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les Enluminures

Noted Missal for use in the diocese of Coutances

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
Northern or Central France (Paris?), c. 1254-1263

TM 452

i (parchment) + 260 + ii (parchment, i, a small scrap) folios on parchment, modern foliation, top outer corner recto, ff. 1-6 (ff. 5-6 possibly originally flyleaves), are followed by 244 leaves with original foliation in ink, ii-ccxliiii, top, outer corner recto in roman numerals, now beginning with f. ii, and with f. ccxlv originally unnumbered, ff. 251-260 are later leaves, not included in the original foliation (collation, i6 [all single, original structure uncertain, 5 and 6, originally flyleaves] ii12 [-1, originally numbered f. i, with loss of text] iii-xi12 xii11 [-12, following f. 136, with loss of text] xiii-xvi12 xvii10 [through f. 194] xviii-xix12 xx-xxi8 xxii16 xxiii8 [added quire, 7, f. 257, a stub] xxiv2), the quire with the Canon of the Mass, now missing, once followed quire twelve, quires 2-11 are numbered in roman numerals in the lower margin of the verso of the last leaf of each quire, i-x, quires 3-11 are also numbered at the beginning of the quire with a very tiny roman numeral, bottom, outer margin, recto, horizontal catchwords throughout, very bottom, inside margin, some trimmed, leaf and quire signatures in red in most quires, lower margin, recto, with a symbol or letter designating the quire, repeated to signify the leaf (for example, “c” on the first leaf, “cc” on the second, etc.), ruled lightly in lead, with the top two, the lines before and after the middle, and the bottom two horizontal rules usually full across, single full length vertical bounding lines (justification 133-130 x 100-98 mm.), written below the top line in a mature gothic bookhand in two columns of thirty-two lines, square musical notation in black on red four-line red staves on over two hundred folios, notes for the rubricator in a very small script in outer and lower margins, majuscules within the text touched with red, red rubrics, one-line red initials, two-line initials, alternately red and blue, with pen flourishes in the other color, opening words for sung portions begin with larger decorated cadel-type initials in text ink, twenty-seven nine- to five-line red and blue parted initials with elaborate pen flourishes in red and blue, overall in good condition, with no damage to the text block, slight worming mainly to first and last leaves, fore-edge and top, outer corners slightly damaged by damp, ff. 1-112, and small tears, ff. 1-30, ff. 174-end, outer margin stained and with some tears, some leaves discolored, minor smudges and cockling. Bound in a handsome nineteenth-century blind-stamped calf over beveled wooden boards in trellis panel enclosing a fleur-de-lys motif within a roll-tooled frame and tooled turn-ins, spine lettered in gilt in second and fifth compartments, “Missale,” seven raised bands, in good condition with some rubbing to covers, joints slightly cracked, covers very slightly bowed. Dimensions 213 x 148 mm.

This is a remarkable noted Missal for use in Coutances in Normandy (only one other example of a Missal for the use at Coutances is known). It not only includes contemporary foliation, but the folio numbers were used for cross-references within the text. It also includes a fascinating text stating that a synod in 1285 ordered special prayers to be said during Mass for the success in battle of the French king, Philip, and a local lord. Used over two centuries, there are Obits for the anniversary of deaths of priests and nobles associated with the cathedral, as well as notes updating the liturgy.


1. The manuscript can be dated after 1253, and before 1263 based on textual evidence. It includes Peter Martyr on f. 183 of the Sanctoral (feast 29 April), who was canonized in 1253; it also includes the feast of the Crown of Thorns (11 August) which commemorates the relic brought by St. Louis to Paris in 1239, although the feast may have been observed outside of Paris later, as well as other thirteenth-century feasts including Dominic (5 August, canonized 1234; in the Sanctoral, but not the calendar), and Francis (4 October, canonized 1228; added in the Sanctoral, but present in calendar). It is likely to have been written before 1263, since a note added to the calendar in November records the death of Michael de Alnetis in that year; it also lacks Corpus Christi in Temporal, a feast that was mandated for the whole church in 1264. It is interesting that Elizabeth of Hungary (19 November, canonized in 1235) was not included in the original text, although she was added early.

