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les Enluminures

Dominican Book of Hours for use in the Convent of St. Gertrud, Cologne; Funeral Service (noted); Major Feasts of the Divine Office (noted)

In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment with musical notation
Germany (Cologne), c. 1481-1488

TM 919

ii (modern paper) + i (medieval parchment) + 271 + ii (modern paper) folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil, 1-271, missing five leaves at the end (collation i10 ii10[-5, one leaf following f. 14, without loss of text] iii-vi10 vii10 [-5, one leaf following f. 63, without loss of text] viii-x10 xi8 xii10 xiii12 [-9 and -12, two leaves following f. 124 and f. 126, without loss of text] xiv10 [-8, one leaf following f. 133, without loss of text] xv-xviii10 xix10[-5, one leaf following f. 179, without loss of text] xx10 [-8, one leaf following f. 191, without loss of text] xxi6 [-4 and -6, two leaves following f. 196 and f. 197, without loss of text, +7, f. 198] xxii8 xxiii10 xxiv12 xxv8 xxvi12 xxvii8 [-2, one leaf following f. 249, without loss of text] xxviii14 [-10, one leaf following f. 264, without loss of text] xxix8 [-4 through 8, five leaves following f. 271, with loss of text]), leaves were excised without loss of textual or pictorial content (except at the end), perhaps because the scribe calculated the needed space (e.g. in quires ii and vii the scribe used only a singleton rather than a bifolium in the middle of a quire),  partially cropped horizontal catchword  f. 10v, two distinct codicological units: ff. 1-198 (quires i-xxi), ruled in brown ink (first and last lines extend into the margins), written in black ink in textualis bookhand on 14 lines (justification 70 x 52 mm), one- to two-line initials alternating in red and blue, three-line initials in blue decorated with purple penwork highlighted with green paint, two four- to five-line initials in burnished gold on a red rectangular ground in-filled with a flower and floral borders in colors and burnished gold (ff. 39, 66v), three five- to six-line historiated initials on a red/blue rectangular ground, ff. 1, 107, 127 (described below), square musical notation on 4-line red staves with four lines of text and music per page; and ff. 199-271 (quires xxii-xxix), ruled in brown ink (justification 67 x 45 mm), written in black ink in textualis bookhand (by a different scribe) on 15 lines, liturgical instructions underlined in red, one- to two-line initials alternating in red and blue decorated with red penwork, two large puzzle initials in red and blue (ff. 202v, 261v), slightly cropped, but in excellent condition. Bound in seventeenth-century black morocco, blind-tooled with double lines framing the boards, spine with three raised bands, clasps, upper latch-pin lacking, outer edges gilt. Dimensions 108 x 77 mm.

Books of Hours from Germany are rare; here we have an example that was customized for use by Dominican nuns with additional liturgical texts and music. Carefully prepared and exceptionally well-preserved, this tiny manuscript from the convent of St. Gertrude in Cologne was possibly made for and by the prioress Magdalena Frankengrünerin (1481-1488).  It remained in the Dominican convent from the 1480s until the eighteenth century.


1.The text, decoration and 18th-century provenance of this manuscript indicate that it was almost certainly made in the Dominican convent of St. Gertrude in Cologne c. 1481-1488.

Our manuscript is datable by its script and decoration to the 1480s, which coincides with the period when Magdalena Frankengrünerin was prioress of St. Gertrude, from 1481 to 1488. A contemporary chronicler, Johann Meyer, informs us that the work of the prioress and three other nuns from the convent included copying beautiful choir books of the divine office (“Diese schwöster hat under ander ir arbait dem closter wol gehulfen mit schriben, besunder mit den schönen bücher des cors by dem göttlichen dienst,” Quellen und Forschungen, vol. 3, 97 ff., cited in Löhr, 1927, p. 164). It was almost certainly one of these four nuns, perhaps the prioress, who copied the present manuscript. Another of them wrote Darmstadt HS 1005. The script is very similar, but the hand is not the same. The second codicological component in the present book (ff. 200-271v) is contemporary and can also be localized to Cologne by its script.

Eleven manuscripts surviving from St. Gertrude were listed by S. Krämer in 1989 (p. 420). Dating from the fourteenth to the 16th century, they are mostly liturgical manuscripts, all but one now in German public collections. The present manuscript, previously unknown, adds to our understanding of the quality of books made at St. Gertrude. Saints Dominic and Gertrude are both invoked twice in each of the manuscript’s litanies, and the texts in our manuscript are virtually identical and mutually complementary with those in a Book of Hours made for, and at, St. Gertrude at precisely the same time (Darmstadt, Hessische Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek, HS 1005; Achten, Eizenhöfer, Knaus, 1972, no. 49, pp. 162-163).  That the present manuscript was made at St. Gertrude can also be deduced from its decoration. The same person painted the initials and floral borders in this manuscript and in the Darmstadt Hours (discussed in detail below).

