Friday, January 24, 2020

A 15th-Century Diurnal

Today I stumbled across a reference to a very beautiful illuminated manuscript, which is available for consultation, and can be downloaded for free as a pdf, from the website of the Bibliothèque national de France (Département des manuscrits, Latin 10491). The website calls it a diurnale, which normally means a breviary without any of the material for Matins, but this particular book also includes the full Psalter as it was arranged for each day of the week, including the Psalms of Matins, and a fair amount of other material. It was originally made for René, a nobleman of the house of Anjou (1409-80), who also had a breviary which I have previous written about. This book has fewer full-page illustrations, a total of eleven, but many smaller images of Saints in the section at the end, the “suffragia”, or votive commemorations of the sort typically found in books of Hours. As with the breviary, the artistic influence of the Italian Renaissance is very strong.

The beginning of the temporal cycle. The central image shows the Prophets Moses, Isaiah, David, Habakkuk and Jeremiah, each holding a banderole with a Messianic prophecy; in the margins, six of the prophetesses known as the Sybils, who were traditionally believed to have foretold the coming of Christ to the pagan world. The miniature figure in white on a blue background within the text is St Paul, from whose Epistle to the Romans the Chapter next to it is taken. The book has few decorative borders, but those which it does have are very richly detailed. (folio 7r)
The beginning of the temporal cycle: Christ kneeling in prayer, as Pilate threatens Him with the Cross. This image is chosen in reference to the first major Saint of the liturgical year, the Apostle Andrew, whom the Byzantine Rite titles “the First-Called”; at Second Vespers of his feast, the antiphon of the Magnificat is the words which his legend says he spoke on seeing the cross prepared for his execution. “When the blessed Andrew had come to the place where the cross had been prepared, he cried out and said ‘O good cross, long desired, and now prepared for the soul that desireth thee, certain and joyful I come to thee; so also do thou receive me with rejoicing, the disciple of Him who hung up thee.’ ” At the very bottom, the arms of René of Anjou, quartered with the emblems of Hungary, the duchy of Anjou, Jerusalem and Aragon. (The history of his titles is very complicated. -  folio 45r)
The beginning of the Commons of the Saints; Christ with the Apostles in the temple, a subject chosen because in the traditional arrangement of the Roman Breviary, the first common Office is that of the Apostles. (folio 75r)
King David, victorious in battle, kneels in prayer and has a vision of God. This is placed before Matins of Monday, the first Psalm of which, 26, is titled “a Psalm of David, before he was anointed.” In reference to the opening words of the Psalm, “the Lord is my light”, rays of light descend upon him; the Psalm continues with the words “My enemies that trouble me have themselves been weakened, and have fallen. If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear.” (folio 147v)
Musicians in the temple of Jerusalem, with a statue used as a music stand; this image is placed before the Psalms of Tuesday Matins, for no evident reason. Three of these large images in the Psalter seem to be out of their logical place, and it is tempting to guess that they may have been bound into the book in the wrong places. This one would seem to go better before Saturday Matins, the first Psalm of which, 97, begins with the words “Sing to the Lord a new song.” (folio 154v)
At the lower right, the priest Achimelech gives David bread and a sword (1 Sam. 21); in the middle, Doeg the Edomite spies David with Achimelech (1 Sam. 22); at the lower left, King Saul orders that Achimelech be slain as punishment for helping David (ibid.) This image is placed right before Wednesday Matins, but refers to the last Psalm of Tuesday Matins, Psalm 51, the title of which mentions these episodes. If it is true that the images were placed in the wrong order, this would have been intended to go before Tuesday Matins. (folio 160v)
In the foreground, Jonah is thrown off the ship and swallowed by the whale; in the background, he is spat out onto land. This is placed before Thursday Matins in reference to the first Psalm, 68, which begins with the words “Save me, o God, for the waters are come in even unto my soul.” (folio 166v)
The crossing of the Red Sea. This is placed before Friday Matins, in reference to the first Psalm, 80, which contains two reference to the delivery of the Israelites from Egypt (vss. 6 and 11). The canticle of Thursday Lauds, which immediately precedes this, is that of Moses in Exodus, chapter 15, 1-19, “Let us sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously magnified; the horse and the rider he hath thrown into the sea.” (folio 174v)
David cuts the cloak of Saul as he relieves himself in a cave (1 Sam. 24); this episode is referred to in the title of Psalm 56, which is said on Wednesday, and may have been intended to be placed there. (folio 180v)
Solomon receives the crown from King David as the latter lies on his deathbed, and in the background, sits crowned on the throne with a sceptre in his hands. This is placed before the Psalms of Sunday Vespers, the first of which, 109, begins with the words “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool’. The Lord will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion” (folio 188v)
The beginning of the Office of St Louis, bishop of Toulouse, a member of the same royal house of Anjou as René. (folio 210v)
A long prayer to God in French (folio 214r)
A series of invocations to Christ Crucified (folio 214v)
The conclusion of the same series, with the Man of Sorrows in the tomb. (folio 215r)
The first of the suffrages, that of the Cross, begins at the lower right (folio 215v)
The suffrages of Ss Peter and Paul, and the Archangel Michael (folio 216r)
The suffrages of Ss John the Baptist and John the Evanglist (folio 216v)
The suffrages of Ss Stephen and George (folio 217r)
The suffrages of Ss Nicholas and King Louis IX of France (folio 217v - St Nicholas is shown with the three children whom he raised to life after they had been killed and hidden in a brining tub.) 
The suffrages of Ss Francis and Mary Magdalene (folio 218r)
The suffrages of Ss Ann and Catherine of Alexandria (folio 218v)
The suffrages of Ss Barbara and Martha, the former shown with her tower, the latter with her dragon (folio 219r).
The suffrages of All Saints and the Virgin Mary (folio 219v)
The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, placed before the Hours of the Holy Spirit (folio 221r).
The Annunciation, placed before the major antiphons of the Virgin Mary. The rubric for their use is slightly different: Alma Redemptoris Mater is used until the Saturday after Quinquagesima, a fifth antiphon, O quam pulchra es, is prescribed for the period from the Nativity of the Virgin until the end of the liturgical year, and the versicle and collect do not vary. (folio 222v).
The suffrages of Ss Christopher and Sebastian (folio 223r)
The suffrages of St Anthony of Padua and the Angels (folio 223v)
The calendar page for January (folio 1r)
The beginning of the Office of St René, bishop of Anger, the name-saint of René of Anjou. (folio 119v)
This page, the beginning of the Psalter, shows the kind of decorations which are found on most of the pages: a very small number of large illuminated letters, and a very large number of smaller ones for the beginnings of prayers and the individual verses of Psalms. (folio 131v)

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