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les Enluminures

Defensoris locogiacensis monachi, Liber scintillarum, and other texts

In Latin, manuscript on parchment
Central or Southern France, c. 1210-1230

TM 361

i (paper) + 52 + i (paper) folios on parchment, foliated in modern pencil, top, outer corner, manuscript begins imperfectly, and is presumably missing quires at the beginning, (collation, i-v8 vi6 [-4, 5, and 6, after f. 43, stubs remained, cancelled?] vii2 viii8[-1, before f. 46, cancelled?], no catchwords or signatures, ruled very lightly in lead with single full-length vertical bounding lines, prickings in top, bottom and sometimes outer margins (justification, 144-143 x 90-85 mm.), written above the top ruled line by as many as five scribes in upright early gothic bookhands in thirty-four to thirty-five long lines (ff. 46-52v, 38-40 long lines; ff. 50-52v, copied in two columns with full-length vertical bounding lines and triple rules between the columns), with changes of hand at ff. 38v, 44, 45v, and 46; majuscules in text touched with red, red rubrics, two-line red initials throughout, except ff. 46-52v, with two-line initials, text ink, highlighted in red, in excellent condition, with some staining throughout, especially on the first ten folios, f. 10, with some text obscured and rubbed away. Bound in a modern vellum binding in excellent condition. Dimensions 177 x 118 mm.

The manuscript reflects the renewed emphasis on pastoral care and preaching that characterized the Western Church at the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century in the period immediately preceding the foundation of the mendicant Orders. Its contents suggest a Cistercian milieu, since the Order was particularly active in preaching during this period. Including a wide variety of texts of different dates, many of them unedited, the manuscript would have been helpful in preparing sermons.


1. The evidence of the script and general appearance suggests this manuscript was copied in the early thirteenth century, probably before c. 1230, since it is copied above the top ruled line in central or southern France. The last section of the text must have been copied after c. 1207 since it includes a story on f. 52v mentioning Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury (Langton was Archbishop from 1207-1228). The manuscript was copied by a number of different scribes, but the entire manuscript appears to originate at around the same time, with the opening portion of the manuscript possibly a little earlier. The contents of the manuscript, which includes many texts suitable for use by preachers, may suggest a Cistercian provenance. The Cistercians during the last decades of the twelfth century and the early thirteenth century were actively involved in the Church’s preaching mission, aimed at combating the threat of heresy. F. 52v, may possibly include a fragment of a colophon in the top margin, now mostly trimmed away, “rei ignorata necesse/ Anathema quidem faciunt non possunt.”

2. Notes added, s. XV, ff. 50v and 51v, mentioning Antoine d’Asti, possibly to be identified as the poet and chronicler who died at the end of fifteenth-century, see top margin ff. 50v, “Antonius,” and 51v,“Antonii Astensis monac de anno < mcccc?>.”

3. f. 1, top margin, added note (s. XV?): “Sequitur collectio mixta.”


ff. 1-36, //Neque enim potest gratia electorum nisi ubi fuerit uenia peccatorum …. Ysidorus. Penitentia non uerbo agenda est sed facto …. De lectionibus, … Basilius, Sicut enim ex carnalibus … Homo nutritur ac pascitur”;

Defensoris Locogiacensis (or theDefensor of Ligugé), Liber scintillarum; Defensoris locogiacensis monachi liber scintillarum, ed. H. M. Rochais, Corpus christianorum, series Latina 117, Turnhout, Brepols, 1957, here beginning imperfectly at chapter 9:34, “de penitentia,” ed., p. 42; also edited in Migne, Patrologia Latina 88:597D-718A, here beginning at col. 620D. Following the final chapter of the text (chapter 80, “de lectionibus”), ed. p. 234, there are two additional sections in the manuscript, copied as if they were part of this text (see below, ff. 36-37).

This remarkably influential collection, known as the Liber scintillarum, or the “Book of Sparks,” from the words of God, can be dated c. 632-750 (Isidore of Seville, included here, died in 632, and the oldest surviving manuscript of the text dates c. 750). Little is known about the author except that he was a monk at the Abbey of St. Martins at Ligugé near Poitiers.

Florilegia or collections of extracts were an established medieval genre and valued in many contexts throughout the period. This collection, which modern scholars have classified as an “ascetic” florilegium includes eighty-one chapters arranged in an apparently random order, including chapters on penance, on abstinence, on fear, on pride, on perseverance, on avarice, on foolishness, on faith, on sadness, on beauty, and on honoring one’s parents, to name just a few. Each subject heading is followed by a number of extracts that are usually quite brief and labeled by the author’s name. Extracts from the Bible are placed at the beginning of each chapter. Other authors frequently cited include Isidore, Gregory the Great, Augustine, Jerome, Basil, Ambrose, Cyprian, Caesarius of Arles, Clement, Ephraim, Hilary, Origen and Eusebius.

