TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Devotional Miscellany, including Orationes [Various]; [Anonymous], Speculum missae [Mirror of Mass]; Excerpts from THOMAS AQUINAS, Summa Theologica, Pars III, Question LXXXIII

In Latin, decorated manuscript on paper
Italy, Tuscany (Lucca ?), c. 1475

TM 620

55 ff., preceded by a single paper flyleaf and followed by 3 paper flyleaves, complete (collation: i8, ii16, iii12, iv12, v9 (of 12, with last 3 leaves cancelled blanks), on paper, with watermarks close to Briquet, “Gland,” no. 7436, Lucca 1476- 1477, written in a regular semi-gothic cursive hand, in brown to dark brown ink, justification in plummet (95 x 65 mm.), a few vertical catchwords (e.g. f. 24v, 36v), parchment pastedowns on upper and lower boards from a 13th century theological manuscript, a few rubrics in red, some capitals stroked in yellow wash and in red, a few 2-line high initials in red or blue, 3 larger painted initials in blue (ff. 1, 6v, 49) with the opening initial on an ocre round with foliate motifs in red ink, some contemporary marginalia and/or corrections. Bound in a contemporary Italian blindtooled binding of brown calf over wooden boards, covers panelled with multiple blind fillets, outer frame filled with roll of arabesques, inner frame with losange-shaped knotwork compositions and blind small disks, back originally sewn on raised bands (now covered by a leather strip, rebacked), speckled and marbled edges, evidence of one clasp (now wanting). Some foxing, else reads very clearly; binding a bit worn, rebacked and leather a bit lacerated, still in its contemporary boards. Dimensions 150 x 105 mm.

Likely copied in a monastic environment by a hitherto unrecorded scribe, this little compendium, the “Speculum missae,” contains texts and commentaries designed to guide the reader (a priest or a monk?) through the steps of the celebration of Mass. The selection of paraphrases from Aquinas’s Summa Theologica (Pars III) relative to the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist completes the core of the work. The numerous texts known by the title “Speculum missae” merit further study to define better their varied content and authorship.


1. Manuscript copied and bound in Italy, because the style of script and the watermarks point to a Tuscan origin, perhaps Lucca. This manuscript is copied in a single hand, and we are fortunate to have the name of the scribe who signs in the rubric found on f. 6: “Incipit speculum misse per me fratrem Constancium de Moglonis.” The scribe is thus a monk and the present volume must have been copied in a monastic content, but his identity and spiritual affiliation remain unknown (unrecorded in Bénédictins de Bouveret, Colophons manuscrits).

2. There is a date that has been added in the infill of the first opening decorated initial D: one can make out “1420” (the second number is a medieval number 4). This date is of course much too early for the codex and is likely a faulty suggested date of production, added by a later hand.

3. A few annotations and corrections, with a later hand indicating contents of the manuscript: “Orationes Marie et Tractatus ad misse ceremonias pertinent[is]” [ to the Virgin Mary and Treatise relating to the ceremonies tied to Mass.”

4. Private European Collection.


ff. 1-6, Prayer before the Celebration of Mass, heading, Oratio sacerdotis ante celebrationem; incipit, “Domine Jhesu Christe filii dei vivi verbum patris...”; explicit, “[...] salvator mundi qui in sancta trinitate unus deus vivis et regnas per cuncta secula. Amen”; followed by a rubric, Incipit speculum misse per me fratrem Constancium de Moglonis;

ff. 6v-18, [Anonymous]. Speculum missae [Mirror of Mass], see rubric above (f. 6); incipit, “Sacerdos celebraturus in primis lavat manus per quod significatur cordis contritio et corporis...”; ff. 18-21, Considerations on the Canon of the Mass, beginning, Sequitur de canone; incipit, “Canone dicitur quia regulis sanctorum...”; ff. 21-43, On the Commemoration of the Living and the Dead, beginning, Sequitur primum memento; incipit, “Memento domine famulorum famularum...” (“Remember Lord yours servants...”; in medieval liturgical texts, human worshipers often are identified as servant members of God’s household: famulos (masc pl) and famulas (fem pl)) ; ff. 43v-46,, including Oratio ante communionem [Prayer before Communion]; ff. 46-48v, Prayer, heading, Oratio post missa [Prayer for after Mass]; explicit (f. 48v), “[...] qui cum pane et spiritusancto vivis et regnas deus benedictus per cuncta secula. Explicit libellus de speculo misse ad laudem dei et beate virginis marie. Scriptor lectores obsecrat ut pro ipso continue ad dominum intercedant”;

