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les Enluminures

Liber Rubricarum (book of liturgical directions or an Ordinal) and Processional (Dominican Use)

In Latin and Italian, illuminated manuscript on parchment with musical notation
Italy (Rome or Naples), dated March 24, 1556

TM 906

i (parchment) + 67 + i (parchment) folios on parchment, foliated as follows: 1-8 (modern foliation in Arabic numerals), pp. i-cxiiii (original pagination in roman numerals), 66-67 (modern foliation), complete (i6 ii2 iii6 iv2 v6 vi4 vii2 viii6 ix2 x6 xi2 xii6 xiii2 xiv6 xv2 xvi6 [-6, cancelled blank] xvii2), no catchwords or signatures, ruled in ink with full-length vertical bounding lines (justification 157-155 x 100-96 mm.), copied in a rounded gothic bookhand in twenty-five long lines of text or up to seven lines of text and music in square notation on red four-line staves, red rubrics, majuscules highlighted with fine red lines, bold 3-line red strapwork initials, 4- to 2-line gold initials, outlined in red, with red pen decoration, 1- to 2-line brushed gold initials on blue or red grounds, 8-line gold strapwork initial p. cxiiii, 5- to 6-line brushed gold initials on rectangular grounds of maroon or blue with silver or gold Renaissance filigree ornament (f. 1, p. 1, p. xxxxiii), large (equivalent to two lines of text and a musical stave) ‘I’ brown and brushed gold, in the form of a realistic tree trunk sprouting leaves on p. cix, very large (two lines of text and two staves) large ‘V’ in a similar style with realistic leaves on p. cxiiii, full-page illuminated coat of arms following p. cxiiii, the end of three lines of text smudged on f. 1, somewhat cockled, but overall in excellent condition.  CONTEMPORARY red morocco binding blind-tooled with two sets of triple fillets and gold-tooled with two single fillets forming a broad outer border filled with scrolls with fleurons in the outer corners, and a rectangular center panel with corner ornaments and central scrolls on each side of a central coat of arms (see below, Provenance) surrounded by simpler floral stamps, flat spine gold tooled with simple bands, gilt edges, two clasps fastening to catches lower board, rebacked with spine laid down, corners restored, both covers bowed, but otherwise very good condition (very similar, with the same outer border of scrolling, to the Roman binding in de Marinis, 1960, no. 828, tav. CXXXV, sixteenth-century Book of Hours, now Lucca, B. Governativa 2296).  Dimensions 212 x 145 mm.

The bilingual culture of Italian convents in the sixteenth century is demonstrated by this manuscript.  Its text in instructions for the liturgy in Italian with the text and music for liturgical processions in Latin.  This manuscript was certainly made for a Dominican nun, quite possibly a member of the Carafa family at the important convent in Naples, Santa Maria della Sapienza.  In its original, lavishly gold-tooled Renaissance binding, this exuberantly decorated manuscript is a wonderful example of the continued importance of hand-written manuscripts in the age of the printed book


1. The colophon at the end of the manuscript states that this manuscript was completed on 1556 on March 24, and that it follows the liturgy of the brothers and sisters of the Dominican order (f. 67, “Explicit liber Rubricarum et processionum secundum ritum fratrum atque sororum ordinis praedicatorum M. D. 5. VI. Mensis Martii die xxiiii”).  The texts of the processions, moreover, frequently mention the sisters and the canatrix, allowing us to conclude that this was made for Dominican nuns. 

The manuscript includes two coat of arms: on the folio following the final page of text there is a full-page elaborately illuminated version with three silver horizontal stripes against a gold background (or three bars argent, a naturalistic scale below, and the motto “in mortalis”); and on the front cover of the binding the arms are repeated with three silver stripes against the background of the red binding (gules three bars argent). The Carafa arms were three silver stripes on a red background (gules three bars argent), sometimes with a naturalistic scale at the bottom, and despite the slight differences, the heraldry in this manuscript is evidence of a connection with this important noble family from Naples.

The calendar features numerous Dominican saints as one would expect, including: Thomas Aquinas, in red, totum duplex (7 March); Vincent Ferrer, in red, totum duplex (5 April); Peter Martyr, in red, totum duplex (29 April); Antoninus, bishop, in red, totum duplex (2 May); Catherine of Siena, in red, totum duplex (4 May); and Dominic, in red, totum duplex 4 August), as well as numerous saints with connections to Naples:  Severus, bishop of Naples, in red, duplex (30 April); Athanasius, bishop, in red, duplex (5 May) (the feast of Athanasius of Corinth, although there was an Athanasius who was bishop of Naples whose feast was 15 July); Restituta, in red, duplex (17 May); Euphebus [sic], bishop of Naples, in red duplex (23 May); and Januarius, bishop, in red, totum duplex (19 September), possibly added in another contemporary hand, whose relics are in the cathedral of Naples.  Given the connections to the Carafa family, and the saints in the calendar, it seems very likely indeed that this manuscript was made for use in a Dominican convent for nuns in Naples.  It may have been made in Naples itself, or in Rome (its binding is very similar to a binding that has been localized to Rome; see the description of the binding above, and de Marinis, 1960, no. 828, tav. CXXXV).

