TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Office of the Dead (Use of St. Kunibert, Cologne); Prayers before celebrating Mass; Funeral service; Necrologium (added) 

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
Germany, Cologne, 1487 and 1727 (with later additions)

TM 644

64 (50 + 14 later paper leaves) folios on parchment, complete (collation i4 [-1, probably cancelled] ii-vii8 814 [added paper quire]), ruled in ink with full-length single vertical bounding lines, and with the top and bottom horizontal rules full across, (justification, 170 x 110 mm.), written in a gothic bookhand in nineteen long lines, ff. 1rv and 20v-21, music with hufnagel notation on four-line staves, occasional majuscules highlighted in red, red corrections and rubrics, one- to two-line alternately red and blue initials, ff. 21 and 43, three-line initials with contrasting pen decoration (red with violet and blue with red), ff. 20v-21, black cadel initials with violet pen decoration, ONE SIX-LINE PENWORK INITIAL, f. 4, initial is red and blue, decoratively parted, infilled and on a ground of foliate designs in red and violet, partially filled with green, with penwork flourishing extending down the full-length of the page (slightly trimmed top and bottom), ff. 28v and 36, four-line initials in the same style, somewhat simpler, in red with violet decoration and blue with red decoration respectively, wear and significant soiling throughout, parchment repairs including lower margin f. 21, sewing, f. 23v, sewing and a parchment patch, f. 49, small hole within text [text written around it] once sewn (marks from stitches visible), ink worn in spots with minor flaking (f. 45, last six lines partially overwritten in a later hand, supplying text that had worn away), lower portion of f. 65 now missing (text on recto complete, but final lines of f. 65v missing). Bound in early sixteenth-century blind-tooled leather over substantial wooden boards, sharply beveled, with rolled decoration forming an outer and inner border, surrounding a narrow rectangular center panel, left blank, rolls of the Virgin and Child (unidentified), and St. Paul, lettered “Apparuit Be//nignitas et” (cf. EBDB r00423 [Online resources], similar St. Paul in a roll with other motifs, not the Virgin and Child, Nuremberg, 1558, Basel, 1568, and [Lübeck] 1549), spine with four raised bands of paler leather, each board with four large corner-pieces and center-piece (all once with bosses), the upper board with a title-piece on parchment within metal fittings, lettered “Pro <e..?>omasaio[?] in choro decani”, once fastened back to front, catch remains upper board, later replacement metal fitting for the strap, lower board, two bosses missing upper board, one boss and strap missing, and two corner-pieces replaced, lower board, spine worn, especially at top and bottom and along bands, partially split at top. Dimensions 230 x 158 mm.

Relatively large in format, this carefully written and decorated liturgical manuscript from the important church of St. Kunibert in Cologne was used daily by the canons for the liturgy associated with death and burial. Dated and with a known donor, it is preserved in an elaborate sixteenth-century binding. It also includes an eighteenth-century necrology with names, dates, and burial location, making this an important document both as a record of people associated with the community and for the physical organization of the Church and its altars.


1. The colophon on f. 3 states that the manuscript was commissioned by Johannes Ehrlich of Andernach (near Koblenz), archbishop of Trier, for the church of St Kunibert, Cologne, in 1487: “Hunc librum scribi fecit honorabilis dominus Johannes Eyrlich de andernaco Reverendissimi archiepiscopi Treverensis in hac ecclesia sancti Cuniberti vicarius et ipsum huic ecclesie sancti Cuniberti scilicet ob remedium anime sue et benefactorum suorum contulit. Sub anno domini M.cccc.lxxx septimo.” There is a nearly identical inscription dated 1480 in Darmstadt, Hessischen Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek, MS 859, a Gradual and Antiphonal (Eizenhöfer and Knaus, 1968, pp. 76-77, no. 18).

The liturgy for Funerals and the Commemoration of the Dead are often found in small volumes that were personal books used by members of a religious community that participated daily in these rites. This manuscript is an example of a less common type of manuscript. It is relatively large in size, copied in bold, easily read script with careful decoration and an elaborate (later) binding, and was probably kept in the Church for the use of the priests officiating at the services. It was certainly vigorously used for generations, evidenced by the soiling that has darkened the lower outer corners throughout and by the eighteenth-century record of the members of St. Kunibert’s community, now dead, but remembered by the community in its liturgy.

