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Lectionary 117 – The Sistine Lectionary

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  • Vox Verax
    24 hours ago, I asked myself, Let s see what we can find out about Lectionary 117 in 24 hours. Here is the result. Images of Lectionary 117 are available to
    Message 1 of 3 , May 4, 2013
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      24 hours ago, I asked myself, "Let's see what we can find out about Lectionary 117 in 24 hours." Here is the result.

      Images of Lectionary 117 are available to view at the CSNTM website.

      This lectionary, written in gold, contains 23 readings from the Gospels. It was a gift to Pope Julius II (who was Pope from 1503 to 1513), the pope who assigned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, and who is known for several other things as well:

      Julius II's portrait was painted by Raphael.
      Julius II made a special decree to the effect that Henry VIII of England was permitted to marry Catherine of Aragon.
      Julius II's tomb features the "horned Moses" statue by Michelangelo.
      Julius II is the pope who inspired someone (perhaps none other than Desiderius Erasmus) to write the composition "Julius Excluded from Heaven" (about which you can learn more at http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/lansing/classes/hist4b/materials/Week7.pdf ).

      A side-view of Julius II, accompanied by his name and title, appears in a medallion in the side-frame of the presentation-page in Lectionary 117 at
      and his coat-of-arms appears in the center of the bottom of the page. The picture is an accurate likeness of Julius II. This page must have been made between 1503 and 1512.

      The pages with the Greek text of Lectionary 117 are assigned to the 1000's. The richly ornamented presentation-pages were secondary additions, added sometime in 1503-1513. Before the presentation-page, there is a page filled with two pictures. The upper picture shows Alexius Celadenus, bishop of Gallipoli, giving the manuscript to Julius II. Two cardinals stand in the background. (The galero-hats and the red robes show that each is a cardinal.)

      In the lower picture, two cities are identified: Constantinople, New Rome, is on the left, and across the sea, on the right, is Trebizond. The area containing the label for Trebizond (Trapezus) is slightly damaged. ["Looks like Venice," says the CSNTM description-page. Perhaps it does, but the identification-labels are /right/ /there/.]

      (With a little online digging, I discovered (I think) the reason for this picture of Constantinople and Trebizond: Lectionary 117 was purchased by Michael Collurenites and was taken from Constantinople to Trebizond. In 1330 it was returned to Constantinople.)

      The inscription at the beginning of the presentation begins with an address from Alexius Celadenus, bishop of Gallipoli, to Julius II. Alexius Celadenus is an obscure figure whose 15 minutes of fame arrived when he delivered a eulogy/prayer/sermon at the assembly of cardinals who had gathered for the election of the next pope in 1503 following the death of Alexander VI. (He had also delivered a prayer after the death of Innocent VIII, in 1492.) The Latin text of this oration was printed, and a copy has survived to the present day, and it can be downloaded at
      http://books.google.com/books?id=NUk-AAAAcAAJ .

      A summary of Celadenus' oration appeared in the 1892 English Historical Review, beginning on page 311 (with the title, "A Contemporary Oration on Pope Alexander VI"). As author R. Garnett closed his review of Celadenus' oration, he mentioned that Celadenus "implies in this oration that he had enjoyed the favour of his illustrious countryman Cardinal Bessarion." Now that should ring a bell. Perhaps Celadenus, in 1503, possessed this lectionary already, having inherited it from Bessarion (whose hometown was Trebizond), and decided to give it to Julius II as a congratulations-on-your-latest-victory present, after sprucing it up with elaborate presentation-pages. Perhaps a less speculative conclusion could be drawn from a careful translation of the Latin presentation-pages, and the red note near the end of the lectionary.

      Julius II may have taken this lectionary back and forth from his private chapel to the Sistine Chapel as he checked up on how Michelangelo's work was progressing. (Or, after thanking Alexius Celadenus for it, Julius II might have set it aside and never given it a second thought. But at least it's interesting to observe that hands which almost certainly held this lectionary belonged to the person who commissioned Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel.)

