Breviari d'Amor

Breviari d'Amor

Valencia (Spain) — 15th century

A poetic monument to love: the masterpiece by the monk and poet Matfre Ermengaud

  1. The incomparable masterpiece by Matfre Ermengaud (d. 1322) is the highpoint of 12th and 13th century Occitan literature

  2. 34,500 verses in octosyllabic rhyming couplets formulate the Christian love of God as love poetry

  3. The work is presented in a 15th century translation with illumination worthy of the literary monument

Breviari d'Amor

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Breviari d'Amor

Matfre Ermengaud, about whose life historians possess little information, lived in the 13th century as a Franciscan monk. The exceptionally gifted and educated monk likely composed a unique manuscript in the time period from 1288 to 1320, which united Christian theology and historic jurisprudence with the poetry of medieval Troubadours. The scholar’s incomparable masterpiece bore the title Breviari d'Amor and is considered today to be the highpoint of 12th and 13th century Occitan literature. Here we have a Spanish translation of the great literary classic.

Breviari d'Amor

By the term troubadour, one means a bard, composer, and singer of courtly medieval poetry and song. Troubadour poetry enjoyed great popularity particularly in southern France in the 12th and 13th centuries. An exceptionally gifted representative of this art form was the Franciscan monk of Matfre Ermengaud. He composed an influential text around the time period between 1288 and 1320, which in the literary genre of troubadour poetry has been cited and newly interpreted in an incomparable manner. His so-called Breviari d'Amor, which can be translated as the Book of Hours of Love, considered to be one of the most important works of Occitan poetry. The masterpiece lying before us is a 15th century Spanish translation. It is illustrated with breathtaking miniatures, which are embellished with coloring and precious gold leaf elements.

The Scholar Matfre Ermengaud

To this day, researchers know only very little information about the life of Matfre Ermengaud. He came into the world in the southern French town of Béziers in the mid–13th century. He dedicated his life to jurisprudence and poetry. He placed particularly high worth on a comprehensive education and was a true legal expert of the Middle Ages. He even earned a degree in legal studies, which could be compared with a modern master’s degree in law. Precisely when he entered the Franciscan Order is not known. He had probably already begun work on his Breviari d'Amor, before he chose the life of a monk. What lends Ermengaud’s manuscript its unique status in the history of literature is the fact that his text combines the theological tradition with legal teachings. There is no other medieval manuscript that can be compared with the work of Matfre Ermengaud.

A Literary Cultural Property

The Breviari d'Amor contains around 34,500 verses and is composed in octosyllabic rhyming couplets. It is a comprehensive, varied, and didactic text, which is comparable to an encyclopedia. The Christian love of God was formulated in the manner of love poetry, which was recited by troubadours. In doing so, Ermengaud cited literary models from various historic epochs. Citations from classic troubadours like Aimeric de Peguilhan, Bernart de Ventadorn, and Peire Vidal are particularly common in his manuscript. Equally so, quotations from a few of Ermengaud’s early writings as well as texts from his brother Piere are represented here. It is thus clear how exceptionally well-read and educated the Franciscan monk was. The Spanish edition of the literary masterpiece was made by Guillem de Copons, who strongly adhered to the original in his translation.

A Unique Work of Illumination

The work was structured into several parts. It begins with a theological section whose title can be translated as “Studies on God and the Creation of the World”. This section deals with the Holy Trinity, angels, demons, the signs of the zodiac, and the stars and planets that were known at the time. Thereupon follows a section with the title “Studies of Nature and Natural Law”, in which the correct modes for divine worship are discussed, the temptations of the world reviewed, and the sins that every good Christian should avoid at all costs are named. In the last section, “The Love of God”, the profession of faith is summarized and a few saint’s legends were outlined. Fabulous miniatures of various sizes, most of which exist as sketches, are sometimes furnished with bright colors and shimmering gold elements, illustrating the work and clarifying Ermengaud’s description.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Love Breviary
Liebes-Brevier
Size / Format
330 pages / 42.0 × 31.0 cm
Origin
Spain
Date
15th century
Style
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Library of the count-duke of Olivares
Biblioteca Rea

Available facsimile editions:
Breviari d'Amor – Res. 203 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)
Vicent Garcia Editores – Valencia, 1980
Limited Edition: 3000 copies
Detail Picture

Breviari d'Amor

Personified Representation of February

The text states that February is a very distressing and rainy month. That is why it is represented by an old man wearing a cloak and hood who is warming his feet by the fire, the only element of this miniature to be colored. It goes on to state that February is the shortest month of the year and is thus occasionally lengthened by an additional day to adjust for leap years. The text finishes by stating that the day is given ten hours and the night fourteen hours during this month of cabin fever.

Breviari d'Amor
Single Page

Breviari d'Amor

Tree of Love

Love, its forms, the virtues it requires, and the roots that feed and sustain it are represented by the so-called Tree of Love. Nature, created by God for the governance of living beings, is divided between natural law on the left and the law of nations on the right. The figures chopping the tree with axes represent pride and other sins that are contrary to love.

Crowned by the Holy Spirit, the great lady embodies the four forms of love. The love of God and one’s neighbor is the highest form of love, and as such is written on her crown. Love for one’s children is the warmest form of love, and thus she holds it close to her heart. Next comes romantic love, which is often driven by lust, and lastly at her feet is the love of temporal goods.

Breviari d'Amor
Facsimile Editions

#1 Breviari d'Amor

Vicent Garcia Editores – Valencia, 1980
Breviari d'Amor – Res. 203 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain)
Breviari d'Amor – Res. 203 – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Vicent Garcia Editores – Valencia, 1980
Limited Edition: 3000 copies
Binding: Engraved leather on wooden board. Facsimile copy, commentary volume and dust jacket.
Commentary: 1 volume (490 pages) by Antoni Ferrando Francés
Languages: Spanish, Valencian
3 volumes: 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.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
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