TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures

ANONYMOUS, Passionarium omnes quatuor Passiones continens, Lamentationes & Lectiones in triduo ante Pascha: cum Benedictione serey insabbato sancto

In Latin, illustrated manuscript on paper
[Northern Italy, 16th century (c. 1570s)]

TM 203

180 folios, complete (collation: i2, ii4, iii4, iv4, v4, vi4, vii4, viii4, ix4, x2, xi4, xii4, xiii4, xiv4, xv4, xvi4, xvii2, xviii2, ixx4, xx4, xxii4, xxiii4, xxiv4, xxv2, xxvi2, xxvii4, xxviii4, xxix4, xxx4, xxxi4, xxxii4, xxxiii2, xxxiv4, xxxv4, xxxvi4, xxxvii4, xxxviii2, xxxix4, xl4, xli4, xlii4, xliii2, xliv4, xlv4, xlvi4, xlvii2, xlviii2, il4, l6), paper size 284 x 212 mm, watermark (Briquet 1131, “Armoiries Cevron,” Florence, 1529; Naples, 1528-1536; Rome, 1534-1537; Foligno, 1536; Pérouse, 1536; Terracine, 1536; Fabriano, 1573; Udine, 1570-1575; Augsbourg, 1573-1575), no catchwords, no signatures, contemporary foliation in Arabic numerals (2-178), three foliation errors (ff. 47 and 167 repeated and f. 79 skipped), single column, justification in multiple vertical and horizontal lines in sepia ink, text line ruled in plummet, 7 lines of text under 7 long lines of music (5 line musical staves in black ink), text written in humanistic script in black ink (justification 232 x 155 mm.), primarily in white rhythmic mensural musical notation with a few black notes in black mensural notation, bars in black ink separate stanzas, custos appear at the end of each stave, litterae significativae C S and, in rubric, titles in rubric, musical text in rubric on ff. 29r-30r, 57r, and 87v), FULL PAGE PEN ILLUSTRATED TITLE PAGE (165 x 243 mm.), EIGHT PEN ILLUSTRATED AND DECORATED TITLE PAGES with text in rubric and gold leaf (ff. 1v, 35v, 62v, 91v, 117v, 135v, 153v, and 168v), TWELVE LARGE PEN ILLUSTRATED AND DECORATED INITIALS with baroque columns and grotesques (ff. 2r, 36r, 63r, 65r, 88v, 92r, 112r, 118r, 136r, 154r, 169r), 24 large initials with brown decorative penwork (ff. 120v-166v), 3 small decorated initials in style of the large pen decorated initials (ff. 175r, 175v and 176r), last line of text often has pen flourishes into lower margins, ff. 1r, 34r-35r, 61r-62r, 90r-91r, 116r-117r, 134r-135r, 152r-153r, and 167r-168r are blank, completed staves lacking notation and text on ff. 115r-116v and 134v, scribal corrections on ff. 3r, 28r, and 46r, ink bleeds throughout manuscript often forming white residue but does not affecting legibility, minor worming two bottom margin of ff. 49-59, moderate worming not affecting text or illustrations, moderate worming to boards, heavy to moderate soiling to Title Page and ff. 1-2 and 175-178, minimum browning due to water stains and foxing throughout, soiling resulting from thumbing in lower fore edge margins, edges to paper chipped and worn on Title Page and ff. 1-3 and 177-178, small tears to lower margin on ff. 23-24, some light mildew stains at paper edges and near sewing. Bound in contemporary rustic dark brown leather over thick paper boards, binding worn with heavy chipping and bumping to upper fore edge of front and rear boards, paper used for primary text serves as pastedowns; the name “Wheatley” and the note “1575/0506 5500-” in modern pencil cursive appears on front pastedown, fragments of a thirteenth-century medieval manuscript cutting with gothic textualis script appears under rear pastedown, similar parchment fragments used to support sewing bands show fragmentary letters in gothic textualis, four raised bands visible on spine. (Some separation and breaking to tail of spine, all edges gilt [faded] with decorative blind-stamping). Dimensions 290 x 218 mm.

