State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 51 & 52 1993


The Poissy Antiphonary in its Royal Monastic Milieu

(Melbourne, State Library of Victoria *096 1/R66A)
From the outside this manuscript reminds one of a medieval shield (Fig. 5). It is protected by covers of heavy, thick calf to which brass bosses are affixed in a quincunx pattern both front and back. Matching brass corner-pieces engraved with fleurs-de-lys complete the protection. Except for the loss of both clasps and one of its straps, the old, though not original, binding has survived in extremely good condition.1 Later, in the seventeenth century, the spine was decorated in a gilt floral design rather at odds with the general fortified aspect, and labelled in antiquarian fashion “Ancien plein chant / du 14e siecle // beau manuscrit/ à miniatures / sur peau velin”.2
This title describes it well, for the covers protect a manuscript of liturgical chant, words and music written on fine vellum in Paris between 1335 and 1345,3 in which twenty-three selected feasts are honoured with an illustration. It is a luxury production, certainly, but who had it made and where was it used?
The liturgy is that used by the Dominican Order to celebrate Divine Office. This was sung at the eight canonical hours into which the medieval day was ordered, beginning with the long combined service of Matins-Lauds at midnight or 2 am (the “night hours”) and ending with Compline, for the Dominicans the richest and most solemn of the “day hours”4 Feasts of the Dominican saints Dominic, Peter Martyr and Thomas Aquinas are included, and their Offices illustrated, as is that of the canonised French king, St Louis. In their recent catalogue Manion and Vines argue that the antiphonary was probably made for the richly endowed Dominican monastery at Poissy, on the basis of the strong

Fig. 5. Front cover. Antiphonal. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096.1/R66A.


Diagram I. Nun's Choir at Saint-Louis de Poissy. Based on plans of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, c. 1695 (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Cab. Est., Va 448d) and Roger de Gaignières (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, ms Clairambault 946, fol. 121).

resemblance to other manuscripts produced there for the nuns at that period.5 We can now be certain of this. A later addition, on folio 424, is an antiphon for SS Sebastian and Yves. This is not a normal liturgical item. Sebastian was an early martyr whose death was commemorated throughout the Dominican Order. Yves, on the other hand, was a recently canonised Breton lawyer who had defended the poor; his feast on 19 May was not normally a Dominican celebration and other manuscripts indicate that it was not celebrated at Poissy. Why are the two invoked together here? Processionals from the monastery make the answer clear. The church housed a large number of altars, and at some period a new altar dedicated to Sebastian and Yves, no doubt associated with a valuable relic of each of the pair, was added to the original nineteen.6 The antiphon, appended in a convenient space at the back of the book, was that sung before the new altar at Poissy during the Maundy Thursday processional ceremony of cleansing the altars.7
The monastery at Poissy. located on the Seine six leagues or half a day's ride to the north-west of Paris, was founded by the French king Philippe IV (le Bel) to commemorate the recent canonisation of his grandfather King Louis IX, St Louis. Work began in 1298, and in 1304 the founding Dominican nuns entered.8 But the church was not yet complete, a small chapel dedicated to St Dominic was used for services in the interim.9 Philippe le Bel died in 1314, and the reign of his first son was extremely short. Not until the second and third sons (Philippe V and Charles IV) were crowned do the royal treasury accounts show further spending on the building project at Poissy.10 Between 1321 and 1325 Dominican friars, including the king's confessors, were in charge of progress,11 from which one might infer that at last the interior of the church was being furnished with the grill and choir fittings appropriate for the use of nuns of the Order.12 Eventually, on 12 February 1331 (n.s.) the church was consecrated, and solemnly dedicated to St Louis by two archbishops
and twenty-two bishops in a magnificent ceremony attended by King Philippe le Valois and the royal court.13
After this occasion the nuns were left to fulfil their daily duties as choir sisters in the new building. Their choir was situated in the nave of the cathedral-sized church14 for which Philippe le Bel had envisaged an original complement of 120 nuns eventually increasing to 200.15 A seventeenth-century plan provides our best knowledge (see Diagram 1). In the plan two ranks of stalls on either side of the central nave, possibly the original furniture, are designed to hold around 150 nuns.16 This is the auditorium for which our manuscript was made, perhaps in response to new requirements imposed by the large space. An earlier Antiphonary from the beginning of the house also survives (London, British Library, Add. ms. 30, 072); it is another finely made, illustrated manuscript, and its continued use is indicated by later additions. It contains only the Offices for winter and no doubt had a companion summer volume, whereas our manuscript serves for the whole year. So at least two Antiphonaries were available for use by the nuns. But which nuns, and for what purpose?
Antiphonaries are not common books. They contain only the sung parts of the Office, written and noted in full, each line of text placed under the accompanying music. Spoken texts such as prayers and lessons, and instructions concerning the conduct of the liturgy are absent. The book was used by the cantrix who led the chant. The rest of the choir followed the verbal cues to the sung items in their unnoted Breviaries which at Poissy were shared between two nuns.17 They took the tone from the cantrix's introductory words which she sang solo from the Antiphonary.18 But the choir was divided into two, and much of the liturgy was sung responsorially, the choir on the left responding to the verse or section intoned by the choir on the right. So a succentrix, called at Poissy the second chantress, led the left choir while the cantrix led the choir on the right. The concern of the cantrix, and her assistant, was to ensure that the Office was correct. Charged with knowing the whole of the Office by heart and familiar with the ritual herself, she was to make sure that the nuns could intone the Office in the proper Dominican fashion with distinct pauses, teach them any new liturgical items and encourage their singing as well as leading it. Her place in the choir was not necessarily constant for, depending on the Office, she might choose to stand anywhere in the upper or lower ranges of the right or the left stalls.19 During the more musically complex higher grades of feast, though she should elect to start each item from the centre of the choir, if encouragement were needed she might hurry about (“discurrere”) in front of the sisters to stimulate them to better singing. She should also wake up sleepy nuns at Matins and get them singing.20 Such duties in the choir meant that her own book might find itself anywhere in the choirstalls. It might be expected therefore that it be transportable by herself and protected against heavy use. Our manuscript fulfils these criteria. It is just within the modern A4 size (285 × 200 mm.) and although bulky (80 mm. across the pages) and somewhat heavy it can be carried without difficulty, unlike extremely large choirbooks for use at a lectern by a group of religious, which were frequently protected by similar heavy bossed covers.21 The fine vellum pages are in excellent condition.
We do not know the cantrix for whom this manuscript was made. From later accounts, however, it appears that the one nun might hold this position for a considerable period, in one case for forty years.22 The cantrix also held responsibility for the upkeep of the books used in the choir, including her own: to ensure they were correct and up-to-date and to have them ready when and where they would be required. The fine ones, like this, were supposed to be kept well-protected, replaced in chemises and covers when not in use and tied together; careless users were to be reprimanded.23 The books were inspected periodically by a “visitation” from the Provincial General of the Order and certified correct against a standard exemplar transported from house to house by this body.24 Dominican concern that books of the liturgy should be consistent throughout the Order is heralded in the instructions for writing and correcting the manuscript. The Antiphonary from Poissy

