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les Enluminures

ANONYMOUS, Disputatio de anima [Disputation on the Soul]; extract from HUGH OF SAINT-VICTOR, De sacramentis christianae fidei [On the Sacraments of the Christian Faith]; ARNOLD OF VILLANOVA, Tractatus de mysterio cymbalorum ecclesiae [Treatise on the Mystery of the Church Bells]; Two short anonymous treatises on the Apocalypse

In Latin, decorated manuscript on paper
Low Countries (near Brussels?), dated 1487 and 1488, c. 1475-1500

TM 856

ii + 33 + ii folios on paper, watermarks similar to Briquet no. 8669, “Lettre P”: Avallon, 1486, Solothurn, 1488, Namur, 1491; Briquet no. 11417, “Main”: Troyes, 1477-80, Bouvignes, 1477, Rijnsburg, 1479-86, Amsterdam, 1480, Saint-Omer, 1480, Nancy, 1480, Mézières, 1481, Paris, 1481, Troyes, 1481, Utrecht, 1481-82, Namur, 1482-88, Decize, 1483, Cologne, 1483, Siegen, 1484, Cleves, 1484, Rouen, 1485, Frankfurt am Main, 1485, Colmar, 1490, traces, now mostly cropped away, of contemporary foliation in Arabic numerals on ff. 1-9, upper outer rectos, 97-105, later pagination in ink on ff. 10-31, upper outer rectos, 1-43, modern foliation in pencil, lower inner rectos, 1-33, complete (collation i8 [+9; f. 9 added at the end of the quire]  ii-iii12), traces of quire signatures on ff. 1 and 22, now mostly cropped away, ruled in lead with full-length vertical bounding lines and horizontal upper bounding lines, prickings lower margin, written in two hands: (1) ff. 1-9v, in a Gothic hybrida script in brown ink on twenty-eight long lines (justification 146 x 83 mm.) and (2) ff. 10-31, in a cursive Gothic script in dark brown ink on twenty-seven long lines (justification 139 x 79-80 mm.) with spaces left blank in the text, presumably where something was missing or obscured in an exemplar, red rubrics (ff. 1-9v), biblical references underlined in red, capitals highlighted in red, one-line red paraphs (ff. 10-31), one-line plain red initials, with guide letters visible (ff. 1-9v), blank spaces for one- to two-line initials, two with guide letters (ff. 30v. 26. 28v), two- to four-line red initials, ff. 1, 8, and 10, some marginal annotations by the two scribes and at least one additional contemporary hand, identifying inscription in modern hand at the top of f. 10, slight soiling of final blank leaves, but otherwise in excellent condition.  Bound in twentieth-century brown leather, blind-stamped with rectangular frame formed from two sets of double fillets with flowers stamped in corners of frame and along the edge closest to the spine and arabesques stamped inside of it, all over beveled wooden boards, spine with five raised bands, red leather label on upper board with gilt inscription, “DISPUTATIO DE ANIMA EX SS. / AUGUSTINO ET HIERON. / ET ARNOLDI DE NOVA VILLA / DE / CONSUMATIONE ET / TEMPORE ANTICHRISTI.”, marbled pastedowns, edges tinted red.  Dimensions 199 x 132 mm.

Physician and theologian Arnold of Villanova was an extremely polarizing figure in his own day, and few copies of his spiritual writings, banned by the Church after his death, remain.  One of only seven known copies of his apocalyptic treatise De mysterio cymbalorum ecclesiae survives complete and well-preserved in this manuscript, once part of a larger theological miscellany in the renowned Roodklooster abbey library.  Two unidentified companion texts on coming of the Antichrist shed important light on the medieval transmission and reception of Arnold’s prophetic writings.


1. This composite manuscript comprises two distinct booklets.  Evidence of script and watermarks suggest that both booklets were copied in the Low Countries in the final quarter of the fifteenth century, c. 1475-1500.  The scribe of the first booklet has provided more conclusive dating for his stints, noting the year in which each was finished (1487 and 1488), and, in one case, the precise date of completion (9 February 1487).  It is possible that the second booklet predates the first, judging from watermark evidence, but there is no indication of when, precisely, it was copied or joined with the first booklet.

These booklets were once both part of a larger volume produced in the late fifteenth century for the use of the Augustinian canons at Roodklooster (Rouge-Cloître), in south-eastern Brussels, and likely copied there as well; the volume was still intact when it was described by John Cochran, 1837 (see below).  Another manuscript that was once part of the same large volume, now in the Bridwell Library (see below) contains an owner’s inscription, “Biblioteca Rubei Vallis,” confirming that the manuscript was part of the Roodklooster library.

