Free Library of Philadelphia


Hagiographic evidence in the calendar suggests that this book of hours was made for a Vallombrosan monk from the abbey of Passignano in central Italy. The feast of St. John Gaulbert (July 12), the founder of the Vallombrosan Order, is commemorated in the calendar as is the dedication of the basilica of San Michele (September 29), the abbey church at Passignano where St. John Gaulbert is buried. Evidence in the text of the first prayer shown in this opening points to further associations with the abbey. It is a variation on a popular prayer to the Virgin, known by its opening words "Sancta Maria succurre miseris" (Holy Mary, be thou a help to the helpless), but the scribe has replaced the usual word "commemorationem" (commemoration) in the last line with "conceptionem" (conception). In 1312, the monastery was besieged by the army of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII (d. 1313). The monks made a vow to the Virgin to celebrate the feast of her conception annually if she would save the monastery. Within the year, Henry VII's occupation ended unsuccessfully. The change in wording suggests that the owner of this book continued to fulfill the vow made by his predecessors.

Opening with a prayer to the Virgin Mary

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