Plate 15. Text and initial for feast of Nativity of the Virgin: Resp. Hodie nata est… (This day was born …) Bathing the new-born child. Antiphonal. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096.1/R66A.f.324v.

Plate 16. Initial for first Sunday in Advent: Resp. Aspiciens a longe… (I look from afar…) Annunciation. Antiphonal. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096.1/R66A.f.4v (detail).

Plate 17. Initial for feast of the Annunciation: Resp. Missus est Gabriel… (Gabriel was sent… Annunciation. Antiphonal. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096.1/R66A.f.249r (detail).

Plate 18. Initial for Pentecost: Resp. Dum complerentur dies … (“When the day was fully come …) Descent of Holy Spirit upon Disciples. Antiphonal. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096.1/R66A.f.147v detail).


Plate 19. Initial for the Ascension: Resp. Post passionem suam … (After the suffering…) Disciples beneath ascending Christ. Antiphonal. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096.1/R66A.f.143r (detail).

follows the Dominican exemplar from the mid-1250s, written and held at St Jacques in Paris, in including these instructions which are after a treatise on the tonary common to Jerome of Moravia's De Musica:25
Square notation on four lines is to be used for antiphonaries, graduals and other books of chant and the accompanying words should be either spaced or compressed to align with the music. No deliberate alterations are permitted; all letters, music and pause-bars (“virgule pausarum”) are to be retained, while catch-notes (“puncta”) should end each line to signal the first note of the next. Books to be written should follow a corrected exemplar, and on completion are to be read or sung twice and corrections made from such an exemplar.26
Our manuscript complies with these instructions for production, clearly written in a large Gothic liturgical hand, the four-line staves carefully ruled in red and noted with black squares, observing the proper placement and pausal punctuation, including the preview of the first note on the next line. It was later corrected, though only the winter section, and inscribed on the back pastedown “Correct pour la saison diver” [d'hiver].
This then was enough to make a functional book. Decoration and illustration were not essential beyond a minimal hierarchy of larger and smaller initial letters for different items and feasts, sufficiently conspicuous to indicate the beginning of various parts of the Office. But our manuscript has more. For selected feasts the scribe has not written a capital letter but left a square space the height of two musical staves plus text (around 40 mm. square) for later painted decoration and illustration. All other items, however, were embellished by the scribe himself. A descending hierarchy of initials begins with letters one stave high alternately gold and blue, pen-flourished in blue or red, which consistently point out the first responsory of Matins in unillustrated feasts and the first antiphon for Vespers, and introduce each new item in the hymnal section of the manuscript.27 When the music and script had been copied from the corrected exemplar, the parchment sheets folded into gatherings of eight leaves were forwarded to the illuminator to paint the decoration and illustration.
One illustrator did all the work. His figures accord with a style in Paris which was influenced by and associated with the illustrator Jean Pucelle, who worked on expensive and regal commissions up until the 1330s.28 The proportions of the wide-eyed figures are still elegant, though less elongated than formerly; the protagonists are often engaged in busy activity and earnestly regard each other. But this painter has responded in a more limited degree to Pucelle's depth, either of space or figural form, and hardly at all to the master's imagination or variation. On the contrary, figures and complete compositions are repeated without demur. Twice the Annunciation is used, firstly for the start of the book, the 1st Sunday in Advent on folio 4v (Plate 16), then later for the feast of the Annunciation on folio 249 (Plate 17). The simple scene of the angel kneeling with a scroll “Ave Maria” before the standing Virgin who carries a book is allowed a slight variation by alternating two very common gestures in the artist's repertory. Either an arm raised from the waist with palm upwards or held horizontally across the body serves to express the Virgin's receipt of the message. The two gestures are again contrasted in the illustration for Pentecost in which the two foremost figures, the only ones shown in full, respond to the descent of the Holy Ghost, just as the Virgin responds to her messenger, each disciple also holding a book in his other hand (Plate 18). The disciple who stands on the right beneath the just-visible feet of Christ entering a heavenly cloud in the Ascension tells more of how the artist manipulates his limited repertoire (Plate 19). In a composition closely related to that of Pentecost — the disciples standing rather than seated on either side of the focus of the event — this figure not only displays the same gesture, but his physiognomy, the inclination of his head, and his engagement with his opposite are common to both depictions. He also shares aspects with the Annunciate Virgins. His stance is exactly hers, his backward sway brought to a halt and given balance by the book he carries right at the side of his body; similarly his grey tunic and cloak of deep red, its vermilion lining forming a band of contrast beneath his

Fig. 6. Initial for birth of John the Baptist: Resp. Fuit homo missus … (A man was sent…) Bathing the new-born child. Antiphonal. Melbourne, State Library of Victoria, *096.1/R66A.f.269r (detail).

