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ZACHARIAS CHRYSOPOLITANUS, Super unum ex quattuor seu Concordia evangelistarum (Commentary on One from Four or the Agreement of the Evangelists); PETER OF POITIERS, Compendium historiae in genealogia christi (A Compendium of History in the Genealogy of Christ); excerpt from JOSEPHUS, Antiquitates iudaice (Jewish Antiquities)

In Latin, illustrated manuscript on paper and parchment
Southern Netherlands (Sluis, near Bruges), dated 1475

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i (modern paper) + 244 + i (modern paper) folios on parchment and paper, usually with innermost and outermost bifolia of parchment, but some quires instead with a parchment singleton in the center, but without loss of text, parchment is of varying quality, but some of it is remarkably poor (uneven in color and size, clearly off-cuts, e.g. ff. 30, 52, 75v, some are so bad that the ink blurred, ff. 169v, 174v-175, 204v, otherwise paper, watermark, Unicorn with marks on the horn and a mane, WILC, no. WM I 55886, recorded in Bruges in 1476 (Online Resources), modern foliation, cited here, in pencil top outer corner recto with one error, 1-178, 178 bis, 179-243, early foliation lower outer corner recto in ink, 1-208, beginning on f. 29 and concluding on f. 233, complete (collation i-ii12 iii10+1 [6, f. 30, single] iv10+1 [6, f. 41, single] v12 vi10+1 [6, f. 64, single] vii12 viii10+1 [6, f. 87, single] ix12 x10+1 [6, f. 110, single] xi12 xii10+1 [6, f. 133, single] xiii-xx12 xxi10+1 [6, f. 239, single, -11, likely cancelled blank]), horizontal catchwords and some remnants of leaf and quire signatures very bottom margins, ruled very lightly in lead, with the top two and bottom two horizontal rules full across (some folios may be frame ruled), prickings often visible upper and lower margins and sometimes in the outer margins, layout varies, ff. 1-233v, single full-length vertical bounding lines (justification 217-207 x 145-143 mm.), written in a cursive gothic bookhand without loops in two columns of 33 to 45 lines, by one scribe; ff. 234-241v (with its prologue on f. 233v), text in two-three columns, interrupted by roundels or various sizes, and bounded on both sides by bold red vertical lines, written in a small cursive gothic bookhand (scribe one) with as many as fifty-nine lines (and with no text on ff. 237-244v apart from the roundels with the genealogy); and ff. 242-243, (justification 242 x 160 mm.), copied in a less formal cursive script in two columns of 53 lines, guide letters and notes for rubricator, capitals touched in red, rubrics, running titles and some marginal notes in red, 1- to 3-line red initials, 3-line red initials with decorative void spaces within the body of the initials, a few red initials with black penwork, usually 2- to 3-line (with a large 31-line ‘I’ on f. 29), the painted arms of Sluis (de gueules, à,deux fasces ondées dargent) used as a marginal nota marks in places (ff. 106, 118, 120v, 179, 186, 193) and in center of illustration on f. 242, SMALL DIAGRAM of the four seasons and four cardinal directions in margin of f. 137, three folios with FULL PAGE CANON TABLES set within red, orange and yellow pillars (ff. 15-17v), eight folios with elaborate diagram showing lines of genealogical descent (ff. 234-241v), with FIVE DRAWINGS in black ink, colored with red and yellow wash illustrating the Tabernacle, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the Seven- armed Candelabrum and the twelve tribes of Israel camped around the Tabernacle during the Exodus (f. 236), the Temple of Solomon within Jerusalem and its six city gates (as an elaborate Gothic church) (f. 239), LARGE DIAGRAM in red, yellow and black, f. 242, some small smudges, first leaf with creased with frayed edges and holes in the outer margin (perhaps from metalwork of original binding), overall in excellent condition.  Bound in nineteenth-century half leather with marbled pasteboards, “Expositio /Evangelistas /Codice,” in gilt on black leather label laid onto spine.  Dimensions 295 x 210 mm.

This finely illustrated manuscript is of considerable interest to historians of the late medieval Church, of the study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, and of the history of the book. Copied by a previously unknown scribe who identifies himself several times, the codex is the only known surviving volume from the library of the Observant Franciscans at Sluis (near Bruges), where it was copied.  The two twelfth-century texts, both of fundamental importance for the history of medieval biblical exegesis, are adapted here for Franciscan use.  Special features include a table of Gospel lections for the Mass and the drawings illustrating the biblical genealogy.


