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les Enluminures

Noted Missal

In Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment
Germany, Hildesheim, c. 1490-1510

TM 472

I-IV [of 6, lacking II and IV, 1 was originally a pastedown] +126 ff. + I-IV [of 6, lacking I and II, IV was originally a pastedown, on parchment, collation (i8 [of 10, 9 and 10 cancelled with no loss of text], ii-xi10 [with additional half leaves sewn in after, ii 1, iv 10, v 3 and 10, vii 1], xii-xiii8, xiv-xv2 [both are independent additions], an old partially readable numbering of the gatherings exists but does not extend throughout the manuscript, contemporary foliation on the outer margins, skipping a group of unnumbered leaves between gatherings iv and vi, comprising gathering v, in black Roman numerals, from f. I-XXXVI, followed by 10 unnumbered leaves, then ff. XXXVII-XLIIII, also in black Roman numerals, followed by ff. I-LXXI, in red Roman numerals, followed by [f. LXXII] unnumbered, written mostly on 28 lines, one gathering on 27 lines, one on 29 lines, in two columns, distance between the columns varying from 17-19 mm., in black and red gothic textura (justification from 265-275 mm. high to 182-186 mm. wide), rubrication on the ruled lines in red, considerable musical notation of the hufnagel type on four lines with one red guideline, frequent 1- and 2-line painted red and sometimes blue initials, a large 4-line blue initial with dense calligraphic red penwork introducing the Canon of the Mass (f. 6v), illustrated on the same folio with a small Crucifixion miniature (70 x 45 mm.) from another manuscript (see below), sewn in place on a space reserved for it. Bound in a contemporary monastic pigskin binding, brass plates on all four corners front and back, brass claps fittings on pigskin, decorated with four concentric margins around a central rectangular panel, containing different flower and leaf pattern stamps and roll-stamps in the compartments and corners, preserving some of its leather finding tabs, vellum pastedown inside upper cover from part of a large late medieval document with record of an Episcopal court perhaps in a papal chancery hand but concerning north Germany, a few minor tears and scratches, an old library label on the spine bears the shelfmark “9-59” and a newer one “B2o.” Dimensions 365 x 270 mm.

Beautifully preserved in its original contemporary monastic binding of blind-stamped pigskin, this Missal is liturgically significant for its extensive musical content (over 160 pages), some of which preserves unusual chants or melodies. Noteworthy also is its inclusion of a fine, slightly earlier miniature of a Crucifixion, probably taken from a Dutch Book of Hours and sewn directly into the manuscript in the space reserved. The Missal is clearly for use in Hildesheim and was adapted for a convent of the Order of St. Mary Magdalene.


1. The manuscript was made or perhaps adapted for use by a convent of the Order of Saint Mary Magdalene within the diocese of Hildesheim. It includes the Masses and Translation of St. Godehard (bishop of Hildesheim, died 1131, f. 116v) and the feasts of Saints Bernward (bishop of Hildesheim, died 1022) and Benno (master of the cathedral school in Hildesheim, died 1088). It may originally have been for the Benedictine abbey of St. Godehard itself, adapted for the convent of Saint Mary Magdalene. The manuscript combines various parts written at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries.

2. London, Sotheby’s, June 23, 1998, lot 62.

3. Private North American Collection (ex-libris, gold fraktur letters on a blue ground, oval, “R.L.A.”).


f. I (front flyleaf), transcript of a trial in an Episcopal court in Germany and the resulting judgement (continuation of the text on rear flyleaf IV), written in a chancery minuscule of the time around 1400 or shortly before. There are numerous personal names (e.g. line 12 Johannes Kemepen) but no place names

f. II (second flyleaf), blank;

f. I, The Epistle and Gospel readings for the feast of the Circumcision written in Latin in a bastarda script of the late fifteenth century (an addition on an otherwise blank folio), rubric, In circumcisione domini; heading, Ad Galatas;

ff. 1v-2v, Four prefaces to the Mass, “In passione dominum prefacio”; “In festo penthecosten”; “Dominicale”; and “Sollempniter de sancta trinitate,” all with musical notation;

ff. 3-6v, Formulas for the masses of the Trinity, the Visitation of Mary, and only the orations for the Transfiguration of Christ; first rubric, De sancta trinitate; incipit, “Benedicta sit sancta trinitas...”;

ff. 7-7v, Beginning of the Church calendar with the Proper of the Temporal, rubric, Dominica prima in adventum dominum, with the first Advent Sunday, orations for the Sundays and Weekdays of Advent;

ff. 7v-13, Three Christmas masses each with 2 readings and sequences;

ff. 13v-15v, Epiphany, rubric, In vigilia epyphanie oratio;

f. 16v, Septuagesima followed by the orations for the masses of Lent; rubric, Dominica in .lxx. [septuagesima] oratio;