The most important Dominican convent for women in Naples in the sixteenth century was in fact strongly tied to the Carafa family (Hill, 2004; Laconte, 2012).  La Maria della Sapienza was founded by Maria Carafa in 1528.  Maria, who was the sister of Gian Pietro Carafa, who served as Pope Paul IV from 1555-1559, and the niece of Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, the archbishop of Naples, was prioress at the Sapienza until her death in 1552.  Members of the Carafa family were well represented at the Sapienza for many years after, and it seems very likely that this Processional was made for a member of the Carafa family at this convent.  We might even suggest that her name – either her given name or the name she adopted as a nun – may have been Margaret, given the prominent initial for this saint in the calendar.

2. The manuscript was still in Italy in the seventeenth- or eighteenth century when a note in Italian was added on f. 67v.

3. Modern pencil notes, f. 1, “Coll. Complet. Reliure romaine, cf. de Marinis, no. 828; Aux armes de Jean-Pierre Caraffa qui devint pape sous le nom de Paul IV.”  


f. 1, Incipit liber Rubricarum et processionum secundum ritum fratrum atque sororum ordinis praedicatorum;

ff. 1-7v, Graded calendar in red and black, including Hilary bishop, in red, duplex (14 January),Vincent martyr in red, totum duplex (22 January), John Chrysostom in red, duplex (27 January), Ignatius in red, simplex (1 February), Anniversarium patrum et matrum in red (4 February), Scholastica, three lessons (10 February), Thomas Aquinas in red, totum duplex, with octave (7 March), Gregory, pope, in red, totum duplex (12 March), Joseph in red, totum duplex (19 March), Benedict in red, duplex (21 March), Ambrose in red, totum duplex (4 April), Vincent in red, totum duplex, with octave (5 April), Albert, bishop, three lessons (25 April), Peter Martyr in red, totum duplex (29 April), Antoninus, bishop, in red, totum duplex (2 May), Catherine of Siena in red, totum duplex (4 May), Athanasius, bishop, in red, duplex (5 May), Restituta in red, duplex (17 May), Euphebus, bishop, in red, duplex (23 May), Basil, bishop in red, duplex (14 June), Procopius, abbot, three lessons (11 July), Margaret in red, totum duplex (20 July), Dominic in red, totum duplex, with octave (4 August), Transfiguration in red, totum duplex (5 August), Augustinus, bishop, in red, totum duplex, with octave (28 August), Anniversarium familia et benefactorum ordinis nostrum in red, nine lessons (5 September), Januarius, bishop, in red, totum duplex, contemporary addition (19 September), Francis in red, duplex (4 October), Anniversarium onmium fratrum ordinis nostrum in red, nine lessons (10 October), Agnellus, abbess, in red, duplex, contemporary addition (14 December);

f. 8rv, [List of chapters], Tabula, incipit, Diche se dene fare lo officio, c. 1 … Una antiphona de sancta Margarita …, c. c.xiiii;

 pp. 1-36, [Liturgical directions for saying the Divine Office], De che cosa se dene fare do offitio, incipit, “Per tutto l’anno l’offitio del’ tempo tanto de di quanto di nocte …”; Del Responsorio nelle prime e uespere dela domenicha ….”: De la oratione domenicale …”; … se faccia lo offitio de sancto Dominico padre nostro. Il medemo se faccia de S. Thomase”;

pp. 36-42, Certe ordinatione fatte nel capitulo generale de Salamanca 1551 circa lo offittio deuino, incipit, “Ordinario che de qua … Ogni cosa se faccia como patrio”;

pp. 43-55, [Palm Sunday procession], Ad processiones, Dominica in ramis palmarum, incipt,“Pueri hebreorum tollentes ramos …”; … p. xlix, Finita resumtione predicta canatrices genua flectendo incipiant antiphonam …, incipit, “Ave rex noster ….; …; p. 54, Duo sorores dicant versum, incipit, “Cumque audisset …”;

Liturgical directions through p. 79 mention the sisters and the canatrix (female cantor).

pp. 55-59, [Easter procession], Processio in die sancto pasce post vesperas, incipit, “Christus resurgens ex mortuis …”;

pp. 59-65, [Ascension procession], In ascensione domini ad processio, incipit,“Viri galilei quid admiramini …”; … ad introitum ecclesie, incipit, “O rex glorie domine virtutum …”;

pp. 65-71, [Procession for feast of the Purification], Ad processionem in die purificationes beate Marie, incipit, “Lumen ad reuelationem gentium …”;

pp. 72-78, [Procession for the Assumption], In assuntione [sic] beate marie, incipit, “Felix namque …”;

pp. 78-82, [Procession for the dead], Processio defunctorum, incipit, “Libera me domine de morte eternam …”;

pp. 83-101, [Burial service], incipit, “Non intres in iuditio cum ancilla tua domine …; Subuenite sancti dei occurrite …”;

Although the brothers are mentioned in some of the liturgical directions, prayers throughout use feminine forms.

pp. 101-108, [Prayer of Jeremiah sung on Holy Saturday at Matins], incipit, “Oratio hieremie prophete.  Recordare domine …”;

pp. 109-114, [Noted antiphons for St. Sebastian, for the twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity Sunday, for the Octave of Corpus Christi, and a prayer for St. Margaret], Antiphona diui Sebastiani, incipit, “Inclitus martir sebastianus …”; … Oratio pro nobis beata Margarita vt digni efficia promissionibus Christi, incipit, Indulgentiam notis domine beata Margarita virgo … Benedicamus domino.  Deo gratias”;

f. 66, full-page illuminated coat of arms [see Provenance above]; f. 66v, blank; f. 67, Explicit liber Rubricarum et processionum secundum ritum fratrum atque sororum ordinis predicatorum. M. D.5.VI. Mensis Martii die xxiiii; [f. 67v, blank apart from a later note in Italian].

The text includes two parts.  The first, which is in Italian, is here called a “Liber rubricarum” (a book of rubrics), which in this sense means a book that includes liturgical directions, also called an Ordinal (Le Bigue, Online Resources).  Ordinals were liturgical volumes that do not record the actual words of the liturgy, but instead discuss the details that specify how the liturgy was observed.  The text here begins with a general note on the Divine Office (“How the Divine Office is said”), then continues with more detailed instructions (“On the Responsary for first Vespers on Sundays”; “On the Lord’s Prayer, On the Sunday Homily, discussions of how to observe feasts depending on their importance, and so forth).  The general liturgical reforms for the Dominicans enacted at the general chapter in Salamanca in 1551 are recorded pp. 36-42. 

The Ordinal is followed by a Processional.  Processionals include the texts and chants necessary for liturgical processions.  As is the case here, many Dominican Processionals also include the liturgy for Death and Burial (Huglo, 1999 and 2004).  They are of special interest to musicologists, since they sometimes include texts and music not found in other liturgical manuscripts. 

Each person within a religious order (friars, monks, or nuns) had his or her own Processional.  Although Processionals were books used by both men and women religious, many of the surviving examples, particularly those with illumination, were made for nuns.  Perhaps the most famous group of illuminated Processionals are those from Poissy, a royal foundation for Dominican nuns in northern France.  This example, probably from the equally prestigious foundation in Naples, Santa Maria della Sapienza, founded and protected by the powerful Carafa family, presents an interesting contrast to the more well-known examples from Poissy. 


De Marinis, Tammaro.  La legatura artistica in Italia nei secoli XV e XVI : notizie ed elenchi, Florence, 1960.

Gy, P. M., “Collectaire, ritual, processional,” Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques 44 (1960), pp. 441-69.

Hills, Helen. Invisible City: the Architecture of Devotion in Seventeenth-century Neapolitan convents, Oxford and New York, 2004.

Haines, John. “A Newly Discovered Medieval Dominican Processional from Hungary,” Studia musicologica academiae scientiarum Hungaricae 41 (2000), pp. 125-131.

Huglo, Michel. “Processional,” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie, London, 1980, vol. 15, pp. 278-281.

Huglo, Michel. Les manuscrits du processionnal.  Répertoire international des sources musicales B.XIV.1, Munich, 1999-2004.

Loconte, Aislinn. “The Convent of Santa at S. Maria della Sapienza: Visual Culture and Women’s Religious Experience in Early Modern Naples,” in Wives, Widows, Mistresses, and Nuns in Early Modern Italy: Making the Invisible Visible through Art and Patronage, ed. Katherine McIver, Farnham, Surrey, and Burlington, Vermont, 2012, pp. 207-234.

Online Resources

Consuelo Dutschke and Susan Boynton. “Celebrating the Liturgy’s Books”

General introduction to liturgical processions
www.newadvent.org/cathen/12446b (New Catholic Encyclopedia, “Processions”)

Jean-Baptiste Lebigue. “Liturgical Documents: French Ordinals,” May 2009, Kalamazoo, Michigan, <halshs-00390061>

TM 906