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LEONARDUS DE GIFFONO (DE GRIFFONIO), Summula ecclesie sacramentorum

In Latin and Italian, illuminated manuscript on paper
Southern Italy, Basilicata (Potenza?) or Campania (Salerno?), dated 1497

TM 177

234 ff., complete (collation: i2, ii-xxiii10, xxiv10 [missing 2 first ff. of last blank quire]), on paper (a number of different watermarks, close to Briquet 3899, Deux clés en sautoir dans un cercle: Fabriano, 1500; Briquet 4862 and 4863, Couronne à trois fleurons: respectively Fabriano, 1493 and Naples, 1489), catchwords, ruled in plummet, contemporary foliation in red ink in upper margin, written in a gothic littera textualis in dark brown ink, on up to 20 long lines (justification 100 x 75 mm), rubrics in red, paragraph marks in red and blue, numerous capitals stroked in red, numerous 1- to 2-line high initials in blue with red filigree penwork, 5-LINE HIGH OPENING INITIAL painted in brown with a foliate motif equally in brown on a magenta ground highlighted in gold tracery, PAINTED ARMS in the lower margin of f. 13 (winged griffon d’or holding an initial P on an azure ground), arms set between two green birds (likely parrots), flyleaves front and back from a late 12th-13th century manuscript copied in Beneventan minuscule script, in brown ink, ruled on the flesh side with a hard point, rubrics and initial in red, some capitals stroked in red (see section below). Contemporary southern Italian binding of blind-tooled dark brown sheepskin over wooden boards, covers divided by quadruple fillets into concentric frames with an outer frame stamped with a six-petal floral motif, an inner frame filled with curved concave and convex tools with five-petal rosettes, the central panel with concentric lozenge-shaped motifs (motivi romboidali) and six-petal flowers, one brass clasp still present of rigid cloth and green velvet, evidence of the second clasp (now lacking), clasps fastened with six-point star brass nails. Compare bindings associated with the region of Naples: see P. Quilici, Legature antiche…Biblioteca Casanatense (1995), no. 51, fig. 28, legatura napoletana del secondo metà del sec. XV; O. Mazal, Europ√§ische Einbandkunst… (1970), Abb. 77, “Neapel, um 1480” and Abb. 80, “Neapel, ende 15 Jahr.”; T. de Marinis, La legatura artistica, vol. I, no. 217, tav. XXXIX, Napoli (Some internal foxing to the paper, never affecting legibility; wormholes to the binding). Dimensions 170 x 120 mm.

The only extant copy of a manual of penitence by the Franciscan Cardinal Leonardus de Giffono (died 1407), attributed to him in some bibliographies but previously unknown in any manuscript copy and entirely unpublished. Preserved in its original binding with Beneventan pastedowns, the present manuscript, dated 1497, was copied and bound in a southern Italian environment, where its author also originated. Written in Latin and the vernacular, the text quotes such canonists as Raymundus de Penafortis, Hostiensis, Johannes de Lignano, et alia, and is important for the study of canon law and especially for the practical use of canon law for penitential purposes. The writings by Leonardus de Giffono have been little studied and most remain unedited.


1. The manuscript is dated on f. 197v: “Finis est hujus sumule deo gratias 1497 quam obrem si omnia per tractate et contenta in hac brevi summula sint bene posita…”. This means the present copy was completed just under a century after its author’s death in 1407. Script, paper and binding all clearly point to a southern Italian origin for this manuscript. Further comparison with manuscript production in the regions of Basilicata and Campania would prove instructive. However, the following should be signaled: the first watermark found on first and last folios is a lion rampant in an oval shield with bend, which recalls the arms of the city of Potenza (province of Basilicata). Within the Franciscan province of Terrae Laboris, one distinguished between the Custodia Salernitana (which included Salerno and Giffoni) and the Custodia Principatus (which included Potenza). The arms painted in the lower margin of fol. 13 recall city or municipal coats of arms. They have not been clearly identified, but the griffon upholding a letter P can be compared to the city arms of Giffoni Sei Casali (province of Salerno) which present a similar gold griffon on a gules ground. In the present case we have a gold griffon holding an initial P, on an azure ground. Could these be the municipal arms of Giffoni Valle Piana, a neighboring locality also in the province of Salerno, and the birthplace of the author?

