A rare manuscript linked to Notre

There are still discoveries to be made about the history of Notre-Dame. Custodian of a very important background on the history of the cathedral of Paris, the National Library of France (BnF) has just enriched its collections by acquiring a manuscript from the end of the 16th century, during the sale Phidias on May 19 in Paris.

This rare piece is a manual that belonged to a priest officiating at the cathedral, which will provide new knowledge on the daily life of the clergy at that time. This manuscript is “a ritual, that is to say a manual describing the words and gestures that the priest must say and do on particular occasions, during rites connected with the sacramentssays Isabelle Le Masne de Chermont, director of the manuscripts department at the BnF. Here, the rites described are the office of the dead, the blessing of water, exorcisms, the office of catechumens, the bishop’s anniversary mass, to which is added the rite of the sacrament of extreme unction. “.

This handsome manuscript (34 cm by 21 cm) was a “practical” manual, commissioned by a priest for his personal use. If the identity of its sponsor is not known, any more than that of its successive owners, the quality of the work shows that it was about characters of a certain rank. “It is a very beautiful manuscript in its presentation, with a parchment of very good quality, very white, very smooth, and great attention to decoration”marvels Isabelle Le Masne de Chermont.

Black, red and gold colored inks – “which immediately gives a sumptuous character to the manuscripts”, notes the curator – were used. Many illuminations accompany the text, served by “beautiful writing, large format”. The manuscript is decorated with several hundred painted initials, motifs of insects, flowers and acanthus on a gold background. Plant decorations are present in its margins. Two initials even represent figurative scenes: lay people praying in front of an altar and a saint seated at his desk.

Learn about the history of spirituality and sensitivities

This acquisition will make it possible to enrich knowledge of the history of life at Notre-Dame. “Rituals are of great interest to historians because by recounting precisely the celebrations and the way in which they take place, they make it possible to better understand the history of spirituality but also the history of sensibilities.explains Isabelle Le Masne de Chermont. They are valuable sources for the history of everyday spirituality. »

The National Library of France (BnF) has an important collection concerning Notre-Dame de Paris. It preserves around 300 medieval and modern manuscripts from the cathedral’s chapter library, acquired in 1756 by the Royal Library from the canons. Other works, linked to the liturgical life, entered the collections after the French Revolution. “We thus have a very diverse collection: Gospel books, Ordinaries of the Mass, Pontificals (collection containing the ritual of ceremonies reserved for the bishop, Editor’s note)processionaries, but we had no ritualnotes Isabelle Le Masne de Chermont. It was a missing piece that we are very happy to have been able to acquire”.

The work, in good condition, will very soon be accessible to researchers and may contribute to ongoing research around the e-NDP project “Notre Dame de Paris et son cloître” (2021-2024), piloted by the University of Paris. 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and the CNRS. This program focuses not only on the architecture of Notre-Dame and the life of its cloister, but also on the microsociety that has gravitated around the cathedral over the centuries. “The life that took place at Notre-Dame has always been well documented because it has always been considered importantunderlines Isabelle Le Masne de Chermont. We thus have numerous archives allowing us to make comparisons between the different periods, which is extremely rare. »

A rare manuscript linked to Notre-Dame acquired by the State