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les Enluminures

Gospel Lectionary (Evangeliary) for the Mass (Cistercian Use)

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment with musical notation
Spain or Southern France, c. 1185-1200, possibly before 1191 (with additions, dated 1609, and eighteenth century)

TM 586

189 folios on parchment, early pagination in ink, center top margin, 5-382 (the last leaf, pp. 383-4, now unnumbered (entered before the opening folios were missing, but after the loss of the folio in quire 12), earlier foliation in ink, top outer corner recto in the Temporal, mostly trimmed, another series starts again with f. 1 (now f. 137) at the beginning of the Sanctoral, modern foliation in pencil top outer corner recto, lacking two leaves at the beginning (once paginated 1-4), single leaves in quires 12, 16 and 18, and an uncertain number of leaves at the end, now ending with fifteen folios dated 1609, and two eighteenth-century leaves (collation, i8 [-1 and 2, once paginated 1-4] ii-xi8 xii8 [-6, following f. 91, no break in the pagination] xiii-xv8 xvi8 [-8, now replaced by a blank leaf, f. 125, once paginated 253-254] xvii8 xviii8 [-2, following f. 134, paginated 273-274] xix-xxi8 xxii8 [through f. 172v + seventeen added leaves, structure uncertain]), horizontal catchwords, boxed in red (in quire 18 boxed in green) center lower margin, many now completely or partially trimmed, no signatures, ruled very lightly in lead, apparently with the top two horizontal rules full across and with double full length vertical bounding lines, at least in the outer margin (see for example, f. 147) (justification, 170-169 x 118-110 mm.), written above the top ruled line in an upright, angular twelfth-century minuscule in seventeen long lines, EIGHT PAGES OF MUSIC, ff. 94v-98, with square notation on three-line red staves (on ff. 94v-95, with an additional, non-functional (?) line), red rubrics, lines of text completed below the last ruled line are boxed in red by the scribe, five- to three-line red, dark blue or green initials, with simple contrasting pen decoration in blue or red, upper and lower margins trimmed, overall many signs of use through many centuries, but legible and in good, sound condition, parchment darkened, especially in the opening folios, with some soiling and cockling throughout, early repairs include f. 26, bottom margin, f. 62, outer margin, f. 83 (within text, scribe wrote around hole), and f.119, text blurred top lines, f. 23v, many later repairs, f. 1, bottom, and top margins, ff. 3-8, 17-21, 25-26, f. 61, outer margin, f. 62, bottom margin, f. 95, top margin, f. 141, top outer corner, corrosive green pigment left holes, in some cases the entire initial is now missing (see f. 2v, “A” outline on parchment pasted in over the original initial, and ff. 10, 134,149v 165v), stains, ff. 171-172v, red ink has run slightly on the added leaves. Bound in modern plain vellum, smooth spine with “Evangelaire latinum/ circa 12th century,” informally lettered in ink, edges dyed blue, in very good condition, both covers with minor stains. Dimensions 215 x 160 mm.

Twelfth-century manuscripts are increasingly rare on the market. This is an excellent example of a Cistercian liturgical manuscript, noteworthy for its inclusion of the Exultet with musical notation, as well as musical notation added to the Passion readings for Holy Week. Certainly originating in Spain or Southern France (Catalonia), additional research may make it possible to identify the monastery where it was copied, adding to its interest.


1. Written for a Cistercian monastery in Spain or Southern France (Catalonia) at the end of the twelfth century as indicated by the saints included, the script, pen decoration, and details of the spelling and abbreviations. The Saints in the Sanctoral agree with Cistercian usage and suggest a date after 1185, since it includes Thomas Becket (29 December), observed by the Cistercians in 1185 on f. 138 (although Thomas was canonized in 1173), as well as Bernard (20 August, 1174), Mary Magdalene (21 July, 1175), and Vincent of Saragossa (22 January, 1184), and most likely before probably before 1218, since William of Bourges (10 January) is added in an early hand in the margin on f. 138, and probably before 1191 (lacks Malachi on 2, 3, or 5 November), and lacks Peter of Tarentaise (8 May, 1196). Other early additions include Robert of Molesmes (17 April, observed on 29 April from 1224), observed from 1222, added on f. 141, Peter Martyr (30 April, 1255-6), and Lambert (17 September, 1246).