2. In 1503, the manuscript was likely in Salerno, as confirmed by the casuistry notes added for the bishop of Salerno (ff. 232-234v).

3. Private Collection, Italy.


ff. 1-1v, blank;

f. 2, and sacred incantations to be pronounced when confronted with the Plague: “Contra pestem. Tunc mors est exarata cum dicitur ananizata. In nomine patris ananizata. In nomine filii ananizata…”;

f. 2v, blank;

ff. 3-8v, Leonardus de Giffono, Summula ecclesie sacramentorum, Table of contents, rubric, Hec est tabula omnium cotentorum in hac brevissima summula tractatus primus de pecato;

ff. 9-12v, blank;

ff. 13-134, Leonardus de Giffono, Summula ecclesie sacramentorum, rubric, Hec est sumula ecclesie sacramentorum et utilissima brevissimo stilo confecta ad multorum sacerdotum erudicionem quam edidit frater Leonardus de Gifono ordinis minorum sacre theologie indignus doctor; incipit, “Omnium doctor ihesus cristus ad patrem transiturus suos discipulos…”; rubric, Capitulum primum de peccato ut sciant confitentes primo quid est peccatum; last rubric, De extrema uncione dicendum c. 1. ; explicit, “[…] vide in libro parochialium etc.”;

f. 134v, blank;

ff. 135-157v, Leonardus de Giffono, Summula ecclesie sacramentorum, rubric, De decem prececptis nota; incipit, “Interroganti iuveni quod faciendo ut vitam eternam haberet…”; explicit, “[…] ad decem precepta”;

ff. 157v-174v, Leonardus de Giffono, Summula ecclesie sacramentorum, rubric, Hic dicendum est de sectem [sic] viciis capitalibus et eorum specibus et primo de avaricia; incipit, “Avaricia triplex perpetrator…”; explicit, “[…] scandali sequentis esset mortale”;

ff. 175-197v, Leonardus de Giffono, Summula ecclesie sacramentorum, rubric, De principibus baronibus et retoribus ac officialibus; incipit, “Circa principes et rectores et dominos seculares…” ; explicit, “[…] Finis est hujus sumule deo gratias 1497 quam obrem si omnia per tractate et contenta in hac brevi summula sint bene posita…”;

ff. 197v-224v, Leonardus de Giffono, Summula ecclesie sacramentorum, Added casuistry, with majority of passages in Italian concerning the various categories of society, rubric, Quomodo et quo ordine fieri debent interrogaciones in confessione notandum; incipit, “Set (?) Ray[mundus] et Host[iensis] in summa dicunt quod interrogaciones fieri debent de sectem viciis capitalibus…”; explicit, “[…] in remixionne pecatorum tuorum omnium et […] gratie et primum vite eterne. Amen”;

ff. 225-231, blank;

ff. 232-234v, Added casuistry for the archbishop of Salerno (Campania), heading, “Casibus reservatis ab archiepiscopo salernitano i[n] .ccccciii. [1503]; incipit: “Item comittentes incendium data opera facta satis facio assolvantur…”; explicit, “[…] Item frandentes bona ecclesie et principue salernitane si satisfaciant abssolvantur aliter vero non […]” (text interrupted); followed by: “Misse de gratia”; “Oratio”; “Misse sunt iste videlicet: Missa de adventu / Missa de nativitate domini…”; “Misse”. – The archbishop of Salerno in 1503 was Giovanni De Vera, cardinal (1500-1507) (See Salerno sacra (1962), no. 71, p. 95). He was papal legate to France and England.