1. Written by brother Franciscus Guilhelmus in 1475 for the Observant Franciscans in Sluis (var. L’Ecluse or Sclusensis), signed and dated in the colophon (see f. 233v) and confirmed by the Sluis coat of arms found a number of times in the manuscript (Sluis, some twenty-five kilometers north of Bruges, is now in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, The Netherlands).

The scribe left his name three times on f. 233v, “Per fratrem wilhelmum francisci. Anno videlicet domini M.cccc.lxxv,” “Liber fratrum minorum in Slusa, … Franciscus Guilhelmus …, Orate pro nobis peccatoribus.”  Below these two inscriptions at the bottom of the page he wrote, “Frater Francisci.”  On f. 242 he added “Ihesus Maria Franciscus Guilhelmus” in the top margin of the last text in the volume. The date 1475 also appears in Arabic numerals at the foot of one of the tablets of law on f. 236.  Francis William or William Francis (he uses both) is not listed in the Colophons published by the Benedictins of Bouveret.

The Franciscan convent in Sluis was founded in 1443. This is the only recorded book to survive from its library. The scribe may originally have been from the Observant Friars at Gouda, the mother house of the order in the Low Countries, and one of the founding members of the community at Sluis.  A somewhat obscure note on f. 233v added to the colophon in red may say that the drawings in the genealogy were the work of a Franciscan from Gouda.  The convent at Sluis suffered under the upheavals of the Reformation and the Revolt against Spanish Hapsburg rule in the 1560s, and were the friars expelled from the town in 1578.  In the following years their buildings were emptied and demolished.  The community returned briefly from 1587-1604, when it was finally disbanded (Moorman, 1983, p. 169; “Medieval Monasteries in the Netherlands,” Online Resources; not recorded in Stooker and Verbeij, 1997).

2. Copied with a marginal apparatus including cross references, some in red, by the original scribe, with in addition notes in a second hand, and parchment fore-edge tabs on ff. 67, 109, and 179). Marginal notes range in content from the very simple (f. 161v, “Nota quod non dicit evangelia sed evangelium”), to the more complex (one is clearly liturgical in content).

3. Contemporary or slightly later note on f. 243v, “Laudatissmus hic scriptor esse habet scilicet Zacharias Crisopolitanus nunc (?) apud…. <three more words, presumably of a name, erased and made illegible, plus a pen- flourish signature also undecipherable>”; preceded by “2 f 3” in ink, possibly an early shelf mark.

4. Presumably still at Sluis in the first half of the sixteenth century when a visiting friar, Paulus Zelandus from Hulst, added a note in the lower margin of f. 68, “Hic Maximus episcopus fuit Taurinensibus ecclesie et huius memineretur Gennadius et abbas Tritemius in libris quos ediderint  de viris illustribus. Hec prefate Paulus Zelandus minorita conventus Hulstensis notavit.”  

5. It probably entered private hands during the dispersal of the monastery’s goods in the seventeenth century (a hand of that date adding f. 243 to the verso of the last leaf here).

6. Europe, private collection.


ff. 1-223v:

ff. 1-14v, [heading, underlined in red, Ihesus maria franciscus guilhelmus. Matheus, incipit, 1. Liber generationis ihesu christum i. [in red, iii], Omnes ergo generationes, ii [in red, x], …, Et ecce ihesus occurit illis dicens avete,” Explicit capitula super euangelium mathei; …”; [continuing with f. 5, Mark, i-ccxxxv; f. 8, Luke, i-cccxliii; f. 12v, John, i-ccxxxii];

Chapter lists of the four Gospels using the textual divisions known as the Eusebian sections which are also used in the Canon Tables, followed by the number of the relevant table in red.

ff. 15-17v, Canon tables in yellow, orange and pink arches;

ff. 18-19, incipit, “Dominica primus ad aduentus, Inicium euangelii K [for Mark] xiii; Dominica secunda, Erunt signa, L [for Luke] cxlv; dominica tercia, Cum audisset, M [for Matthew] lxiiii …”;

Mass readings from the Gospels for the liturgical year for the Temporale beginning with the first Sunday in Advent, with Trinity Sunday but the Sundays counted after Pentecost, and concluding with the twenty-third Sunday after Penecost, the Sanctorale, very brief and without St. Francis, and the Common of Saints.  References are to the Eusebian sections used in this commentary, with letters indicating the Gospel.  These readings are not the usual ones for Franciscan Use (they may be Cistercian Use; further study is called).

