likely that this can be established with further research in the archives.  The documentary evidence included in this book from three different points in time (1572,1662 and 1798) is unusually rich.

This is an Antiphonal, a liturgical chant book that contains the music for the Divine Office.  In contrast to Breviaries, Antiphonals omit the spoken texts and include only the texts and music for sung portions of the Office.  The most obvious, but also one of the most important features of this volume is that it is very large.  Its size meant that it could be read by all the members of the choir, or schola cantorum, at once because both the text and music would have been easily legible from a distance.  This is a splendid example of the genre, with numerous penwork initials in the characteristically Spanish style.  Alterations made over centuries of use, including the addition of manuscript leaves from other volumes, are partially documented within the volume itself, and will make it a particularly rich source for the history of the book.


Bernal, Ana María Aranda. “Una Mendoza en la Sevilla del siglo xv. el patrocinio artístico de Catalina de Ribera,” Atrio 10-11 (2005), pp. 5-16.

Pdf available online, https://www.upo.es/historia_arte/export/sites/historia_arte/ATRIO/Atrio_10/Ana_Aranda_Una_Mendoza_en_la_Sevilla_del_siglo_XV_el_patrocinio_artistico_de_Catalina_de_Ribera.pdf

Cruz, Anne J. “The Walled-In Woman in Medieval and Early Modern Spain,” Gender Matters: Discourses of Violence in Early Modern Literature and the Arts, ed. Mara R. Wade, Amsterdam, 2013, pp. 349-366.  

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

Hiley, D. Western Plainchant: A Handbook, Oxford, 1993.

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

Huglo, M. Les livres de chant liturgiques, Turnhout, 1988.

Lehfeldt, Elizabeth. Religious Women in Golden Age Spain: The Permeable Cloister, Aldershot, UK and Burlington, VT, 2005.

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

Perry, M. Gender and Disorder in Early Modern Seville, Princeton, 1990.

Weber, Alison. “Recent Studies on Women and Early Modern Religion in Spanish,” Renaissance Quarterly 52 (1999), pp. 197–206.

Online Resources

Sevillapedia, “Catalina de Ribera”


Sevillapedia, “Convento Casa Grade de San Francisco (Sevilla)”


Convento de Santa Clara (Sevilla)


Convento de Santa Inés (Sevilla)


“Singing the Antiphonary,” Pablo Alvarez, University of Michigan, Special Collections

Susan Boynton and Consuelo Dutschke.  “Celebrating the Liturgy’s Books” (Introduction to liturgical manuscripts)

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