      Now let's take a closer look at the contents of Lectionary 117. Counting only the pages that are written in gold (leaving the analysis of the somewhat crudely written pages near the end for someone else), there are 23 lections.
      there is a full-page miniature of John, with a gold background (like in the Golden Lectionary of Theodosius at St. Catherine's) and a simple red frame. John is seated in what looks like a wicker chair with a curved back.
      A copyist's tools are on his writing desk – four pens, a double-inkwell, a knife, and other tools for drawing lines and preparing the parchment for writing.

      The first reading (John 1:1-1:17) begins at
      and there are two peacocks on top of a very elaborate decorative headpiece. The text is written in two columns of ten lines each. There was apparently no concern to conserve parchment or gold for this lectionary. Colors besides gold include blue, red, and green, plus additional colors in the pictures of the Evangelists.

      The script is minuscule, but is written very large. I do not think that this manuscript was intended for use in church-services, because the reader would have had to turn the pages constantly.

      The 2nd reading is from John 20:19 to 20:31. It begins at
      and does not have OUN (so as to begin the narrative smoothly). It ends at the end of John 20:31 at

      The 3rd reading begins at John 7:14 (without HDH DE), and ends at John 7:31 at
      and on the same page, the fourth reading begins. It is from Luke.

      The 4th reading begins at Luke 24:36, and ends at Luke 24:53, at
      http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0024a.jpg .

      KAI is present at the beginning of John 20:28 but O is not present before QWMA.
      QWMA is not present in John 20:29.
      KRINATE is read at the end of John 7:24.
      KAI LEGEI AUTOIS EIRHNH UMIN is present in Luke 24:36.
      Luke 24:40 is present.
      KAI APO MELISSIOU KHRIOU is present in Luke 24:42.
      The reading "Jerusalem" is present in Luke 24:49, contracted.
      All of Luke 25:51 is present.

      The 5th reading, from John 7:37 to the end of 8:12 (without the PA), begins at
      In John 7:39 the word AGION appears after the N.S. for "Spirit."
      In John 7:29, O does not appear before _IC_.
      In John 7:41, DE does not appear after the second ALLOI.

      the text in the lectionary proceeds immediately, within the same lection, from the end of John 7:52 to the beginning of John 8:12, with AUTOIS before O _IC_.

      At http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0029a.jpg
      the final few lines of John 8:12 descend in a centered "V" shape in the first column. The rest of the page is blank.

      The next page of the lectionary is completely blank, at
      http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0029b.jpg .

      The next page, at
      is also blank.

      Jesus is pictured standing before a bookstand, teaching a group of men to His right. I think these men are His disciples; the iconography of the one in front matches Peter. (The CSNTM description says that this is Jesus and the Pharisees.)

      The 6th reading (in honor of Simeon Stylites) begins at Luke 4:16 at
      and ends at Luke 4:22a at

      (On http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0031b.jpg someone scrawled a little note in the margin, adding the words KAI ANESTH ANAGNWNAI which are not present in the text.) (Their absence is accounted for by the copyist's line of sight drifting from KAI to KAI.)

      The 7th reading begins at Luke 10:38 at http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0034a.jpg

      the text jumps from the end if Luke 10:42 to the beginning of Luke 11:27, without any indication of a break.

      the text of Luke 11:28 ends in the first column. Then the next lection is introduced.

      The 8th reading begins in the second column on
      and the title says that it is from John. It contains a lengthy scene-setting incipit, based on Mark 15:1, it seems, stating that the Sanhedrin, the chief priests and elders took Jesus to Pilate. Then at
      we meet John 19: 15, without any indication that what precedes it is not from John. But the text then backs up to earlier in John 19, so that at
      we are reading John 19:6. But then the locations changes again, jumping forward to 19:9-11a. I think.

      But at
      the text moves again, jumping to 19:13.

      In John 19:15, the text has LEGONTES after EKRAUGASAN.