The Augustinian abbey of Roodklooster was founded in 1374, and it joined the Windesheim congregation in 1412.  The house was very prominent, in part on account of its proximity to Brussels, and it housed an exceptional library and illumination workshop.  It was suppressed in 1784.  This manuscript cannot be identified definitively in the c. 1520 catalogue of Roodklooster, although it could certainly be identical with titles such as “Abecdarium” (no. 371) or “Ars memorativa” (no. 395) on the basis of what was once its first text, Petrus de Rosenheim’s Roseum memoriale (Derolez and Klein, 2001, pp. 207-208).  Notably, the same catalogue also contains at least one title, “Vaticanum” (no. 218), that refers to a book of prophecies (Derolez and Klein, 2001, p. 202).  The Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna owns eighty late fourteenth- and fifteenth-century manuscripts from the library of Roodklooster (Pächt, Jenni, and Thoss, 1983, vol. 1, pp. 109-30, figs. 7-12 and, vol. 2, pls. 179-88).  Three illuminated Breviaries for use at Roodklooster survive (Kren and McKendrick, 2003, nos. 24, pp. 152-53, and 39, p. 187).

2. Part of the stock of John Cochran, London bookseller; no. 132 in his Second Catalogue of Manuscripts in Different Languages ... of Various Dates from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Century, Many of Them upon Vellum, and Adorned with Splendid Illuminations, London, 1837 (p. 38).  At the time of this sale, the two booklets in the present manuscript were part of a much larger collection comprising at least fifteen texts.

3. Passed into the hands of John Leslie, London bookseller specializing in theological works, after the death of John Cochran; no. 2774 in his Catalogue of English and Foreign Theology, ... also, a Few Valuable Manuscripts and Works of Rare Occurrence, Including the Entire Stock of the Late Mr. John Cochran, Bookseller ..., London, 1840 (pp. 177-178).

4. The larger manuscript that once included these two booklets was probably broken up during the second half of the nineteenth century, given the fact that a copy of Petrus de Rosenheim’s Roseum memoriale, now Southern Methodist University, Bridwell Library, BRMS 94 (formerly Les Enluminures TM 77), is in now in a late nineteenth-century binding (our thanks to Daniel Slive, Head of Special Collections in the Bridwell Library, for his assistance in confirming the date of this binding).


ff. 1-8, Disputatio de anima sub modo dyalogi extracta ex dictis sanctorum hyeronimi et augustini, incipit, “CVm apud vos celestis eloquentie purissimi fontes et litterarum omnium fluenta redundent ... et non magis scillantes liquoris sicut prefatione comprehendi quam inundantium fluuiorum vbertate rigati redundetis fluento sanctorum.  Explicit 1487 februarij 9a”;

Disputatio de anima was composed by an anonymous fifth-century author, c. 430-450.  Most of the text consists of extracts from Augustine’s Epistola CXXXI ad Hieronymum (printed in PL 22.1124-38) and Jerome’s Epistola CXXVI ad Marcellinum et Anapsychiam (printed in PL 22.1085-86).  These extracts are arranged in the format of a dialogue, with rubrics indicating the contributions of Augustine and Jerome.  The text is printed in Migne, Patrologia latina, vol. 30, cols. 261-71 as Epistola XXXVIII.  Dialogus sub nomine Hieronymi et Augustini de origine animarum.

ff. 8-9v, Hugo de sancto victore prima parte de sacramentis christiane fidei libro septimo capitulo tercio, incipit, “HIs autem quidam doctorum multas hinc inde rationes et autoritates opposuisse inueniuntur ... Quod enim aliquando in carne non fuit ex carne illud postmodum anima non accepit.”;

Book 1, part 7, chapter 30, “Quod anima non sit ex traduce,” of Hugh of Saint-Victor’s De sacramentis christianae fidei, written around 1134.  Edited by Berndt (2008) and printed in Migne, Patrologia latina, vol. 176, cols. 299-301.  A very popular text in the Middle Ages, De sacramentis survives in 112 manuscripts, with an additional 56 containing only Book 1 and still more that contain smaller excerpts (see Goy, 1976, pp. 134-172). 

