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German Manuscript

M. Logutova

Parchment Lübeck Prayerbook

The tiny parchment prayerbook under the shelfmark Ms. Nem.O.v.I.5 (171 folios) was produced in Lübeck in 1513 (a scribe record reads, 'Gheendiget In deme Jare vnses heren dusent vijf hundert vnde XIII'). The manuscript is decorated by gold ink initials inserted in many-coloured squares, by red and blue large filigree and small plain initials as well as red headings. The binding is contemporary with the book. It is made of wooden boards covered with blind embossed brown leather, chased metal corner and central pieces, five protective metal strips - cylinders, the remains of two clasps.

Eight  verses of St.Bernard from the Psalms
The State Public Library (the former name of our library) acquired the prayerbook in 1959. This is proved by the stamp on the reverse of the back binding cover, 'Akademkniga. 100 rub. 7.VI.1959.').

The parchment manuscript from Lübeck begins with a liturgical calendar, seven penitential psalms and the Litanies of all the saints. The following prayers continue theme of the penitential psalms, their rubrics advise believers to humbly and devoutly think on their sins. Then, there are written eight verses of St.Bernard from the Psalms. It was believed that these verses, daily said, guaranteed salvation, so they are quite common in the North German prayerbooks. According to the rubric, St. Bernard refused the devil's offering, and the evil being had no choice but to reveal unwillingly( "nicht gerne") the eight verses.

Sometimes difficult to understand to which of the persons of the Holy Trinity the medieval prayers of God (Deus, Got) are addressed: to God the Father or God the Son. Thus, in the opening lines of the first prayer of the manuscript (ms. Nem.O.v.I.5), a believer confesses his sins to God the Father who created him, who gave him a life and soul. However, he further regrets that did not love with all his heart the one who became a human being to save him, who was crowned with thorns and died on the cross. So, the next part of the prayer is dedicated to Christ. Then this prayer is directed simply to a loving and merciful God. The persons of the Holy Trinity are overlaid with each other and merged in the minds of believers in a single concept - the concept of God. If the prayer contains words “Domine” or “Нere”, it, as a rule, was devoted to Christ. The clear indication of destination is found in the prayers to St. Spirit.

Bernard of Clairvaux was the first to describe Jesus as a natural mediator between the heavenly and earthly worlds because of the dual nature of Christ who united humanity and divinity in one individual existence. The Lübeck prayerbook emphasis on the human nature of Christ. In one of the prayers, a believer says that Christ became a human being for him, 'Beloved Lord, you who became a man for my sake'.

In another prayer, a worshipper invokes Christ as his brother, 'O Our Lord Jesus Christ, sweet in your humanity, you are the son of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Assuming human nature, you became my brother. But I am not worthy to be called your brother <…> You are full of every kind of grace and holiness, I, unfortunately, am full of all kinds of sins and evil, for what I regret with all my heart'. Remarkable is a small cycle of eight prayers, which, unlike others, is not preceded by a rubric. Perhaps, the cycle was seldom copied and had no tradition of its presentation.

The praying one considers himself as a miserable child of God, his poor servant and worthless creature, believing himself unworthy even of these derogatory epithets. However, due to the human nature of Christ, he became a brother of the Savior, and the following prayer addressed to the loving brother, who asked intercession before the Father in Heaven. The believer calls himself a vessel that Christ filled with his innocent blood and thus made invaluable. He recognizes his unpayable debt and his moral obligations to the redemptive sacrifice of Christ.

A significant portion of the manuscript deals with the events of the life of Jesus. The prayers detailly descript his condemnation procedure since the night in the Garden of Gethsemane, followed by Christ's passions, death, the descent into hell, Resurrection, ascension to heaven. The believer asks to be with Christ. The cycles and individual prayers are devoted to Christ's passions. This section ends with a cycle of prayers for the Fifteen Christ's Joys.

The Five, Seven or Fifteen Joys of the Mother of Jesus were a popular devotion to events of the Virgin Mary's life. They were frequently included in the German prayerbooks, starting with the 14th century. Later, the Joys of St. Anna and the Joys of St. Mary Magdalene appeared. The Joys of Christ are not found often, especially as because, the prayers are written in the person of Christ himself.

After reading the prayers, worshippers were advised to say the Our Father (called in Latin Pater noster) and the Hail Mary (called in Latin Ave Maria) one or more times. Devotions to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and the Queen of Heaven are introduced with rubrics detailing the reading procedure, 'Here begins ten prayers of the Ten Joys of Our Beloved Lady. At the end of every Joy, you should pray ten Ave Marias, kneeling reverently before the sacred image of Our Beloved Lady'.

The Seven Joys of the Virgin Mary go next. 12,000 years of indulgence are promised to those who pray Stabat mater in German. The Joys are followed by the Five Sorrows of Mary. In another prayer, a believer asks her to support him in the moment of death, 'O, the gracious Virgin Mary, I, a poor sinner, ask you to pray for me in my hour of death'. Then the Rosary of St.Anne followes.

Prayer Stabat mater Rosary of St.Anne

The two prayerbooks stored in the NLR, under shelfmarks ms. OLDP.A.162 and ms. Lat.O.v.I.5, have a number of similarities. The illuminated manuscripts written on parchment, were very expensive. The both have the similar order of texts: they start with the calendar, seven penitential psalms and litanies of the saints. In ms. OLDP. O. 162, the first three sections are devoted to the prayers to Christ. They are followed by prayers to the Virgin Mary and St. Anne. In ms. Lat.O.v.I.5, the calendar and litanies precede the prayers to Christ, and then there go the prayers to his mother and his grandmother, in other words, the family of Christ. Prayers to the other saints in both parchment codices are few.

Scribe's inscription, 'Completed in the year of 1513'
Prayer Stabat mater (At the Cross her station keeping stood the mournful Mother weeping)
Rosary of St.Anne