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les Enluminures

PSEUDO-HUGO DE SANCTO CARO, De sacramento altaris et valore missarum

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
Northeastern France or Flanders, circa 1475-1500

TM 241

40 ff., preceded by a single parchment flyleaf at the beginning, complete (collation: i-v8), catchwords, ruled in red, written in dark brown ink on up to 25 long lines, ruled in light red (justification 100 x 65 mm), catchwords, paragraph marks in red, some capitals stroked in red or yellow wash, 4- to 7-line high initials painted in blue, orange or green on liquid gold grounds, some with gold infill on blue or pink grounds, each initial with infill of colored flowers, unfinished marginal decoration on f. 1 with flowers and colored acanthus leaves, some pen flourishing with human faces or foliate motifs extending in the margins. Contemporary blind-tooled brown calf over wooden boards, sides divided by multiple fillets into concentric frames, outer panel filled with repeated stamps of four identical quatrefoils, central rectangular panel filled with repeated stamps of a crowned shield with three ermine and quatrefoils (front cover) and with repeated stamps of a stag and a lion (back cover), covers with brass bosses(lacking boss on front cover in upper left-hand corner; and on back cover, lacking central boss), back sewn on 3 raised thongs, paper label on spine with shelfmark “44”, remains of clasp on fore-edge (compare binding to D. Gid, Catalogue des reliures françaises estampées à froid…, Paris, 1984, no. 36, 38 and 40, all of Northern origin, 15th c.) [Binding worn with some loss of leather to upper left-hand portion of front cover; some wormholes to covers, never affecting manuscript]. Dimensions 160 x 100 mm.

In its original binding, this is a rare unpublished text, for which even authorship still needs to be resolved and which is known in only two other copies. The text is interesting as testimony to the ongoing Eucharistic controversies concerning the real or spiritual presence of Christ in the Host and the meaning of the Sacrament of the Altar and the Holy Mass.


1. Script and binding suggest either a Northeastern French origin for this manuscript or perhaps French Flanders. The manuscript could have been bound quite early in Western France (see rare stamp of shield with triple ermine, arms of Brittany), but the heraldic ermine is found also in a number of bindings of Northern and French Flanders origin. The decorated illuminated initials are closer in style to end of century production.

2. Library of the Dukes of Arenberg, shelfmark 44. A small red label paper label with the number "44" is pasted on the back in the third compartment. The Dukes of Arenberg were established in Belgium in the sixteenth century. Their collection, compiled mainly during the later part of the nineteenth century, was distinguished by many very fine manuscripts, including the famous "Hours of Catherine of Cleves" now in the Pierpont Morgan Library. The Arenberg manuscript collection, exhibited in part at Düsseldorf in 1904, remained largely inaccessible to scholars and was dispersed in the 1950s. This particular manuscript does not figure in the catalogue by J. Seligman, Illuminated manuscripts from the Bibliothèque of Their Highnesses the Dukes of Arenberg, New York, 1952. In her reconstruction of the manuscript collection of the Dukes of Arenberg, C. Lemaire (1984) noticed certain gaps, which are likely those manuscripts Engelbert-Charles 10th Duke of Arenberg chose not to sell in 1952, and no. 44 does not figure in the sales catalogues, and is missing in Lemaire’s reconstruction. By marriage, the manuscript belonged to the Duchess Mathildis (or Mathilde) d’Arenberg [Mathilde Cally, born 1913, married in 1955 to Engelbert-Charles of Arenberg, her fourth wedding], who gave it as a present to a Monaco jeweler.


ff. 1-1v, Pseudo-Hugo de Santo-Caro, De sacramento altaris et valore missarum, incipit prologue, “Devotus quidam presbiter conquestus michi fuit quod circa venerabile sacramentum eukaristie quasdam difficultates haberet…”;

ff. 1v-40, Pseudo-Hugo de Santo-Caro, De sacramento altaris et valore missarum, chapters 1-12, incipit, chapter 1, “Primo igitur firmissima fide est tenendum…”; explicit chapter 12, “[…] nos pius pater erudiat ut apti fiamus illo regno quod omnibus diligentibus se promisit…in omnia secula seculorum benedictus deus amen”; concluding chapter, “Hec sunt venerabilis dominus ac amice karissime pauca ex multis hinc inde collecta rudi stilo… “; explicit, “[…] et dat vitam mundo. Cui cum patre et spiritu sancto sit sempiterna Gloria. Amen.”

This rare treatise on the Sacrament of the Altar and the Value of Mass is attributed to the Dominican Friar Hugues of St.-Cher (died in 1263), as indicated in the Paris, BnF, MS lat. 3627 copy, although by a later hand. This attribution however is deemed doubtful by Glorieux (1933, I, p. 50) who provides the corrective “Pseudo-Hugo de Santo-Caro.” We have localized only two manuscripts containing this treatise: 1) Paris, BnF, MS lat. 3627, ff. 49-73, “Libellus de venerabili sacramento et valore missarum. Devotus quidam presbiter conquestus michi…” (dated second half of the fifteenth century; see BnF, Catalogue général des manuscrits latins…, Paris, 1975, tome VI, p. 384). – 2) Rodez, Archives départementales, 3 G 570 (recorded in In Principio database, and attributed to Pseudo-Hugo de Santo-Caro). The work is entirely unpublished and further research should allow scholars to locate other copies of this text.

The work was composed in response to the Eucharistic controversies that marked the Church from the eleventh century on, concerning the real or spiritual presence of Christ in the Holy Bread. The present work is hostile to the heretical stance of the Berengarians or followers of Berengarius of Tours (born circa 999) [here quoted on f. 39v], whose rationalistic positions concerning Transubstantiation were condemned at the Council of Vercelli (1050) and then again throughout the Middle Ages. Berengarius maintained that the bread and wine, without any change in their nature, became by consecration the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, a memorial or a token of the body crucified and of the blood shed on the cross. It is not, however, the body of Christ as it is in heaven: how could the body of Christ which is now in heaven, necessarily limited by space, be in another place, on several altars, and in multiple hosts? Numerous theologians of the period refuted Berengarian principles, attacking his opinion as contrary to the teaching of tradition and the doctrine of the Church. The Sacrament of the Altar cannot be construed as the sole figure or token of the body and blood of the Lord, which are necessarily materially present (not spiritually) in the Holy Host. The present work is a witness to this controversy that tormented medieval theologians and believers.


Duval, A. “Hugues de Saint-Cher,” in Catholicisme, Paris, Letouzey, 1962, vol. V, col. 1039-1041.

Fisher, J. “Hugh of St Cher and the Development of Medieval Theology,” Speculum 31(1956), pp. 57-69.

Glorieux, P. Répertoire des maîtres en théologie de Paris au XIIIe siècle, Paris, 1933, vol. I, pp. 43-51.

Lemaire, C. “La bibliothèque des Ducs d’Arenberg,” in Liber amicorum Herman Liebaers, Brussels, [Amis de la Bibliothèque royale Albert Ier],1984, pp. 81-106.

Mangenot, E. “Hugues de Saint-Cher,” in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, Paris, Letouzey, 1922, vol. VII, col. 221-239.

Online resources

On Berengarius of Tours