ff. 19-29, Preseries Zacharie chrisopolitani in vnum ex quator, Ihesus, incipit, “De excellentiam euangelii et differentia ipsius ad legem, de figuris euangelistarum et eorum modo scribendi, … que malos terrent, Explicit prefatio; f. 28, Incipiunt capitula primi libri, incipit, “In principio uerbum deus … [i-xliii]; Nota, incipit, “Notum facimus lectori quod expositionis … exprimenda promititur, Explicit preseries;

ff. 29-233v, Incipit zacharie crisopolitani in unum ex quatuor sive Concordia euangelistarum, M i [in red:] iii, L xiiii [in red:] iii A i [in red:] iii, incipit, “In principio erat uerbum …, Magister, Verbum est sapientia … [book II, chapter list, f. 66v, text, f. 67], Incipit liber secundus expositionis in vnum ex quator, incipit, “Et factum est consummasset ihesus …; [book III, chapter list, f. 107, text f. 107v], Incipit liber tertius, incipit, “Venit autem ihesus in partes … ; [book IV, chapter list, f. 179, text, f. 179v], incipit, Et factum et cum consumasset … Nouissime uersus est et michi.  Hoc non post paruum temporis ascensionis,” Deo gratias. Explicit vnum ex quatuor seu Concordia euangelistarum.  Et desuper expositio continua exactissima diligencia edita a zacharia crisopolitano. [Colophon] Sancta Salvator. Per Fratrem Wilhelmum Francisci. Anno videlicet domini M.cccc.lxxv. Qui fuit annus iubileus per privilegium dompni Pauli secondi papae,” [Followed by a note in another hand in red:] ¶ Ista figura sequens nec non et columpne <que> sita sunt in paginis libri facta sunt per fratrem hiis ordinis de Gouda; [then continuing in the main hand:] Liber Fratrum minorum in Slusa. J.H.E.S.U.S. M.A.R.I.A. J.O.S.E.P.H. Franciscus Guilhelmus et omnes et sancti et sancte dei. Orate pro nobis peccatoribus. Amen.

Zacharias Chrysopolitanis, Super unum ex quattuor seu Concordia evangelistarum; printed in Migne, Patrologia latina, vol. 186, col. 11-620; there is no critical edition; Stegmüller, 950-1980, no. 8400, lists 58 manuscripts; Bourgain and Stutzmann, “Fama” (Online Resources) list 75 manuscripts; Gautier, 2008, lists 105 manuscripts, most dating from the late twelfth-thirteenth centuries; the text is however, quite rare on the market, and the vast majority of copies are in public institutions.

Zacharias Chrysopolitanus (d. c. 1155) was master of the cathedral school of Besançon in the opening of the twelfth century, before moving to Laon where he met the scholar Anselm of Laon (d. 1117). It was there that he composed this text, a grand harmonization of the Gospels, augmented by patristic literature and etymological explanation of some Greek, Hebrew, and Latin words in the text. One of the obsessions of twelfth-century scholarship was the ordering and arranging of information, including devising a logical chronological sequence for the narratives of the Bible.  The Gospels were problematic, for all four books recount versions of the same story.  Zachary addressed this worrying repetition by going back to the sixth-century Latin Gospel Harmony of Victor of Capua, itself a translation of the then-lost second-century Diatesseron of Tatian.  It is a complex text, with an extensive introductory apparatus, including chapter lists of each of the Gospels, using the ancient divisions of the Gospels which were compiled to accompany the Canon Tables for reference, Canon Tables and a list of Mass readings for the liturgical year (again, using the Eusebian sections for reference). His text draws on commentaries by Jerome, Rabanus Maurus, John Chrysostom, Augustine, Ambrose, Origen and Hildebert of Lavardin (d. 1133).

ff. 233vb-241v, [no rubric], incipit, “Considerans historie sacre prolixitatem necnon difficultatem scolarium quoque circa studium sacre lectionis…”;

Peter of Poitiers, Compendium historie in genealogie Christi; the text concludes on f. 241v with the Resurrection, Institution of Peter to the papacy, and the twelve apostles; text accompanying the genealogy was completed only through the very top of f. 237; remainder consists only of the genealogical tree and the names in roundels, with the exception of one note about the founding of Ghent right before the Passion, f. 241, “Iste Gaius fuit quartus imperator et regnatur secundum Josephum annis xxii et mensibus sex et dies tres. Hic est qui fundavit villam gandensem in Flandria secundum aliquos” (we have not been able to find the source of this story).  