Leonardus de Giffoni O.F.M. was a Brother minor and Cardinal, born in the eponymous locality of Giffoni Valle Piana, near Salerno, c. 1335-1340. The colophon of a manuscript (Grenoble, BM, MS 988) refers to him as de Rubeis, which accounts for the name Rossi by which he is sometimes also known. He was one of the first proponents of the movement known as the Observance. Having studied theology in Cambridge (see Emden, 1963, pp. 257-258), he was appointed cardinal by Pope Clement VII in 1378. He was advisor to Joan I of Naples, and as such he was held captive by Charles de Durazzo between 1381 and 1386. He settled in Avignon in 1387 and was active in the controversy surrounding the Schism. He must have died c. 1407, and was buried in the Franciscan convent of Avignon (see Chevalier, II, col. 2806).

Amongst his known works, there is an Expositio in Canticum canticorum (Florence, Laurentiana, MS. S. Croce, Pluteus VIII, dext 1.224), six volumes of sermons (Vatican, Barberini, Lat. 754-759), a Liber soliloquiorum animae penitentis ad Deum (Paris, BnF, MS lat. 3351) [composed during his captivity, see Sbaralea, Supplementum…,1806, p. 488; however the attribution to L. de Giffoni is not confirmed] and finally fragments of a treatise on penitence, copied on an exemplar located in Paris (Valenciennes, BM, MS. 22: “Excerpta sunt haec de libro Leonardi de Giphono cardinalis ordinis minorum, et liber jacet Parisius in bibliotheca…” [CGM – Valenciennes, vol. 25 (1894), p. 201]). In his entry in Catholicsme, Schmitt signals a Summa notabilis or Theologia moralis, without any certitude (Schmitt, 1969, col. 365; this work is quoted as Summam Theologiae moralis by Wadding, 1906, p. 160).

With reference to Valenciennes, MS 22, which contains excerpts of a treatise on penitence, C. Schmitt says the following: “[…] il est possible qu’il s’agisse de la Summa notabilis ou Theologia moralis signalée sans précision dans divers repertoires bibliographiques” [It is possible that Valenciennes, MS. 22 contains the Summa notabilis signaled by a number of bibliographies](C. Schmitt (1976), col. 645 who quotes Schmitt, AFH, t. 50 (1957), p. 283). The Valenciennes manuscript begins with the following incipit: “Signa et mirabilia fecit Deus…Textus iste exponitur pro penitentibus se disponentibus motibus previis…”. This is a very different incipit from our manuscript which is clearly entitled Summula ecclesie sacramentorum in the opening rubric.

The question remains as to whether our manuscript contains a complete version of the Valenciennes shortened version or another treatise altogether. The present manuscript is the only known complete copy of the Summula ecclesiae sacramentorum, adding to the known list of works securely attributed to Leonardus de Giffoni. The Summula ecclesiae sacramentorum is not recorded in Pierre Michaud-Quantin, Sommes de casuistique et manuels de confession au Moyen Age (XIIe-XVIe siècles), Louvain, Edit. Nauwelaerts, 1962.

Entitled Summula ecclesie sacramentorum, the present work begins by defining the main concern of the confessor, which is identifying sin and its redeeming penitence. This is followed by an explication of all the possible forms and manifestations of sinful conduct, considerations on the Ten Commandments, on the Seven Deadly Sins, on administering penitence to the governing class (princes, barons, officials, etc.), and finally the interrogatory formulae that each priest should adopt when confessing a sinner (divided into questions for men and for women). This last section is provided in the vernacular understood by the confessed. Medieval casuistry develops from the end of the twelfth to the beginning of the sixteenth century, with the first practical manuals of penitence destined to confessors composed by such authors as Alain de Lille (Liber poenitentialis) and John of Freiburg (Summae confessorum). They provide perspectives on theological and canonical readings of confessors, but also on Christian conduct and societal practices in the Middle Ages.

Of Leonardus de Giffono’s works only those treatises pertaining to the Western Schism have been published (see Schmitt, AFH, 1957 and 1958). Thus much remains to be done on his exegetical, homiletic, and penitential works, and the present manuscript constitutes a significant addition to the list of his known works. A study of Leonardus de Giffono’s writings could provide useful insight in homiletic and confessional training in the Franciscan milieu during the last quarter of the fourteenth century. It remains interesting that the present manuscript was copied and bound in Basilicata or Campania, near the author’s region of origin (Province of Salerno).

Preserved in its contemporary binding, this manuscript includes flyleaves front and back from a late twelfth or early thirteenth century manuscript copied in Beneventan minuscule script. It displays the characteristic letter “a” in its closed form (shaped like contiguous “oc”) but also the use of the Caroline minuscule “a,” which is “due to a declining sense of the traditions of the script” (Loew, 1980, I, p. 133). The manuscript was copied in a Beneventan script of the Montecassino or Benevento type, with a general angularity of the script (proper to later Beneventan scripts), the presence of the descenders “p,” “r,” and “s” which end in hairline sloping upwards, and the closed or almost closed second bow of the “e,” the suprascript 3-sign for “m.” The abbreviation of “omnis” is the younger system with “ois” as found in manuscripts copied after the eleventh century.

The flyleaves contain excerpts from a copy of the Rule of Saint Benedict, with rubric of chapter XIX “De disciplina psallendi,” beginning “Ubique credimus divinam esse…” (front flyleaf) and excerpts from chapter XVIII [Quo ordine Psalmi dicendi sunt] (back flyleaf).

It is fitting that a manuscript of southern origin should preserve flyleaves containing an example of Beneventan script practiced in medieval southern Italy and Dalmatia. It was one of the most enduring hands, written from the mid-eighth century to the middle of the sixteenth century (see E. A. Loew. The Beneventan Script. A History of the South Italian Minuscule, 2 vol. Rome, 1980; and Bernard Quaritch. Bookhands of the Middle Ages: Beneventan Script, Catalogue 1128, London, 1990). Further study of manuscripts from this region might yield other comparative membra disiecta.


Catalogue général des manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France. Départements – Tome XXV. Poitiers – Valenciennes, Paris, Plon, 1894 [CGM – Valenciennes].

Chevalier, U. Répertoire des sources historiques du Moyen Age. Bio-Bibliographie, New York, Kraus Reprint, 1960, vol. II.

Crisci,G. and A. Campagna. Salerno sacra, ricerche storiche, Salerno, Edizioni della Curia
arcivescovile, 1962, pp. 269-270.

Crisculo, V. (ed.). I fratri minori cappucini in Basilicata e nel Salernitano fra ‘500 e ‘600 (Convegno internazionale di studi, Salerno, 21-23 marzo 1998), Rome, Istituto storico dei Cappuccini, 1999, in particular P. Zarrella, “La presenza francescana in Basilicata e nel Salernitano dale origini alla venuta dei cappuccino,” pp. 81-99.

Longpré, E. “Léonard de Giffon,” in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, Paris, Letouzey et Ané, vol. IX (1926), col. 396-397.

Mascia, G. “Landolfo Caracciolo […] e Leonardo de Rossi da Giffoni, due grande figure francescane del quattrocento,” in Cenacolo serafico (Naples, May-June 1966).

Sbaralea, J.H. Supplementum et castigatio ad scriptores trium ordinum S. Francisci…, Rome, 1921, Pars II, 172-173.

Schmitt, C. “Léonard de Giffoni,” in Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et morale, Paris, Beauchesne, vol. IX (1976), col. 644-646.

Schmitt, C. “Léonard de Giffoni,” in Catholicisme, Paris, Letouzey et Ané, vol. VII (1969), col. 364-365.

Schmitt, C. “La position du cardinal Léonard de Giffoni, O.F.M., dans le conflit du Grand Schisme d’Occident,” in Archivum Franciscanum Historicum, 50 (1957), pp. 273-331 and Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 51 (1958), pp. 25-42 and pp. 410-472.

Wadding, L. Scriptores ordinis minorum…, Rome, Editore Attilio Nardecchia, 1906.

Online resources

On Leonardus de Grifonio (de Giffono)