gesturing arm, is the same as the apparel worn by the Virgin of folio 249 (Plate 17). Christ's withdrawal from the kneeling Mary Magdalen in the depiction “Noli me tangere” is likewise a minimal variation on the Annunciation theme.29
The two gestures again recur in the imagery of the Dormition of the Virgin which illustrates the Feast of the Assumption. Here Christ stands behind the Virgin who lies in bed, holding up his palm as he takes her soul in his other arm. The disciple beside him holds his arm across his chest. The dead Virgin herself differs little from the new mothers in the birth scenes of Christ, of the Virgin (Plate 15), or of John the Baptist (Fig. 6). All recline against a white pillow across the face of the picture plane, placed horizontally or on the slightest diagonal, while each scene's variations are added before or behind. One depiction, though, is incorrect. Essential to the iconography of the Birth of John the Baptist at this period is his old father Zachariah, who has lost his voice through a not unreasonable doubt that his wife's pregnancy was a gift of God. He must name the son, and should appear writing the name on a tablet. But this feast is illustrated with exactly the same imagery, using the same colour scheme, as the Birth of the Virgin (Plate 15): a maid bathes a naked child before a curtain hanging from a rail near the foot of the bed (Fig. 6). It seems the artist must have lacked a more specific pattern since it is unlikely that he could have misread the rubric “Sancti Iohannis Baptiste”, which makes no mention of birth at all, for that of the Nativity of the Virgin.
The artist was, indeed, a master of economic composition. He drew and painted swiftly and efficiently in a strong rhythmic style achieved with what appears to be little effort for great effect, a highly successful working technique which was the norm for the small Parisian ateliers of the period.30 His narrow corpus of standardised gestures, figure stances and facial types was extended by other stock Parisian patterns, such as the Adoration of the Magi (fol. 287) and a generalised transfer of a reliquary for the Translation of St Dominic (fol. 266v),31 all brought to a forward plane against coloured geometric backgrounds and overlapping the initial.
Like his figures and compositions, his palette is also limited, confined to predominantly strong colours — rich blue, deep purply-red, vermilion, grey, black, brown and gold — which he uses contrasted strongly against each other and against a light blue and pale mauve. Since his pictures are essentially confined to a minimal number of simple human forms who repeatedly confront each other in similar ways, his imposition on the drapery of a limited but strongly contrasting colour range results in a simple, richly satisfying rhythm. The blue of the tunic of the disciple on the left of the Pentecost illustration (Plate 18), for instance, is repeated in the cloak of the figure on the right, while the mauve outer cloak covering his knees is given a lesser repetition in the lining of the right-hand figure's cloak; the vermilion lining of his own cloak is carried through the picture in the robes of the just-visible figures at the sides.
Table 1. Comparison of decorative-illustrative programmes in Poissy and Dominican archetypal Antiphonaries
Dominican Archetype Poissy Antiphonies
1254 1256 BL Add 30, 072 ca 1300 Melbourne, SLV ca 1335–45
1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT / F / Annunciation
Nativity of the Lord / F / Nativity
Epiphany D F / Adoration of Magi
Easter Sunday D F Resurrection Resurrection
Ascension F D Ascension
Pentecost F Pentecost Pentecost
Holy Trinity D F D D
ANDREW F / Martyrdom on cross
Stephen F / D
John the Evangelist F / D
Purification of Virgin D F / Presentation in temple
Annunciation D F Annunciation Annunciation
Peter Martyr D F Martyrdom with sword Martyrdom with sword
Translation of Dominic F Translation of body Translation of body
Birth John the Baptist F Baptism of Christ Bathing new-born saint
Peter and Paul D F D Peter's martyrdom on cross
COMMEM. OF PAUL D Martyrdom with sword
Mary Magdalen D Noli me tangere
Dominic D F Dominic on ladder Dominic on ladder
LAURENCE Martyrdom on grill
Assumption of virgin D F Dormition Dormition
Louis / / [King Louis] King Louis
Augustine F D D
Birth of the virgin D F Bathing new-born Virgin Bathing new-born Virgin
MICHAEL ARCHANGEL F D Angel kills dragon
All Saints F D Seated male saints
DEAD Funeral service
