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les Enluminures

Breviary (Augustinian use)

In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment
France (Lyon), c. 1440-1450 (likely before 1446)

TM 1051
  • 33 500 €
  • £30,000
  • $38,000


i (paper) + 470 + i (paper) folios on parchment, original foliation in red ink in the middle of the upper margin, [calendar un-foliated], i-ciiii [104], then re-begins [i], ii-ccclxxxij [382], modern foliation in pencil, 1-470, lacking 24 leaves, most with decoration (collation i6 ii8 iii8 [-4, -5, lacking two leaves after f. 17, with loss of text] iv8 v8 [-2, lacking one leaf after f. 29, with loss of text] vi8 [-1, lacking one leaf after f. 35, with loss of text] vii8 [-2, lacking one leaf after f. 43, with loss of text] viii-xi8 xii8 [-6, lacking one leaf after f. 86, with loss of text] xiii-xiv8 xv8 [-2, lacking one leaf after f. 105, with loss of text] xvi8 xvii8 [-4, -5, lacking two leaves after f. 122, with loss of text] xviii-xix8 xx8 [-4, lacking one leaf after f. 144, with loss of text] xxi-xxix8 xxx8 [-4, -5, lacking two leaves after f. 223, with loss of text] xxxi-xxxii8 xxxiii8 [-7, lacking one leaf after f. 248, with loss of text] xxxiv8 xxxv8 [-1, lacking one leaf after f. 257, with loss of text] xxxvi8 [-4, -5, lacking two leaves after f. 267, with loss of text] xxxvii-xliv8 xlv8 [-3, lacking one leaf after f. 336, with loss of text] xlvi-l8 li8 [-6, lacking one leaf after f. 386, with loss of text] lii-liii8 liv8 [-2, lacking one leaf after f. 405, with loss of text] lv8 [-3, lacking one leaf after f. 413, with loss of text] lvi-lvii8 lviii8 [-2, -7, lacking two leaves after f. 435 and f. 439, with loss of text] lix8 lx8 [-6, lacking one leaf after f. 453, with loss of text] lxi8 lxii8 [-8, lacking one leaf after f. 470, with loss of text), vertical catchwords, ruled in red ink (justification 93 x 70 mm.), written in dark brown ink in gothic bookhand (textualis) in two columns on 27 lines, rubrics in red, capitals touched in yellow, 1-line verse initials alternating in red and blue, 2-line initials alternating in red and blue with black and violet penwork touched in yellow and red respectively, TWO FULL RINCEAUX BORDERS with flowers and burnished gold leaves (ff. 7, 394), NINE PARTIAL RINCEAUX BORDERS, six 6- to 7-line initials in blue on burnished gold grounds infilled with vines ending in red and green leaves (ff. 123r, 263v, 357v, 372v, 394r, 406r), FOUR 6-line HISTORIATED INITIALS  (ff. 7, 23v, 51, 60), some stains and signs of wear, wormholes on the final leaves, otherwise in excellent condition. Bound in the nineteenth century in light brown morocco, gold-tooled on the front and back boards with frames and small corner pieces, entitled on the flat spine in gilt “MISSALE ROMANUM. MS.,”silk markers, chestnut morocco box entitled on the spine in gilt “BREVIARIUN [sic] / MÂCON C. 1440”, in overall very good condition with only a small loss of leather on the front board and very slight fading of the gold-tooling, nevertheless, the front hinges are very fragile and would benefit from conservation before the binging becomes detached from the text block. Dimensions 144 x 100 mm. 

The rich illumination of this Breviary signals a luxury production, and it appears to have belonged to, or was made for, an Augustinian friar in Lyon.  Recitation of the text of the Breviary – the Divine Office centering on the Psalms – was at the heart of the religious life of monks, nuns, and friars; that the present volume is illuminated (by the workshop of the little-known Master of the Vienna Roman de la Rose) suggests that the friar-owner either came from wealth or received the manuscript as a gift from an affluent donor.  Features of its calendar, text, and iconography all merit closer study.


1. The manuscript was made for an Augustinian friar in the parish of St. Vincent in Lyon, c. 1430-1450 (but likely before 1446), as indicated by liturgical and textual evidence.  The original owner (or user of the manuscript) was likely named Pierre, and his coat of arms, d’argent au lion contourné de gueules rampant, was painted at the beginning of a daily office for St. Peter the Apostle on f. 394, where it appears within a full floral border and is presented by St. Peter and St. Paul. The Office for the feast of St. Peter was undoubtedly marked by decoration, as this leaf (after f. 405) is now missing; the capitulum for Sext still begins with an initial on a gold ground (f. 406).  Another personal patron saint, St. Peter Martyr, was included in the final position among the martyrs in the litanies.