Copied for use at Coutances, possibly for the Cathedral; the manuscript is for secular use (nine lessons for major feasts), and includes Laudus, bishop of Coutances, in red, with vigil and octave, duplex (21 September) and the Feast of the relics of Coutances, in red, duplex (30 September), as well as Clarus, in black but with nine lessons, here on 18 July–the feast of his translation was celebrated at Coutances on that date–and Rumpharius, bishop of Coutances (here on 17 November), although the possibility that it was copied for another church in the diocese cannot be entirely ruled out.

The Norman Cathedral at Coutances, which was dedicated in 1057, was rebuilt in the thirteenth century; the rebuilding began early in the century in 1208; the cathedral was completed in a second building campaign from 1251-1274 while Jean d’Essey was bishop, a period exactly contemporary with this manuscript. There are no missals for use of Coutances included in Leroquais’s catalogue of missals in French collections (Leroquais 1924), and Pigeon, writing in the nineteenth century on the surviving liturgical manuscripts from Coutances, could find no surviving missals (Pigeon, cited below). A fifteenth-century missal described as use of Coutances was sold a Sotheby’s, December 6, 1983, lot 77, and in three earlier sales (Schoenberg Database 1520, 5128, 32351, and 5866).

Although this Missal was copied for use at Coutances, the quality of the parchment, the script and the style of the pen initials suggest that it was commissioned from a professional book seller in Paris. Examples of Missals for churches in Normandy that were copied and illuminated in Paris in the thirteenth century include British Library Add. MS 2665, a Missal for use of church in archdiocese of Rouen (Branner, p. 226) and Rouen, BM, MS Y-50 (277), a Missal for Rouen cathedral, (Branner, pp. 222, 228).

Other Norman saints are also included, such as Marculf, born at Bayeux, abbot of Nanteuil (1 May), Vigor, bishop of Bayeux, translation (14 July), Samson (28 July), Floscellus (17 September, here 15 September), and Mellonius, bishop of Rouen, in red (22 October), and a number of English saints, such as Albanus (22 June), and Ethelreda, added (23 June). The devotion to Ethelreda is of particular interest, since prayers to her were added to the manuscript on the verso of what is now the first flyleaf.

2. The Missal also includes a remarkable text on f. 5v recording the fact that in 1285 a synod, presumably at Coutances, ordained that prayers would be said after the “Pater noster” during mass for victory in the campaigns in Aragon and Valencia, and that Lord William Pag, a knight, set out from Bricqueville-sur-Mer on the Saturday after the Mass “Invocant me,” and Philip, king of France set out from St. Denis in France in the middle of the following Lent with his army for the aforementioned kingdoms; the prayers themselves are now on f. 6, but the note makes clear this was once the first folio of the Missal.

The conflict known as the Aragonese Crusade was a response to the conquest of Sicily, then held as a fief by the Papacy, by Peter III of Aragon. Pope Martin IV excommunicated and deposed Peter III, and granted his kingdom to Charles, Count of Valois, the son of the French King, Philip III (reigned 1270-1285). In 1284, Philip III and his sons entered Roussillon with a large army to support the Pope’s policies. The campaign was not a successful one, and Philip III contracted dysentery and died in October 1285 in Perpignan. His successor was Philip IV, “the Fair” (reigned 1285-1314). The text in this Missal mentions that the French king Philip departed for the campaign with his army in 1285 during the “next” Lent, which presumably refers to Philip III (although if the text is read to mean the Lent in the following year, 1286, it must be a reference to Philip IV).

3. Liturgical calendars sometimes include Obits, or notes recording the deaths of various people; it was customary to record deaths in this way, so prayers could be said on the anniversary of their death. The calendar in this missal includes numerous obits recording the deaths of both local lords and clergy, in May: Bartholomeus de Alnetis, 1286, Nichola domina de brehallo, 1289, Maria, my sister (“soror mea”) 1417, Basil[a], wife of G. le maign, 1420, G. Pag. Dominus de Briquilla, 1298, Gervasius de Alnetis, 1286; August: Guil de Alnetis, rector ecclesie de briquilla, 1299, Gervasius lemaigne, clericus, 1308; September: Johannes de preleio, 1407, The. Lemaign (no date); October: Iohannis de frentibus, presbiter de trebehou, 1274; November: Mich. Lemaigne rector de [?], 1326, and Michael de Alnetis, 1263. Although it might be tempting to see the Missal as made for a parish church in Bricqeville-sur-Mer because of the inscription concerning William and the various obits above, it seems more reasonable to assume that a Missal of this sophistication was made for use in the Cathedral, as suggested above.

