Borgia Missal

Borgia Missal – Vallecchi – Archivio Arcivescovile di Chieti (Chieti, Italy)

Italy β€” 1492–1494

Created by four Roman illuminators and owned by the Borgia and Medici families: a magnificently illuminated missal for use in Holy Masses in the Sistine Chapel

  1. This manuscript was owned by some of the most prominent members of the Borgia and Medici families

  2. The manuscript probably belonged among the codices that were stored and used in the Sistine Chapel

  3. The artistic furnishings of the codex are the work of four Roman miniaturists from shortly before 1500

Borgia Missal

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Borgia Missal

This gorgeous missal contains Italian Renaissance illumination of the highest quality and was the personal possession of leading figures in the politics of Italy in the late-15th and early-16th centuries including members of both the Borgia and Medici families, including popes. The work of four artists of active in Rome in the 1490’s, it believed to have been part of a group of codices stored in the Sistine Chapel before becoming a prized possession of the city of Chieti, Italy where it resides today. It is an artistic masterpiece that is pregnant with history.

Borgia Missal

In its provenance, the so-called Borgia Missal is an impressive manuscript connecting some of the biggest names in Italian history ca. 1500: originating as a commission of Juan de Borja (1446-1503), it probably came to Vatican by way of his cousin, the Borgia Pope Alexander VI (1431-1503) and there finally came into the possession of Archbishop Guido de Medici (d. 1537). The grandiose dΓ©cor of the liturgical manuscript from the Umbrian school presents the masterpiece in truly papal splendor!

From the Circle of Pinturicchio

Lavish frames and gorgeous miniatures make up the artistic decoration of the wonderful Borgia Missal. The paintings were created in Rome by some of the most significant masters of the late 15th century. These can be ascribed stylistically to the Umbrian school in Rome shortly before 1500. Four miniaturists, probably from the school of Pinturicchio (1454-1513) flaunted their skill here. The lavish dΓ©cor of the manuscript is truly worthy of a cardinal, or even a pope.

A Missal for the Cardinal

The missal originates from ca. 1492 at the behest of Juan de Borja. He originally came from Spain but went to Italy nonetheless and was there named a cardinal and finally Archbishop of Monreale. Coming from the powerful Borgia family, Juan was the son of a cousin of Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI. He was made a cardinal in 1492 and as such was one of the closest confidants of the Pope and the first of ten cardinal-nephews created by Alexander VI. The elevation to cardinal is presumably what occasioned the creation of the splendid manuscript.

In the Possession of the Medici

The manuscript probably belonged to the group of codices that were stored in the Sistine Chapel and were used for masses there. The Borgia Missal is not only significant as a work of art, but also as a liturgical manuscript: it contains one of the first examples of the ceremonial Sunday mass, the missale festivum. Today, the Borgia Missal is no longer found in Rome, but rather in Chieti, a city in Abruzzo. The manuscript came into the collection of the cathedral there through Guido de Medici, Archbishop of Chieti. Guido de Medici was a cousin of Pope Clement VII, and probably came to possess the treasured book through this connection.


Alternative Titles
Messale Borgia
Messale de' Medici
De' Medici Missal
Size / Format
446 pages / 38.5 Γ— 27.5 cm
Cardinal Juan de Borja (1446–1503)
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Pope Alexander VI (1431–1503)
Sistine Chapel
Archbishop Guido de' Medici (d. 1537)

Available facsimile editions:
Borgia Missal – Vallecchi – Archivio Arcivescovile di Chieti (Chieti, Italy)
Vallecchi – Florence, 2001
Limited Edition: 700 copies
Detail Picture

Borgia Missal

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

This magnificent miniature depicts the event of Pentecost. After Christ's ascension, Mary and the Apostles sit together and are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Apostles, moved by the overwhelming spiritual experience, look upward to the dove that embodies the Holy Spirit. The flames of this power flicker above their heads. In the center of the picture, Mary is enthroned and sitting frontally with her hands folded in prayer. Unlike the Apostles, Mary is already so filled with God that not even the descent of the Holy Spirit seems to bring her out of the tranquility of prayer.

Borgia Missal – Vallecchi – Archivio Arcivescovile di Chieti (Chieti, Italy)
Single Page

Borgia Missal

John the Baptist

The small, framed miniature embedded in the left column shows John the Baptist dressed in animal skins and holding a cross-staff as he speaks with a group of richly dressed priests and Pharisees. When they ask him if he is Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet, John responds with the words of the prophet Isaiah: β€œI am the voice of one calling in the wilderness” (Jn. 1:23).

Isaiah is shown in a medallion miniature in the right side of the frame holding a scroll with the words VOX CLAMANTIS IN DESERTO or "a voice of one crying in the wilderness". The rest of the golden frame contains typical decorative elements including acanthus leaves, gems and pearls, cherubs, deer, red bulls, the Medici coat of arms, and two hourglasses indicating that Christ will come soon.

Borgia Missal – Vallecchi – Archivio Arcivescovile di Chieti (Chieti, Italy)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Messale Borgia

Vallecchi – Florence, 2001

Publisher: Vallecchi – Florence, 2001
Limited Edition: 700 copies
Binding: Bound in leather
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
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