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les Enluminures

Ritual with Services for Funerals and the Anniversary of Death

In Latin, manuscript on parchment and paper
Western Germany or Eastern Low Countries, c. 1450-1475 with 18th-century additions

TM 953

22 folios (18 parchment + 4 added paper leaves), complete (collation i2[-1, second leaf cancelled] ii-iii8 iv2[-1, first leaf cancelled] v4 [later paper leaves]), paper flyleaves at front and back torn out (stubs remain), modern foliation top outer recto corner, text in two hands: (i) f. 1v, lead ruling with full-length vertical bounding lines (justification 160 x 120 mm.), in black ink in a small fifteenth-century Gothic Textualis on 26 lines, one red two-line initial and multiple red one-line initials, (ii) ff. 2-17v, faint lead ruling with full-length vertical bounding lines (justification 150 x 105 mm.), in black ink in a large mid-fifteenth-century Gothic Textualis Quadrata on 17 long lines, multiple rubrics and red one- and two-line initials, ten folios with music in Hufnagel notation on a four-line staff, C- and F-clefs indicated with F-line in red; 4 paper folios added at the end, text in two hands: (i) ff. 19v-20, lead ruling, (justification 200 x 155 mm.), alternating text and four-line staves, text in brown ink in a mid-eighteenth-century cursive, two folios with square musical notation in black ink; (ii), ff. 20-22, unruled, variable lines, in brown ink in a mid-eighteenth-century cursive, one four-line staff with white mensural musical notation on f. 20v, fingerprint staining from use with tear in center margin of f. 20, considerable darkening of leaves towards front and back, first and last folios with worming and uneven edges, minor ink flaking but almost all text intact. Bound in eighteenth-century brown calf over pasteboard, double fillet border, sewn on five cords, minor abrasion of leather from use. Dimensions 158-162 x 210 mm.

One page from a printed Missal laid in: paper with an indistinguishable watermark, blackletter typeface in two sizes, printed in black ink in two columns of 29 lines (justification 285 x 190 mm.), page folded vertically and horizontally, one long edge torn from book, modern numbers in pencil (“8” at bottom right corner of recto, “200” at bottom right margin of verso). Dimensions 335 x 250 mm.

A perfect manuscript to introduce students to how medieval manuscripts were made and used, this small Ritual is written in a large Gothic script and includes ‘hufnagel’ musical notation on thirteen folios.  In the Middle Ages it was likely an unbound booklet, carried along by a priest when he needed to perform funerals and other services. Additions speak to centuries of practical use. 


1. Written in Western Germany or the Eastern Low Countries based on the evidence of the script, c. 1450-1475. Note the ‘box-a’ in all positions, and that the tall ‘s’ has a slight tendency to drop below the baseline (Derolez, 2003, pp. 85, 88). The first folio (blank on the recto), may have once served as the manuscript’s wrapper and have an independent origin, although its text is related in content; copied by a different scribe, possibly earlier than the main text, but also in Germany (as indicated by the pronounced vertical hairline running through the horizontal stroke of ‘r’; Derolez, 2003, p. 83).

2. Two fifteenth-century hands on f. 18 suggest continued ownership near where the manuscript was probably produced. Sixteenth- or seventeenth-century inscriptions include, on f. 17v, “Johannes cenobilius” (John the monk) and on f. 18, Paulus Rerwart or Reiwart, and Josephus Filiz, Felez, or Feliz (written each way). These men are not yet identified. Another on f. 17v reads: “Johannes Matthias Vonder Anno 1700.”  While he is also unidentified, his name indicates that in 1700 this manuscript was probably still owned in the region where it was made. Later additions show continued use of this manuscript, making it likely that these men four were priests. Other notes, possibly also including names, are intentionally erased.  

3. Page from a printed Missal folded and laid in at the front of the manuscript. It contains a Votive Mass for St. Sigismund, whose veneration is specific to Burgundy and Bohemia; it may have been printed in one of those regions.

4. Still in active use in the eighteenth century when texts were added on the final paper folios; this hand also updated the earlier text with marginal notes.

5. Private collection, Europe.


[Leaf from printed Missal laid in], incipit, “Ad praeclara festa regis currant oves christi gregis psallentes cum leticia … Praesta quis opus deus ut qui”;

The text on the front side of this fragment is edited as Analetica hymnica medii aevi, Vol. 8, §279 (Dreves, 1890, pp. 212-13). The back, however, appears to be unedited and contains the cues and text for a Votive Mass requesting the intercession of St. Sigismund. A Mass for St. Sigismund is among the oldest Votive Masses for a specific saint and is even mentioned by St. Gregory the Great in his The Glory of the Martyrs (Paxton, 1994). We do not know if this printed fragment carries the same text as the early Mass.

