TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Portable Breviary (Franciscan use)

In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment
Northern Italy (Genoa), c. 1320-1360 (after 1317)

TM 225

i (paper) + 399 + i (paper) folios (very thin parchment, prepared in the manner of southern Europe, modern foliation in pencil, top outer corner, misfoliated with f. 22 followed by f. 24, with f. 239 bis, and with f. 338 followed by f. 340, collation (i6+1 f. 1, added singleton) ii3 iii12 (-5 and 6, following f. 15) iv12 (1, f. 21 and 12, f. 33 are single) v10 vi15 (-12, after f. 54) vii16 (-5, following f. 61 and -13, following f. 68) viii10 ix10+1(structure uncertain) x12 xi-xiii12 xiv12 (-2, following f. 141 and -11, following f. 149) xv-xix12 xx10 xxi12 (-1, before f. 221) xxii10 (1, f. 232, single; -9, single leaf following f. 239) xxiii16 (-2, following f. 240; -5, following f. 242; -16, following f. 252) xxiv12 xxv12 (-2, following f. 265) xxvi12 (-5, following f. 279) xxvii12 (-12 following f. 297) xxviii10 xxix12 xxx12 (structure uncertain) xxxi-xxxii10 (structure uncertain) xxxiii12 xxxiv12 (-12, following f. 375) xxxv8+1 (one leaf, f. 384, after 8) xxxvi12+1 (one leaf, f. 385, added before 1) xxxvii4), catchwords, bottom, middle margin, no signatures, written below the top line in a compact southern gothic script, in two columns, twenty-nine lines, ruled in lead with the top two and bottom two rules full across, single full-length vertical bounding lines, (justification 85-83 x 70 mm.), FOUR ILLUMINATED INITIALS, 3- to 4-line, ff. 249, 274, 299, and 311; initials are salmon or gray infilled with blue and/or salmon with white highlights on polished gold or gold and blue grounds, extending into red and green acanthus borders with gold balls heavily edged in black (note distinctive 5-lobed floral motif in border of ff. 249 and 299), six parted red and blue puzzle pen initials, 3- to 5-line, with pen decoration in two colors extending the length of the column, ff. 128v (Palm Sunday), 152v (Second Sunday after Easter), 164 (vigil of the Ascension?; 2-line initial, but with exceptional pen decoration including a hare and hound, bottom margin); 170v (vigil of Pentecost); 175 (first Sunday after Pentecost), 198v (Sundays in August and September), two larger parted puzzle initials, with initial in blue and yellow wash, outlined in red, 8- to 9-line, ff. 178 (readings from the books of Kings), 181 (Corpus Christi); countless skillful initials throughout, 2-line, alternately red and blue, with violet or blue pen decoration; one-line initials, alternately red and blue, red rubrics and paragraph marks, majuscules in text stroked with red; some folios now missing (see below), bottom outer corner of some folios with paper repair (no loss of text), outer and bottom margins of some folios are soiled and show signs of use (no loss of text). Bound in the 18th century (?) in vellum over pasteboard, title on spine read “Officium BMV/ MSS.” Dimensions 125 x 95 mm.

This Breviary follows the liturgy of the Papal Court, which was first adopted by the Franciscans in 1247. The Franciscans popularized small portable breviaries such as this one that enabled a wandering Friar to say the Office during his travels. The worn outer corners of the manuscripts and soiled margins speak eloquently of a long period of devout use. The manuscript is a fine example of this genre, with beautifully executed pen initials and skillful illumination. Both localizable and datable, it is a valuable witness to northern Italian fourteenth-century manuscript production.


1. Saints in the calendar clearly point to Franciscan origin: translation of Francis, 25 May, semiduplex; Anthony of Padua, OFM, 13 June (canonized 1232); Clare, 12 August, duplex; Louis of Toulouse, 19 August duplex (canonized 1317); Stigmata of Francis, 17 September, rubbed and illegible, but there is an entry on this date, office for the dead Brothers and Benefactors, 28 September [found on this date in other Franciscan manuscripts]; Francis of Assisi, 4 October, duplex; with octave, duplex, as do the Saints emphasized in the Sanctorale. Datable after 1317 (includes Louis of Toulouse, OFM, who was canonized in 1317), and before Bernardinus of Siena, OFM, canonized in 1450 (added to the calendar); the style of the script and decoration suggest a date c. 1320-1360. Very likely copied at Genoa for the Franciscans there; in addition to the northern Italian saint, Herculanus, bishop of Perugia, note the Nativity of John the Baptist, duplex (his ashes were at Genoa), and Lucy, 13 December, semiduplex (principal patron of Syracuse, Sicily, part of Genoa’s territory); the calendar also includes two added entries, Ampelius, (relics at Genoa in 1140) and an incomplete (?) entry on 23 May, “sancti episcopi et confessoris Jaunuenis [Genoa].”

2. Additions to the text show that Augustinian Hermits used it in the fifteenth century (see ff. 376-399v).

3. In Germany, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; modern notes in German, front flyleaf (suggesting the manuscript is from Venice, 1420), and in pencil, inside back cover, listing initials. Bookplate, inside front cover (bottom portion removed).


[f. 1, blank but ruled].

ff. 2-7v, Calendar in red and black graded duplex and semiduplex; among the saints included are Herculanus II, bishop of Perugia (1 March); Peter Martyr, O.P (29 April, canonized 1253); translation of Francis, (25 May) semiduplex; Anthony of Padua, OFM (13 June, canonized 1232); Nativity of John the Baptist (24 June) duplex; Clare (12 August) duplex; Louis of Toulouse, OFM (19 August, canonized 1317), duplex; King Louis (26 August, usually 25 August, canonized 1297); Office for the dead Brothers and Benefactors (28 September); Francis of Assisi (4 October) duplex; with octave (duplex); Lucy (13 December) semiduplex. Added Saints include St. Joseph (17 March); Bernardinus of Siena, O.F.M. (20 May, canonized 1450); Ampelius (14 May); and “sancti episcopi et confessoris Januensis” (23 May);

f. 8, one leaf from a ferial Psalter [see ff. 22-33v, below];

ff. 9-216v, Temporale through the twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (f. 198), and concluding with readings for Summer Sundays and weekdays, followed by readings for October and November. The text is out of order, and leaves are missing: ff. 9-10v, Christmas Vigil, ending imperfectly; ff. 11-20v, Christmas, beginning imperfectly-Thomas martyr (29 December), with a leaf missing before f. 16, with the beginning of John the Baptist; ff. 22-33v, leaves from a ferial Psalter (see f. 8); ff. 34-54v, Sundays in Advent [commonly the beginning of the Temporale], now beginning imperfectly; f. 55, beginning imperfectly, liturgical directions for readings during the Octave of Christmas; f. 62, beginning imperfectly, Epiphany; f. 68v ending imperfectly, first Saturday after the Octave of Epiphany; leaf missing following f. 141 with Easter; f. 150 beginning imperfectly; f. 163v, vigil of the Ascension; ff. 178-198, Sundays after Pentecost.

ff. 216v-218v, Adventus domini celebratur … [Rubrica generales, van Dijk, S.J.P., ed., Sources of the Modern Roman Liturgy: The Ordinals of Haymo of Faversham and Related Documents, 1243-1307 (Leiden, 1963) 2:114-20];

ff. 218v-219 Tabula de dominicis que venerunt infra octavas nativitas beati iohannes baptistae … [Table for Sundays];

ff. 219-220v, In anno quo nativitatis domini … [Parisian tables of ferial antiphons before Christmas, ending imperfectly; van Dijk, ed., SMRL 2:401-8];

ff. 221-375v Sanctorale, beginning imperfectly in the second lesson for Andrew (30 November); f. 239, Purification (2 February) beginning imperfectly; f. 241, Agatha (5 February) beginning imperfectly; f. 243, Peter (22 February) beginning imperfectly; f. 253, Gregory (12 March) beginning imperfectly; f. 266, Anthony (13 June), beginning imperfectly; leaf missing between ff. 27-280; leaf missing between ff. 297-298; f. 311 Clare (12 August), followed by a section out of order, including f. 323, Gorgonius (9 September), continuing through f. 330v, Cosma et Damiano (27 September); then, again out of order, f. 331, Nativity of Mary (8 September), beginning and ending imperfectly; followed by f. 332, Assumption (15 August) beginning imperfectly; f. 339v, Sabina (31 August) ending imperfectly; f. 340, S. Michael the Archangel (29 September) beginning imperfectly; f. 344v, Remigius (1 October) ending imperfectly; f. 345, Francis (4 October) beginning imperfectly; ending imperfectly with Cecelia (22 November). Following the Office for St. Francis of Assisi are readings for the week from the Saint's Legenda (beginning f. 348v, de institutione religionis et efficacia predicandi, and ending f. 362v, Explicit legenda minor beati francisci);

ff. 376-385v, Added Offices for Nicholas of Tolentino, O.S.A. (canonized 1446); Monica (including hymn, f. 380: “Patris nostri augustini mater Sancta Monica …”); f. 383, Invention of the Holy Cross (concluding in another hand, f. 385, possibly replacing a damaged leaf);

ff. 386-389, [Added in another hand] Incipiunt Rubrice nove secundum formam et consuetudinem romane curie edite per summos pontifices. In primis rubrica de mense decembris. Sciendum quod nulla istoria uocatur propria nisi habeat nouem lectiones … [continues through the whole year, ending with November];

ff. 389v-399v, Added [same hand as ff. 376-385v] Offices for Augustine (“festo beatissimi patris nostri Augustini”), John the Baptist (ending imperfectly), the Holy Trinity (beginning imperfectly), and Paul the first hermit.

This Breviary follows the liturgy of the Papal Court, which was first adopted by the Franciscans in 1247. The Franciscans popularized small portable breviaries such as this one that enabled a wandering friar to say the Office during his travels. In its format adapted to its use, this and similar Breviaries, along with portable Bibles of similar format, comprised the “library” of members of the mendicant orders in the thirteenth century. Liturgical details help situate the book in Liguria, specifically Genoa, among the Franciscans in this region.


The four illuminated initials are skillfully and carefully painted, surrounded by distinctive acanthus decoration in red and green with sharply lobed leaves, as well as interesting 5-lobed red flowers in two initials (for initials in a similar style, see François Avril and Marie-Thérèse Gousset, Manuscrits enluminés d'origine italienne, vol. 2, Paris, 1984, no. 53, pl. xxxii, and Anna de Floriani, 'Compresenza di diverse culture figurative in alcune testimonianze della miniatura a Genova nel secolo XIV,' 537, fig. 6, in La Miniatura italiana in età romanica e gotica, ed. Grazia Waldenburg, Florence, 1979); placed at the beginning of the Offices of the Visitation, John the Baptist, Festum nivis and Clare:

f. 249, 3-line 'D' extending into a T-shaped border;

f. 274, 3-line 'P' extending into a border the length of the column;

f. 299, 4-line 'T' extending into a L-shaped border;

f. 311, 3-line 'F' extending into a border the length of the column and into the bottom margin.

Numerous folios are now missing; many of them for major feasts, and we can assume that this manuscript once included many additional and more elaborate illuminated initials. The pen decoration is notable for its control and detail, as well as the use of very dense infilling, with the resulting void space forming decorative patterns (cf. Marie-Thérèse Gousset, “Etude de la décoration filigranée et reconstitution des ateliers: le cas de Gênes à la fin du XIIIe siècle,” Arte medievale 2 ser. 2 (1988) 121-149, especially 126-127).


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

Moorman, John. A History of the Franciscan Order from its Origin to the Year 1517, Oxford, 1968.

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

van Dijk, S.J.P., ed., Sources of the Modern Roman Liturgy: The Ordinals of Haymo of Faversham and Related Documents, 1243-1307, 2 vols. Leiden, 1963.

van Dijk, S. J. P. and J. Hazelden Walker, The Origins of the Roman Liturgy. The Liturgy of the Papal Court and the Franciscan Order in the Thirteenth Century, Westminster, Maryland, 1960.

Online resources

Introduction to liturgical manuscripts:“Celebrating the Liturgy’s Books”

The Augustinian Hermits

The Franciscan Order

The History of the Breviary