The convent of St. Gertrude was founded before 1257 and secularized in 1802. In the late Middle Ages the nuns at St. Gertrude were the daughters of old, established families and rich merchant families, as women entering the convent had to provide a dowry for their maintenance.

2. Inside the front cover, in pencil, “S. Maria Catharina Drieschen.”  S(chwester) Maria Catharina Drieschen was born in Koblenz and professed to the order of St. Gertrud in 1740 at the age of 23; she was the sister of Maria Margaretha Drieschen (b. 1721), prioress of St. Gertrude in 1798 (Löhr, 1927, pp. 102, 135, 165).  She entered St. Gertrude with a dowry of 450 Reichsthaler (Löhr, 1927, p. 165). 

3. Owner’s or dealer’s not, top of the verso of the front flyleaf: “G===55”(?).


I. ff. 1-198v:

ff. 1-39, Hours of the Virgin, Dominican Use; Incipit cursus beate marie virginis, incipit, “Saluto te

sancta maria regina …”;

The Hours of the Virgin are for Dominican use: the antiphon at Prime is typical of monastic orders, and those at Terce and Compline are specific to the Dominican order. The introduction to the Hours of the Virgin with Cursus and the double litany are further indications of Cologne origin, and the text of the Hours is the same in Darmstadt, HS 1005, which also begins, before the text of the Matins, with the prayer to the Virgin that invokes Gabriel's greeting, “Saluto te sancta maria.”

ff. 39-105v, Variants with psalms, hymns and prayers are provided to the Hours of the Virgin for the pre-Lenten season (in lxx, Septuagesima Sunday), for the days of the week at Vespers (and Compline on Sabbath), and at the end variant antiphons, versicles and prayers are provided for major feasts: St. Dominic, Nativity of Christ, Epiphany, Ascension, Pentecost, Purification, Annunciation, Visitation, Assumption, Nativity of the Virgin, Conception, and Presentation; [f. 106 blank];

ff 107-118, Penitential Psalms;

ff. 118-126, Litany, including the Cologne saints Gereon, Severin, Cordula and Ursula, and double invocations for the patron saints of the convent, saints Dominic and Gertrude; [f. 126v]; blank.

ff. 127-172v, Office of the Dead, unrecorded liturgical use: Resp. 1. Credo quod; 2. Quem visurus (unrecorded in Ottosen or in the additions to his work); 3. Qui Lazarum; 4. Domine quando; 5. Heu mihi; 6. Ne recorderis; 7. Domine secundum; 8. Ne tradas; 9. Peccantem me;

ff. 172-183, Litany (mostly repeating the litany on ff. 118-126);

ff. 183-198, De officio sepulture, incipit, “Non intres in judicium,” noted (with music, “Subvenite sancti dei,” “Antequam nascerer, novisti me,” “Clementissime domine”); incomplete at the end;

Funeral service, with musical notation.

[f. 199rv, blank]; ff. 200-271v, Noted Offices for major feasts from Palm Sunday to the Assumption of the Virgin; (incomplete at the end).

In contrast with the numerous Books of Hours copied in France, Italy, the Low Countries, and England, relatively few examples of the “medieval bestseller” survive from Germany.  And indeed, the text in this manuscript is not typical of a Book of Hours.  Here, the calendar, Gospel lessons, and the two common prayers to the Virgin, Obsecro te and O intemerata, are omitted (omissions that can be found in other Books of Hours copied in Germany).  This manuscript also includes texts not usually found in Books of Hours, transforming a book meant for private, often lay, devotion, into a liturgical book for use by Dominican nuns.  Following the texts normally found in a Book of Hours, the manuscript ends with the text and music for the funeral service and the Offices for major feasts (ff. 183-271). This corresponds to our manuscript’s “sister manuscript” at Darmstadt, which concludes with 28 folios of liturgical prayers with musical notation for the communion of the sick and the funeral service. The importance of music in these manuscripts is noteworthy, especially in light of a contemporary chronicler’s remark that the nuns at St. Gertrude were famous for copying beautiful Choir Books for the Divine Office.


Three historiated initials:

f. 1, Annunciation;

The image echoes the Annunciation by Stefan Lochner (c. 1410-1451), the most important painter and illuminator in Cologne in the fifteenth century, painted in the 1440s for the chapel of the councilors of Cologne (now housed in the cathedral).  As in the panel, Mary is kneeling at her prie-dieu at the left and turns her head to look at Gabriel who has just alighted from the right, perhaps through the arched doorway depicted in both images.

f. 107, David in prayer;

f. 127, Christ at the Last Judgment flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John;

The composition, costumes and poses of the protagonists emulate the Last Judgement panel painted by Lochner around 1435-40 for the town hall or St Laurentz church in Cologne.

The floral borders and initials with distinctive carrot- and bell-flowers, gold rinceaux, ribbon-like acanthus scrolls and gold pastilles testify to the Cologne “Goldrispenstil” (gold filigree decoration) developed by Lochner and adopted by subsequent local illuminators. Interestingly, the very small format of Lochner’s devotional books was also influential: the famous Lochner Gebetbuch measures 107 x 80 mm. (Darmstadt, HS 70), almost the same dimensions as the present manuscript. The penwork forms, the dentilation of the marginal penscrolls, the forms of the flowers, the arrangement of the foliage and the colors used allow the dating of the present manuscript to the 1480s (cf. the Simmern Missal of 1481-1482, Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, a Psalterium/Hymnar of c. 1470, Darmstadt, HS 855 and a Gradual of c. 1498, Cologne, Dombibliothek, Codex 229).


The decoration in this manuscript is very similar to that of the Darmstadt Hours, also produced at St. Gertrude.  Indeed, the same person painted the initials and floral borders in this manuscript and in the Darmstadt Hours (Hemfort, 2001, p. 84, plate 81). The figures in the three historiated initials, like those in Darmstadt, are crude and angular, their eyes are heavily outlined in black, and their hands gesture awkwardly. The same gold or white feathering occurs in the corners of the rectangular ground behind the initial. In the margins of both manuscripts one finds identical carrot- and cupflowers, a three-petal-flower with stamen protruding from its ripe pistil, ribbon-like acanthus leaves and pastilles and leaves in burnished gold. The two books would originally have been approximately the same size. The Darmstadt Hours is today a centimeter larger (116 x 86 mm), but the margins of the present manuscript appear to have been cropped slightly in rebinding.


Achten, G., Eizenhöfer, L., Knaus, H. Die lateinischen Gebetbuchhandschriften der Hessischen Landes und Hochschulbibliothek Darmstadt, Wiesbaden, 1972.

Chapuis, J. Stefan Lochner: Image Making in Fifteenth-Century Cologne, Turnhout, 2004.

Corley, B. Painting and Patronage in Cologne: 1300-1500, Turnhout, 2000.

Dickmann, I. “Der ‘Codex Hunolstein’ und die Kölner Buchmalerei in der zweiten Hälfte des 15. Jahrhunderts,” Kurtrierisches Jahrbuch, 42 (2002), pp. 199-207.


Hamburger, J. F. Nuns as Artists: the Visual Culture of a Medieval Convent, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1997.

Hamburger, J. F. “Another Perspective: The Book of Hours in Germany,” in Books of Hours Reconsidered, ed. by S. Hindman and J. Marrow, Turnhout, 2013, pp. 97-152.

Hemfort, E. Monastische Buchkunst zwischen Mittelalten und Renaissance: Illuminierte Handschriften der Zisterzienserabtei Altenberg und die Kölner Buchmalerei 1470-1550, Bergisch Gladbach, 2001.

Krämer, S. Handschriftenerbe des deutschen Mittelalters, Teil 2: Köln-Zyfflich, Mittelalterliche Bibliothekskataloge: Deutschlands und der Schweiz, Ergänzungsband I, Munich, 1989.

Leroquais, V.  Les livres d‘heures manuscrits de la Bibliothèque nationale, 2 vols, Paris, 1927.

Löhr, G. M. “Das Nekrologium des Dominikanerinnenklosters St. Gertrud in Köln,“ Annalen des Historischen Vereins für den Niederrhein, 110 (1927), pp. 60-179.

Prieur, J. Das Kölner Dominikanerinnenkloster St. Gertrud am Neumarkt, Cologne, 1983.

Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte des Dominikanerordens in Deutschland, Berlin, 1907-1952.

Online Resources

Monastic Matrix, St. Gertrude, Cologne

Codices Electronici Ecclesiae Coloniensis (digitized Cologne manuscripts, including the 392 medieval manuscripts at the Cologne Dombibliothek)

Digitized medieval manuscripts at Darmstadt Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek

Drigsdahl, E., “Tutorial on Books of Hours”

Online version of K. Ottosen's The Responsories and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead

Lebigue, J.-B. “Initiation to Liturgical Manuscripts” (in French)

TM 919