Hugh of Saint-Victor (c. 1096-1141) was an immensely influential mystic and theologian in twelfth-century Paris whose biblical commentaries and pedagogical writings exerted an important influence on biblical scholarship in the later Middle Ages.  Born in Saxony, Hugh became a Canon Regular of St. Augustine at the monastery of St. Pancras, near Halberstadt.  By 1115 he had relocated to the abbey of Saint-Victor in Paris, where he completed his education and where would spend the rest of his life teaching and writing prolifically.  The impact of his spiritual thought on that of his followers at Saint-Victor was such that he is considered the founder of the mystical Victorine school.  Hugh’s De sacramentis, written around the time he assumed leadership of Saint-Victor, offers one of the most complete surveys of Christian theology to that date.  This extract addresses the origins of the soul and, specifically, the argument that it was not passed from parent to child by biological means.

ff. 10-28v, [in modern hand: “Arnoldi de Nova Villa Tractatus de Consumacione etc.”] incipit, “QVi interrogant interrogent in abela et sic proficient ij Regum xx.  Abela vt ibidem dicitur est mater omnium ciuitatum in israel ... de cuius solio si romane sedis cacumine facit misterium cymbalorum ecclesie breuiter enodarum ad ceteros diriuari.  Explicit tractatus magistri arnaldi de noua villa de consummatione seculi et tempore antichristi qui[?] aliis[?] intitulatur de misterio cymbalorum ecclesie et fuit editus in aula summi pontificis bonifacij videlicet octaui sibique presentatus ac per ipsum eximie commendatus”;

Arnold of Villanova wrote his Tractatus de mysterio cymbalorum ecclesiae in 1301. Perarnau produced what he terms a “mínima editió crítica [minimal critical edition]” (1988-1989, p. 50), which draws on three manuscript witnesses (see Perarnau, 1988-1989, pp. 53-107), two at the Vatican and the third in Rome.  Pernarnau identified a fourth manuscript copy at Cambridge in a later article (2006).  Oxford, Bodleian Library, Canon Misc. 370 and Zagreb, Biblioteca Metropolitana, MR lat. 154 also contain copies of the text.  De mysterio is only known in these six other manuscripts and there are no early print witness, likely on account of a fourteenth-century ban on Arnold’s theologically controversial work (see below).  The present copy of the text follows Perarnau’s edition fairly closely, aside from occasional gaps in the text where the scribe’s exemplar was lacking or difficult to read.  Copied well over a century after the text was banned, it sheds an important new light on the circulation of this suppressed text.

Arnold of Villanova (c. 1240-1311) ranged in his career from royal and papal physician and trusted diplomat to controversial lay theologian and ecclesiastical reformer, and after his death he acquired a (false) reputation as an alchemist and astrologer as well.  Born in the Crown of Aragon, he studied medicine, as well as some theology, at Montpellier.  He served for about a decade as a professor of medicine at Montpellier, while producing many of his medical treatises and commentaries.  During the same period, Arnold also began to write theological works, notably the Tractatus de tempore adventus Antichristi (finished by 1290), which asserted the Antichrist’s imminent arrival and, with it, the end of the world, and the Introductio in librum Ioachim de semine scripturarum (1292).  Here Arnold calculated the date of the Second Coming in a numerological commentary on De semine scripturarum, a prophetic work attributed to Joachim da Fiore (1135-1202).  When in 1299 Arnold shared his spiritual writings with the Faculty of Theology at Paris, the Faculty condemned them.  His works would remain the subject of inquisitorial investigation and controversy for the next six years.

De mysterio cymbalorum ecclesia was the first apocalyptic treatise Arnold wrote after receiving these reproofs.  Here he framed the eschatology of De tempore adventus Antichristi and Introductio in librum Ioachim in a more academic (and therefore less controversial) style, reporting other people’s prophecies.  For example, he attributed one of the best known prophecies within the work, “Vae mundo in centum annis” (Woe to the world in a hundred years), to an illiterate man whose prophetic words he had recorded.  Arnold wrote De mysterio in the same year that he had begun serving as chief physician to Pope Boniface VIII (sedit 1294-1303).  Though Boniface strongly disapproved of Arnold’s ideas, he allowed De mysterio to pass without censure.  Five years after Arnold’s death, however, Jofre de Cruïlles, acting provost of the bishop of Tarragona, and Joan de Llotger issued a 1316 ruling condemning many of his theological arguments and banning possession or reading of the works in which he made them.

ff. 28v-30v, incipit, “[Q]Vod non potest determinari certum tempus aduentus antichristi ad iudicium seu finis ... Quam sancti patres opinionem beati gregorij non solum possibilem sed etiam vtilem putarunt animarum saluti”;

A brief treatise, as yet unidentified, arguing the impossibility of determining the time of the Antichrist’s coming with certainty.

ff. 30v-31, incipit, “[A]bbas ioachim in libello suo quem fecit de seminarijs scripturarum tempus aduentus antichristi ... Primo enim supponere quod ista tempora lateant in prophetijs sacre scripture sed occulte predicare”; [ff. 31v-33v, blank but ruled].

