Much like books of hours and breviaries, books containing the Passion of Jesus were very popular in the Late Middle Ages. Passion books provided a guide for the contemplation of Christ’s suffering. Often, they gave a more detailed version of the Passion of Jesus than the Gospels in the Bible. This manuscript contains, for example, a text about the fifteen times Christ shed blood during his life. Passion books were not only popular with monks and nuns but also with lay people, who used them to meditate on Christ’s death at home. The saints that are mentioned in the calendar at the beginning of the manuscript, combined with the dialect used, confirm that this Passion book was written for a citizen of the Flemish city Tongeren.
This manuscript is decorated with colored and pen-flourished initials. The historiated initial1 ‘O’ on fol. 156r depicts the five wounds that Jesus suffered during the crucifixion. Fol. 222v once contained a pasted-on miniature, and although it has since been removed you can still see the where the miniature was once pasted to the leaf.
- When the quires were filled with text, the rubrics were in place, and the scribe had corrected his work, it was time for the finishing touches. Many medieval books contain some kind of decoration in addition to the written words. What kind of decoration can you find in this manuscript? Give three examples.
- Up to 1200 most manuscripts were produced by monastic scribes, whereas after this date it became increasingly common for lay (i.e. non-clerical) individuals to be involved in book production. Does the manuscript in front of you provide any clues as to the potential background of the scribe? If you were forced to speculate, what would your verdict be and why?
- Lieftinck, G. I. (1948). Codices Manuscripti V: codicum in finibus belgarum ante annum 1550 conscriptorum qui in bibliotheca universitatis asservantur (Vol. 1). Brill.
- Gumbert, J. P. (2009). Illustrated Inventory of Medieval Manuscripts in Latin script in the Netherlands. Verloren.