The script, an upright twelfth-century minuscule, using upright “d” normally, with occasional use of round d, e-cedilla for “ae” (appropriately and not), and both the ampersand and tironian “7” to abbreviate “et” (and), is additional evidence for the date.

Copied in Spain or possibly Southern France/Catalonia; note the form of “z” (also seen in Thomson, 1969, no. 111, Iberia 1143), the uncrossed tironian “7” with the long cross stroke, the general angularity of the script, and the abbreviation of “qui” in the northern fashion with a superscript “i,” as well as spellings such as “octabas” (also present in the twelfth-century Sacramentary from Elne in Catalonia sold at this site as TM 263), “babtista,” and “Luchas,” and abbreviations “noie” for “nomine,” “tpre” for “tempore,” and so forth. The Reconquista of the territories governed by the Muslims in the southern part of Catalonia created opportunities for the pioneering Cistercians. There were numerous Cistercian foundations in Spain and Southern France, including the famous Catalan abbeys, Poblet (founded 1150), Santa Creus (founded 1160) Vallbona de les Monges (for Cistercian Nuns, founded 1157).

The Cistercians were founded in 1098, when Robert of Molesme and a small group of monks traveled to Cîteaux to live a new, simpler version of the monastic life. Essential to this vision was a simplification of the liturgy, which shortened the Divine Office, and enabled the Monks to balance the amount of time they spent in Church, with time spent on manual labor and other tasks. The liturgical simplicity is still seen in the Sanctoral of this Evangeliary, which consequently includes no local saints that allow us at this time to suggest exactly where it was made; further research is called for.

The text was carefully corrected; early corrections include f. 39v, in the margin, neatly boxed in red, and three lines of text on f. 127 boxed in red and later scraped away. The decoration is restricted to simple colored initials with contrasting pen decoration, in keeping with early Cistercian simplicity.

2. The manuscript was in active liturgical use into the eighteenth century; ff. 173-187v were added in 1603 (date lower margin f. 187v), and ff. 188-189 were added subsequently in the eighteenth century; the manuscript was foliated (two sets, beginning again at f. 1 in the sanctorale), and then paginated (cross references using the page numbers were also added, for example, f. 140v), and there are notes updating the liturgy in many different hands (see ff. 2v, 56, 66rv, 103v, 107v, 116: adding notes on Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi, 138v, 139v, 140rv, 145v, 148v, 150, 151, 154, and 167 (with an added prayer; see below, text).

Included among the added feasts are Thomas Aquinas (7 March; 1329); Visitation (2 July, 1476), Benedict, translation (11 July, 1291), Anne (26 July, 1375), Transfiguration (6 August, 1656), and the Coronae domini (11 August, 1656) (dates indicate when the feasts were approved by the Cistercian general chapter).

3. Bought from Durtal, Paris in 1954 by a private collector, and then by descent.


ff. 1-94, Temporal, now beginning imperfectly in the third feria following the third Sunday in Advent through Good Friday;

Although many Cistercian liturgical books begin the Temporal on December 26, it appears that this manuscript (now missing two folios at the beginning), began with the first Sunday in Advent (the Sanctoral, in contrast follows Cistercian custom and begins with the feast of St. Stephen on 26 December, see below); now missing a leaf following f. 91 (text ends abruptly at John 19:1), and then resumes abruptly at John 19:13 on f. 92.

The Passion readings for Palm Sunday and Holy Week (ff. 58v-68v, Matthew, Palm Sunday; ff. 71-87v, Mark, Feria iii, or Tuesday in Holy Week, ff. 88v-94, John, Feria v or Good Friday), include superscript letters in red or brown, possibly added, indicating the pitch, tempo and volume to be used for different speakers (c, a, +), as well as added musical notation (in the margin or between the lines of text), and later stress marks (various dots, dashes, etc.)

ff. 94v-97v, Officium in vigilia paschae, incipit, “Exultet iam angelica … Per dominum nostrum ihesum christum filium tuum qui tecum uiuit et regant in unitate spiritus sancti deus per omnia secula seculorum”;

The Exultet or the Easter proclamation, with musical notation; this is an ancient and very beautiful hymn of praise chanted by the deacon at the Easter Vigil after the Pascal candle has been lit.

ff. 98-136, Temporal from Holy Saturday through the twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost; ends top, f. 136; remainder blank;

Leaf following ff. 124 missing and replaced by a blank leaf so that f. 124v now ends imperfectly with a rubric for the fourteenth Sunday following Pentecost, and f. 125 begins abruptly in the reading for the twenty-fifth Sunday; missing a leaf following f. 134v, so that f. 134v now ends imperfectly in the reading for the twenty-third Sunday following Pentecost, and f. 135 begins abruptly in the reading for the twenty-fourth Sunday.