In its original binding, this hitherto unknown and unpublished choral manuscript of the Passion of Christ by an anonymous composer preserves a monophonic composition for three choral parts, while struggling with certain musical innovations such as mensural notation that offered advantages for melismatic elaboration within the chant form. On the threshold between sober later medieval Passions and the richly mellifluous Renaissance-Baroque Passions, this copy, most likely of Italian origin, though bearing Spanish influence, deserves further study also for its careful calligraphic initials and title pages.


1. Late sixteenth-century Northern Italy based primarily on the watermark, script, and decoration.

2. Private Collection, USA.


ff. 2r-33v, Passion of Saint Mathew [Palm Sunday], incipit, “Passio Domini nostri Iesu christi secundum Matheum. In illo tempore dixit Iesus disciplulis suis”;

ff. 36r-60v, Passion of Saint Mark [Holy Tuesday], incipit, “Passio Domini nostri Iesu Xristi secundum Marcum in illo tempore. Erat Pascha et azima post biduum: Et quaerebat summi sacerdos et scriba quomodo Iesum dolo teneret et oscideret”;

ff. 63r-89v, Passion of Saint Luke [Holy Wednesday], incipit, “Passio Domini nostri Iesu Christi secundum Lucam in illo tempore. Appropinquabat dies festus azimorum, qui dicutur pascha”;

ff. 92r-113v, Passion of Saint John [Good Friday], incipit, “Passio Domini nostri Iesu Christi secundum Ioannem in illo tempore egressus est Iesus eum discipulis suis transtorrente Cedron”;

ff. 118r-133r, Lamentations for the Lord’s Supper [Holy Thursday], incipit, “Incipit Lamentatio Hieremiae prophetae. Aleph. Quomodo sedet sola Civitas plena populo”;

ff. 136r-151v, Lamentations for the Parasceve [Good Friday], incipit, “De Lamentatione Hieremiae prophetae. Heth. Cogita uit dominus dissipare murum filiae Syon tetendit funiculum suum”;

ff. 154r-167v, Lamentations for Holy Saturday, incipit, “De Lamentatione Hieremiae prophetae. Heth. Misericordiae Domini quia non summus consumpti: quia non defecerunt miserationes e ius”;

ff. 169r-178v, Blessing for the Easter Candles [Holy Saturday], incipit, “Exultet iam angelica turba Caelorum. Exultent diuina misteria.“

This manuscript contains the complete music for the Passions of Christ, together with music for the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and the Blessing of the Candles used during Holy Week. It includes the Passion of St. Matthew as performed on Palm Sunday, that of St. Mark on Holy Tuesday, St. Luke on Holy Wednesday, and that of St. John on Good Friday. The Lamentations of Jeremiah were performed on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of Holy Week. The final piece of music for the blessing of the candles takes place on Holy Saturday. Originally presented as monophonic compositions and performed in Gregorian chant from the ninth to the fourteenth centuries during Holy Week, the Passionary consisted of a musical setting of one or more of the Gospel accounts of the events surrounding the Crucifixion. By the thirteenth century the parts were divided among three singers. From the fifteenth century date the earliest polyphonic Passionaries. The Passionary became increasingly popular as a genre during the Renaissance and Baroque, when composers systematically elaborated on the musical settings, and eventually in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries free poetry was included along with orchestral accompaniment.

The unknown composer of this work has produced a musical score in sacred monophony. It stands apart from the three styles that developed in middle of the fifteenth and sixteenth century: responsorial Passions (where the Evangelist is chanted monophonically and the turba and Christ are set polyphonically); through-composed Passions (where the entire score is polyphonic); and motet Passions, where the entire score is polyphonic with imitative counterpoint and interlocking sections normally free from the passion tones (see Smallman, pp. 131-134). The music is divided in three parts marked by litterae significativae in the text: a priest for the part of Christ (+), the deacon for the narrator (C), and the subdeacon (synagoga) who sings the parts of the priests, apostles, the crowd, and minor characters (S). This threefold division developed in the fourteenth century, but it became the most common form of dividing the music during the fifteenth century. The fact that the composer has chosen a monophonic style with the traditional three-part division over a polyphonic style suggests a traditional use or background of the manuscript. It is likely that the score was meant for a collegiate chapel in a Cathedral or large church. The inclusion of the standard rubric “Hic genuflectitur et pausatim aliquantulum” at the scene of the death of Jesus highlights its intended use within a liturgical setting.