F = Pen-flourished initial; D = Decorated initial, usually vine-leaf pattern; / = Not applicable: book either predates introduction of a feast or does not cover certain feasts; [ ] = Later addition
Sundays and feasts embellished only in Melbourne Antiphonary (with decorated initial) have been omitted (1st Sunday after Epiphany Octave; Quadragesima Sunday; Invention of Cross).
Feasts celebrated at the highest rank (Totem Duplex) in the 1330s are written in capitals.
Each of the initials in which imagery is painted, and others filled with vine-leaf and grotesque designs in similar colours, support a decorative bar-border projected from the initial to terminate in vineleaf extensions which surround the text (Plate 15). It is not difficult, therefore, to use these signposts to find one's way around the year's Offices. The imagery, helped by its standardized composition and iconography, is an easily recognizable summary of the essence of each feast rather than illustrating the adjacent text. The busy cantrix, having sped around the choir to awaken or enliven her charges, may often have appreciated the mnemonic and clarificatory usefulness of the decoration and imagery when she returned to her place to begin the next chanted item.
It may be surprising that the illustrator chosen to work on a book to be used in an imposing Gothic church, “worthy of royal munificence” as its founder had required,32 is of modest achievement and the book itself reserved in its decorative elements. Yet despite its size and expense, the style of the church is reserved, imparting the “dignity of a classical model”.33 Moreover the “low-key” elegance of this manuscript, and others made for use in the nuns' choir at the same period, was already an aspect of books. This can be seen, for example, in an earlier Antiphonary, which Philippe le Bel himself had directed the Dominicans to have made for the nuns, a few years before their entry into the monastery.34 Possibly this was a result of Dominican concern that purposeless ornamentation should be absent from the worship and life of the Order.35 Though slightly more embellished, this manuscript bears a great similarity to the earlier Antiphonary. Both are clearly written, manageably large personal books whose luxury is reserved to a modest number of selected feasts, emphasised with a small historiated initial and marginal border.
But how were the feasts selected? It is likely that the scribe's exemplar furnished in large measure the decorative pattern for this manuscript. Comparison with the Dominican archetypal manuscripts shows that the two Poissy Antiphonaries follow the early exemplars fairly closely (Table 1). All twenty-two feasts selected for embellishment with a pen-flourished initial in the 1256 copy are treated as honoured feasts, either historiated or decorated, in the two manuscripts made for the nuns. Only one of the ten feasts accorded decoration in the earliest (1254) compilation is unillustrated, though decorated, in the latest (the present manuscript). This more fully illustrated manuscript consistently conserves the iconography of the earlier Poissy Antiphonary; of the ten feasts depicted in both, only the theme used for the Baptism of John the Baptist differs.
The nuns themselves ran their establishment, despite the small convent of friars at Poissy who were instituted to look to the sisters' spiritual needs, to hear confession and serve as priests in the church and at the nuns' illness and death, and to act if required by the nuns as advisers and administrators for their diverse and very rich property interests.36 The nuns held the properties and other assets in their own right and a council of the prioress and other office-bearers made the final decisions concerning them.37 No doubt they commissioned and paid for this and other manuscripts. Nevertheless, there is little indication that they imposed on the books' production any requirements that differed from earlier ones. This conservative attitude has achieved a very fine result. The harmonious volume made of fine materials, graced with a refined, not excessively expensive illustrative pattern, displays a modest luxury and is at the same time a functional liturgical book. By a fortunate chance the State of Victoria is the inheritor of the Poissy nuns, owning a manuscript whose bright, rich colours and simple strong designs still impress us today, so removed in time and distance from those who sang from it; it is still in excellent condition because of the quality of the materials used and the protective efficacy of its military-looking covers.38
Joan Naughton