The text was popular throughout the Middle Ages, surviving in more than 350 manuscripts (see Rochais, H. M. “Defensoriana. Archéologie de Liber scintillarum,” Sacris erudiri 9 (1957), pp. 199-264, updating his 1950 article in Scriptorium), and is valued by modern scholars not only for the insight it offers into the Merovingian age, when it was written, but also as a invaluable witness to texts that might otherwise have been lost, or survive in very few manuscripts (see the article on Ephraim’s writings by David Ganz, Online Resources, below).

ff. 36-37, rubric, De elatione, incipit, “Dominus dicit in evangelium. Omnis qui se exaltat humiliabitur … Ysidorus, … Quid manifestando potes ad mittere tacendo custodi.” [f. 36v-37], Beatus bernardus Abbatis clare uallis, incipit, “In mundo isto quasi in campo certaminis …, Beatus Bern. Mirum est de clericis qui aliud sunt et aliud uideri uolunt … Gregorius, … que uirus qui poterant curare uoluerunt”;

Copied immediately after the Liber scintillarum, with no apparent break in the manuscript and, like that work, includes a series of extracts from the Bible and the Fathers; note that it also includes extracts from St. Bernard (1090-1153).

f. 37, [Short poems]rubric, Quare hore diei dicuntur, incipit, “In matutino dampnatur tempore christo/ Quo matutino cantatur tempore psalmi/ … Christo bissena custodia ponitur hora”; incipit, “M. doli. X. patitur. Io. sustinui. M. trahit. I. flet”; incipit, “Fili quid mater deus es sum cur ita pendes/ Ne genus humanum tedat ad inexitum”;

The first poem is Hildebertus Cenonamensis, “De vii horis canonicis”; Walther, Initia, no. 8988 (cited in full, below, ed. A. Brian Scott, Hildebertus minora, Leipzig, Teubner, 1969, p. 54, no. 57; see Mason Hammond, “Notes on Some Poems of Hildebert in a Harvard Manuscript,” Speculum 7 (1932), p. 532, printing the poem; Hildebert Cenomanensis or Hildebert of Lavardin (1055-1133-4) was bishop of Le Mans, and Archbishop of Tours, 1125. For the last poem, beginning “Fili, quid mater?,” Cf. Walther, Initia, no. 6504.

ff. 37v-38, [rubric lacking] “Quoniam recentia mag<istri?> placent et quia humana natura nouitatibus solum gaudem nouo quodam recente exponens quondam psalterii uerisiculum. Volo uobis seriatim exponere … uiuit et regnat per omnia secula seculorum. Amen”;

This is an unidentified homily or short commentary.

ff. 38v-39, rubric, De conceptione hominis, incipit, “Dicitur humana conceptio sic perfici. Primus sex diebus iactis similitudinem … Pro femina xiiii diebus fluxus sanguinis fieri dicitur.”; [followed by short summaries of various topics, many suitable for use in sermons, approaching distinctions, copied in two columns], incipit, “Conceptam senim sex primis petre diebus/ Est quasi lac reliquis quia nouem fit sanguinis ac uide/ .. .”; incipit, “Septem sunt ea que faciunt peccata remittit/ Virtus baptismati, confession uera reatus …”; “Paulus beati herodes, Iob …”;

For the first text, “de conceptione hominis,” cf. √Čvreux, Bibliothèque municipale, MS lat 9, f. 160 (incipit, “Dicitur conceptio humanis sic procedere …”).

ff. 39-42v, rubric, De pollutione, incipit, “Crimen habet noctis pollutio, si iacuisti, Ebrius autem primo … [Walther, Initia, no. 3225] …Senecha [sic] Multi sequitur unum sed mel musce lupi sequitur cadauera frumenta formice non hominem sed predictam sequitur turba ista”;

Section appears to begin f. 39, col. b, with a heading, “de pollutione,” and then continues, in a more formal script, copied in long lines, with a series of extracts from various authors including the Bible, Bernard, Gregory, Rabanus, Augustine, and Seneca, copied without rubrics or other divisions according to subjects.

ff. 42v-43v, Incipit, “Hostia septem habet proprietates que repellunt vii genera hominum a quibus non debet .. omnio. Est enim hostia candore, candida ... [f. 43v,] Nota quod hic dictio secundum aliquando notat additionem naturae humane uel diuina exprimit proprietatem …” [followed by notes on various topics in outline form]”;

cf. Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, MS 857B, Sermon, incipit, “Septem sunt proprietatibus in hostia ….”