[f. 1, blank]; f. 1v, Psalm 50, incipit, “Miserere me deus …”;

The first half of the Requiem eternam (“Requiem eternam dona eis domine et lux”), follows the Psalm text; possibly a re-used leaf from another manuscript.

ff. 2-4, Commendatio animarum, incipit, “Non intres in iudicium cum fidelibus tuis domine … R. Subvenite sancti dei … V. Suscipiat eas Christus [with Kyrie] …”; f. 2v, Collectus, incipit, “Deus qui omnia vivunt …”; f. 3, “R. Ante quam nascerer novisti …”; Oratio, incipit, “Fac quis domine …”; f. 3v, Oratio, incipit, “Inclina domine aurem tuam …”; Psalmus, incipit, “Miserere mei deus …”; Oratio, incipit, “Absolve domine …”; f. 4, Oratio, incipit, “Tibi domine commendamus …”; Oratio, incipit, “Deus in cuius miseratione … Per domine nostrum”;

Liturgy for a funeral of a lay person (similar to Martène, 1702, liber III, ch. 15, pp. 596-97).  As at Catholic funerals today, before burial the body of the deceased was carried in procession to church, a Requiem Mass performed, and a funeral service, such as this one, immediately followed. Here, after four collects is the absolution (usually offered at the end of the rite). It is followed by two collects not included in the 1702 edition: “Tibi domine commendamus” and “Deus in cuius miseratione.” Most versicles and responses are abbreviated to cues. The opening melodies of the first two responses, “Subvenite sancti dei” (f. 2) and “Antequam nascerer” (f. 3), are entered in the margins in Hufnagel notation, and the opening melody of “Requiescant in pace” is added in later white musical notation at the text’s end. Notably, this text is for use at the funerals of laypeople: it is to commend souls “fidelium” (of the faithful). When intended for the funeral of a professed man or woman, the ritual alternatively reads “famuli / famulae” (of a servant [of God]).

ff. 4v-15v, Commendatio animarum, incipit, “Non intres in judicium cum servo tuo domine …”; f. 5, Oratio, incipit, “Deus cui omnia vivunt …”; f. 6v, Oratio, incipit, “Fac quaesumus domine …”; Oratio, incipit, “Inclina domine aurem tuam ad preces nostras …”; f. 7, Oratio, incipit, “Absolve domine animas famuli tui …”; Oratio, incipit, “Tibi domine commendamus animas famuli tui …”; f. 7v, Oratio, incipit, “Deus in cuius miseratione …”; Psalmus, incipit, “Confitemini domine …”; f. 9v, incipit, “Pie recordationis affectu commemoratione facimus cari nostri …”; f. 10, Oratio, incipit, “Obsecramus misericordiam tuam omnipotens eterne deus …”; f. 10v, Oratio, incipit, “Deus apud quem mortuorum spiritus vivunt …”; f. 11, incipit, “Oremus fratres karissimi pro spiritu cari nostri …”; Oratio, incipit, “Deus qui iustis supplicationibus semper presto es …”; f. 11v, Oratio, incipit, “Deus vite dator …”; Oratio, incipit, “Deus qui humanarum animarum eternus amator es …”; f. 12, incipit, “Deus qui iustis supplicationis semper presto es …”; f. 12v, incipit, “Temeritatis quidem est …”; f. 13, incipit, “Debitum humani corporis …”; f. 13v, Oratio, incipit, “Partem beate resurrectionis …”; f. 14, Oratio, incipit, “Tibi domine commendamus animas … per infinita seculorum secula”;

Liturgy for the funeral of a monk, nun, or other professed (similar to Martène, 1702, liber III, ch. 15, pp. 596-97). Like the previous section, the first collect follows the Requiem Mass, but this ritual is much longer. The absolution appears after four collects, followed by two collects not in the 1702 edition, as in the previous text. It then continues according to the 1702 edition, except for the two final collects: “Partem beate resurrectionis” and “Tibi domine commendamus.” Versicles and responses are only cued except for “Subvenite sancti dei” (ff. 4-5) and “Antequam nascerer” (ff. 6-7) which are written in full with Hufnagel notation along with the “Kyrie.”  Antiphons on ff. 14-15v are fully noted. Whereas the previous text was for laypeople, this ritual is for the soul of a “famuli / famulae” (servant [of God]). The text was originally written for male deceased, but a tiny later hand added feminine endings in the interlinear space above each reference. This suggests that at least one later user provided pastoral care to a community of nuns.

ff. 16-17v, Pater noster, Credo, Confiteor, and noted antiphon Si bona suscepimus and versicle;