The notation is composed primarily in white mensural notation. However, a few notes appear in black mensural notation indicating changes in the value of notes. Later in the manuscript the composer moves from a standard “common” time to duple time in the text (indicated by a ¢) of the Lamentations. The scribe uses the custos mark throughout the text to keep the singers at the right pitch when moving to the next line, often adjusting the custos (though not always correctly) when changing clef to correspond to the new clef beginning on the subsequent line.

The score of the music shows that the composer has based his composition on plainchant. However, the composer carefully rhythmatized and elaborated the chant at key points during the recitative. At these points the composer opts for complex melismas instead of the traditional plain chant notes. In so doing, the composer does not break from the chant completely, but offers a more elaborate form of composition based on the traditional form of the chant. To aid the singers in the recitation of the more complex formula, the composer selected mensural notation as opposed to neumas. Comparison of the manuscript to the 1570 Dominican Passionary printed in Spain shows such elaborations of the chant (albeit to a lesser extant in the Spanish imprint), using neumas as opposed to mensural notation. However, the use of mensural notation to aid in the reading of chant based music was not uncommon during this period.

There are certain pecularities to this manuscript. The primary music is set at a third line F clef. The use of F clef was standard for early passion music of the Roman use. The composer also follows Roman usage when changing to C clef and F clef sharp throughout the score as the parts of the synagoga and narrator change back and forth. The composer’s move to C clef provides the singer with notation reflecting his desire for a higher voice at this point in the score. This change in clef follows the traditional pattern of requiring higher voices for the parts of the crowd, priests, and apostles to increase the dramatic nature of the work. However, this scribe unusually chooses to raise the pitch for Christ’s last words on the cross to C Clef, which normally remain in the somber slow form of the F clef. Also, the composer interrupts the slower somber plainchant common to these sections with a rapid melismatic pattern of recitation using shorter values for the notes. The practice of putting Christ’s part above the narrator is not common to Roman usage. However, it is found in Passionaries used in the Iberian Peninsula. Unfortunately, there are no other indications in the text that suggest a Spanish origin. The fact that the music is based on F clef and not the triple clef usage of Zaragoza (g, narrator; c’ Christ, d’ synagoga) or Castilian Domincans (d, narrator; g Christ, and a, synagoga) mitigates against identifying this manuscript as a pure Iberian Passionary. It may suggest, however, that the scribe was familiar with Iberian traditions.

Hitherto unknown and unpublished, the present manuscript deserves study for the multiple variations it includes to the important genre of the choral music of the Passion. Although musically conservative, the manuscript shows a composer struggling with different alterations to the chant that allow for a more complex choral performance.


f. I, decorated main title page (165 x 243mm), showing an elaborate decorative drawing of the cross supported by two angels within a border of Baroque columns with monster-like figures and birds in yellow paint at upper edge; human busts in yellow paint support the column; a green painted tympanum rests on a lintel above the columns; the text written in gold and red ink;

f. 1v, decorated title page (140 x 110 mm), the title in red and gold with decorative circle border in black and brown ink;

f. 2r, initial “P” (77 x 100 mm), architectural and acanthus motifs with a small grotesque in brown ink;

f. 35v, decorated title page (130 x 80 mm), title in red and gold with decorative circle with four putti;

f. 36r, initial “P” (79 x 100 mm), architectural column with large human grotesque head and smaller grotesque head;

f. 62v, decorated title page (118 x 80 mm), title in red and gold with decorative circle with four putti;

f. 63r, initial “P” (81 x 100 mm), architectural column with large dragon grotesque;