f. 17, Ash Wednesday;

f. 21v, Palm Sunday;

f. 22, Maundy Thursday liturgy, without the foot washing (see folio numbered red LXIX [fol. 123]);

f. 24, Good Friday;

f. 30, Mass of the Easter Vigil, rubric, In vigilia pasche; beginning with Kyrie Eleison and Gloria;

f. 31, Easter Mass;

f. 34v, Ascension, rubric, In vigilia ascensionis oratio;

f. 36v, Three orations of the Easter Vigil Mass;

f. 36v, The Introit of Easter begins with a large initial in the lower right column, and the text continues on the following insert of 10 leaves;

f. 37-46v, The Credo, Offering, Praefationes, Canon inserts for individual masses, Canon and Communion prayers, prayers for the priests after having held mass; the prayers of the priests after having held mass are continued on a half-leaf insert in order that the beginning of the Introit for Easter can be repeated on the lower right column facing its continuation, i.e. so that the text can be used in liturgy without needing to flip over the entire inserted 10 leaves.

f. 47, continuation from f. 36v;

f. 49v, Corpus Christi;

ff. 51-54v, for the Sunday and Quatember masses after Easter;

ff. 55, for the 24th and 25th masses after Easter; end of the Temporal; beginning in the second column of the Sanctoral, rubric, In vigilia sancti andree oratio, begins the saints in calendar order, starting with St Andreas (29 November), and including Saints Cunegund, Godehard, Boniface, Kylian, Bernward, etc., complete formula for the masses including noted sung parts are only given for Candlemas (f. 58), Mary Magdalene (f. 66v), the Consecration of the Church (f. 68), Assumption of the Virgin (f. 73), Nativity of Mary (f. 77), and All Saints (f. 83);

f. 87, additions to the Proper of the Saints;

f. 88, beginning of the Common of the Saints;

f. 89v, Masses for feasts of Mary with a selection of texts and hymns, including 3 sequences, notated;

f. 93v, for votive masses;

f. 99v, Masses for the dead with a selection of texts and prayers;

f. 104, Collection of melodies for Kyrie Eleison, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei;

f. 108, Collection of sequences, beginning in “In purificatione beate virginus marie”;

f. 112, Mass with hymns for the Annunciation;

f. 113v, Votive Mass for the Plague;

f. 114v, for a Votive Mass in times of threat by heathens;

ff. 115-122v, additions to the Proper of the Saints, beginning with Barbara (4 December), and including prayers for 43 saints, including Saints Godehard, Benno, and Bernward (all of Hildesheim), and mass for the consecration of the altar (from the Introit to the Gospel reading, without melody);

f. 122v, Prayer for a votive mass to be used during periods of threat by heathens;

f. 123, Ritual of the foot washing on Maundy Thursday with particular emphasis on the role of Mary Magdalene, combined with the blessing and distribution of alms (probably an independent gathering, the remaining part is covered with later additions in various hands including prayers for St Stephen, John Baptist, the Innocent Children, and for a votive mass in plague times;

ff. 125-126, Stabat mater, first found in German dioceses around 1500, probably added.

A concordance of the original numbers with the modern foliation is as follows: ff. I-XXXVIv (black Roman numerals) = ff. 1-37v (Arabic) [Temporal]; unnumbered (Roman numerals) =ff. 37-46v (Arabic) [Canon of the Mass]; ff. XXXVII-XLIIIIv (black Roman numerals) =ff. 47-54v (Arabic) [conclusion of the Temporal]; ff. I-LXXI (red Roman numerals) =ff. 55-125v (Arabic) [Sanctoral and Common plus Votive Massees]; unnumbered (Roman numerals) = f. 126 [Conclusion]. The numerals date after the additions to the manuscript because they are continuous from f. 115 (Arabic) for the additions to the Sanctoral.

This significance of this manuscript Missal lies partly in its extensive musical notation, occurring throughout the manuscript on more than 162 columns with melodies in musical notation in 14 lines. This notation, executed here with great accuracy, transmits the melodies of 24 sequences, and also melodies for the Kyrie Eleison (10), the Gloria (7), the Sanctus (4), and the Agnus Dei (6), as well as the sung parts of the high masses. The small inserted fascicule (leaves numbered in red LXIX-LXX) contains a ritual for the foot-washing of Maundy Thursday for which there is only one other known witness, previously considered to be unique, namely the Agenda of the parish of Ottenstein found in the deanery of Vreden in the diocese of Münster, which is dated between 1485 and 1500 (see Lengeling, 1973; and idem, 1974, p. 473).

From the many liturgically interesting details of the manuscript perhaps the most interesting are the formula for the “osculum pacis”: Habete vinculum pacis et caritatis, ut apti sitis sacrosanctis misteriis Christi (f. 45v), and the choice of the two readings for each of the high masses.