The Pater noster and Credo both lack their final clauses from the outset. The Confiteor, which varied significantly in the Middle Ages, is shortened, with only two mea culpas (“mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”). No specific saints are named following the Virgin Mary, where one might find Archangel Michael, John the Baptist, the Apostles Peter and Paul, and perhaps the founder of an Order: for example, the Franciscan Confiteor includes St. Francis, and that of the Dominicans, St. Dominic (Fortescue, 1908).

f. 18, Three collects:  for a woman (Femina), and two for a priest (Sacerdote, Collecta pro sacerdote); [fourth prayer], In anniversario, incipit, “Deus indulgentiarum domine da fidelibus tuis quorum anniversarium ….”; [ff. 18v-19, blank];

Added within a century of the main text, these additions show how later users enhanced this manuscript to best serve their needs.

ff. 19v-22, In processione Anniversariorum, incipit, “Subvenite sancti dei [noted] … Sacer: Requiescant in pace. Chorus. Amen.”

Liturgy for the anniversary of a death. Like the previous services, this text is to be said (and sung) following a Requiem Mass. Opening with a noted versicle and response, it also contains some liturgical instructions for the priest. Both male and female forms are offered and, as indicated by the use of “fidelis” instead of “famulus”, this is a service for deceased laypeople, not professed religious.

One of the core duties of medieval religious was to pray for the souls of the dead to reduce their time in purgatory. This manuscript includes texts for funeral services, and in its eighteenth-century addition, a service for the anniversary of death. Notably, it contains the rites for both laypeople and professed, and adjustments to the text for the souls of both men and women. Its additions and notes point to centuries of ongoing use, an appealing feature in a practical manuscript. Moreover, its original text and the adaptions made to it show that this manuscript was used to pray for the souls of monks, nuns, and laypeople.

These texts are found in books known to liturgical scholars as Rituals, which contain the liturgical rites for occasional sacraments performed by a priest, such as baptism, confirmation, or extreme unction (Gy 1990, pp. 108-20).  This abbreviated Ritual containing funeral and death anniversary services is designed to be portable. Small independent liturgical volumes, known as libellus or “little books,” such as this one could be easily carried along by a priest when he needed to perform specific rites (Gy, 1991; Palazzo, 1993, pp. 187-194). Such booklets were often kept unbound or in lightweight parchment wrappers during the Middle Ages, and later bound with other relevant material, just as this manuscript was. Its adaption and accretion of material over time demonstrates the enduring importance of the rites of burial and the afterlife in the Catholic tradition.

Thirteen of the folios in this short manuscript – over half – contain music for singing responses during the funeral and anniversary of death services.  Most of this manuscript’s music is indicated with German Gothic notation known as Hufnagel notation (named for the notes’s resemblance to the nails used to attach horseshoes). While square notation, developed in the eleventh century, replaced earlier neumes throughout most of Europe by the thirteenth century, Hufnagel persisted in Germany, the Low Countries, and Eastern Europe into the early modern period (Kügle, 2015, p. 1193). The variety of notation found in this manuscript, and the continued use of medieval forms by later users, makes it an engaging witness to the longevity that practical manuscripts, such as this one, sometimes enjoyed.


Martène, Edmond. De antiquis ecclesiæ ritibus libri duo …., Rouen, 1702.

Derolez, Albert. The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books: From the Twelfth to the Early Sixteenth Century, Cambridge, 2003.

Dreves, Guido Maria. Analecta hymnica medii aevi, Vol. 8, Leipzig, 1890. Available online at https://archive.org/details/analectahymnicam79drev.

Gy, P.-M. “Collectaire, rituel, processional,” in his La liturgie dans l’histoire, Paris, 1990, pp. 91-126 (updated version of the article 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.

Hughes, Andrew. Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office: A Guide to Their Organization and Terminology, Toronto, 1995.

Kügle, Karl. “Conceptualizing and Experiencing Music in the Middle Ages, ca. 500-1500,” in Handbook of Medieval Culture, Vol. 2, ed. Albrecht Classen, Berlin, 2015, pp. 1184-1204.

Palazzo, Eric. A History of Liturgical Books from the Beginning to the Thirteenth Century, trans.  Madeline Beaumont, Collegeville, MN, 1998.

Paxton, Frederick S. “Liturgy and Healing in an Early Medieval Saint’s Cult: The Mass in honore sancti Sigismundi for the Cure of Fevers,” Traditio 49 (1994), pp. 23-43.

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

Online Resources

Cantus Manuscript Database: Inventories of Chant Sources

Fortescue, A. “Confiteor,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York, 1908. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04222a.htm

Fortescue, A. “Ritual”, in The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York, 1912.

TM 953