His family name is unknown, since the arms on f. 394 have not been identified.  They are described and illustrated in a handbook on heraldry by Geneviève d’Haucourt and Georges Durivault (see fig. 248 in their unpaginated 1982 work, where they are used as an example but without identification). Perhaps the owner was from an earlier branch of the Sarrazin family in Lippe, Germany, whose arms are identical except that a grapevine was added next to the lion: d’argent au lion contourné de gueules rampant contre un cep de vigne de sinople fruité de trois grappes de raisins d’azur posé à senestre le tout soutenu d’une terrasse de sinoble.

The Augustinian use of the book is demonstrated by the special attention paid to St. Augustine.  His feast (28 August) and its octave are both celebrated with nine lessons, as is the feast of the Translation of St. Augustine’s body (28 February); there is a hymn for him (f. 100rv). An Office dedicated to his feast might have been on one of the lacking leaves (see Text). Finally, the black cape with a cowl, worn by the elderly man depicted in the historiated initial on f. 7, closely resembles the habit worn by Augustinian friars.  Although an argument based on absence is not conclusive, the omission of the feast of Nicholas of Tolentino, a very important Augustinian saint who was canonized in 1446, suggests strongly that the manuscript can be dated before that date (also lacking is the Transfiguration, widely celebrated beginning in 1457).

The inclusion of St. Irenaeus of Lyon in the litanies indicates that the book was intended for use in Lyon, as do a numerous feasts in the calendar: St. Lupicinus of Lyon, the first Archbishop of Lyon (3 February), St. Nicetius of Lyon (2 April, nine lessons), St. Epipodius of Lyon (22 April, three lessons), St. Alexander of Lyon (24 April, three lessons), St. Regnobertus of Bayeux venerated in Lyon (13 June, three lessons), St. Viventiolus of Lyon (12 July, three lessons), St. Minervius and St. Eleazarus of Lyon (23 August, three lessons), St. Sacerdos of Lyon (12 September, three lessons), St. Antiochus of Lyon (15 October, three lessons), St. Viateur of Lyon (21 October, three lessons), and St. Silas venerated in Lyon (28 November, nine lessons).  The Lyon cathedral, the seat of the Archbishop of Lyon, is dedicated to John the Baptist.  His feast is one of the most important in the Sanctorale, originally adorned with a historiated initial (the leaf is now lacking).  It is included in the calendar on June 24 in red, with a vigil and an octave celebrated with nine lessons, and there is a proper hymn for his feast.

The texts included also suggest a special veneration of St. Vincent of Saragossa, whose feast day (22 January), octave (29 January) and the Feast of the Invention of his body (23 September) are all included in the calendar with nine lessons. The book includes a hymn for St. Vincent (f. 93rv) and an Office for his feast in the Sanctorale (ff. 351-355).The Augustinians in Lyon had their church in the parish of St. Vincent (initially, when the Augustinians settled there, it was a suburb outside the city).

2. Private collection, presumably European.


ff. 1-6v, Calendar including St. Vincent (22 January, nine lessons, with octave), St. Lupicinus of Lyon, the first Archbishop of Lyon (3 February), translation of St. Augustine (28 February, nine lessons), St. Nicetius of Lyon (2 April, nine lessons), St. Epipodius of Lyon (22 April, three lessons), St. Alexander of Lyon (24 April, three lessons), translation of St. Nicolas (9 May, nine lessons), St. Gerald (29 May, nine lessons), St. Regnobertus of Bayeux venerated in Lyon (13 June, three lessons), St. John the Baptist (24 June, in red, with vigil, and octave with nine lessons), St. Viventiolus of Lyon (12 July, three lessons), St. Minervius and St. Eleazarus of Lyon (23 August, three lessons), St. Augustine (28 August, nine lessons, with octave), St. Sacerdos of Lyon (12 September, three lessons), Invention of the body of St. Vincent (23 September, nine lessons), St. Antiochus of Lyon (15 October, three lessons), St. Viateur of Lyon (21 October, three lessons), St. Innocent (30 October, nine lessons), St. Silas venerated in Lyon (28 November, nine lessons)

ff. 7-84v, Psalter, with psalms 1-150 in their numerical order, followed by canticles sung at Lauds on each day of the week (ff. 77v-82v): “Confitebor tibi Domine” (Monday), “Ego dixi” (Tuesday), “Exultavit cor meum” (Wednesday), “Cantemus Domino” (Thursday), “Domine audivi” (Friday), “Audite celi que loquor” (Saturday), and “Benedicite omnia opera” (Sunday), finally followed by (ff. 82v-84v) “Benedictus dominus deus” (Lauds), “Magnificat” (Vespers), “Nunc dimittis” (Compline), “Te Deum laudamus” (Matins), and the Athanasian Creed “Quicunque Vult”;