A particular characteristic of the present Missal is the addition to the Proprium de sanctis. The Proprium de sanctis (leaves numbered in red Ir-XXXIIIv) is of a general character, and the ownership of the manuscript by a convent of the order of Mary Magdalene is only indicated by the special place given in the Proprium to Mary Magdalene (22 July). However, the addition to the Proprium contains saints who are clearly drawn from the calendar of the diocese of Hildesheim (gathering N, red LXIr-LXVIIIv). The Proprium itself contains numerous added cross-references to the Hildesheim material in the addition, showing that the users were concerned to restore to their place in the liturgy those saints and feasts not found in the more general Proprium. There are also instances where the addition contains saints who have no special Hildesheim connection, but who had been replaced in the more modern Proprium by more prestigious saints. There are however also a few instances of saints found in the addition who were probably only given a place in the Proprium after the production of the earlier parts of this manuscript, such as Bishop Benno of Meissen, canonised in 1523, and the 14 auxiliary saints who are first found in German Missals after 1490. The specifically Hildesheim entries are the Adventus Cantianorum (1 April), Translatio Godehardi (4 May), Depositio Godehardi (5 May), Translatio Bernwardi (16 August), and the Depositio Bernwardi (20 November).


f. 42v, Crucifixion, Mary and John on either side of the cross, burnished gold background, and ivy foliage in the borders.

Many fifteenth-century Missals, entirely devoid of any other illustration, include Crucifixion scenes added at the appropriate juncture before the beginning of the Canon of the Mass facing the “Te igitur.” They functioned liturgically as icons to be venerated and kissed during the Mass, which accounts for their sometimes compromised condition. Indeed, the present miniature shows signs of such veneration, and an interesting ongoing study intends to uncover the DNA in such pictorial examples, be it from finger, hand, or lip prints!). Often such pictures were inserted; after the beginning of printing a bustling trade emerged for ready-made and pre-painted inserted sheets, be they printed or manuscript.

The present Canon illustration is remarkably interesting and, as far as we know, unique in the way in which it was inserted into the manuscript. It is sewn on the parchment leaf, immediately beneath the “Te igitur,” and is conveniently column-width. Clearly, the scribe planned his work accordingly, taking into account the insertion of this miniature, and space was set aside, with the text continuing over on the right-hand column. Examination of the parchment support beneath the leaf shows that it was left blank, undoubtedly to accommodate such an illustration. This in itself is interesting and unusual, but what is equally striking is that the Crucifixion was taken from another, older manuscript of smaller format, almost certainly a Book of Hours to judge from the floral decoration in the margins. Christ is shown on a cross with three nails, below him on the left stands Mary, holding a book, in a blue robe, and on the right John with a blue robe and a red cloak. The painted area is surrounded by a gold ground and then by blue, red and gold margins. The faces are very finely drawn and expressive, especially that of Christ. It is in the style of Utrecht miniatures of the second quarter of the fifteenth century (see Defoer, 1989, pp. 129-137). Documents from 1426 reveal that the workshops of Utrecht exported ready-made miniatures for sale to scribes making Books of Hours abroad (cf. Alexander, 1992, pp. 125-6). That is what evidently happened here. The page inserted into this Missal in Hildesheim, some 200 miles east of Utrecht, adds to our knowledge of the medieval book trade both in the Netherlands and in northern Germany.

A Missal is not an uncommon type of medieval liturgical manuscript, because every foundation where Mass was said needed at least one example. However, the present codex is distinguished by its extensive and unusual musical notation, its fine contemporary monastic binding, and the insertion of a Dutch illuminated manuscript leaf as a decorative accompaniment to the Canon of the Mass.


Alexander, J. J. G. Medieval Illuminators and their Methods of Work, New York, 1992.

Defoer, H., et al, The Golden Age of Dutch Manuscript Painting, The Hague and New York, 1989.

Harper, John. The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy, Oxford, 1991.

Hughes, Andrews. Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office, Toronto, 1982.

Jungmann, Joseph. The Mass of the Roman Rite: Origins and Development, tr. F.A. Brunner. 2 vols., New York, 1950.

Lengeling, E. J. “Agapefeier beim “Mandatum” des Gründonnerstags in einer spätmittelalterlichen Agende aus dem Bistum Münster,” Studia Westfalica, Festschrift für A. Schröer, ed. M. Bierbaum, Münster, 1973, and Archiv für Liturgiewissenschaft 16 (1974), p.473).

Leroquais, Victor. Les Sacramentaires et les missels manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France, Paris, Protat, 1924.

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

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

Online resources

Thurston, Herbert. “Missal,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 10, New York, Robert Appleton Company, 1911

Introduction to liturgical manuscripts:
“Celebrating the Liturgy’s Books”:

British Library on the Mass: