GREGORY I, Saint and Pope. Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum Italicorum.II: BONAVENTURA:Legenda Minor and Legenda Maior of the Life of St Francis, 2 works in one, [c.1350]
Lot 111
GREGORY I, Saint and Pope. Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum Italicorum.II: BONAVENTURA:Legenda Minor and Legenda Maior of the Life of St Francis, 2 works in one, [c.1350]
Sold for £49,250 (US$ 60,024) inc. premium

Lot Details
GREGORY I, Saint and Pope. Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum Italicorum.II: BONAVENTURA:Legenda Minor and Legenda Maior of the Life of St Francis, 2 works in one, [c.1350] GREGORY I, Saint and Pope. Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum Italicorum.II: BONAVENTURA:Legenda Minor and Legenda Maior of the Life of St Francis, 2 works in one, [c.1350] MS: DIALOGUE ST GREGORY MS: DIALOGUE ST GREGORY
GREGORY I, Saint and Pope
Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum Italicorum. II: BONAVENTURA. Legenda Minor and Legenda Maior of the Life of St Francis, 2 works in one vol., illuminated manuscript on vellum, 70 leaves (with 2 added paper leaves, and 4 old parchment flyleaves), quires numbered throughout on first and last leaf: I-II12 (a paper leaf, numbered 27, loosely between second and third quire, which belongs after fol. 42), III14+3 (three paper leaves, including fol. 27, added after third quire with chapter indices added perhaps in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century), IV 12, V8, VI12 , last leaf closing with "omnis isti quaternii sunt", modern pencil foliation in upper right including the flyleaves (thus starting with no. 3 on the first leaf of the book), text in Latin, ruled in plummet for 38 or 39 lines in two columns (50 or 51 lines per page from fol. 64), justification 125 x 85mm. and 116 x 87mm., written in light brown ink in a Southern Semi-Textualis Libraria (cf. Derolez 2003, pl. 55), some later modifications (probably fifteenth century) in black ink (e.g. fol. 1), rubrics in red, versals touched in red, red and blue paragraph marks, red and blue lombards at the beginning, two-line and one nine-line initials in red and blue with blue and red penwork throughout, FIVE ILLUMINATED INITIALS introducing each book, in varying colours on golden burnished grounds with figurated extensions towards lower margins, the extensions including one or two medallions with bust- or full portraits, the illuminations slightly flaked and rubbed, prickings all preserved, three wormholes to the last leaves, late fourteenth or early fifteenth century brown calf over wooden boards, blind tooled with geometric lines in diamond pattern, four small round stamps in the corners of front and back covers, sewn on five throngs, pastedowns removed? from the boards to serve as two of the four manuscript flyleaves, restoration to traces of a now missing clasp, some loss to spine, 170 x 121mm., Italy, Bologna or Padua?, [c.1350]



    The Dialogues of St Gregory (Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum Italicorum, in four books (PL 77, 127-431) were written c.593-594, in the early years of Gregory's papacy. They record the stories and miracles of Italy's great Saints and holy men and women, in order to prove that ascetic saints were not only at work in the orient, but in Italy too. The second book focuses exclusively on Benedict of Nursia, whereas books one and three recount the lives of numerous lesser known saints. The fourth book is devoted to visions of the afterlife.

    Bonaventura, a most important scholastic theologian, is regarded as the second patron of the Franciscan order. Asked by the general chapter of the Franciscans he wrote an exhaustive biography of St Francis of Assisi in 1263. Two versions of this biography soon spread: While the shorter version, the Legenda Minor, was intended to be regularly read to the friars during their day, the longer version, the Legenda Maior, was reserved for theological studies. To find both authoritative texts on St Francis in one and the same codex together with Gregory's Dialogues less than a hundred years after the younger texts were composed, leads to the conclusion that this manuscript was made for a Franciscan convent.


    (ignoring pencil foliation)
    Fol. 1-59v: Incipit: "Incipiunt capitula primi libri dialigorum beati gregorii papae", explicit: " fidentes dico que salutatis hostia ipsi fuerimus"; a later hand has added "Explicit liber dialogorum beati gregorii pape deo gratias Amen".
    Fol. 60: Probably originally blank, with a list of sacraments, the celestial order, vices and virtues.
    Fol. 60v-61: Probably originally blank, with a treatise on paradise and a meditation on the cross, most likely added in the fifteenth century.
    Fol. 61v: in a hand contemporary to the main text: List of prayers to be addressed to various saints in order to receive a certain number of indulgences from various popes.
    Fol. 62-70v: Bonaventura de Bagnoregio's Legenda Minor Sancti Francisci, followed by the more exhaustive Legenda Maior Sancti Francisci. Incipit: "Apparuit gratia dei salvatoris nostri diebus istis novissimis ..."; Explicit: "Quo nos introducat verus populi ductor et Salvator, Christus Iesus crucifixus, per merita servi sui Francisci, ad laudem et gloriam unius Dei et trini, qui vivit et regnat in saecula saeculorum. Amen".


    The illumination in this manuscript is not only intended to enhance the appearance of the manuscript, but also to link together the two texts that are originally separated by centuries, almost in an effort to make the legends of the life of St Francis appear as the fifth book of Gregory's Dialogi.

    All of the five miniatures are in the lower margin of the page, connected to the opening illuminated initial by acanthus-leaves and other floral decorative elements. They show portraits in medallions, two of them with two figurated medallions. The Dialogi of St Gregory are decorated with St Gregory as a bishop, either in dialogue with a monk or with the reader of the page (fol. 1). At the beginning of the second book he is shown in conversation with Benedict of Nursia, whereas the beginning of the fourth book has him in conversation with a non specified friar. Surprisingly, a secular scribe in a blue gown with a red hat decorates the beginning of the third book. St Francis takes over the position of St Gregory in the opening of the second text of the codex.

    Although the medallions and the decoration suffer from some flaking, we can see that the illumination must have been executed with some haste as the colour was not always applied in accordance with the underdrawing and is not of utmost refinement. However, the tender facial expression of Gregory, who inclines his head towards his addressee, and the anxious face of the monk who seems to shy away from such an authority (fol. 42), or the exchange between equal partners of Gregory and Benedict at the opening of the second book, suggest an experienced illuminator who knew how to catch emotional nuances and add a poetic element to his figures. The colours of the floral decoration and the style of the figures suggest a workshop in or around Bologna or Padua - both centres of the Franciscan movement - in the middle of the fourteenth century.


    1. The illumination and some contemporary amendments to the text suggest that the book was made for a convent of the Friars Minor, most likely of the Franciscan order in the Emilia Romagna.
    2. The manuscript was newly bound in the early fifteenth century as indicated by the added paper. Fol. 25 has a text insertion which starts "Incipit testamentum quod fecit beatissimus pater nostrum Sanctus Franciscus propter obitum suum ..."; this, along with another added paragraph on St. Nicholas on fol. 27, indicates that the manuscript must have been part of a Franciscan library in the fifteenth century, where it was kept up to date.
    3. Round ink stamp with the initials 'FRC' on the second front flyleaf, later nineteenth or early twentieth century.
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