The study of this manuscript is part of my doctoral research on some seventy extant manuscripts which formerly belonged to the Dominican monastery at Poissy. I have been supported throughout by an Australian Postgraduate Research Award, and received an Alma Hanson Travelling Scholarship and a Grant-in-Aid from the Faculty of Arts, the University of Melbourne, to conduct research outside Australia. I gratefully acknowledge these awards. The present manuscript is discussed as one of six closely related liturgical manuscripts in my “Books for a Dominican nuns' choir: illustrated liturgical manuscripts made for Saint-Louis de Poissy during the second quarter of the fourteenth century” which is to be published in a book provisionally entitled Art. Worship and the Book in Medieval Culture, edited by M. Manion and B. Muir.


Straps were an essential part of a manuscript; they kept the vellum sheets held flatly together when the volume was not in use. Without them, the pages tended to splay open at the edges so that their format became wedge-shaped rather than rectangular. One brass pin to which a strap was attached still protrudes from the back cover of the manuscript, while a hole in the leather shows the position of the other. Seven of the ten bosses survive.


The concentration on the spine suggests that at this period the book normally stood, with its spine displayed in a bookshelf, a valued possession of a well-labelled French library. It is not known to whose library it belonged.


M. M. Manion and V. F. Vines, Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts in Australian Collections, London, 1984, p. 176. The time span is consistent with the liturgical assessment made by John Stinson.


For the Dominican daily schedule see W. A. Hinnebusch, The History of the Dominican Order, I, Origins and Growth to 1500, New York, 1965, pp. 349–53.


Manion and Vines, Illuminated Manuscripts, no. 71, pp. 176–9. François Avril was first to recognise a Poissy provenance. The manuscript was earlier catalogued in K. V. Sinclair, “Phillipps Manuscripts in Australia”, The Book Collector, 11, 1962, pp. 332ff; ibid., Descriptive Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in Australia, Sydney, 1969, no. 218, pp. 369ff. It has been published in Sotheby's Sale Catalogue, 1 July, 1946, no. 12; University of Melbourne Museum of Art, Gold and Vellum: Illuminated Manuscripts in Australia and New Zealand (exh. cat.), Melbourne, 1989, no. 30 (J. Stinson). John Stinson's musicological, liturgical and codicological studies of the manuscript are to be found in this journal and in the impending publication M. Manion and B. Muir, Art, Worship and the Book.


Processionals from Poissy survive in surprisingly large numbers. I am aware of over twenty, dating from the early fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. A number of them give a noted version of the specific antiphon to be sung before each altar, others fail to replace the general directive to add items according to disposition of the altars in the particular church. Ten of these processionals are catalogued by Michel Huglo, “Les Processionnaux de Poissy” in P. de Clerck and E. Palazzo (eds.), Rituels: Mélanges offerts au Père Gy OP, Paris, 1990, pp. 339–46. The twenty-one altars at Poissy in the sixteenth century are listed in processional order in the most recent history of the monastery, Suzanne Moreau-Rendu, Le Prieuré Royal de Saint-Louis de Poissy, Colmar, 1968, p. 56.