The collegiate church (Stiftskirche) of St. Kunibert in Cologne is traditionally said to have been founded by St. Kunibert (or Cunibert), Archbishop of Trier and Bishop of Cologne in the seventh century.  (A collegiate church was one endowed for a chapter of canons, secular clergy living together under a Provost, who celebrated the daily liturgy of the church). It was originally dedicated to St. Clement, but by 866 was known as the church of St. Kunibert. Its church, rebuilt in the thirteenth century and consecrated in 1247, was one of the famous twelve Romanesque Churches of Cologne. The foundation was secularized in 1802.

Thirty-eight manuscripts were listed as surviving from St. Kunibert’s by Krämer in 1989-1990, pp. 443-443, dating from twelfth-seventeenth century, testifying to its active scriptorium. Most are liturgical manuscripts and all are now in German public collections, the majority in Darmstadt, Hessische Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek. Whether any of these manuscripts were destroyed in the collapse of the Cologne Archives in 2009 is uncertain (Krämer’s list includes two manuscripts in the Stadt Archiv, including a memorial book from St. Kunibert’s, two manuscripts in the diocesan archives and four in the parish archives). Kürten’s detailed study of St. Kunibert (Kürten, 1985, 1990) used numerous sources in the Cologne Archive; again it is uncertain how much of this material has survived. 

2. Inside back cover, in ink, “Paulus Aussemius † <?> 1679 et <?> 63” (cf. the lists of canons in Kürten, 1990, p. 283, no. 639, Paul Aussemius III, 1652-1669).

3. The added lists of obits from 1727, and cataloguing deaths from as early as 1362 (Constantinus de Cornu), and continued until June 1767, indicate that this manuscript was probably at St Kunibert’s until its secularisation in 1802.

4. Private Collection.


ff. 1-2, Added office, beginning with the response and versicle, here noted, incipit, “Tenebrae facte sunt dum crucifixissent ihesum …. V. Dum ergo accepisset acetum …”, and concluding with prayers, incipit, “Respice quesumus domine super hanc familiam tuam …; Deus qui culpa offenderis …; Fidelium deus omnium conditor et redemptor …; Deus miseratur nostri et benedicat nobis anima andree prepositi et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum …”;

The noted text found at the beginning is used as the fifth response at Matins on Good Friday, and the texts and prayers here would be suitable for Holy Week. In this context it seems likely that they were used in commemoration of the dead; the final prayer mentions Andrew, the “praepositus” (provost) of St. Kunibert (the head of the Chapter). Andrew is also mentioned in the prayer on f. 51v. 

f. 2v, Bernardus, incipit, “Studeamus pro his fundere preces et orationes de quorum elemosinis vivimus. Si[n] autem que in deliciis sumimus in tormentis euomemus”;

Short quote attributed to Bernard urging prayers for the dead.

f.3, Colophon copied in red in a large gothic bookhand in eleven long lines, completely filling the page (transcribed above, provenance); [f. 3v, blank];

ff. 4-28, Office of the Dead, use of St Kunibert, Cologne;

Includes collects, or prayers, that mention the patron of the church, St. Kunibert (f. 8, “beato kuniberto patrono nostro”, f. 28, “beato kuniberto patrono nostro intercedente”); the responsories to the lessons (nos. 14, 72, 46; 24, 32, 79; 68, 82, 38) are listed in Ottosen, 1993, pp. 159 and p. 306, in two examples, both attributed to St Severin, Cologne (Darmstadt Hessische Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek, Hss. 914 and 938); the lections correspond to his relatively rare ‘Group 9’ (pp. 85-7; “the only set of readings in Cologne”).

ff. 28v-35v, Sequitur ordo sacerdotis preparantis [added: se] ad missam, incipit, “Adiutorium nostrum nomine domini. Qui fecit celum et terram …” [followed by Hymn (not noted), “Veni creator”, Psalms 83, 84, 85, 86, 115, 118:169, 129, 25, and 42, and prayers] …” Explicit preparamentum ante missam;

said by the Priest before saying Mass.

ff. 36-50v, incipit, “Ominipotentis dei misercordiam karrisimi deprecemur cuius iudicio ….; R. Subuenite sancti dei occurite angeli ...” [followed by prayers and responses, including Psalms 32, 4, and 41]; f. 41v, Hic deponitur corpus in sepulchro. Ps. Dauid, incipit, “Memento domine dauid … [Ps. 131, continuing with prayers and Psalms 65, 138, 101, and 50] …” [concluding prayers], f. 49v, Oratio communis, incipit, Deus fidelium lumen animarum adesto supplicacionibus nostris … Requiescant in pace, Amen” … f. 50, Collecte generalis, incipit, “Deus in cuius miseracione anime fidelium requiescunt famulis ac faumlabus tuis … tecum sine fine letentur, per christum”, Explicit commendacio pro fidelibus defunctis. Amen”;

Funeral service; the form of the service is of particular interest since it does not follow Roman Use (a version of which is found in the Liber usualis, Online resources). Two manuscripts with related contents survive from St. Kunibert’s, Darmstadt Hessische Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek, MSS 353, c. 1460 and 354, c. 1340.

f. 51rv, incipit, “Respice quesumus domine super hanc familam tuam …, Deus qui culpa offenderis …, Fidelium deus omnium conditor …, Anima Andreae Praepositi et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per sanctissimam passionem domini nostri Iesu Christi et infinitam eius misericordiam requiescant in pace. Amen”;

Added sixteenth-century prayers for the benefit of “Anima Andreae Praepositi” (the soul of the Provost Andrew) who was also mentioned in the prayer on f. 2.

ff. 52-65, Anni, menses et dies mortuales, item nomina, status et sepulchra eorum, quorum anniversaria mensilia et memoria hoc anno millesimo septuagesimo vigesimo septimo in hac Archdiaconali collegiata Ecclesia S. Cuniberti servantur conscripta ad usum domini canonici aut vicarii hebommadarii pro recitationes miserere et de profundis ad defunctorum sepulchra facienda, 1727 [f. 52v, blank], f. 53, Praenotanda, 1520, 26 Decembris obiit Andreas Venrath S. Lebuini davendria et S. Cuniberti Coloniae Praepostii cujus memoria omni mense servati sepultii sub navi ecclesia ante ingresum Chori … [cf. Kürten, 1990, p. 270, no. 35]; … [continuing with notes on the death of Stephanus Vell, 8 August 1532, cf. Kürten, 1990, p. 270, no. 37, Constantius de Cornu in 1362, cf. Kürten, 1986, p. 310, no. 12, as treasurer, without the date of his death, Christianus Erpell in 1400, cf. Kürten, 1986, pp. 299-300, nos. 38 or 39, and Joahnnes Holzeminus, 21 December 1721] …; [Followed by a list of twenty-four pages from January-December, with two pages per month, arranged in three columns, with the year, day, name and status of person, and place of burial], f. 53v, incipit, “Januarius … Goswini Haderwick, laici, in choro, 1532, Stephani Vell Praeposti sub portica, 1520, Andreae Venrath Praepositi sub navi … [December 22, 1747] Joannis Josephi Aussemii Canonici senioris .. in sepulchro Aussemiorum ante S. Dionisii sepulti.”

Arranged by month and day like a perpetual calendar, this is a list of deceased members of St. Kunibert’s community. Most of the names listed were canons, although there are exceptions (for example, the first entry in January is a layman). Lists such as these, known to modern liturgical scholars as necrologia or necrologies, enabled the canons of St. Kunibert to remember their dead on the anniversary of their deaths, or more often (some of the names recorded were included in every month, and were remembered throughout the year). This document also includes an indication of where people were buried, and two loose sheets (between ff. 53v-54 and 55v-56), with additional notes.

f. 65v, Notandum pro inueniendis Sepulchrii intus designatis, incipit, “Illa sepulchra dicuntur sita versus coemiterium quae sita sunt ab altari S. Joannis …” [Part of the last line now missing].

Note on how to find the tombs mentioned in the necrology, mentioning various parts of the church and altars.

Commemoration of the souls of the dead in prayer was one of the most important duties of clerics during the Middle Ages. The focused contents of this liturgical manuscript which includes the Office of the Dead, the Funeral Service, and a later copy of the church’s necrologium (a list of the deceased and the day they were commemorated) underline the importance of this task in the life of the Canons at the Church of St. Kunibert in Cologne.