There is no modern critical edition of this text; Stegmuller, 1950-1980, nos. 6778-6779, Bourgain and Stutzmann, “Fama” (Online Resources), list 256 manuscripts; Piggin (Online Resources), lists 267 manuscripts; text printed from single manuscripts: Moleiro, 1999-2000, facsimile, vol. II, pp. 135-147, with Spanish and English translation pp. 93-129, reproducing Rome, Bibl. Casanatense, MS 4254 (Tuscany, thirteenth century); Vollmer, 1931; and Zwingli, Basel, 1592 (with interpolations, published as part of a universal chronicle).  The textual tradition is complex; fifteenth century copies are rare in comparison to earlier ones, work remains to be done comparing this witness, likely adapted by William Francis the scribe, to other known traditions. 

Peter of Poitiers studied at the University of Paris, where he attended the classes of Peter Lombard.  He succeeded Petrus Comestor as chair of scholastic theology in 1169, and served as chancellor of the University of Paris from 1193 to 1205.  The Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi is his most famous work.  It is a schematic depiction of biblical history in the form of a genealogy of Christ.  The text is arranged with a main central line of descent running from top to bottom, from Adam to Christ (continuing to the apostles in some copies), spanning St. Augustine’s traditional six ages of the world.  The text was designed to help students and others master the often confusing events of Old Testament history. Its popularity throughout the Middle Ages is a testimony to how useful it was.

Often copied as a roll, the scribe here added letters at the top and bottom of  his pages to try and keep the branches of the genealogy straight (it begins with one line ‘A’ on f. 237, ‘A’ and ‘B’ on f. 239, ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘C’ on f. 240, and by 241, ‘A-F’).  Each name is in a roundel (some names in red), connected by colored lines.  In many manuscripts all this is done with straight lines in a tidy fashion, here the criss-crossing, bending lines used by this scribe vividly demonstrates the complexity of biblical geneaology. The inclusion of the wives in the main roundels (not found in all copies) is notable, for example, David and Bersabee, Abraham and Sara, and so forth.

ff. 242-243, [in upper margin: Jhesus Maria Franciscus Guilhelmus], incipit, “Collecta sunt hec ex libris Iosephi antiquitatis iudaice historiographi … , Hec de primo partis …, Dominus deus adam creatvit …. manasses quidem senior iunior vero effraim. Jacob ut permissum xii habuit filios, Ruben itaque.”

Excerpts from Josephus (c. 37-100 A.D.), Antiquitates iudaice (Jewish Antiquities); Josephus’s Antiquities, written in Greek c. 93-94 A.D. and known throughout the Middle Ages in Latin translation, is a retelling of biblical history up to the first Jewish-Roman war of 66-73 A.D.  It was widely read during the Middle Ages and in the Early modern period.  Its contents fit perfectly with the other two exegetical works copied by Francis William in this volume.  A careful study of the text, noting the passages he chose for his epitome would be an interesting exercise.


There is a great deal of visual interest in this codex. The Canon Tables (an essential part of Zacharias’s text), are presented in colorful arcades.  The extracts from Josephus begin with a very large drawing of concentric rings in shades of red, yellow, and black, with the coat of arms of Sluis in the center, which we interpret as a Cosmological diagram, although further study is called for. The Compedium by Peter of Poitiers is illustrated with pen-drawings colored with red and yellow wash. Many copies of this text include illustrations, and like the text itself, these vary by copy.  We may note that the illustration of the Tabernacle, the Seven-armed Candelabrum, and the Tablets of the Law, may be derived from copies of Nicholas of Lyre’s Old Testament commentaries, rather than copies of Peter’s text.

Subjects as follows,

f. 236, Tabernacle;

f. 236, Tablets of the Ten Commandments;

f. 236, Seven- armed Candelabrum;

f. 236, Twelve tribes of Israel camped around the Tabernacle during the Exodus;

f. 239, Temple of Solomon within Jerusalem and its six city gates (as an elaborate Gothic church).


Alidori, Laura. “Il Plut20.56 della Laurenziana: Appunti sull'iconografia dei manoscritti della ‘Genealogia’ di Petrus Pictaviensis,” Cicli e immagini bibliche nella miniatura: Atti del VI Congresso di Storia della Miniatura Urbino, 3-6 ottobre 2002, ed. Laura Alidori = Rivista di storia della miniatura 6-7 (2001-2002).

Bauer-Eberhardt, U. “Zur Typologie der Evangelienharmonien des Zacharias Chrysopolitanus. Vier italienische illuminierte Handschriften des 12. Jahrhunderts in München,” in Buchschätze des Mittelalters. Forschungsrückblicke - Forschungsperspektiven. Beiträge zum Kolloquium des Kunsthistorischen Instituts der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel vom 24. bis zum 26. April 2009, ed. K.G. Beuckers, C. Jobst, and S. Westphal, Regensburg, 2011, 109-120.