Three lines boxed in red on f. 127 and later roughly scraped away at Mt. 6:28, presumably correcting an error by the original scribe; there is also a possibility that the text once included a different version of the Gospel, although the critical edition (Wordsworth and White, 1889-1954) does not list any interpolations found in other manuscripts at this point in the Gospel.

ff. 136v-163v, Sanctoral from the feast of Stephen (26 December) through Nicholas (6 December);

ff. 163v-189v, Common of Saints, ending imperfectly on f. 172v; now followed by replacement leaves dated 1609 on f. 187v, completing the common of saints, followed by the Dedication of a Church and Votive Masses, Pro adversitate ecclesiae, Pro peccatis, Pro seipso sacerdote, Aliud …, De angelos, Pro familaribus, Aliud .., Pro infirmis, De quinque vulneribus christi, De quinque auxiliatoribus, and concluding in a later hand, ff. 188-189 with readings for the dedication of a Church, and Corona domini;[Ends top f. 189; remainder and f. 189v, blank].

Added in the margin of f. 167 in a later hand, a prayer for St. Blaise, incipit, “Deus qui per oratione beati Blasii martiris tui ….”

A Gospel Lectionary or Evangeliary includes the Gospel Readings for the Mass, arranged according to the liturgical year. The Gospels were chanted by the Deacon during Mass, and several features of this manuscript are related to its use in the liturgy. The Gospel accounts of Christ’s Passion read on Palm Sunday and during Holy Week include small letters added above the line of text in red or brown ink known as litterae significativae. These letters indicate the pitch, tempo and volume to be used for different speakers within the text (here “c” for the narrator, “a” for the crowd and a cross for Christ). By the thirteenth century there is evidence that these different parts of the Passion lesson were divided among different people. Historians have linked these liturgical practices to the development of liturgical drama – in particular the Passion play -- in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

This manuscript also includes the Exultet, the hymn of praise chanted during the Easter Vigil with musical notation. This very beautiful text is most often studied in the context of the Exultet Rolls produced especially in Southern Italy in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The Exultet (with musical notation) was also included with in the Evangeliary of the Cistercian liturgical prototype (Dijon, BM 114), and the text is found in other Evangeliaries, especially of monastic origin, but, as Yolanta Zaluska has observed, scholars are generally not aware of the fact (Zaluska, 2004, pp. 134-5).

The chant used for the Passion readings grew steadily more elaborate during the Middle Ages. Evolving musical customs can be seen in this manuscript by the introduction of music on four-line staves with square notation added by later hands in the margins (ff. 59, 66v, 67, 78v, and 87) and between the lines of text (ff. 71v, 72v-74v, and 79). During the early modern period, the manuscript was still in active liturgical use, and various hands included further notation (points and other symbols) in the Passion readings in dark black ink (ff. 68, 79v-81v, 82-83vm 86rv, 87v).

The text of the Gospels is punctuated with the punctus and the punctus elevatus; the third type of punctuation common to Cistercian manuscripts, the punctus flexus does not seem to be used. However, the flexus (here like a stretched out “2” shape) is found throughout copied above certain words between the lines of text, together with additional stress marks (diagonal lines). Two other twelfth-century Cistercian Gospel Lectionaries with similar notations are British Library, Egerton MS 3760 from Southern France (Online Resources, below), and Harvard University, Houghton Library, fMS Typ 210, from Morimondo in Northern Italy (Light, 1988, pp. 27-29, no. 8); both these manuscripts also includes the Exultet with musical notation. Although these two examples are Cistercian, similar marks are found in the later thirteenth-century Evangeliary sold on this site (TM 50), which was not Cistercian. The Gospels were chanted according to a simple tone by the deacon, and these marks were doubtless intended to aid in his performance. In this manuscript additional stress marks were are added later to certain passages. The repertoire of stress marks found in the later leaves, ff. 173-190, is more extensive.

