TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

Noted Office of the Dead, Burial Service, and Mass for the Dead for Franciscan Use

In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment with musical notation
Southern Italy, c. 1400-1450

TM 476

38 folios on parchment (somewhat stiff and not very thin, pronounced color variation between flesh and hair-sides), modern foliation in pencil, top outer corner recto (collation, i-iv8 v6), no catchwords or signatures, ruled very lightly, but apparently with single full-length vertical bounding lines in lead, and with horizontal rules in hard point (justification 120-110 x 95-90 mm.), written in a rounded southern gothic bookhand on up to twenty long lines, square musical notation on brown four-line staves with up to four staves and four-lines of text per page, two- to one-line red initials, a few with simple pen decoration, some majuscules within text infilled with pale yellow, cockled, but in good condition throughout. Bound in a vellum leaf from another medieval manuscript (washed, but traces of text and staves visible on turn-ins) over pasteboard; sewn on three bands with head and tail bands (all broken and no longer attached to the cover, reinforced with modern paper), smooth spine, rebacked, once with ties (holes remain, upper and lower covers), in good condition. Dimensions 170 x 128 mm.

This is an example of a practical small-format liturgical manuscript. Its focus is on the sung texts for the Office of the Dead, Burial Service and Mass for the Dead, and it includes musical notation on all but eight pages; musical notation completely fills many pages. Recent scholarship in liturgical history has emphasized the importance of liturgical “libelli,” such as this one, for the secular and regular clergy. This copy includes numerous marks of ownership from later centuries, including the names of two friars from Cilento in Southern Italy.


1. Based on the style of the script, and the manuscript’s later provenance, it is probable that it was copied in Southern Italy in the first half of the fifteenth century. It is a difficult manuscript to date very closely, since it is copied in a formal gothic bookhand that was used for liturgical manuscripts for a long period of time, but it seems likely that it is earlier than the additions from the second half of the fifteenth century on f. 29 and ff. 37-38.

The Office of the Dead is Use of Rome, which in the fifteenth century was common to the Franciscans and Augustinian Hermits, as well as to a number of dioceses in Italy (and elsewhere; see Ottosen, 1993, pp. 134-140, and 269-275). The prayer on f. 37 for “the brothers of our congregation and their benefactors” (“ Deus venie largitor … ut nostre congregationis fratres propinquos et benefactores …”) also suggests that this book was copied for the use of Franciscans or Augustinian Hermits (now known as the Augustinian Friars). Since the manuscript was at a Franciscan Convent later in its history, it seems most likely that it was made for Franciscans. There was a Franciscan foundation in Cilento, Terra di Lavaro, founded in 1417 or 1427 (Moorman, 1983, p. 134).

2. Additional prayers and hymns added in a humanistic cursive script in the second half of the fifteenth century on f. 29 and ff. 37-38.

3. Owned by a religious house, presumably the Franciscan monastery in Cilento in Southern Italy in the sixteenth-century (?); two ownership notes, added at the bottom of f. 37v: “Liber est ad usum fratrum cherubino a Cilento”; and “Postquam … transire ab eae <..> fratrem Cherubino a Cilento in alia vita est ad usum fratris Angeli.”; an inscription on the bottom margin of f. 38 is erased, with “da Cilento” remaining. Later notes in Italian, now partially effaced, added on f. 38v.

4. In the seventeenth century (?) it was owned by the Franciscan monastery of Santa Maria della Pietà (Sancta Maria Pietatis) in Vatolla; see f. 22, added in square capitals, “SS. Pietatis Vat olle Cilenti,” and ff. 9, 16v, 25, and 29, where “Vatolla” (with spelling variations) is also written in a cursive script in the bottom margins. The village of Vatolla in the Cilento region is now part of the municipality of Perdifumo in Southern Italy, Campania, prov. Salerno. Santa Maria della Pietà seems to have been a post-medieval foundation (it is not included in Moorman, 1983; see Volpe, 1984, p. 100), perhaps dating from 1619. Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) used the library at the monastery when he was the tutor for the Rocca family in Vatolla, reporting that it had three hundred books at that time (Verene, 2003, p. 49).

5. Bottom margin, ff. 1 (now mostly effaced), and 28 (completely expunged), probably once with ownership notes.


ff. 1-27, Office of the Dead, Use of Rome, including responses for the short office with three lessons on f. 22, followed by lauds and vespers;

See Ottosen, 1993, pp. 134-140, and 269-275, and Van Dijk, 1963, 2:191-195.

ff. 27-31, Funeral service, including noted texts and prayers for the procession and at the grave; generally similar to the service printed in the Liber Usualis (Online Resources, below), but not identical.

ff. 31-37, Noted texts for the Mass of the Dead, beginning with the introit, “Requiem eternam,” and ending with prayers for a dead bishop or priest, “Deus qui inter apostolicos sacredotes famulos tuos pontificali seu sacerdotali fecisti vigere …,” and for the brothers, “Deus venie largitur … ut nostre congregationis fratres propinquos et benefactores …”;

Van Dijk, 1963, 2:327-329.

ff. 37-38, fifteenth-century additions: f. 37, prayers: Oratio pro defuncte, incipit, “Inclina domine aurem tuam ad preces nostras …ut animam famuli tui … ” and Oratio pro femina, incipit, “Quesumus domine pro tua pietate .. famule tue …”; ff. 37v-38, hymns and sequences, incipit, “O mors potentissima tu portas frangis ferreas/ …”; incipit, “Deus magnus et immensus quam nullus capit sensus/ … [Blume, 1901, p. 47]”; incipit, “Clavis portis paradisi exultabunt angeli ….”

