Showing a Bishop about To Lose His Head


(France[?]: early 14th century). 342 x 240 mm. (13 1/2 x 9 1/4"). Main text in two columns (38 lines), gloss in two columns, in a gothic rotunda script.

Rubrics in red, numerous one- to four-line initials in red or blue with contrasting penwork, ONE 13-LINE MINIATURE DEPICTING AN EXECUTION within a frame of blue and gold. Recovered from a binding, with one full column of gloss cut away (plus part of the lower area of gloss text and a corner at the top), an old repair to a fold, some staining and rubbing to the vellum, verso rather browned, the miniature a little chipped and two of the faces rubbed, but the main text entirely legible, and the color and detail of the miniature still quite vibrant.

The text here comes from the papal decretals (i.e., authoritative decisions by a pope on matters of canon law) of Gregory IX, made in 1230-34 to update, complete, and supersede the six previous collections. Compiled for the pope by the Catalan canonist Raymond of Peñaforte, Gregory's was the first complete and authoritative collection of papal decretals, and it persisted as the fundamental source of canon law until the 20th century. The text was copied out numerous times and often appears with a gloss surrounding the main text, as here. This particular manuscript also contained illuminated miniatures, one of which survives on the present leaf. It appears at the opening of Book Five, which, as the rubric below it indicates, expounds on "prosecution, investigation, and denunciation." The scene shows a mitered bishop (who has clearly been accused of something serious) about to be beheaded by a layman in a red tunic. To the left, another mitered bishop with a book looks on while a secular judge stands in the midst of the action, his head turned away from the act. This leaf has additional scholarly interest in the form of several contemporary interlineal and marginal notes.

Keywords: Gregory IX, law

Add to Cart Price: $10,500.00

PJP Catalog: 72.016