German Manuscript

M. Logutova

Cologne Prayerbook

Cologne Prayerbook
Consisting of 181 partchment folios, the prayerbook was created in the late 15th century in Cologne. The contemporary binding of the manuscript is made of wooden boards, covered with blind embossed brown leather. In the center, there is the Mother of God with Child depicted in full growth. One metal clasp has survived, the other has lost. The manuscript came into the State Public Library (a former name of our Library) along with the collection of Society for Lovers of Ancient Literature in 1932. Now it is kept under the shelfmark ms. OLDP.O.162.

Judging by the record of absolution given by Pope Alexander VI in 1494 for those who read the prayer to St. Anne, the book was produced after 1494. Three prayers to the most revered saints in Cologne: the three Biblical Magi - Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, evidence that the possible origin of the manuscript is Cologne. These three names of kings are the only of all the saints mentioned in the list of the saint through whose intercession many persons had been saved from the plague.

The book begins with the liturgical calendar which listed religious holidays and medical prescriptions. The prayer section of the manuscript, going after the calendar, is decorated with five small miniatures, borders with floral ornaments, gilded frames and the initials in gold on a red, blue and pink patterned background. The decoration adorn the prayerbook and, at the same time, highlights its individual sections. The five main sections are preceded with miniatures, illustrating the texts. Within the sections, the gold foil initials separate the prayers, helping to find the right place.

1. The miniature with King David and a harp lying on the ground opens the seven Penitential Psalms with Litanies (petitions to saints), which are written after the calendar.

Penance of King David Litanies

2. The Litanies are followed by the prayer 'I pray you hanging on the cross' (this prayer in Latin begins "Adoro te in cruce pendentem'). The rubrics prefacing it, attribute it to St. Gregory the Great. In illuminated manuscripts, like our codex, the prayer is usually accompanied by the image of the Mass of St. Gregory.

Mass of St. Gregory
The story rooted in the legend of the miraculous event that occurred during a Mass of Pope St. Gregory. At the time of the Communion, a deacon who served him, doubted about the sacrament of transubstantiation, saying that he could not believe the bread and wine could transform into the body and blood of Christ during Mass. Gregory prayed for a sign, and, at the same moment, the wounded Christ appeared to Saint Gregory on the altar, and the blood from the wound on his chest poured at the altar bowl. In the manuscripts without illustrations, rubrics recommended to read the prayer before the icon of the holy Pope. The prayer 'I pray you hanging on the cross' consists of five, like in this Cologne manuscript, or seven small segments, but sometimes, prayers have two, three or 10 parts. The prayer is always headed with detailed rubrics with recommendations on its performance and information about which pope granted indulgences, and how many years of absolution he gave for reading it.

This prayer has been known since the 11th century, but has gained special popularity in the 15th century. The reason lies in its content. The content was presented in the form which also contributed to the success of the prayer. During the late Middle Ages, the religious treatises and sermons, painting and sculpture focus on the earthly life of Christ and the Virgin. The most common forms of prayers were cycles of short segments. They contained repeating elements which allow readers to fix their attention on specific episodes from the life of Christ and the Virgin, keeping in mind the basic idea of the cycle. The prayer "I pray you hanging on the cross" has such a structure. Its well-expressed phrases highlight the universal scale of Christ's suffering, and relate them to the personal spiritual scale of the worshiper.

This is followed by prayers of the eight verses from the Psalms. They are introduced by rubrics narrating the story of St. Bernard. The saint met a devil who claimed to know which eight verses from the Psalms would ensure salvation to those who would recite them daily. St. Bernard said he did not need for them, because he read every Psalm every day.

3. The third miniature shows Christ blessing a kneeling nun, probably St. Brigita, since it is followed by the cycle of the 15 Our Fathers (Рater nosters) on Christ's passions, which was given to St. Brigitte in her vision, 'I say the first Рater noster, beloved Lord Jesus Christ, in the memory of your holy passions…'. The text of the main Christian prayer was linked with each episode of the Passions and strengthened the influence of the whole cycle of prayer.

Mother of God with the Child Christ
4. In the late Middle Ages, the favorite form of prayer were the Rosaries or Chaplets of Roses - cycles consisting of short prayers with the same introduction, addressed to Christ or the Virgin Mary, seldom, to St. Anne. The Gold Rosary in Commemoration of the Virgin Mary is placed behind the miniature depicting the Our Lady with the Child.

5. The cult of Saint Anne, mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus, became widespread after 1480, among monks and, especially, in a secular society. She was repeatedly portrayed together with Mary and Jesus Christ (iconography by Anna Selbdritt). The two most famous masterpiece are painted by Leonardo da Vinci and are held in the Louvre and in the British Museum.

St. Anna with her daughter Mary and grandson Christ
The manuscript of the National Library of Russia includes an apocryphal legend and two prayers dedicated to Anne. The apocryph on St. Anne begins with Anna Selbdritt's miniature. St. Anne cuddles Baby Jesus with her right arm, and embraces her daughter with the left.

For the first time the name of the Virgin Mary's mother is found in the so-called Protoevangelium Jacobi (before 150). The Pseudo-Mattheus apocriph, Ch. 42 (the late 5th c.), reads that Anne was married to her second husband by the name of Cleophas, from whom she had a daughter, also named Mary. A Lower Saxony prayerbooks of the 15th century presents one of the versions of the legend, according to which the grandmother of Christ was married three times. This legend was also included in the other manuscript of the National Library, which will be discussed below. These late medieval legends tell that each marriage produced one daughter named Mary. Anne's daughters married and each had sons. The first Mary gave birth to Jesus, the second had Simon Zelotes, Judas Thaddäus, Jacobus minor and Josef der Gerechte. The sons of the third Mary was John the Evangelist and Jacob older. The mother of John the Baptist St. Elizabeth was the niece of St. Anne, the daughter of her sister. According to this legend, a half of apostles were cousins of Christ, and John who baptized Jesus was his second cousin.

St. Anne was usually depicted with all her large family (iconography by Heiligen Sippe). Common people venerated St. Anne as a head of the united family, personification of marriage ideals and joys and responsibilities of married life. There were numerous Brotherhood of St. Anne in the cities. Northern humanists used the image of the saint for educational purposes as an example and model for a good wife and mother. For many years, St. Anne was the favorite saint of Martin Luther. Thousands of devotions to St. Anne came out of the monastic community. Treatises, poems, sermons and prayers were dedicated to St. Anne. Two of such prayers are written in the Cologne prayerbook.

Prayers to Christ go next. They are followed by a a cycle of psalms, hymns and other readings to the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as Hours of the Virgin and a funeral service. These two liturgical devotions were a core part of the medieval Books of Hours, they were frequently added to German prayerbooks.

The plague was the scourge of the late Middle Ages. Its echoes can be heard on the pages of the prayerbooks in the form of devotions to the saints and professional health prescriptions. The Cologne manuscript also contains three prayers against the plague.

The devotions to the saint are not numerous and occupy about 20 sheets. If you subtract 16 folios of a calendar with medical prescriptions from the total number of the manuscript's sheets (181 folios), the prayers to the saints will account for no more than an eighth of the entire manuscript. The rest of the prayers are addressed to Christ and to his family - to the Virgin Mary and St. Anne. This gives a reason to consider the prayerbook to be devoted to Christ.