There are a number of treatises that are entitled “Speculum missae” [literally “Mirror of Mass”] or alternatively “Expositio missae,” attributed without certitude to a variety of autors, who include Hugh of Saint-Cher, Hugh of Saint-Victor, Nicolaus Trivet, and even Pope Innocent III. None of the extant manuscripts with the title “Speculum misse” bear the same incipit. Certain colophons of similar works reveal the scope of the work as follows : “Tractatus super expositionem et significationem missae cum maxima brevitate” (Sankt-Pölten, Diözesanbibl., MS 67, colophon, attributed to Hugh of Saint-Cher, in database In principio), in English, “Treatise on the description and significance of Mass.” Another manuscript presents the following incipit, which begins like ours, but rapidly differs, still apparently serving the same purpose: “Sacerdos celebraturus missarum sollemnia postquam mundavit conscientiam suam...” (Eichstätt, UB, 109, f. 125v). The present text contains a description of the meaning and ceremonial of Mass, as well as the conditions and requirements the priest must gather and respect in order to deliver Mass.

Certain passages of the text found in the present manuscript resemble closely the preliminary text included and subsequently published in the Missale Romanum (editio princeps, Milan, 1474) which contains the texts and rubrics for the celebration of the Mass in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, adopted by the Latin Church after the Council of Trent: “Ritus servandus in celebratione missae,” incipit, “Sacerdotus celebraturus missam...”

ff. 49-54v, Paraphrases of excerpts from Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Pars III, Quaestio LXXXIII, art vi., rubric, De defectibus qui comittuntur circa eucharistiam secundum reverendum doctorem Thomam de Aquino ordinis predicatorum; incipit, “Nota quod periculis seu defectibus circa sacrificium altaris...”; explicit, “[...] pensatis conditionibus persone et negotii sed hoc probabilius videtur.”

This excerpt largely paraphrases passages from the Summa Theologica, as published in Divi Thomae Aquinatis Summa Theologica...ed. a Leone XIII, vol. IV, Rome, 1894, pp. 773-776. The excerpts here concern Pars III, quaestio LXXXIII, one of the articles relating to “The Sacrament of the Eucharist.” The heading of this article can be translated as such : “Whether the defects occurring during the celebration of this sacrament [i.e. The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist] can be sufficiently met by observing the Church’s statutes.” The entire quaestio LXXXIII is dedicated to the Holy Eucharist (articles 73 to 83): “Whether Christ is sacrificed in the celebration of this mystery”; “Of the time of celebrating”; “Of the place and other matters relating to this celebration”; “Of the words uttered in celebrating this mystery”; “Of the actions performed in celebrating this mystery”; and finally (here paraphrased in our manuscript) “Of the defects which occurr in the celebration of this sacrament.”

ff. 54v-55, [Anonymous]. Another opinion on the Holy Eucharist, rubric, Explicit secundum Thomam. Item alia opinio solennis; incipit, “Item si ceciderit sacrificium de manu offerentis super terra vel super lapidem...”; explicit, “[...] Item si corpus christi a muribus vel vermibus...ut sacrario recondatur.”

The two texts found respectively on ff. 49-54v and 54v-55 are also found together in a codex in Australia, Victoria (see Sinclair, K. Descriptive Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Western Manuscripts..., Sydney, 1969, pp. 276-277). With regard to the other “solemn opinion,” the author was not identified by Sinclair. The Victoria manuscript was catalogued by L. S. Olschki, Catalogue LXXIV. Manuscrits sur vélin avec miniatures du Xe au XVIe siècle, 1910, p. 78, pl. XXX; K.V. Sinclair, “Philipps Manuscripts in Australia,” The Book Collector 11 (1962), p. 334.

The word Mass (missa) first established itself as the general designation for the Eucharistic Sacrifice in the West after the time of Pope Gregory the Great (d. 604), the early Church having used the expression the “breaking of bread” (fractio panis) or “liturgy.” The liturgy of the Eucharist is the very heart of the Mass. Using one of the approved Eucharistic prayers, the priest prays over the gifts, asks the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them, recites the narrative of consecration, elevates the host and cup for the faithful to reverence, and proceeds to call to mind the Passion, Resurrection and glorious return of the Lord Jesus. In this sacred, sacramental action the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ.


Thomas Aquinas. Divi Thomae Aquinatis Summa Theologica...ed. a Leone XIII, vol. IV, Rome, 1894.

Plummer, J. Liturgical manuscripts for the Mass and the Divine Office [Exhibition in the Pierpont Morgan library from January 14 to March 21, 1964], New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 1964.

Sinclair, K. V. Descriptive Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Western Manuscripts.., Sydney, Australia, 1969.

Thorey, L. de. Histoire de la messe: de Grégoire le Grand à nos jours, Paris, Perrin, 1994.

Online resources

Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, Pars III:

K.V. Sinclair, 1969, MS. Victoria, Australia: