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Psalter of Frederick II
This remarkable illuminated psalter decorated in the Byzantine style was commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II of Sicily (1194–1250) for his third wife, Isabella of England (1214–41). Frederick married Isabella in 1235. By design and execution, the manuscript illuminations combine the color palette of Byzantium with the stylistic rendering of the plasticity of the human body common to the Italian school of the period. Probably executed at the scriptorium in Acri, a hill town in Calabria, the manuscript is decorated with a full-page initial letter encompassing ...
Book of the Passion of Saint Margaret the Virgin, with the Life of Saint Agnes, and Prayers to Jesus Christ and to the Virgin Mary
This volume is a compilation of three manuscripts produced in Bologna at the end of the 13th century. It begins with the Passion of Saint Margaret of Antioch, in Latin. This is followed by two texts in Italian, one describing the life and devotion of Saint Agnes and one containing prayers to the Virgin Mary. Each manuscript is written in a different hand; evidence suggests that the three parts were brought together and bound at the beginning of the 14th century. The only part of the book that is illustrated ...
The Apostle Lectionary, written on parchment in the second half of the 13th century, is one of the important linguistic sources delimiting the early (Preslav) from the later (Athonite) redaction of this liturgical book. The lectionary contains the portions of scripture, the lessons, to be read at divine service on particular days of the church calendar. This manuscript is remarkable for the completeness of the readings from the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles, and for its detailed menologion, a monthly calendar indicating the feast days of saints that ...
This parchment manuscript, of which only a part has survived, is from the first quarter of the 13th century. The year 1221 was written on the manuscript at a significantly later date and may have been copied from an original colophon by a later owner. Known as the Dobreisho Gospel, the manuscript is an important witness to the history and early development of the Bulgarian language. Of particular interest is the rich illumination, including two full-page miniatures of the evangelists Luke and John. The portrait of the latter is accompanied ...
The Banitsa Gospel, written on parchment in Church Slavonic in the late 13th century, is one of the manuscripts testifying to the end of the anonymity of Bulgarian men of letters at around this time. The colophon indicates that the scribe who made the manuscript was the priest Ioann at Saint Nicholas Church in the village of Banitsa (presumably in the Vratsa region of present-day northwestern Bulgaria). The characteristic script and the ornamental illumination, elaborated in black, red, and yellow ink, reflect a local manuscript tradition. The menologion (calendar) includes ...
Menaion for June-August with Synaxarion
This parchment manuscript of the Menaion for June–August with synaxarion (a collection of brief biographies of the saints) can be dated to the second half of the 13th century. It is important as the earliest known manuscript to include the service of Saint Ioakim Osogovski (Joachim of Osogovo), hermit and founder of the monastery known as Sarandapor. His memory, celebrated on August 16, was popular in Bulgaria and elsewhere in the Balkans during the Middle Ages and in the period of the Bulgarian National Revival of the 18th and ...
This chasoslovets (book of hours or horologion) is the first book printed by the first Bulgarian printer, Iakov (Jacob) Kraikov. It is a collection of prayers, eulogies, saints’ lives, and apocrypha that both served as a daily handbook for priests and was valued by lay readers in search of knowledge and enlightenment. Kraikov printed the book in Venice, at the largest Slavic Cyrillic printing-house for Serbs and Bulgarians in the city, which he acquired in 1566. The selection of font, typesetting, pagination, and the rich artful decoration (more than 30 ...
This Flemish Psalter from the library of the Irish College in Paris was made in Bruges (present-day Belgium) around 1500. The manuscript is written in Latin on vellum, and it has a 19th-century binding. Psalters are religious books, especially popular in the Middle Ages, containing the psalms (poems that are sung) from the Bible, often with other devotional texts. Richly decorated, the Psalter includes a fully illuminated page depicting the Tree of Jesse and a miniature of King David, the main author of the psalms. Twelve illuminations, each composed of ...
Hours of Notre Dame
Books of hours are collections of prayers used for private devotion. They were the most common illuminated works of the Middle Ages. Heures de Notre-Dame (The book of hours of Notre Dame) was made in Bruges (present-day Belgium) around 1470. The manuscript, written in Latin and on vellum, is most likely the work of William Wyelant or his studio. Wyelant, also known by the Flemish spelling of his name, Willem Vrelant, was an influential illuminator who was active in Bruges from 1449 until his death in 1481. The leaves of ...
Iberian or Georgian Alphabet with Prayers
Alphabetum ibericum, sive georgianum: cum Oratione (Iberian or Georgian alphabet with prayers) is one of the first two books printed in Georgian using moveable type. In the 1620s, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the body of the Roman Catholic Church established in the early 17th century for the purpose of spreading Catholicism in non-Catholic countries, began to train monks going to Georgia for missionary work. The monks were taught Georgian by Niceforo Irbachi Giorgiano, the ambassador of the Georgian king, Teimuraz I, in Rome. The sacred ...
Book of Hours
The Book of Hours was a prayer book for the laity that developed in late medieval Europe and that was used for private devotion. These works were often personalized for individual patrons and illuminated with miniature paintings depicting the life of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and individual saints. The text included a calendar of liturgical feast days and a series of prayers to be recited eight times a day, according to established practice. By the early Renaissance period the popularity of the Book of Hours demonstrated the growing interest of ...
The Book of the Stairway of Virtues
This manuscript has a number of distinguishing features. The text is in Garshuni (Arabic in Syriac characters), but the catchword (a word given at the bottom of one page matching the first word on the next page to ensure the proper page order is kept) is given in Arabic script. Biblical citations are indicated (sometimes in red) in the margin, written sideways (as in, for example, folio 13r, where Matthew 10:16 is cited). The diacritical dots given to the letters are black when the main script is red, and ...
The Book of Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, the Founder of the Jesuit Monastic Order
This manuscript is an Arabic translation of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. At the beginning of the manuscript, Ignatius (1491–1556) is expressly described as the founder of “Jesuit monasticism.” The text also states that this work was translated from Latin into Arabic in the Phoenician city of Sidon, in the year 1731 by the Jesuit Pierre Fromage (1678–1740). The translation was for the benefit of those in Eastern countries, as it was known that many in Western countries had benefited from the Latin version of the ...
Mirror of the Souls
The Maronite theologian and philosopher Buṭrus al-Tūlānī (1655–1745) was active as a teacher, preacher, and writer. This manuscript, dated 1822 and with the author’s full name given on folio 2r, contains a Garshuni (Arabic language in Syriac script) copy of his Mirror of the Souls (Mir’āt al-Nufūs), a work on contemplative prayer. Other copies of this work are (or were) known to exist elsewhere in Lebanon and Syria. Unlike the rest of the volume, the colophon of this manuscript is in Arabic, not Syriac, letters; the title ...
This text is an Arabic translation of a Christian work originally written in Greek in the 11th century, known as the Pandect (or Pandektes) of Nikon of the Black Mountain. The Greek title of the book means The Universal (Book). The Arabic title, Al-Ḥāwī, has almost the same meaning: The Comprehensive Book. The text is divided into 63 sections and offers an exposition of Christian doctrine and life based on excerpts from the Bible, the church fathers, and church canons. The work was popular among Arabic-speaking Christians, as evidenced by ...
Commentary on Song of Songs; Letter on the Soul; Letter on Ascesis and the Monastic Life
This 14th-century manuscript is a collection of translations into Arabic. At the beginning is the Commentary on the Song of Songs, originally in Greek, by Gregory of Nyssa (died 394), brother of Basil the Great and, with him and Gregory of Nazianzus, one of the three so-called Cappadocian Fathers. Next comes one of the many pieces of philosophy in Arabic attributed to Hermes the Sage, A Letter on the Soul. The manuscript concludes with a letter of Isaac of Nineveh (active, end of the seventh century) on asceticism and monasticism ...
The Drogo Sacramentary
The sacramentary was a liturgical book used for prayer during the High Middle Ages, containing the prayers, prefaces, and canons for mass. Drogo (801–55), bishop of Metz, son of Charlemagne, and famous patron of his era, had a gorgeous copy of the sacramentary made in Metz around 845–55. The manuscript, which is on vellum, is the work of several artists employed by the imperial court. It is written in a clear Latin script and includes some of the most beautiful fleurons ever produced in Metz. The illumination is ...
Ladder of Divine Ascent
This 18th-century manuscript contains an Arabic translation of The Ladder of Divine Ascent, a famous work by Yūhannā Ra’īs Dayr Tūr Sīnā (John, abbot of the monastery at Mount Sinai), generally known in the West as Saint John Climacus (circa 579–649). This treatise on the ascetic life was popular in both the original Greek and in Arabic and Latin translations. A number of Arabic manuscripts contain the work, and an Arabic epitome exists as well. The title in Arabic translates as The Ladder of Higher Virtues that Characterize ...
Lives of the Saints
This Garshuni (Arabic written in Syriac letters) manuscript of Qisas al-qiddīsīn (Lives of the saints) dates from 1692–93 and was written by a scribe named Murad bin 'Abd Al-Masih. It is a collection of biographical accounts of the saints’ lives and homilies. The authors of these various biographies are, for the most part, anonymous. The text is mostly in two columns, but there are some pages with only one. A number of marginal notes in Garshuni and Arabic script accompany the text. Garshuni came into use when Arabic became ...
Life of Barsawma
This undated manuscript of Ktāba d-ḥayyāw(y) d-qaddišā mār(y) Barṣawmā (Life of Barsawma) contains a narrative of the miraculous life of Barsawma (died about 492). The manuscript is in Syriac, but this text also is known in Ge'ez, the classical language of Ethiopia. Barsawma is said to have performed about 100 miracles, detailed here, and he was involved in the Christological controversies of the fifth century. A famous monastery near Melitene in present-day Turkey is named after him. The folios of the manuscript are unnumbered, but ...
Book of the Dove
Gregory Bar ‘Ebraya (also seen as Bar Hebraeus, 1226–86) was a Syriac Orthodox bishop and major author in the later Syriac tradition. He wrote prolifically, mostly in Syriac but also in Arabic, on philosophy, theology, spirituality, and history. His works also included commentaries on scripture, devotions, moral treatises, logic, the sciences, poetry, and humorous stories. This manuscript, dated 1360, is an important early witness to his writings. It contains his Ktābā d-yawnā (Book of the dove), which represents Bar Hebraeus’s instructions on how to start and then continue ...