Although most discussions of late medieval liturgical manuscripts focus on Missals and Breviaries, the complete books for the Mass and Office, as well as the typically large-format books for the choir, Antiphonals and Graduals, this is an example of the type of small-format, portable liturgical manuscript that we can assume was probably copied in large numbers for the use of the secular and regular clergy. This book includes only the prayers and music for the Office of the Dead, the Burial service, and the noted texts for the Mass of the Dead. Books such as this one, including the texts necessary for one type of liturgical occasion, copied in a convenient small format, and without elaborate decoration, were less expensive, easy to use, and portable. The focus in this manuscript is on the sung texts for these services, which were also often found in Processionals, another example of noted liturgical books in a portable format. The texts included in this small book, however, are more focused than are those typically found in a Processional.

Liturgical scholars call books such as this one that include a text, or small group of texts, pertaining to one liturgical function, liturgical “libelli” (on these “libelli,” see Gy, 1990, esp. pp. 111 and 120: “Des livrets séparés destinés à telle ou telle action liturgique […]”; “… la fin du moyen âge a également utilisé des libelli, spécialement des livrets de la liturgie des maladies et des défunts, ou des livrets funéraires sous divers formes …” [Separate books destined for this or that liturgical action …; The end of the Middle Ages also used libelli, especially books of the liturgy for the ill and the dead or funeral books of different types …]; see also Palazzo, 1993, pp. 189-191). The services included here reflect the ritual process developed during the Middle Ages around death, burial, and the afterlife that became a standard for Christian Europeans until the Reformation and is still followed by Catholics today.

The text of this manuscript suggests that it was made to be used by Franciscan or Augustinian Friars. The origins of the Franciscan Order can be traced back to its charismatic founder, St. Francis of Assisi, who presented himself and his small group of followers to Pope Innocent III in 1210, and they were then granted permission to live Francis’s radical vision of a life of complete apostolic poverty. From these humble beginnings, the Franciscan Order grew rapidly, attracting members across Europe. Since it was an international order, the need for some uniform liturgy was felt from an early point in their history, and the Rule of 1223 specified that the Friars were to follow the Office “according to the order of the Roman Church.” This “order of the Roman Church” --actually the liturgy used at the Papal Court -- became the basis for the Franciscan liturgy. (see Van Dijk, 1963). The Franciscan Use, or Use of Rome, was destined to have a great influence on the subsequent history of the Roman liturgy, since it was the basis for the liturgy mandated by the Council of Trent to be used throughout the Roman Catholic Church. The Hermits of St. Augustine, or the Augustinian Friars, also adopted the liturgy of the Papal Court in the thirteenth century; however, given the later history of this book, it seems clear that it was made for Franciscan Use.


Blume, C. Sequentiae ineditae. Liturgische Prosen des Mittelalters aus Handschriften und Frühdrucken, Analecta hymnica medii aevi 37, Leipzig, 1901.

Février, P.-A. “La mort du chrétienne,” Segni e riti nella chiesa altomedievale occidentale, Spoleto, Presso la sede del Centro, 1987, 2:881-942.

Gy, P.-M. “Typologie et ecclésiologie des livres liturgiques médiévaux,” La Maison Dieu 121 (1975), pp. 7-21.

Gy, P.-M. “Collectaire, ritual, processional,” in La liturgie dans l’histoire, Paris, Cerf, 1990, pp. 91-126.

Harper, John. The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy from the Tenth to the Eighteenth Century, Oxford, 1991.

Moorman, John R. H. Medieval Franciscan Houses, St. Bonaventure, N.Y., Franciscan Institute, St. Bonaventure University, 1983.

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

Plummer, John. Liturgical Manuscripts for the Mass and 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.

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

van Dijk, S.J.P., ed. Sources of the Modern Roman Liturgy: The Ordinals of Haymo of Faversham and Related Documents, 1243-1307, 2 vols. Leiden, 1963.

Verene, Donald Phillip. Knowledge of Things Human and Divine: Vico's New Science and Finnegans Wake, New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 2003.

Volpe, Francesco. La parrocchia cilentana dal XVI al XIX secolo, Rome, Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1984.

Online resources

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

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

Liber Usualis, Burial Service

On Death in the Middle Ages

Robinson, P. “Franciscan Order,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York, Robert Appleton Company, 1909

The Franciscan Archive; Sources for Franciscan History