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The 11th-Century Verdun Sacramentary

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Among the many precious liturgical manuscripts kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France is a sacramentary of the 11th century, originally produced for use at the cathedral of Verdun. Several of the most important feasts are accompanied by an illustration, with an illuminated letter on a violet background for the beginning of the Collect. The use of a whole page for just a letter or two, in an age in which paper and parchment were quite expensive, indicates that the manuscript was a bit of a luxury item. Here are all of its illustrations, and a small selection of the decorative letters, which can be found on basically every page; the entire manuscript can be seen and downloaded for free from the BnF website (Département des manuscrits. Latin 18005.)

Folio 20v, the beginning of the Preface; the decorative ligature of V and D for the words “Vere dignum” was extremely common, and still being used when the first printed Missals were made in the later 15th century.

Folio 21r, the end of the Preface, and the Cross used as the T of “Te” at beginning of the Canon.
Folio 27v, the Nativity.

Folio 28r, a very complex ligature for “Concede”, the first word of the collect for the Third Mass of Christmas. (The other major feasts have a very similar letter or word after the picture.)

Folio 34v, the Epiphany

Folio 42v, the Presentation of the Lord
Folio 73v, the women at the tomb on Easter Sunday
Folio 74r, the beginning of the Collect of Easter. (The cluster of leaves is evidently supposed to be the D of “Deus”, but I can imagine His Eminence of Verdun mistaking it for “Omnipotens.”)
Folio 89v, the Ascension
Folio 94v, Pentecost
Folio 118v, the Assumption
Folio 119r, the first two words of the Collect of the Assumption “Famulorum tuorum.”
Folio 167v, the first word of the Collect of the Holy Trinity (“Omnipotens”); this is the first of a series of votive Masses appointed for the individual days of the week, but there is no accompanying illustration, since Trinity was not yet kept as a feast in most places.


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