On the trail of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the wonders of classical antiquity

Defensorium inviolatae virginitatis Beatae Mariae

Cologne (Germany) — Around 1490

Defensorium inviolatae virginitatis Beatae Mariae

Defensorium inviolatae virginitatis Beatae Mariae

Cologne (Germany) — Around 1490

  1. Franz von Retz (1343–1427) documents the wondrous and curious story of the Immaculate Conception of Mary

  2. Rather than seeking a scientific explanation, von Retz presents various wonders from classical antiquity

  3. 38 miniature pages are presented opposite the text in the manuscript with costly pigments and gold leaf

Defensorium inviolatae virginitatis Beatae Mariae

Ms 32,513 Irische Nationalbibliothek (Dublin, Ireland)
Alternative Titles:
  • Von wundersamen Begebenheiten
  • Of wondrous occurrences - Franz von Retz
Defensorium inviolatae virginitatis Beatae Mariae – Ms 32,513 – Irische Nationalbibliothek (Dublin, Ireland)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The 15th century manuscript by the Dominican and theologian Franz von Retz attempts to document the wondrous occurrence and curious story of the wonder of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This entertaining text is illustrated with numerous lovingly shaped miniatures in the style of Stephan Lochner. A fantastic world of enormous imaginative power is shown in light, colorful pictures imbued with costly gold leaf.

Defensorium Inviolatae Virginitatis Beatae Mariae

The 15th century manuscript by the Dominican and theologian Franz von Retz attempts to document the wondrous occurrence and curious story of the wonder of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This entertaining text is illustrated with numerous lovingly shaped miniatures in the style of Stephan Lochner. A fantastic world of enormous imaginative power is shown in light, colorful pictures imbued with costly gold leaf.

Theological Script with Entertainment Value

The book’s artist displays his vast capability with the 38 miniature pages, where the text is found on the verso-pages, complimented by the recto-pages and their ideal illustrations. Thus, the myths and the wonder of the late-medieval period are brought to life on paper. In order to prove the immaculate conception of Mary, which according to scientific standards is impossible, Franz von Retz does not rely on scientific investigations, but enumerates miracles from classical antiquity and nature, the "miraculous occurrences". He concludes: if the wondrous occurrence is true, then the preservation of Mary’s virginity must also be true. Already in the 15th and 16th centuries, von Retz’s text was displayed alongside scripts like Albertus Magnus, St. Augustine, and Isidore of Seville at the newly founded University of Vienna. Between 1400 and 1425, von Retz authored this premiere work as a translation from Latin, which later on would receive much attention and a few new editions.

Highly Artful Furnishings and Enigmatic Origins

The origin and provenance of the calligraphy is an enigma even today. The example at hand is kept safe today in the Irish National Library in Dublin, where it has been since the middle of the 20th century. It is the best of the 14 surviving prints of the text and is also one of the latest editions, which means the luxury of the layout is simply sublime. Stylistically speaking, the wonderful illustrations of the calligraphy are connected to the Cologne school of painting, which produced fine artists like Stephan Lochner. To date, these miniatures are from 1470. The most special feature of the artistic layout is its exceptional quality. Skilled naturalism is employed with the depictions of people and animals, which are prominently featured throughout the painting landscapes. The skillful use of perspective emphasizes the uncontested value of these miniatures. For example, a depicted wonder—with Irish origins—is a tree that “produces” birds. Such an entertaining scene is shown in a wide, lush, gold leaf frame. Floral tendrils are also intertwined among the artful arrangement with a multitude of bright flowers. The light colors derive from costly pigments and thus immediately draw the eye, bestowing a high value on the book.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Von wundersamen Begebenheiten
Of wondrous occurrences - Franz von Retz
Size / Format
76 pages / 10.0 x 7.8 cm
Date
Around 1490
Illustrations
37 miniatures
Artist / School

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Defensorium inviolatae virginitatis Beatae Mariae“

Von Wundersamen Begebenheiten
Defensorium inviolatae virginitatis Beatae Mariae – Ms 32,513 – Irische Nationalbibliothek (Dublin, Ireland)
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Von Wundersamen Begebenheiten

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Limited Edition
800 copies
Binding
Green velvet, with golden embroidery. Comes in red leather case.
Commentary
1 volume (272 pages) by Eberhard König and Ines Dickmann
Language: German
More Information
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.
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