4. The manuscript was rebound in the nineteenth century, and the order of the first quire was disturbed; the small parchment rectangle following f. 260 was presumably cut out at this time, perhaps from another flyleaf, now discarded. A modern note on the manuscript in English, laid in, states that there were once notes by Mr. Bond of the manuscript department, British Museum, pasted down, inside front cover; these notes are no longer there, but there are now notes pasted on ff. 5v and 6v, which may have originally been inside the front cover.


Front flyleaf, f. i, blank; f. i verso, added prayers to Ethelreda beginning “ad consequenciam”;

ff. 1-4v, Calendar in red and black, now beginning imperfectly with May, including f. 1, Marculf (1 May), Invention of the Cross, in red, semi-duplex (3 May), Nicholas, translation, in red, semi-duplex (9 May), Augustine of Canterbury (25 May), Erasmus, added (3 June, usually 2 June), Petroc (4 June), Medard and Gildard, in red (8 June), Gervais and Prothasius, in red (19 June), Albanus (22 June), Ethelreda, added (23 June), Martin, ordination and translation, in red (4 July), Thomas Becket, translation (7 July), Benedict, translation (11 July), Vigor, bishop of Bayeux, translation, in black, but nine lessons (14 July), Clarus, nine lessons (18 July), Margaret, in red (20 July), Mary Magdalene, in red (22 July), Samson, bishop of Dol, in black, but nine lessons (28 July), Taurinus of Evreux (11 August), translation of the Crown of Thorns (11 August), Philibert (20 August), Bernard (26 August, usually 20), Augustine of Hippo (28 August), Floscellus (15 September, usually 17 Sept), Lambert, in red (15 September, usually 17 Sept), Laudus, bishop of Coutances, in red, with vigil and octave, duplex (21 September), Firminus, in red (23 September), Feast of the relics of Coutances, in red, duplex (30 September), Francis, in red, nine lessons (4 October), Denis, nine lessons (9 October), Ethelreda (17 October), Mellonius, bishop of Rouen, in red, semi-duplex (22 October), Vigor, bishop of Bayeux, semi-duplex, added (2 November), Rumpharius, bishop of Coutances (17 November), Elizabeth of Hungary, added (18 November, usually 19th), Katherine, in red, semi-duplex (23 November), and Thomas Becket, in red (29 December).

f. 5rv, originally a flyleaf; f. 5, Prayer, Secret and Postcommunion for a Mass, added, s. XV; f. 5v, incipit, “Anno domini 1285 …”; note stating that a synod of 1285 ordered that all the churches were to say the Psalms and prayers found in this book on the first folio for the success of the campaign in Aragaon and Valencia of King Philip (most likely Philip IV, known as Philip the Fair or le Bel, who reigned from 1285-1314) and William, knight of Briquilla (parital transcript in a modern hand glued below);

f. 6, (originally the first folio of this manuscript, described in the note on f. 5v) Oratio facienda singulis diebus. In missa pro domino rege francorum et eius coadiutores immediate post pater noster …, incipit, “Deus in adiutorium meum…. “ [Psalm 69], Deus qui conteris bella et impugnatores et te sperantium …”; Item singulis ebdomadis celebretur una missa in qualibet ecclesia pro iam dicto rege et pro bellatoribus nostris …, [postcommunion] incipit, “Hec domine salutaris oratio famulum tuum philippum regem nostrum ab omnibus …”;

f. 6v, Notes on finding the date of Easter and 2 Thessalonians, ch. 2 (part).

ff. 7-136, Temporal, beginning imperfectly in the first Sunday of Advent with the Collect before the Epistle reading, “//stas et mel Silvestre edebat et predicabat dicens …” to Trinity Sunday, ending mid-column b, f. 136, followed by a blank space with red ruling;

f. 136v, Ordinary of the Mass, one folio only remains; Ad introitum misse confessio, incipt, “Confitemini domino quoniam bonus …,” with confession, absolution, prayers, hymn, “Gloria in excelsis …,” and Creed, ending imperfectly, “et resurrexit tertiam die secundam//,”

ff. 137-169v, Temporal (continued) from the first Sunday to the twenty-fifth Sunday after the Octave of Pentecost, followed by the Dedication of a Church.

The text of the Temporal is very complete, and includes, for example, the usual three Masses for Christmas beginning on f. 15, Epiphany, f. 22, blessing of the Ashes on Ash Wednesday, f. 33v, very full texts for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday, with the readings of the Passion marked with letters and symbols indicating the readers, Easter, f. 106, and rubrics discussing the procession for Ascension, f. 123v; Corpus Christi is not included.

ff. 169v-226, Sanctoral from Silvester (31 December) to the Apostle Thomas (December 21), including the procession for the Purification (2 February), and very full masses for George (23 April), Mary Magdalene (22 July), “translatio sancte corone” (11 August), the Archangel Michael, Denis, Andrew, and Nicholas; also includes Peter martyr (29 April), Augustine of Canterbury (26 or 28 May), translation of Benedict (11 July), Wandragesil (22 July, 24 July at Rouen), Pantaleon and Samson (28 July), Dominic (5 August), Donatus, Romanus, Taurinus, Audoenus (24 August), Rufus (27 August), Lambert (15 September), Floscellus, Demetrius, Ordination of Augustine of Canterbury (16 November), and Laudus (22 September); additions in later hands include: translation of Thomas Becket (7 July), Clarus and Arnulfus (18 and 30 June), prayers for St. Anne (26 July), Francis, Vigoris, bishop, Elizabeth (“Helyzabeth”), Barbara, and additional prayers for the Conception of Mary

f. 226v, for a Mass (for the repose of souls in purgatory?) added in a later hand, s. XV.

ff. 227-243, Common of Saints from the vigil of one apostle to many virgins;

ff. 243v-250v, Votive masses including masses of the trinity, “in suffragium angelorum,” Holy Cross, Mary, f. 244v, added in the margin, for the celebrant himself, “in memoria salvatoris,” all saints, the relics of the church, for the congregation, for the celebrant himself (in the original text), for families, for journeys, against enemies, “missa generalis,” “missa communis,” for the faithful, a long series of masses for the dead of different categories including “pro patre et matre,” “pro fratribus congregationibus,” and concluding with masses against temptation and for asking the grace of the Holy Spirit, followed by a litany “ad fontes,” for Holy Saturday including Leodegar, Denis and Nicostratus among the martyrs, and Augustine, Samson, Martin and Benedict among the confessors.

ff. 250v-258v, added quire, s. XV, with parts of the Mass for Holy Saturday, beginning with the Kyrie before the first litany, which includes Denis, Maurice, Augustine, Mary Magadelene, Mary of Egypt, Perpetua and Petronilla; the second litany “ad fontes” includes George, Laudus, Taurinus, Germanus, Nicholas and Genevieve, the third Litany includes Thomas (of Canterbury) among the martyrs and Audoenus among the confessors; ff. 253v-255v, five settings of the Kyrie and Sanctus; ff. 256-257, Mass for the feast of the relics of Coutances; ff. 257-258v, settings for the Kyrie on f. 257, column b, excised, and the Gloria; f. 258v, “Alma chorus,” partially noted in a later hand.

ff. 259-260v, added, s. XV, in a number of hands, for masses on ferial days in lent, for the feast of the relics, for St. Anne, Thomas of Canterbury and Dunstan;

following f. 260v, small rectangular scrap of parchment, presumably for a flyleaf of an earlier binding, with short prayers, s. XV.

This manuscript is a Missal—the liturgical book that includes the texts necessary to celebrate the Mass. Missals by the thirteenth century were the predominant book used for the Mass, largely replacing books that were common earlier in the Middle Ages including Sacramentaries, that included the prayers said by the celebrant, Gospel Books and Lectionaries used by the deacons and subdeacons for the biblical readings, and a variety of books including Graduals used by the Choir (although this last category is a special case, since Choir Books continued to be copied throughout the Middle Ages, and indeed, into the early modern period). The earliest examples of Missals date from the tenth century; in the eleventh century both Sacramentaries and Missals were copied; by the twelfth century, Missals were more common, and finally, in the thirteenth-century Sacramentaries have almost entirely been replaced by Missals.

The Schoenberg Database lists 110 thirteenth-century Missals (fifty-four of these in institutional collections, rather than from sales records); still, despite the numerous examples, it is worth noting that of the fifty-eight missals sold in 2000-2010, only five were from the thirteenth century or earlier, and most were from the fifteenth century.

