Sacramentarium Leonianum

Sacramentarium Leonianum – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Codex Veronensis LXXXV (80) – Biblioteca Capitolare di Verona (Verona, Italy)

Mid 6th century

Contains the oldest preserved prayers of the Catholic Church: a 6th century manuscript of great historical and theological importance with liturgical texts from the pen of Pope Leo I himself

  1. This mid-6th century document contains some of the oldest prayers in the Catholic Church

  2. Some of the prayers are believed to have been written by Pope Leo I (ca. 400–461), after whom it is named

  3. It is also called the "Verona Sacramentary" after is residence in the Chapter Library of Verona Cathedral

Sacramentarium Leonianum

Facsimile Copy Available!
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  1. Description
  2. Single Page
  3. Facsimile Editions (1)
Sacramentarium Leonianum

The Sacramentarium Leonianum is a 6th century document of tremendous importance because it is the oldest surviving liturgical book containing the Roman rite and some of the oldest prayers in the Catholic Church. Its name derives from its connection to Pope Leo I, who supposedly authored some of the texts during the 5th century, and is also called the β€œVerona Sacramentary” after its repository in the Chapter Library of Verona Cathedral, where it was discovered in 1713. However, it is not a sacramentary in the strict sense of the word and contains prayers as they would be performed as part of the stationary Mass by the Pontiff in various churches and basilicas in and around Rome. It also includes texts for the dedication of churches, consecration of bishops, ordination of deacons, and other rituals. Still regarded as an authoritative liturgical text, the incredible manuscript is a document of tremendous historical and theological value.

Sacramentarium Leonianum

Most students of early church history are unaware of how much they owe to the discovery of a manuscript in 1713 by Francesco Scipione, Marchese di Maffei (1675–1755). Containing texts from the 5th and 6th centuries, it is counted among the oldest surviving liturgical books in the Latin West and is a precious resource for theologians, paleographers, and historians alike. It is known alternately as the Sacramentarium Leonianum because some of the texts are historically attributed to Pope Leo I (ca. 400–461) albeit without proof, or the Sacramentarium Veronense after the city of Verona where it was rediscovered and still resides today. Whatever you call it, the collection of religious texts, although not a sacramentary in the strict sense of the word, offers a rare and precious view into Late Antiquity and the liturgical foundations of the Catholic Church.

Tumulutuous Origins

Although it was originally thought that the manuscript dated from the 5th century reign of Leo the Great, later generations of researchers discovered an allusion in the manuscript to the unsuccessful attempt to besiege Rome by the Ostrogoths in 537–538, The manuscript thus likely originated in Rome during the mid-6th century and possibly as late as the early 7th century. This was a terrible time in the history of Italy, which was devasted and depopulated in the course of the 19-year-long Gothic War of 535–554 and the concurrent Plague of Justinian. Rome itself changed hands between the Goths and Byzantines numerous times and the great Italian cities shrank dramatically.
Lombards soon came to occupy most of the interior lands while many coastal cities and parts of the south remained in the Byzantine sphere of influence until the late-11th century and the Italian Peninsula would stay politically divided until the 19th century. Nevertheless, classical culture continued to thrive within the cloistered life of the clergy and in the Byzantine cities. This was also the period of the Byzantine Papacy, when popes were appointed by or required the approval of the emperor in Constantinople. The art and liturgy produced under various popes of Greek, Sicilian, and Syrian origins exhibit a true blending of Eastern and Western Christian traditions.

Contents of the β€œSacramentary”

This is not considered to be a sacramentary because it does not include either the Canon or Ordinary of the Mass, only the Proper consisting of Collections, Secrets, Prefaces, Post-communions, and Orationes Super Populum. The fact that the manuscript contains the pure and unadulterated Roman rite without Gallican additions indicates that it originated at the beginning of the Byzantine Papacy, and it has been theorized that the text may have been originally intended for the use of a missionary in Gaul. It also contains many references to local Roman festivals, especially those dedicated to Peter and Paul, the Patron Saints of Rome, which number no less than twenty-eight. There are also twenty-three masses for celebrating the consecration of a bishop and many more for similar occasions.
The form of the manuscript does not lend itself for liturgical use and thus most have been designed for private use as a referential text almost as though it were a liturgical encyclopedia. Furthermore, the text is not arranged according to the liturgical calendar but to the Romans’ civil calendar. Unfortunately, the pages concerning the first four months of the year are lost and as such, there is no information concerning the Easter Vigil, the highpoint of the liturgical year. Mistakes made in the manuscript appear to be from the scribes being rushed in its creation. Nonetheless, this is a precious and authoritative artifact of ancient liturgy.

Fortuitous Rediscovery

Francesco Scipione Maffei was a Venetian bibliophile, antiquarian, author, and art critic who had an exciting youth including serving as an officer in the Bavarian Army during the War of Spanish Succession (1701–14) before he returned to Italy in 1705. After beginning a successful career as an author on Roman history and expert on Etruscan antiquities in Padua, he came to Verona where he contributed to the discovery of numerous important manuscripts in the cathedral’s library, the crown jewel of which was the Sacramentarium Leonianum in 1713. It was first published by the Verona-born liturgical scholar Giuseppe Bianchini (1704–64) as part of his four-volume Anastasii bibliothecarii vitae Romanorum Pontificum in 1735 and has been intensely studied ever since. The manuscript remains the highlight of the prestigious collections of the Chapter Library of Verona Cathedral where it is stored under the shelf mark Codex Veronensis LXXXV (80).


Alternative Titles
Sacramentarium Veronense
Verona Sacramentary
Leonine Sacramentary
Mid 6th century
Headings and annotations in bold red script
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Sacramentarium Leonianum – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Codex Veronensis LXXXV (80) – Biblioteca Capitolare di Verona (Verona, Italy)
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1960
Single Page

Sacramentarium Leonianum

Readings for October

The contents of the manuscript are arranged according to the months of the Roman civil calendar rather than the liturgical year. It was not designed to be used in the performance of Mass or any other rituals but served as more of a reference work for the clergy, which is further indicated by the marginal notations made in a second hand from the original scribe.

The text is clearly the product of a skilled scribe working in a monastic scriptorium. Most of the text, which is written in a majuscule script without spacing in order fit as many words on the page as possible, is written using brown ink with the heading of the next section written in more expensive red ink. Aside from some water damage along the edges, this 1,500-year-old page has survived in remarkably good conditions.

Sacramentarium Leonianum – Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Codex Veronensis LXXXV (80) – Biblioteca Capitolare di Verona (Verona, Italy)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Das Sacramentarium Leonianum

Publisher: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1960
Binding: Linen binding with leather spine
Commentary: 1 volume (286 pages) by Franz Sauer
Language: German
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. Complete edition for studies of the liturgical manuscript from the Chapter Library in Verona. Reproduction in original size 175 x 240Β mm. Size of the facsimile edition including margin 230 x 330Β mm. 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: €
(under 1,000€)
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