ff. 44-45v, incipit, “Uos elegit deus ut stetis coram eo et ministretis et colatis eum et cremetis incensum. Paralip. XXIX [2 Par 29:3]. Legitur quod ezechias rex iuda congreatis sacerdotibus … quoniam nobis tribuat christo pastor eternus qui cum patre et spiritu sancto uiuit et regnat deus per omnia secula seculorum amen”;

This is an unidentified sermon.

f. 45v, [text copied in two columns in a later hand, s. XVI (?), filling in space at the end of the previous text, marginal note, “Jacobus nostra …”], incipit, “Nunc asiam ipsos …”;

ff. 46-50, incipit, “Notandum est quod in uisione sua uidi Ezech. iiii animalia, aliud sub speciem aquile, aliud sub speciem hominis… Per quattuor animalia significatur quattuor euangeliste … ; De trinitate, Sicut tribus est sum principio et …; Dentes precisuri sunt principes a fide per inuolentiam precidentes. Canini heretici eos suis tanto …”;

A selection of extracts on various topics including de prelatis, “Pastores et prelati uero recte uixerunt, lux sunt mundi sicut stelle in firmamento celi ipsis ueritatis ait …”; de predicatoribus, “Predicatori precipit dominus per ysaiam dicens, Super montem excelsum ascende …,” de sapientia, de ydiotis, de quinqe sensibus corporis, de humano lauda, de diutibus, de paupertate, and de miseria mundi.

ff. 50-54, De malo femine, incipit, “In mundum mors intravit propter mulierum/ Propter eam iosep uictus nabeth quia peremptus/ Samson …”; De die ueneris …, incipit, “Crede diem ueneris, tu conseruare teneris …”; De luxuria, incipit, “Audi quod dico, dici debet amico …”; f. 50v, incipit, “Tollit opes corpus corrumpit dat mala membris ..”; De vii criminalibus peccatis, incipit, “Ne nisi ingenii scintilla frigescat/ <N..?> mei studii labor euanescat/ …”; f. 53v, [added heading, De contemptu mundi], incipit, “Que solebat querere scriptor aniena/ Mea nunc lugubria reciat camena/ Silentii confrata cathena/ … Si sapis non transeat in istius mira.”

A series of texts in verse; not included in Walther, Initia.

ff. 54rv, Quedam noticiam, incipit, “Qui est in ecclesiaticus, uidet et inspicit clare uitras splendentes …, “Fuit quidam stultus in anglia, et licet se fingent stultum sciebat … quia in hoc in quo peccat hoc pumetur”;

Concluding with an exempla of a certain fool in England, who was known to frequent taverns each morning, and Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury (c. 1150-1228; Langton was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1207-1228).

Many of the texts included here, with the exception of the well-known Liber scintillarum, are unidentified, and the manuscript as a whole seems to be a personal collection of texts. Further research may lead to the identification of additional copies of some of these texts, but it seems likely that they are unedited. The texts found on ff. 46-50 seem especially suited for the needs of a preacher in the early thirteenth century, and include a mention of heretics. The poem on the entry of sin into the world by women (f. 50, de malo femine) also stands out. The final text in the manuscript, the short exemplum mentioning a certain fool and Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, is well suited for use in a sermon, and brings us into the world of the early University in Paris.


Kienzle, Beverly Mayne. Cistercians, Heresy, and Crusade in Occitania, 1145-1229 Preaching in the Lord's Vineyard, Rochester, New York, York Medieval Press/Boydell Press, 2001.

Rochais, H. M. “Defensoriana. Archéologie de Liber scintillarum,” Sacris erudiri 9 (1957), pp. 199-264.

Rochais, H. M., ed. Defensoris Locogiacensis liber scintillarum, Corpus christianorum 117, Turnhout: Brepols, 1957.

Rochais, H. M., ed. Livre d'étincelles [par] Defensor de Ligugé, Paris, Editions du Cerf, 1961.

Rochais, H. M. “Les manuscrits du ‘Liber scintillarum,” Scriptorium 4 (1950), pp. 294-309.

Rouse, Mary A. and Richard H., “The Development of Research Tools in the Thirteenth Century,” in Authentic Witnesses. Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts, Notre Dame, Indiana, 1991, pp. 221-255;

Walther, Hans. Initia carminum ac uersuum medii aevi posterioris latinorum, Carmina medii aevi posterioris Latina 1 Göttingen, 1959.

Online resources

Ganz, David. “Knowledge of Ephraim’s Writings in the Merovingian and Carolingian Age,” Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies 2 (January 1999)