Ant. “O martyr egregie mirande … regnum glorie largiendo tutus”; Vers. “Iudicabunt sancti nationes”; Resp. “Et dominabuntur populis”. Fully inscribed in, for instance, the early sixteenth-century Poissy processionals Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum ms McClean 63, fol. 42v and London, British Library, Add. ms 45,111, fol. 24.


The building of the church and monastery under Philippe le Bel is examined in detail in Alain Erlande-Brandenburg, “La Priorale Saint-Louis de Poissy”, Bulletin Monumental 129, 1971, pp. 85–112.


“… les premieres Religieuses ont ete vint ans avant la parfaitte construction de leglise en attendant laquelle on fuisoit l'office en cette chapelle St. Dominique…” (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale ms fr 5009, fol. 3). This document is a compilation of earlier events at the monastery made by Suzanne Hennequin, nun-archivist at Poissy in the early eighteenth century, and is based on records and objects then extant. Information from the first hundred years at Poissy is very meagre.


Louis X reigned only 18 months, from 1314 to 1316; Philippe V from 1316 to 1322; Charles IV from 1322 to 1328. Although the third testament drawn up by their father in 1311 stressed that work should proceed and soon be soon completed on the monastery (Paris, Archives Nationales, J 403, no. 17, quoted in Erlande-Brandenburg, “La Priorale”. n. 7), in fact Louis X undertook almost none of the missions required in the will (E. A. R. Brown, “Royal Salvation and Needs of State in Early-Fourteenth-Century France” [revised version] in The Monarchy of Capetian France and Royal Ceremonial, Variorum Collected Studies 345. 1991, IV, pp. 30–44), and outstanding payments for works undertaken at Poissy in his father's time, whose accounts were submitted in 1314–15, were not made until 1322 (Jules Viard, Les Journaux des Trésor de Charles IV le Bel. Paris, 1917, nos 1019–1021). Certainly the nuns at Poissy did not honour him with a founder's obit in their Martyrology such as they inscribed for his two brothers (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek ms Clm 10170).


Nicolaus de Clermont, who was prior at Poissy as well as confessor to Philippe V, was paid for various works, including some on the church fabric, at Poissy in 1321–23 (Viard, Journaux, nos 1024, 2738, 2773, 3023); Vibert Louel, Dominican confessor to Charles IV, for works completed in 1323–24 (ibid., nos 3321, 4195, 4239, 5999); the Dominican P. de Belemcombre purchased glass in 1325 (ibid., nos 8059–60). Accounts later drawn up by Robert Mignon mention payments for works at Poissy to Nicolaus de Clermont between 1317–1322 and to Vibert Louel between 1322–1323 (V. Langlois, Inventaire d'Anciens Comptes Royaux dressé par Robert Mignon sous le Règne de Philippe le Valois, Paris, 1899, pp. 275ff.


The nuns were, in theory and intention if not necessarily in actuality, completely enclosed. They might be heard but not seen in their choir which was cut off from the rest of the church. Much of the chapter “De Edificiis” in the early fourteenth-century version of the Dominican Constitutions for nuns is devoted to defining the various grills to be set up in the church and monastery and other structural requirments to ensure adequate enclosure for the nuns (Constitutions from Poissy. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek ms Clm 10170. fol. 144–145). A grill allowed them to witness the celebration of the Mass and see the high altar while remaining separate and protected from view. The priest came to the grill to administer the eucharist to the nuns.


J. B. Feuillet. Année Dominicaine, I, Amiens. 1678. p. 738; M.-D. Chapotin. A Travers l'Histoire Dominicaine, Paris, 1903, p. 392.


The church, destroyed in 1808, measured 82.5 × 30 m. (transepts 40 m.) and has been considered to emulate deliberately St. Louis' monastic building style at Royaumont (Robert Branner, St. Louis and the Court Style in Gothic Architecture, London, 1965, pp. 135–7; Erlande-Brandenburg, “La Priorale”, pp. 98ff), an hypothesis which has been critically examined and amplified in the context of other works undertaken by Philippe le Bel (Willibald Sauerländer. “Storicismo e Classicismo nel Gotico Settentrionale Intorno al 1300” in Roma Anno 1300, Rome, 1983, pp. 861–73). For the layout and function of the various parts of the church and the sculptural decoration see Erlande-Brandenburg, “La Priorale”, pp. 100–12: idem. “Art et Politique sous Philippe le Bel. La priorale Saint-Louis de Poissy”, Comptes Rendus d'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, 1987, pp. 507–18.


Foundation Charter of 1304 (Paris, Archives Nationales, JJ 2. fol. 42–43v; version in French published in Moreau-Rendeau. Prieuré Royal, p. 316).