Burger, Christoph, August den Hollander, and Ulrich Schmied. Evangelienharmonien des Mittelalters. Assen, 2004.

Carruthers, Mary. “‘Ista est Jerusalem’:  Intertextuality and Visual Exegesis in Peter of Poitiers’ Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi and Werner Rolevinck’s Fasciculus temporum,” in Imagining Jerusalem in the Medieval West, ed. Lucy Donkin and

Hanna Vorholt, Oxford and New York, 2012.

De Vregille, B. “Notes sur la vie et l’œuvre de Zacharie de Besançon,” Analecta Praemonstratensia 41 (1965), pp. 293-309.

Gauthier, Marc-Edouard.  Mille ans d’histoire de l’arbre généalogique en France, Rennes, 2008.

Gerits, T. J. “Notes sur la tradition manuscrite et imprimée du traité In unum ex quattuor de Zacharie de Besançon,” Analecta Praemonstratensia 42 (1966), pp. 276-303.

Goodman, Martin and Joanna Weinberg, eds. The Reception of Josephus in the Early Modern Period, International Journal of the Classical Tradition 23, issue 3 (2016).

Hilpert, Hans-Eberhard.  “Geistliche Bildung und Laienbildung: Zur Überlieferung der Schulschrift Compendium historaie in genealogia Christi (Compendium veteris testamenti) des Petrus von Poitiers (+ 1205) in England,” Journal of Medieval History 11 (1985), pp. 315-331.

Janssen, H. Q. “Het Observantenklooster te Sluis, met oorkonden,” Bijdragen tot de oudheidkunde en geschiedenis, inzonderheid Zeeuwsch-Vlaanderen, eds. H. Q. Janssen and J. H. van Dale, Te Middelburg, 1856, pp. 3-44.

Klapisch-Zuber, C.  L’ombre de la parenté. Essai sur l’imaginaire médiéval de la parenté, Paris, 2000.

Monroe, W. H.  “A Roll-Manuscript of Peter of Poitier’s Compendium,” Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum, 65 (1978), 92-107.

Moore, P. S.  The Works of Peter of Poitiers: Master in Theology and Chancellor of Paris (1193-1205), Publications in Medieval Studies, University of Notre Dame, 1, Notre Dame, Indiana, 1936.

Moorman, J. Medieval Franciscan Houses, Franciscan Institute publications. History series 4, St. Bonaventure, New York, 1983.

[Peter of Poitiers]. Genealogía de Cristo; Genealogia Christi, 2 vols., Barcelona, M. Moleiro, 1999-2000 [facsimile Rome, Biblioteca Casanatense, MS 4254].

Roest, Bert, “Franciscans Between Observance and Reformation: The Low Countries (ca.1400-1600),” Franciscan Studies 63 (2005), pp. 409-442.

Stegmüller, Fridericus. Repertorium biblicum medii aevi, Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 1950-61, and Supplement, with the assistance of N. Reinhardt, Madrid, 1976-80.

Stooker, K. and Th. Verbeij: Collecties op orde. Middelnederlandse handschriften uit kloosters en semi-religieuze gemeenschappen in de Nederlanden, two volumes, Leuven, 1997 (Franciscan Convent at Sluis not mentioned)

Vollmer, H., ed. Deutsche Bibelauszüge des Mittelalters zum Stammbaum Christi, Potsdam, 1931.

Zwingli, U. Petri Pictaviensis Galli genealogia et chronologia sanctorum patrum, Basel, 1592 [edition of the Compendium with interpolations incorporated into a universal chronicle]

Online Resource

WILC, Watermarks in Incunables Printed in the Low Countries

WM I 55886, http://watermark.kb.nl/search/view/id/55886


University of Amsterdam, Kloosterlijst, Beknopt overzicht van de Nederlandse kloosters tot 1800 (Medieval Monasteries in the Netherlands: A Census)

Franciscan Convent Sluis, Netherlands, founded 1443, 1578, expelled (returned 1587-1604)

Repertorium biblicum Online

Pascale Bourgain, Dominique Stutzmann, FAMA : Œuvres latines médiévales à succès, 2019, Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes (IRHT-CNRS)

“Notice de In unum ex quattuor, Zacharias Chrysopolitanus”  http://fama.irht.cnrs.fr/oeuvre/268430

“Notice de Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi, Petrus Pictaviensis” http://fama.irht.cnrs.fr/oeuvre/254331

“Peter’s Stemma” List of manuscripts of Peter of Poitiers, Compendium at Piggin.net, with links and other resources

The Latin Josephus Project

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