      In John 19:16 there is a variant: KAI HGAGON EIS TO PRAETWRION, at the end of the verse.

      John 19:20 has the word-order O TOPOS THS POLEWS.

      In the second column at
      after John 19:20 the text jumps to 19:25 with no warning.

      the last four words of John 19:35 are transposed; AUTOU is last.

      The 9th reading begins with Luke 10:16, preceded by the title and introductory phrase in the second column at
      http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0044a.jpg . The continuous text begins at

      Luke 10:17 reads 70, not 72.

      The 9th reading ends at the end of Luke 10:21, at

      The 10th reading begins with Luke 1:39 at http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0047a.jpg

      The Magnificat begins (in Lk. 1:46) at the top of the second column at
      and its text continues through the end of Luke 1:49. But verses 50-55 are not present. There is no warning that they are absent. Verse 56 follows verse 49, and concludes in the first column at
      http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0050a.jpg . The rest of the page is blank. The next two pages are also blank. (This instructively shows that a leap in a lectionary does not necessarily imply anything about the genuineness of the leaped-over text.)

      Saint Matthew is pictured in the same basic format (gold background; simple red frame) that was used for John, though Matthew is sitting on a cushion on his desk instead of in a chair. If you look closely, Matthew 1:1 can be read in the Gospel-book in Matthew's left hand in the illustration.

      The 11th reading begins at Matthew 1:1 at http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0052a.jpg
      below a large elaborate headpiece with two green birds standing on it.

      The reading continues on
      but someone has adjusted it, adding (in smaller lettering) a title for a lection to begin at Mt. 1:18; an Arch-mark is in the left margin next to the large initial at the beginning of Mt. 1:18. The 11th reading concludes at the end of Matthew 1:25 at http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0060a.jpg .

      The 12th reading begins on the same page where the 11th reading ends. The text begins at Matthew 2:1 at

      At http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0063a.jpg
      Some off-printing is detectable, from what looks like a Latin text. (Perhaps the presentation-pages, as they were being produced, were placed against these pages of the lectionary.)

      The 12th reading ends at the end of Matthew 2:12, at

      The 13th reading, after the decoration and introduction, begins at
      with Luke 2:20, reading UPESTREYAN.

      The page at
      ends at the end of Luke 2:21, and on the next page, at
      the text jumps to Luke 2:40.

      (The image at http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0067b.jpg is slightly shaky.)

      The 13th reading ends in the first column at
      at the end of Luke 2:52. The rest of the page is blank. The next page is also blank (so as to keep the following miniature in good condition.)

      A miniature of Mark is at http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_LECT_117_0070b.jpg in the same format used for Matthew, including the cushion. Mark 1:1 can be read in the book on the stand in the illustration. (Mark has a red stripe on the sleeve of his robe.)

      The 14th reading begins with Mark 1:1 at
      below an ornate headpiece, with two game-birds sitting on it. The 14th reading ends at the end of Mark 1:8 at

      The 15th reading begins with the text of Mark 1:9, after the introductory material, at

      The 15th ending concludes at
      at the end of Mark 1:11.

      The 16th reading begins next, at Matthew 3:13.

      some off-printing appears, as if two pages were laid perpendicular to the text.

      The 16th reading ends at the end of Matthew 3:17 at

      The 17th reading begins on the same page. It begins, after the introductory material, with Luke 2:22b, somewhat paraphrased. The 17th reading concludes at the end of Luke 2:40, at
      http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0082b.jpg .

      The 18th reading begins with text from Luke 1:24 at

      All of Luke 1:28 is present, at http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0084b.jpg

      The 18th reading ends at the end of Luke 1:38 at the end of the page at

      The 19th reading begins with text from John 15:17 at

      In John 15:20, KURIOU is spelled out, not abbreviated.

      The 19th reading continued to the end of John 16:2, at
      The text ends in a "V" shape, with a little bit of blank space remaining on the page.

      The next two pages are blank.

      At http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0092b.jpg is a picture of Luke, sitting on a dark-colored cushion and bent over the book he is writing. The format is similar to the other pictures (gold background with simple red frame). (Luke has two red stripes on the sleeve of his robe.)

      The 20th reading begins with Luke 1:1 at
      below a very elaborate headpiece upon which are two green birds with long tails. This headpiece is somewhat more sharply defined than the others, and the gold is exceptionally shiny; perhaps a different artist made it. The handwriting is more fluid and flourished than it is in the other parts. Perhaps a different copyist wrote this part.

      The 20th reading is long, and I did not check every page to guarantee that the text is continuous. But it seems to conclude at the end of Luke 1:80 at
      followed by the decoration and introductory material for the 21st reading.

      The text of the 21st reading begins at Matthew 16:13 at
      http://images.csntm.org/Manuscripts/GA_Lect_117/GA_Lect_117_0105b.jpg . ME is in the text after TINA in Mt. 16:13. The 21st reading ends at the end of Matthew 16:19 at

      The 22nd reading, following the decoration and introductory materials, begins with text from Luke 9:28 at

      AUTW is present in Luke 9:31, after OFQENTES.

      in Luke 9:35, after AGAPHTOS, the text reads EN W EUDWKHSA (a reading also found in Codex D), followed by AUTOU AKOUETE.

      The 22st reading ends at the end of Luke 9:36, at
      followed by the title for the next reading.

      The 23nd reading, beginning with Matthew 17:1, begins at

      Some off-printing can be seen at

      The text of the 23nd reading concludes at the end of Matthew 17:9 at

      a page is occupied with a note that has something to do with someone from Constantinople, someone named Michael, someone named Theophylact, and something about reading in the holy gospel about teaching blasphemy. Or something like that.

      On the blank page at
      some off-printing is visible.

      there is a very long note written in red. Whoever takes the time to decipher this note will probably discover something interesting – perhaps the explanation of how the lectionary came from Gallipoli to Rome, or how it got from Rome to Florence.

      Some off-printing is visible at

      Here again are those lection-contents:

      1: Jn.1:1-17
      2: Jn. 20:19-31
      3: Jn. 7:14-7:31
      4: Lk. 24:36-53
      5: Jn. 7:37-52 and 8:12
      6: Lk. 4:16-22a
      7: Lk. 10:38-42 and 11:27-28
      8: Mk. 15:1 (sort of) and Jn. 19:6 and Jn. 19:9-11a and 19:13-20 and 19:25-35 [This should probably be double-checked.]
      9: Lk. 10:16-21
      10: Lk. 1:39-49 and 1:56
      11: Mt. 1:1-1:25
      12: Mt. 2:1-12
      13: Lk. 2:20-21 and 2:40-52
      14: Mk. 1:1-8
      15: Mk. 1:9-11
      16: Mt. 3:13-17
      17: Lk. 2:22b-40
      18: Lk. 1:24-38
      19: Jn. 15:17-16:2
      20: Lk. 1:1-80
      21: Mt. 16:13-19
      22: Lk. 9:28-36
      23: Mt. 17:1-9

      I compared these to the chart of lections at the Online ENTTC and only six of them (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 19) correspond to charted lections.

      Now, when mentioning Lectionary 117, perhaps I should also mention a few other items associated with Trebizond.

      Walters Art Museum MS W.531 is known as The Trebizond Gospels and has been assigned a production-date in the mid-1100's. It has some illustrations which can be viewed, with descriptions, at
      And there's more -- every page -- at
      http://www.thedigitalwalters.org/Data/WaltersManuscripts/html/W531/ .
      The illustrations in WAM W.531 have gold backgrounds and relatively simple frames. My initial impression is that the decorations and artwork, in general, suggest that Lectionary 117 and WAM W.531 are historically related.

      Lectionary 243, known as the Trebizond Lectionary, is in Russia now, and a few pages can be viewed at http://www.nlr.ru/eng/exib/Gospel/viz/5.html .

      There's also a Trebizond-Gospels-page (from the 900's) displayed at http://www.nlr.ru/eng/coll/treasures/24.php and in the picture, Mark has a red stripe on his sleeve.

      Another lectionary associated with Trebizond is mentioned at

      J. N. Birdsall wrote about "A Manuscript of the Monastery of the Soumela, Trebizond, now at Selly Oak, Birmingham" in the 1990 "Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies," beginning on page 240. It's part of the online Mingana Collection, and is described at http://vmr.bham.ac.uk/Collections/Mingana/Greek_7/documents/Mingana%20Greek%207%20%5bHunt].pdf as a musical manuscript from the late 1700's.

      The Goodspeed Collection in Chicago has a fragment of a relatively early uncial lectionary from Trebizond, too.

      For some general information about Trebizond, see
      http://www.livius.org/to-ts/trapezus/trapezus.html . Notice the statements that a bishop represented Trebizond at the Council of Nicea in 325. Also notice the mention of the Soumela (also spelled Sumela) Monastery, which was founded in the days of Theodosius in the late 300's.

      We sometimes think of categorizing manuscripts' texts as Byzantine, or Alexandrian, or Western, or Caesarean. Should there also be a Trebizondian Text?

      Yours in Christ,

      James Snapp, Jr.
    • Vox Verax
      Lectionary 117 ( The Sistine Lectionary ) is described in some detail, with explanations of the presentation-pages¡¯ contents, and of the notes, in the first
      Message 2 of 3 , May 4, 2013
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        Lectionary 117 ("The Sistine Lectionary") is described in some detail, with explanations of the presentation-pages¡¯ contents, and of the notes, in the first volume of Silvestre¡¯s Universal Palaeography, beginning on page 212. (It's downloadable online.)

        The author points out something which hadn¡¯t clicked when I was looking at the manuscript: although the reader would have to have turned the pages constantly, this manuscript was indeed prepared for reading in church-services.

        Here¡¯s Silvestre¡¯s description of Lectionary 117, more or less:

        This beautiful vellum MS, which has furnished the subject of this Plate [#LXXX], is another proof of the prosperity, both of the arts and of the Christian church, at Constantinople in the eleventh century; this being the place and time of its execution, as may be learned from several known circumstances, as well as from the fine graphic execution of the titles, which are in tall, finished, massive, well-proportioned, but plain uncial latters, and also from the cursive character of the text, the letters of which are round, massive, conjoined, and continuous, accompanied by spirits [aspiration-marks] of the ancient form (©À and ©È instead of the ¡® and ¡¯, which were soon afterwards adopted), and by the accents required in correct Greek orthography. Certain other signs are notes for regulating the tone of the reader of the Gospel lessons, when read aloud. This is a remarkable and rare singularity in Greek MSS. [Editor¡¯s note: By no means. These tones for reading occur constantly in the MSS destined for the use of the Church, and several examples have already been noticed. See Plate LXXIII ¨C Ed.] The large capital initial T, ornamented with mosaic-work and floriated, is one of the most elegant compositions of its kind.

        The history of this magnificent volume is well known, as well in regard to the date when it was written as to that of its pictorial embellishments, the names of the pious personages at whose expense it was thus enriched, and the places where they were executed; so that it forms one of the most interesting as well as most useful volumes, in the science of palaeography, which, as a science, must be founded upon such precise details. We have here a Greek text of the eleventh century, written at Constantinople; two Greek notes of the fourteenth century, written at Trebizond; five large Byzantine miniatures, of the same century, executed also at Trebizond; another miniature, executed in Italy in the sixteenth century, and lastly, a Latin letter of the same period. These various palaeographical documents are the results of the singular destiny of the MS at different times.

        Executed with the greatest luxury at Constantinople, in the eleventh century, it was sent to Trebizond, about the end of the following century, during the short reign of Andronicus Comnenus (1183-1185), by Michael Callicrinites, prefect of the imperial chamber, and was consecrated by the Archbishop Barnabas in the church of St. Maria Chrysocephale (the golden-headed). In the fourteenth century ¨C A.D. 1331 or 6389, according to the Greeks ¨C a most honorable personage (as stated in the Greek note), the Arab physicial of the puissant and holy Emperor [Editor¡¯s Note: Probably Andronicus II., Palaeologus, styled ¡°the Old,¡± who had then become a monk, and was succeeded by Andronicus III, the reigning Emperor.], who was named Cotzalulo, caused the manuscript to be enriched with elegant ornaments, meaning thereby the five large miniatures inserted in the text. [[This is what the note on 119b is about; the reference to the church of Mary the Golden-headed is in line 8. - JSJ]]

        In the early sixteenth century, the MS belonged to Alexius Caeladonius, Bishop of Amalfi [Editor¡¯s Note: This is an error. Caeladonius was a learned Greek of noble birth, and was promoted by Pope Julius II, in 1508, from the bishopric of Gallipoli to that of Melfi, in the province of Basilicata, Naples. Amalfi is an archbishopric in the Principato Citeriore. See Ughelli, Italia Sacra, tom. i. c. 916. ¨C Ed.], who presented it to Pope Julius II, as we learn by the letter still preserved and inserted at the beginning of the volume, and by the sixth large miniature, executed by order of the bishop; the subject of which evidently represents the homage and dedication of the volume to the holy father, accompanied with genealogies and emblems, and with the Latin inscription, Pulsis Gallis, Italia liberate, in allusion to the ephemeral victories of Julius, in 1511; who in revenge for his subsequent defeats, excommunicated the King of France the next year, laying the kingdom under interdict, and absolving his subjects from their oaths of allegiance. Julius II died the following February, 1513.

        This rich and splendid volume now belongs to the Laurentian library at Florence. [Editor¡¯s Note: It is No. 244 (not 163, as marked on the Plate). See the Supplement to Bandini, titled Bibliotheca Leopoldina-Laurentiana, fol. Flor. 1793, tom. Iii, col. 488-501. ¨C Ed.]


        So: now we have a pretty good idea what those notes were all about. At the end of the note on 119b, the reference to year 6389 (and, I think, the date Sept. 14) pertains not to the initial production of the MS, but to the time when the Arab physician Cotzalulo arranged for the illustrations of the Evangelists, and one more, to be added. (So the blank pages near the miniatures weren¡¯t the result of good planning on the part of the copyists who made the MS initially; they were added later, by the individuals who inserted the miniatures.)

        Also, we can deduce an almost exact date for the production of the presentation-pages of the MS, in 1511 or 1512.

        Now about that date. Silvestre seems to say it was 6389 A.M., which, using the modern calendar, is 1330 A.D. It¡¯s stau/omega/lambda/theta. Stau with a line angled to the SW = 6 x 1000. But 389 would be tau/pi/theta. I figure omega/lambda/theta = 800/30/9. So what we have here is a typographical error. Somewhere along the way, someone intended to write ¡°6839¡± but it got turned into ¡°6389¡± by mistake. So the actual year when the miniatures were added was ...

        Still 1330. Figuring that the medieval Byzantine calendar posits the creation of the world in 5509 BC, the year 6839 = 1330. Silvestre (or whatever source Silvestre was using) had the numbers correct; we can blame the typesetter of "Universal Palaeography" for this little difficulty.

        Yours in Christ,

        James Snapp, Jr.
      • Vox Verax
        It might not be a bad idea if someone here who knows Latin well would sift through the six-page dedication at the beginning of Lectionary 117. In the closing
        Message 3 of 3 , May 6, 2013
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          It might not be a bad idea if someone here who knows Latin well would sift through the six-page dedication at the beginning of Lectionary 117. In the closing section, the author (Alexius Celadenius, bishop of Melfi, Italy) seems to say something about a gift of codices that was made to Paul II. Paul II was pope about the time that Vaticanus first shows up in the Vatican library.

          Yours in Christ,

          James Snapp, Jr.
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