The plan was prepared by Louis XIV's architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, after a lightning strike initiated a three-day fire which resulted in considerable damage to the upper part of the church in July 1695 (M.-D. Chapotin, La Guerre de la Succession de Poissy (1660–1707), Paris, 1892, pp. 141ff). The choirstalls were sold at the auction of church furniture and other effects on 6 ventôse, year II (February 1794): “Les deux range de stalles en droite en entrant par la grill … 428 livres. Lautre costé des dittes stalles a gauche 402 livres” (Versailles, Archives des Yvelines, III Q 60).


Breviaries from Poissy bear two nuns' names suggesting they were held in common. The size of the books and script is appropriate for two people in adjacent stalls reading from one manuscript placed between them on the desk in front.


These and ensuing regulations for the conduct of the Office by the Dominicans were itemised by the fifth Master General, Humbert of Romans, in the thirteenth century (Humbert of Romans, Opera de Vita Regulari, ed. J. J. Berthier, Turin, 1956, II, pp. 238–46). Since the Order lived according to the brief, very generalised Augustinian rule, further instructions on the conduct of each aspect of their house were furnished by the Master General and other authorities (Hinnebusch, Dominican Order, I, p. 381). The continued influence of Humbert's instructions persists in the modern Ceremonial for nuns in which many of his directives for conduct of the Office are retained (Ceremonial of the Irish Dominican Congregation, 1930, passim). Since the nuns followed the same liturgy as the friars according to the same ritual (Hinnebusch, Dominican Order, I, p. 382) I have substituted feminine forms for Humbert's references to friars.


“Ad ipsum pertinet sedere in choro dextro; potest tamen causa officii mutare sedem, et stare modo supra, modo infra; modo in choro majori, modo in choro minori; et quandoque transire ad sinistrum” (Humbert, Opera, II, p. 241).


“Debet excitare fratres dormitantes in choro, et torpentes incitare ad cantandum et psallendum …” (ibid., p. 243).


To my knowledge-no large choirbooks from Poissy survive. The nuns, however, did own such books. In 1790 ten were kept in an ‘armoire’ in the nuns' choir according to an inventory conducted by the Revolutionary authorities: ‘dix gros volumes de chants, servant pour le lutrin’ (Versailles, Archives des Yvelines, III Q 60). Possibly they were very ordinary printed books since ‘12 livres d'Eglise’ were sold for only 3 livres 7 sous at auction two years later. 7 sous above the asking price (ibid.). Large Antiphonaries known to have belonged to other female Dominican houses in the fourteenth century include those probably owned by the monastery at Marienthal in Flanders (approx. 385 × 285 mm. and 430 × 300 mm., Brussels. Bibliothèque Royale, mss 155, 3585–6, 223–4, 6429–30) and by the German nuns of St. Catherine at Diessenhofen (4 volume set, approx. 470 × 345 mm.; Vatican Library, ms lat. 10770–10772, 10775).


From the extremely sparse records of the nuns known to have held the position for a precise period. Prégunte de Melun who was subsequently novice mistress and prioress (d. 1521) was chantress for seventeen years (T. Soueges. Année Dominicaine, I, Amiens, 1684, p. 389); the devout Marguerite Manchot (d. 1639) for forty years (Feuillet, Année Dominicaine, II, pp. 439ff); and Geneviève de Brécourt was still chantress in 1662 having held the office for fourteen years (Rome, Santa Sabina, Dominican Archives, XII 30510, no.72).


Humbert, Opera, II, p. 238.


Michel Huglo, Les Livres de Chant Liturgique, Turnhout, 1988, p. 91.


Now in the Dominican Archives, Santa Sabina, Rome, this exemplar was the standard to which all copies of the Dominican liturgy were required to conform (idem, “Règlement du XIII siècle pour la transcription des livres notés” in Festschrift Bruno Stäblein zum 70. Geburtstag, Kassel, 1967, p. 132). Though lacking the first few folios of the Antiphonary, the content can be established from the exact copy made a few years later for the Master General's use, now London, British Library, Add. ms 23,935 (G. R. Galbraith, The Constitution of the Dominican Order 1216–1360, Manchester, 1925, pp. 193–8; Huglo, “Règlement”, pp. 132ff;). Other Antiphonaries which incorporate both the tonary and scribal instructions were made for Dominican houses situated in or near Paris (ibid, 128), including this manuscript and the earlier Antiphonary made for Poissy (London, British Library, Add. ms 30, 072).


