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Exhibit of the Month

October 2019

Breviary with Medaillons of an Unknown Benedictine Nun

Vespere autem sabbati quae lucescit in primam sabbati venit Maria Magdalena et altera Maria videre sepulcrum alleluia. (Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb). The excerpt from the Gospel of Matthew introduces one of the most interesting breviaries kept in the Klementinum historical collections. To this day, it is not known who ordered it. According to certain forms in the text and the chosen decoration, it was a woman, evidently a nun from the rich and important Benedictine St. George´s Convent at the Prague Castle. The extent of the manuscript and its magnificent decoration testify to the fact that she certainly came from a rich family - after all, the value of codices made like this one was considerable. Illuminations as well as the style of the used script refer to scriptoria in the circle of the court of Czech King Wenceslas IV (1361-1419). Miniature medaillons depict both individual zodiac signs and activities typical for each month (e. g. herding a pig in December). In the text itself it is worthy to mention especially the content of popular Easter plays, performed by Benedictine nuns and priests in the St. George´s Basilica during Easter time, and the portrait of St. Ludmila, buried there to this day, whose cult was developed particularly in the St. George´s Convent. Subsequent generations of Benedictine nuns were also aware of the great importance of the manuscript, as evidenced by a later richly decorated binding from the beginning of the 17th century. Through centuries, the breviary speaks of the high cultural level of nuns, of their special desire for splendid manuscripts, and of liturgical customs inside the Convent of St. George. It reveals the beauty of the large library of the St. George´s Convent, which has been successfully recostructed not long ago.

Oct 24, 2019
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