The beginning of a treatise, as yet unidentified and apparently incompletely copied.  This work addresses the Pseudo-Joachite apocalyptic tract De semine scripturarum (see above) and analyzes the grounds on which it predicts the time of the coming of the Antichrist.

The two booklets in this composite manuscript each contain theological treatises organized around a clear theme.  The texts of the first booklet offer three perspectives on the origins of the soul, while the apocalypse – and, more specifically, the possibility of calculating its date – dominates the second booklet.  These were both once part of a larger volume, which ranged in its contents from works of a clear theological character – including Augustine’s Soliloquies, Petrus de Rosenheim’s Roseum memoriale, and Lothario dei Segni’s De miseria humanae conditionis – to saints’ lives and a version of the popular medieval tale of Apollonius of Tyre.

Considered in both its earlier and its current context, the second booklet in the present manuscript is a particularly important survival, valuable for what it can tell us about how apocalyptic texts were circulating and being read in the late Middle Ages.  The Apocalypse loomed large in this period.  People anticipated the imminent coming of the Antichrist and final judgment, and they interpreted political and ecclesiastical upheavals in this light.  Anthologies of prophecies were not uncommon during this time (see Lerner, 2008, pp. 89-103) – for example, Cambridge, Corpus Christi College Library, MS 404, the fourteenth-century prophetic anthology of Henry of Kirkestede, librarian at the Benedictine monastery of Bury Saint Edmunds, brings together a number of prophetic texts concerned with the coming of the Antichrist – but it is more unusual to find a collection of prophetic texts bound alongside such a miscellaneous collection of works, many of which were far more theologically orthodox.  It is even possible that the placement of De mysterio in the middle of the book was a part of a deliberate effort to conceal it among more common and less controversial texts. 

Bound with a fascinating range of texts for use at an Augustinian convent of the Devotio moderna, surviving in relatively few manuscripts, and accompanied by two entirely unknown apocalyptic texts, this manuscript’s De mysterio demands further study, as does the manuscript in which it has been preserved.


Backman, Clifford. R.  “The Reception of Arnau de Vilanova’s Religious Ideas,” in Christendom and Its Discontents: Exclusion, Persecution, and Rebellion, 1000-1500, ed. Scott L. Waugh and Peter D. Diehl, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 112-131.

Berndt, Rainer.  Hugonis de Sancto Victore De sacramentis Christianae fidei, Corpus Victorinum 1, Münster, Aschendorff, 2008.

Derolez, Albert, Benjamin Victor, Wouter Bracke in collaboration with Jan-Willem Klein, eds. Corpus Catalogorum Belgii. The Medieval Booklists of the Southern Low Countries. IV Provinces of Brabant and Hainault, Brussels, Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie voor Wetenschappen en Kunsten, 2000.

Girolimon, Michael.  “Hugh of St Victor’s De sacramentis Christianae fidei: The Sacraments of Salvation,” Journal of Religious History 18 (1994), pp. 127-138.

Goy, Rudolf. Die Überlieferung der Werke Hugos von St. Viktor: ein Beitrag zur Kommunikationsgeschichte des Mittelalters, Stuttgart, 1976.

Kren, Thomas and Scot McKendrick.  Illuminating the Renaissance, The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003.

Pächt, Otto, Ulrike Jenni, and Dagmar Thoss.  Flämische Schule I, Veröffentlichungen der Kommision fur Schrift- und Buchwesen des Mittlelaters, Series 2, vol. 6, 2 vols., Vienna, 1983.

Lerner, Robert E.  The Powers of Prophecy: The Cedar of Lebanon Vision from the Mongol Onslaught to the Dawn of the Enlightenment, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2008.

Perarnau i Espelt, Josep.  “El text primitiu del De mysterio cymbalorum Ecclesiae d’Arnau de Vilanova,” Arxiu de Textos Catalans Antics 7/8 (1988-1989), pp. 7-169.

Perarnau i Espelt, Josep.  “Tractats espirituals d’Arnau de Vilanova en manuscrits de la University Library de Cambridge,” Arxiu de Textos Catalans Antics 25 (2006), pp. 443-451.

Online Resources

Cochran, John.  A Second Catalogue of Manuscripts in Different Languages ... of Various Dates from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Century, Many of Them upon Vellum, and Adorned with Splendid Illuminations, London, 1837

Giralt, Sebastià and Jaume Mensa.  Arnau DB. Corpus digital d’Arnau de Vilanova, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 2015

Rompel, Josef.  “Arnaldus Villanovanus,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 15, New York, 1912

Online description of Southern Methodist University, Bridwell Library, BRMS 94

TM 856