Lacking four decorated leaves (see “Illustration”) and one text leaf.

ff. 84v-86v, Litanies, followed by prayers, ending imperfectly, “Deus, qui conspicis omni//”;

ff. 87-105, [Lacking a decorated leaf after f. 86v, and now beginning imperfectly], incipit, “//dies abscesserit, noctemque sol [sors] reduxerit, mundi per abstinentiam ipsi canamus gloriam, …”; [f. 105v, blank];

Hymns for the year including hymns for saints Nicholas, Stephen, Vincent, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, Mary Magdalen, Augustine, and Martin

ff. 106-336v, Temporale, beginning and ending imperfectly (lacking a decorated leaf after f. 105, and a leaf after f. 336v), from the first Sunday in Advent to the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent;

Lacking nine decorated leaves: the beginnings of the offices for Christmas (lacking two leaves after f. 122), Epiphany (lacking a leaf after f. 144), Easter (lacking two leaves after f. 223), Ascension (lacking a leaf after f. 248), Pentecost (lacking a leaf after 257), and Corpus Christi (lacking two leaves after f. 267). 

ff. 337-453v, Sanctorale, beginning imperfectly (lacking a decorated leaf after f. 336v) within the first nocturn of the office for St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November) and continuing throughout the year until the office for St. Catherine (25 November), ending imperfectly (lacking a leaf after f. 453);

Lacking five decorated leaves: the beginnings of the offices for St. John the Baptist (lacking a leaf after f. 386), St. Peter and St. Paul (lacking a leaf after f. 405), the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (lacking a leaf after f. 413), and two unidentified saints (the leaf lacking after f. 435 perhaps contained an office to St. Augustine).

ff. 454-470v, Common of Saints, beginning and ending imperfectly, lacking a decorated leaf after f. 453 and at least one leaf at the end.


Four historiated initials; subjects as follows:

f. 7, An Augustinian friar with white hair wearing a habit and playing the harp;

f. 23v, God appearing to David who points to his mouth;

f. 51, Three friars singing at a lectern;

f. 60, Holy Trinity

The historiated initials with marginal decoration within the Psalter mark major divisions of the psalms according to the common 8-fold division, singling out the first psalm at Matins for each day of the week and the first psalm at Sunday Vespers. Half of these survive in our manuscript: the initials beginning psalms 1 (f. 7), 38 (f. 23v), 97 (f. 51), and 109 (f. 60), that is, the first psalms at Matins on Sunday, Tuesday and Saturday, and the first psalm at Sunday Vespers.

The images within the historiated initials are very small (c. 21 x 13 mm.), yet the figures within them are depicted with remarkable attention and skill. The garments are carefully modeled with shadows in darker tones and highlights in liquid gold, and the artist conceived the faces full of expression with a meticulous mastery of a tiny paintbrush. The depictions of the friars on ff. 7 and 51 are the most enchanting. The choice of the Augustinian friar, instead of King David, at the head of the psalter is unusual, indeed unique. The simple penwork initials are rather unlike any others in the period or the region and point to local, personal invention. Similarly, unusual black penwork runs along the bar borders, a trait not found in other books at the time.

Manuscript illumination in Lyon in the first half of the fifteenth century remains little known. The only personality of this period who has been a subject of considerable study is the so-called Master of Roman de la Rose of Vienna, active c. 1425-1465 mainly in Lyon and probably identifiable as Jean Hortart, documented in Lyon in 1412-1465 (for this artist, see especially Avril, 1993, pp. 198-201, Elsig, 2007, and Castano, 2018). Our artist may have been part of his workshop.  These short and stocky figures, with a broad face with a short nose, drawn with loose and rapid brushstrokes, may be compared both to the border miniatures of a manuscript

of Virgil’s Works, illuminated by this artist (Paris, BnF, MS lat. 8200, f. 16),and to the historiated initials of a Missal for the use of Lyons (Lyons, BM, MS 5190, f. 146, f. 252; see Avril 1993, pp. 198-201), illuminated by his workshop. The strong profiles of St. Peter and St. Paul (f. 394), with rounded noses and strong black eyes, are also typical of the most expressive miniatures of the Master of the Vienna Roman de la Rose: compare, for example, the Adoration of the Magi of a Book of Hours for the use of Lyons (Paris, BnF, MS lat. 13265, f. 35).