This Missal includes, in addition to the text of the various prayers and readings, the music for the sung parts of the Mass. The music in this Missal is a beautiful, meticulously copied, example of classical square notation (also known as Paris notation), with the left-facing virga, pes, and porrectus, and with a thin initial upstroke at the beginning of the clivis. This form of musical notation developed from notation used in Northern France, and in particular Normandy, England, and in the area around Paris in the twelfth century. Although noted Missals were not uncommon in the thirteenth century, they were not the rule, and there are many examples extant that do not include music. Victor Leroquais catalogued around 160 thirteenth-century Missals (Leroquais, 1924, vol. 2); of these only nineteen are described as noted.

This Missal now includes only the first folio of the Ordinary of the Mass, and thus lacks the Common Preface and the Canon of the Mass. These texts were said by the celebrant at every Mass, regardless of the time of year or feast being celebrated. The most important texts in a Missal, they were often introduced by an image of the Crucifixion, and were usually found in the middle of the volume, either between the Temporal and Sanctoral, or, as in this Missal, after Easter or Trinity Sunday. It seems likely that these texts were separated from this Missal when the book was rebound.

This Missal includes contemporary foliation in Roman numerals in the top, outer corner of the recto of each folio, a feature that sets it apart from most thirteenth-century manuscripts, and indeed, most medieval manuscripts from any time period. The majority of manuscripts (and indeed even most fifteenth-century printed books) does not include folio numbers, which keep track of each leaf, or, as is common today, page numbers, which number both sides of the physical leaf independently. The folio numbers in this Missal were used by the scribe in the Sanctoral to avoid repeating prayers found elsewhere in the volume; this use of internal cross-references, using folio numbers, to economize on space, shows considerable sophistication on the part of this scribe.

In addition to the folio numbers, there are also four parchment tabs that mark places in the manuscript (and there may have originally been more). The tabs are now on ff. 42, 136, 244, and 248. It is usually difficult to know when tabs such as these were added to a manuscript; these were evidently added very early, since an early note in the margin of f. 244v is copied over the tab.

The extreme concern shown here in keeping the leaves and quires in order is of interest. Most of the quires include a form of leaf and quire signatures that some scholars call “ad hoc” signatures; later manuscripts often have a letter designating the quire and a number the leaf; here a symbol or letter designates the quire, repeated to designate the leaf, for example, “c,” “cc,” etc. – these symbols would keep leaves from a certain quire together, and in the correct order, but would not order the quires. There are also catchwords used throughout the manuscript, although some were trimmed, which would help keep the quires in order. The scribe was extremely careful, indeed, over-cautious, and in addition, the first eleven quires are signed at the end of the quire with a Roman numeral, as well as on the first leaf of the quire with a very tiny roman numeral.


Cottineau, L. H. Répertoire topo-bibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, Maçon, Protat, 1937-39, and 1970.

Branner, Robert. Manuscript Painting in Paris during the Reign of St. Louis, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1977.

Daireaux, Christiane and Agnès Lemesle. La cathédrale de Coutances; son histoire du Moyen âge au XXe siècle, Coutances, Cercle de généalogie et d'histoire locale de Coutances et du Cotentin, 2008.

Fontanel, Julie. Le cartulaire du chapitre cathédral de Coutances: étude et édition critique, Saint-Lô, Archives départementales de la Manche, 2003.

Leroquais, Victor. Les Sacramentaires et les missels manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France, Paris, Protat, 1924.

Harper, John. The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy, Oxford, 1991.

Hughes, Andrews. Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office, Toronto, 1982.

Jungmann, Joseph. The Mass of the Roman Rite: Origins and Development, tr. F.A. Brunner. 2 vols., New York, 1950.

Plummer, John. Liturgical manuscripts for the Mass and the Divine Office, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 1964.

Palazzo, Eric. A History of Liturgical Books from the Beginning to the Thirteenth Century, translated by Madeline Beaumont, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1998.

Pigeon, Emile Auber. Les anciens livres liturgiques dans les diocèses de Coutances et d'Avranches, Extrait des Mémoires de la Société académique du Cotentin, volume 4, Coutances, Impr. de Salettes, [no date, c. 1880].

Strayer, J. R. “The Crusade against Aragon,” Speculum 28 (1953), pp. 102-113.

Online resources

Thurston, Herbert. “Missal,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 10, New York, Robert Appleton Company, 1911

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

British Library on the Mass:

Cathedral of Coutances (website of the friends of the cathedral):
with extensive bibliography: