Free Library of Philadelphia


Initial G with the Virgin Mary and her symbols

This initial begins the Introit for the Mass for the feast of the Conception of the Virgin, "Gaudeamus omnes in domino..." (Rejoice we all in the Lord). The Virgin is presented here as the Immaculate Mary, a concept popular in the Middle Ages but not officially sanctioned until the nineteenth century. The Latin inscription above her head is translated as "Thou art all fair, O my love; and there is no spot in thee," from Canticles 4:7. The inscriptions beside the sun and the moon claim that she is as "bright as the sun" and "fair as the moon," also from Canticles 6:9. She is surrounded by several of her symbols, including the Star of the Sea, the Gate of Heaven, the Tower of David, the Mirror without Stain, the Tree of Jesse, the Well of Living Waters, the Fountain of the Gardens, the Enclosed Garden, the City of God, the Exalted Cedar, and the Precious Olive Tree.

The style of illumination and the illusionistic border decoration with a golden background is typical of Flemish illumination at this time

This manuscript has been dated to ca. 1530-1550.

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Rare Book Department