f. 88v, initial “E” (53 x 60 mm), acanthus and architectural motifs;

f. 91v, decorated title page (117 x 80 mm), title in red and gold with decorative circle with four putti;

f. 92r, initial “P” (78 x 97 mm), architectural column with acanthus motifs and one small monster and one small human grotesque face;

f. 112r, initial “P” (60 x 63 mm), unframed initial with acanthus and architectural motifs;

f. 117v, decorated title page (120 x 80 mm), title in red and gold with decorative circle with four putti;

f. 118r, initial “P” (78 x 102 mm), architectural column with putti used as a capital;

f. 135v, decorated title page (120 x 80 mm), title in red and gold with decorative circle;

f. 136r, initial “D” (78 x 93 mm), architectural column with two human grotesque faces, one ascending into border of text;

f. 153v, decorated title page (130 x 93 mm), title in red and gold with decorative circle;

f. 154r, initial “D” (71 x 88 mm), architectural and acanthus motifs with a human grotesque faces and a monster grotesque face ascending into border of text;

f. 168v, decorated title page (122 x 100 mm), title in red and gold with decorative circle with two putti;

f. 169r, initial “E” (78 x 92 mm), architectural and acanthus motifs with two small grotesque heads;

f. 175r, initial “I” (25 x 38 mm), architectural column with grotesque head;

f. 175v, initial “C” (29 x 33 mm), grotesque head with acanthus flourish;

f. 176r, initial “O” (28 x 29 mm), acanthus leaf decoration.

The art work in the manuscript is typical of late Renaissance and early Baroque depictions in music manuscripts. The use of grotesques, acanthus, and architectural features in the intials are common to both manuscript and printed books. The large gothic initials with brown penwork decoration are likewise common in printed books. The large illustrated title page is reflective of the title pages used in printed books during this period, and less common in manuscript sources. Compare the manuscripts from the contemporary Flemish Petrus Alamire workshops, which contain similar decoration (cf. Kellman, 1999).


Apel, Willi. Gregorian Chant. Bloomington, IN, Indiana University Press, 1958.

Braun, Warner and Kurt Von Fischer, “Passion,” in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 29 vols., ed. Stanley Sadie, New York, Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2001.

Braun, Werner, Kurt Von Fischer, and Karlheinz Schlager, “Passion,” in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart: allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik, 2nd ed., 26 vols., ed. Friedrich Blume and revised by Ludwig Finscher, Kassel, Metzler, 1994.

Bukofzer, Manfred. Music in the Baroque Era. New York, W.W. Norton, 1947.

Von Fischer, Kurt. “Zur Geschichte der Passionskomposition des 16. Jahrhunderts in Italien,” Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 11 (1954), pp. 189-205.

Göllner, Theodor. “Unknown Passion Tones in Sixteenth-Century Hispanic Sources,” American Musicological Society 28:1 (1975), pp. 46-71.

Gonzalez Valle, José-Vicente. La tradición del canto litúrgico de la Pasión en España: estudio sobre las composiciones monódicas y polifónicas del “cantus passionis" en las catedrales de Aragón y Castilla, Barcelona, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1992.

Kade, Otto. Die ältere Passionskomposition bis zum Jahre 1631, Güterslsoh, C. Bertelsmann, 1893.

Kellman, Herbert. The Treasury of Petrus Alamire: Music and Art in Flemish Court Manuscripts 1500-1535, Ghent/ Amsterdam, Ludion, 1999.

Josephson, Nors S., ed. Early Sixteenth-Century Sacred Music from the Papal Chapel, Neuhausen-Stuttgart, Hänssler-Verlag, 1982.

Reese, Gustave. Music in the Renaissance, New York, W.W. Norton, 1959.

Smallman, Basil. The Background of Passion Music: J.S. Bach and his Predecessors. New York, Dover Publications, 1957; reprint 1970.

Witzenmann, Wolfgang. “Passione,” in Dizionario enciclopedico universale della musica e dei musicisti: il lessico, 4 vols., ed. Alberto Basso, Torino, UTET, 1983-1984.