Biblical readings are a central part of every Mass. The opening portion of the Eucharistic celebration, known as the Fore-Mass, consisted of biblical readings, usually two in number (on certain feasts there were more). The second reading was always from the Gospels. Although these Mass readings or Pericopes were taken from the Bible, Bibles were probably used for the readings during Mass only very early in the history of the Church. Instead, a number of different types of books were used. Gospel books, equipped with lists of the gospel readings in liturgical order (capitularies or capitulare evangeliorum), were commonly used liturgically, especially early in the Middle Ages. Gospel Lectionaries or Evangeliaries, such as the manuscript described here, however, were an even more practical solution, and included only the text of the Pericopes arranged in the order of the liturgical year rather than in the order of the Bible.

Used in the performance of the Mass, the Gospel Lectionary lies at the very heart of medieval religious belief and practice and, thus, provides a close-up view of worship in the medieval Church. Because Lectionaries were usually copied from other Lectionaries rather than as a series of extracts from a complete Bible, they can preserve superseded textual readings and therefore be of considerable textual interest. The history of the Vulgate in Spain is of special interest, and the text of this Lectionary therefore deserves to be studied carefully and compared with both Spanish Gospel books (and Bibles) and Cistercian sources.


Addleshaw, George William Outram. Lectionaries Old and New, London, 1957.

Harper, John. The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy from the Tenth to the Eighteenth Century: A Historical Introduction and Guide for Students and Musicians, Oxford University Press, 1991.

Hughes, Andrew. Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office: a guide to their organization and terminology, Toronto and London, 1982.

Klauser, Theodor. Das Römische Capitulare Evangeliorum. Texte und Untersuchungen zu seiner Ältesten Geschichte, Liturgiegeschichtliche Quellen und Forschungen 28, Münster 1935.

Lekai, Louis J., The Cistercians: Ideals and Reality, Kent, Ohio, Kent State University Press, 1977.

Light, Laura. The Bible in the Twelfth Century. An Exhibition of Manuscripts at the Houghton Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1988.

Martimort, A. G. Les lectures liturgiques et leurs livres, Typologie des sources du Moyen Âge Occidental 64, Turnhout, Belgium, 1992, pp. 28-32

Plummer, John. Liturgical Manuscripts for the Mass and the Divine Office, New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, 1964, 9-27, “Mass Books,” especially 17-19, nos. 13-15, “Evangeliaries.”

Salmon, Pierre. Les Manuscrits liturgiques latins de la bibliothèque vaticane. II. Sacramentaires, Épistoliers, Évangéliaires, Graduels, Missels, Studi e testi 253, Vatican, Biblioteca apolstolica vaticana, 1969.

Schneider, Ambrosius, ed. Die Cistercienser: Geschichte, Geist, Kunst, Cologne, 1986.

Thomson, S. Harrison. Latin Bookhands of the Later Middle Ages, 1100-1500, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1969.

Van Dijk, Stephen Joseph Peter. “The Bible in Liturgical Use,” in The Cambridge History of the Bible. Volume 2, The West from the Fathers to the Reformation, ed. G. W. H. Lampe, Cambridge, 1969, pp. 220-52, especially pp. 233-34.

Vogel, Cyrille. Medieval Liturgy: An Introduction to the Sources, tr. W. G. Storey and N. K. Rasmussen, Washington, D.C. 1986, pp. 316-18.

Wordsworth, John and Henry J. White, eds. Novum testamentum domini nostri Iesu Christi latine secundum editionem sancti Hieronymi, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1889-1954.

Zaluska, Yolanta. “ Évangéliaire du ‘prototype’ Dominicain et Évangéliaire du ‘prototype’ Cistercien,” in Aux origines de la liturgie dominicaine : le manuscrit Santa Sabina XIV L 1, ed. Leonard E. Boyle, Pierre-Marie Gy, and Pawe³s Krupa, Rome and Paris, 2004, pp. 127-157.

Online resources

Michel Huglo and James W. McKinnon. “Gospel (i),” Grove Music Online, Oxford Music (by subscription

Kurt von Fischer and Werner Braun. “Passion.” In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online,

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

Gildas, M. (1908), “Cistercians,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 17, 2009 from New Advent:

“Order of St. Benedict: The Cistercians” (links to short history and other resources)

Text of the Exultet with English translation

British Library, Egerton MS 3760, Cistercian Evangeliary