These texts were often found in the books known as a Rituals, which included the text and liturgical directions associated with a number of sacraments, such as penance, baptism, as well as the rites for death and burial. Liturgical scholars call books such as this one that include a text, or small group of texts, pertaining to a single liturgical function, liturgical “libelli” (on these “libelli”, see Gy, 1960 and 1990, and Palazzo, 1993, pp. 189-191). The services in this manuscript here reflect the ritual process developed during the Middle Ages around death, burial, and the afterlife, and include not only the Funeral service, but also the Office of the Dead, a service consisting of Psalms, readings and prayers that were said on the evening before, and the day of, a funeral, on the third, seventh and thirtieth day after death, and on the anniversary of the death. It was part of monastic devotion as early as the ninth century and became part of the daily cycle of prayers said in monasteries as well as in collegiate churches such as St. Kunibert’s.

The eighteenth-century record of the dead remembered by the canons of St. Kunibert at the end of the manuscript is of considerable interest for the history of this foundation. It is arranged as a perpetual calendar, as was customary, but includes not only the name of the deceased and the year and day of their death, but in many cases, also the place where they are buried within the church. Two memorial books from St. Kunibert’s were known in the State Archive in Cologne (Krämer, 1989-90, p. 442, listing one, and Kürten, 1990, p. xiii, listing both); whether they are still extant after the collapse of the Archive is unknown.


Eizenhöfer, Leo and Hermann Knaus. Die liturgischen Handschriften. Die Handschriften der Hessischen Landes- und Hochschulbibliothek Darmstadt, vol. 2, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 1968.

Gy, P. –M. “Collectaire, ritual, processional”, in La liturgie dans l’histoire, Paris, Editions Saint-Paul, and Editions du Cerf, 1990, pp. 91-126 (updated version of the article originally published in Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques 44 (1960), pp. 441-69).

Gy, P. -M. “The Different Forms of Liturgical Libelli”, in Fountain of Life, ed. Gerard Austin, Washington, 1991, pp. 22-34.

Huyghebaert, N. Les documents nécrologiques, Typologie des sources du Moyen age occidental, 4, Turnhout, 1972.

Haebler, Konrad.  Rollen- und Plattenstempel des 16. Jahrhunderts, unter Mitwirkung von Ilse Schunke, Leipzig 1928-1929 (reprinted, Nendeln, Liechtenstein, Kraus, and Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 1968).

Hughes, A. Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office: a Guide to their Organization and Terminology, Toronto, 1982.

Krämer, Sigrid. Handschriftenerbe des deutschen Mittelalters. Mittelalterliche Bibliothekskataloge, Deutschlands und der Schweiz, Ergänzungsband 1, Munich, 1989-1990. 

Kürten, Peter. Das Stift St. Kunibert in Köln von der Gründung bis zum Jahre 1453, Cologne, 1985.

Kürten, Peter. Das Stift St. Kunibert in Köln vom Jahre 1453 bis zur Auflösung, Cologne, Janus Verlagsgesellschaft, 1990.

Ottosen, Knud Ottosen, The Responsaries and Versicles of the Latin Office of the Dead, Aarhus, 1993.

Lemaître, J.-L. Répertoire des documents nécrologiques français, publ. sous la direction de P. Marot, Paris, 1980 [Recueil des historiens de la France. Obituaires, t. VII]-1992.

Lemaître, J.-L. Les obituaires français: deux siècles de recherches et d’édition, [Lecce], 1983.

Lemaître, J.-L. (ed). L’Église et la mémoire des morts dans la France médiévale. Communications présentées à la Table ronde du C.N.R.S., le 14 juin 1982, Paris, 1986.

Palazzo, Eric. A History of Liturgical Books from the Beginning to the Thirteenth Century, tr. by Madeline Beaumont, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1998.

Paxton, Frederick S. Christianizing Death: the Creation of a Ritual Process in Early Medieval Europe, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1990.

Plummer, John. Liturgical Manuscripts for the Mass and Divine Office, New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, 1964.

Rouillard, Philippe. Histoire des liturgies chrétiennes de la mort et des funérailles, Paris, Cerf, 1999.

Rowell, Geoffrey. The Liturgy of Christian Burial: An Introductory Survey of the Historical Development of Christian Burial Rites, London, Alcuin Club/S.P.C.K., 1977

Online resources

Einbanddatenbank (Database of bindings in German Libraries)

Jean-Baptiste Lebigue. “L’organisation du culte. Liturgie des défunts” in Initiation aux manuscrits liturgiques, Paris-Orléans, IRHT, 2007 (Ædilis, Publications pédagogiques, 6) http://aedilis.irht.cnrs.fr/initiation-liturgie/defunts.htm

Online text, with Latin and English translation, Office of the Dead

Liber Usualis, Burial Service