Our manuscript provides an important contribution to the growing understanding of the development of painting in fifteenth-century France.

The book is now lacking the leaves with historiated initials beginning psalms 26, 52, 68 and 80.  In addition to these eight historiated initials in the Psalter, the Hymns and the Common of Saints undoubtedly originally began with historiated initials; these leaves are now lacking. In the Temporale, the most important offices of Christmas, Easter and Corpus Christi would have been decorated with two historiated initials each (as suggested by two consecutive missing leaves), and the feasts of Epiphany, Ascension and Pentecost each began with a single historiated initial. In the Sanctorale, the Offices for the feasts of St. John the Baptist, St. Peter and St. Paul, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and two other unidentified saints were probably also decorated with historiated initials; these leaves have been removed.

Breviaries include the text of the Divine Office, 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.  This Breviary was made for Augustinian use. The roots of the Hermits of St. Augustine (now known as the Augustinian Friars) go back to a number eremetical groups in Italy in the twelfth century.  The Order adopted a mendicant lifestyle in the thirteenth century.  After the approval of their constitutions by Pope Alexander IV in 1256, the Order grew quickly and founded many houses throughout Europe.  Throughout the later Middle Ages, they were known for their learning. The Augustinian friars who established themselves in Lyon were called Grands-Augustins. They settled in the burg of St. Vincent outside the walls of the city of Lyon, where they were given a house, a chapel and a cemetery in 1308 by the Archbishop of Lyon, Pierre of Savoy (Vachet, 1895, see Online resources). In the eighteenth century their chapel was replaced by a new church, Église Notre-Dame-Saint-Vincent.

Although still a substantial codex with illuminated and initials, this was once a very lavish manuscript indeed, copied for use of the Augustinian friars in Lyons, perhaps (as we have discussed above), for a friar named Pierre, who was wealthy enough to commission an illuminated Breviary that included his coat of arms (see above).  It is also conceivable that this book was given to the Augustinians by a wealthy layman named Pierre.  The calendar is quite full, including numerous saints linked not only with Lyons, but also with other towns in the region, in particular Mâcon.  However, the weight of the liturgical evidence, as well as the style of the initials, suggest strongly that this was not only copied and illuminated in Lyons, but that it was also made for local use.  In particular, note the lack of a feast for the dedication of the church of Mâcon on April 9 in the calendar, and the presence of numerous Lyons saints (Provenance above).  


Amiet, R. Les manuscrits liturgiques du diocèse de Lyon. Description et analyse, Paris, 1998.

Avril, F. and Reynaud, N. Les manuscrits à peintures en France: 1440-1520, Paris, 1993.

Castano, M. “Le Maître du Roman de la Rose de Vienne et sa clientèle à Bourges,” Peindre à Bourges aux XVe-XVIe siècles, Milan, 2018, pp. 48-55.

D’Haucourt, G. and G. Durivault, Le blason, Paris, 1982.

Elsig, F. “Dossier Lyonnais,” Quand la peinture était dans les livres: Mélanges en l’honneur de François Avril, ed. M. Hofmann and C. Zöhl, Turnhout, 2007, p. 89-97.

Harper, J. The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy from the Tenth to the Eighteenth Century: A Historical Introduction and Guide for Students and Musicians, Oxford, 1991.

Leroquais, V. Les bréviaires manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France, 5 vols, Paris, 1934.

Pelletier, A. et al. Histoire de Lyon: des origines à nos jours, Lyon, 2007.

Van Dijk, S. Sources of the Modern Roman Liturgy: The Ordinals of Haymo of Faversham and Related Documents (1243-1307), 2 vols, Leiden, 1963.

Online Resources

Vachet, A. Les anciens couvents de Lyon, 1895, p. 71-84, available on Gallica  
and the extract on wikisource

The Augustinian Hermits
www.newadvent.org/cathen/07281a.htm (Catholic Encyclopedia, “Hermits of St. Augustine)

and www.augnet.org (Order of St. Augustine, with extensive history, http://augnet.org/default.asp?ipageid=554

Lebigue, J.-B. “Initiation to Liturgical Manuscripts”

TM 1051