Parma Ildefonsus

Parma Ildefonsus – Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Ms. Parm. 1650 – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)

Cluny Abbey (France) — Between 1090 and 1100

Created in celebration of the Reconquista: the Marian prayer of Saint Ildefonsus adorned with magnificent Byzantine-Romanesque miniatures

  1. The only surviving copy of the De Virginitate Sanctae Mariae by Saint Ildefons (607–667), Bishop of Toledo

  2. The work was commissioned to celebrate the capture of Toledo on May 25th, 1085 by King Alfonso VI (ca. 1040–1109)

  3. The colored miniatures belong among the most splendid illustrations of Byzantine-Romanesque illumination

Parma Ildefonsus

  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Parma Ildefonsus

The Parma Ildefonsus was written between 1090 and 1110 in the French abbey of Cluny. This magnificently illuminated work in praise of the Holy Mother of God, strongly associated with the Spanish Reconquista, is the only surviving copy of the De Virginitate Sanctae Mariae of Saint Ildefons (607-667), Bishop of Toledo. It contains stunningly beautiful illustrations that are among the most magnificent portraits of Byzantine Romanesque book art. Each page of the work is richly decorated with gold, silver and purple. In addition to the numerous initials, some of them historiated, there are 33 splendid miniatures, including nine full-page illustrations.

Parma Ildefonsus

The abbey of the French city of Cluny produced an outstanding illuminated manuscript between 1090 and 1110. It is a codex known worldwide today by the title Parma Ildefonsus. The religious text was written as a doxology to the Virgin Mary and is a copy of the treatise De Virginitate Sanctae Mariae, which was composed by Saint Ildefonsus of Toldeo (ca. 607–667). The manuscript is wonderfully illustrated with nine large, full-page miniatures, 16 half-page miniatures, and 8 small, square miniatures. Additionally, the work is decorated by numerous initials, some historiated and some gilded.

The Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula.

Toledo was the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom from ca. 531 to 711. In the year 712, the city was conquered by the Moors and under Islamic rule, particularly during the Caliphate of Cordoba, it truly flourished. On the 25th of May, 1085, the city was reconquered by Alfonso VI in the course of the Reconquista. Archbishop Bernard of Toledo was to be the Primate of the Catholic Church on the Iberian Peninsula from then on. It is assumed that the treatise De Virginitate Sanctae Mariae was composed for the Archbishop. That manuscript was written shortly after the Catholic recapture of the city and it has been closely associated with this event as a result. Parma Ildefonsus is the only copy of the treatise that exactly reproduces its original text. Additionally, it is the only copy worldwide attended by such phenomenal book decoration.

A Complex System of Illustration

The pages of the Parma Ildefonsus are illustrated in a unique, complex manner. All of the pictures as well as the text of the codex are rimmed by frames of gold, silver, and purple, which are patterned in the most various ways. Some of the frames demonstrate geometric forms, others stylish plant motifs. The large and small miniatures, in which saints and prophets are illustrated, boast splendid colors and doubtlessly belong among the highest-quality images of Byzantine-Romanesque illumination. Many large initials were set against a purple background and are also framed by various patterns. A particularly large and elaborately embellished initial shows the author of the manuscript as he presents his work kneeling before Christ.


Alternative Titles
Ildefonso da Toledo
Parma Ildefonso
Ildefonso Toletano
De virginitate Beatae Mariae
De virginitate Sanctae Mariae
Size / Format
224 pages / 23.0 × 15.8 cm
Between 1090 and 1100
Carolingian minuscule
9 pages fully illuminated; 16 half page miniatures, 10 portraits of the prophets, 9 large initials, 28 initials and many other decorations. Every text page features a beautiful border.
Life of St. Ildefonsus by Julian of Toledo; De Virginitate Sanctae Mariae by St. Ildefonsus of Toledo; Prologue by the scribe Gomez addressed to Bishop Godescalc of Le Puy; Life of St. Ildefonsus by Bishop Sixila of Toledo
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Bernardo de la Sauvetat (ca. 1050 – 1125) formerly a monk in Cluny and later Bishop of Toledo
Paolo Maria Piciaudi (1710–85)
Matteo Luigi Canonici (1727–1805)

Available facsimile editions:
Parma Ildefonsus – Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Ms. Parm. 1650 – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 2010
Limited Edition: 499 copies
Detail Picture

Parma Ildefonsus

Historiated “D” Initial

St. Ildefonsus kneels humbly below a Byzantine-style image of Christ Pantocrator or Christ in Majesty, his humble tonsure contrasting with Christ’s flowing hair. This fine specimen is indicative of both the trend toward elaborate initials in Romanesque manuscripts and the refinement of the art produced in the scriptorium of France’s Cluny Abbey, which was the intellectual center of Europe at the time. Its green-and-gold color scheme contrasts wonderfully with the purple background.

Parma Ildefonsus – Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Ms. Parm. 1650 – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Single Page

Parma Ildefonsus

Author Portrait

St. Ildefonsus was a scholar and theologian living during the 7th century in Toledo, which was the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom. He wrote the treatise at hand for his employer, the Archbishop of Toledo. This Romanesque miniature depicting him exhibits strong influences from Byzantine illumination, especially with respect to the standardized faces and burnished gold background.

Identified by his Gothic name, Hildefuns, St. Ildefonsus is pictured seated on a throne of red, blue, and gold with quill and tablet in hand. He is surrounded by other tonsured monks, some of them bearded, some of them fresh-faced acolytes. The scene is depicted within a bright frame of golden tendrils and features an abstract classical architecture.

Parma Ildefonsus – Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Ms. Parm. 1650 – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Ildefonso Toletano

Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 2010
Parma Ildefonsus – Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Ms. Parm. 1650 – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)
Parma Ildefonsus – Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Ms. Parm. 1650 – Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 2010
Limited Edition: 499 copies
Binding: Embossed leather binding
Commentary: 1 volume by Andrea De Pasquale, Silvana Gorreri, Neil Stratford, Giuseppa Z. Zanichelli, Silvana Gorreri, and Danilo Bersani
Languages: Italian, English
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.
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