The Latin text is transcribed in S. J. P. van Dijk. Sources of the Modern Roman Liturgy, I, Leiden, 1963, p. 118, Huglo, “Règlement”, pp. 124ff, and that of the present manuscript in Sinclair, Descriptive Catalogue, p. 370. Our scribe has rendered two words at variance with the Master General's copy of the Dominican archetype: ‘iota’ for ‘nota’ and ‘in choro’ for ‘inchoari'. I follow Huglo in his interpretation of the phrase ‘decetero in quocumque libro de novo scribendo’ (Huglo, “Règlement”, n. 41).


For a reproduction of pen-flourished work in the hymnal section see Manion and Vines, Illuminated Manuscripts, fig. 175.


The development of the master's style is analysed in Kathleen Morand, Jean Pucelle, Oxford, 1962, his wide-ranging influence exemplified by François Avril, “Manuscrits” in Les Fastes du Gothique, Paris, 1981, pp. 276–362.


Reproduced as Manion and Vines, Illuminated Manuscripts, plate 37.


Joan Diamond, “Manufacture and Market in Parisian Book Illumination around 1300” in E. Liskar (ed.), Europäische Kunst um 1300, Vienna, 1986, pp. 101–110; Richard and Mary Rouse, “The Commercial Production of Manuscript Books in Late-Thirteenth-Century and Early-Fourteenth-Century Paris” in L. L. Brownrigg (ed.), Medieval Book Production. Assessing the Evidence, Oxford, 1990, pp. 103–115.


Reproduced in Sotheby's Catalogue, plate 12 and Manion and Vines, Illuminated Manuscripts, fig. 176 respectively. The Translation differs little from the Translation of St. Francis in the Breviary made in Paris for the Franciscan nun Blanche de France (Vatican Library, ms Urb. lat. 603, fol. 389v), while the Adoration of the Magi is a stock item in many Parisian books of the time. Other illustrations which have been reproduced from the manuscript are those of the feasts of St Peter Martyr (fol. 257v), St Dominic (fol. 294v), Ss Peter and Paul (fol. 281v) and St Louis (fol. 311v) in Manion and Vines, Illuminated Manuscripts, pp. 165ff with comparative depictions from a Breviary made for Poissy.


According to a letter which the king wrote in 1299 to the Dominican Provincial Prior: “quoddam monasterium sororum inclusarum ordinis vestri apud Pyssiacum construi faciamus, bonis regalibus fundandum juxta munificentiam regiam et dotandum” (Bernard Gui, E Notitia Provinciarum et Domorum Ordinis Praedicatorum in Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et de la France, vol. 23, Paris, 1876, p. 191).


Sauerländer, “Storicismo e Classicismo”, p. 872.


To be the subject of a forthcoming paper provisionally entitled “Philippe le Bel and the earliest manuscripts at Poissy”, See earlier for the Antiphonary, London, British Library, Add. ms. 30, 072.


The Constitutions from Poissy declare that objects ‘curiositate’ and ‘superfluitate', since they do not serve religion, have no place in the nuns' buildings (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek ms Clm 10170, Cap. 28, fol. 144).


The foundation charter, dated 1304, provided 260 livres annually to cover the expense of housing the attached friars (Paris, Archives Nationales. JJ 2, fol. 42–43v; French version printed in Moreau-Rendeau, Prieuré Royal, p. 314). The nuns used this to furnish the friars' material necessities, meals and upkeep, even to the extent of “quatre pos de chambre pour les Pères” (ibid., p. 220). Since the nuns were cloistered an administrator was necessary to deal with the running, sale and purchase of their property and to represent them in court. The incumbent was variously a Dominican friar, a secular priest or a layman (Odette Dufourcq-Latron, “Le Monastère Royale de Saint-Louis de Poissy” in Positions des Thèses, École Nationale des Chartes, Paris, 1929, 84). His responsibility to the prioress is made clear in the approval of the Dominican Master General 1494 for Friar Mollis, magister, to act as procurator for the monastery “ad libitum prioresse” (Rome, Santa Sabina, Dominican Archives, IV 14, Registrum litterarum et actorum fr. Joachim Turriani, Mag. Gen. pro annis 1491–94, fol. 53).


Exemplified by cartulary documents for the Grange Saint-Louis, bought in the name of the prioress, Marie de Bourbon, in 1390, with deeds for sale of parts of the property and purchase of additions to it up until 1697, the decisions ratified by the nuns' council (Versailles, Archives des Yvelines, III Q 60). The prioress elected by the nuns was, during the first two centuries at Poissy, always chosen with concern for her managerial acumen (“a cause de bon sens et jugement”) having an established record in administrative offices such as cellaress, sacristan, and sub-prioress (Liste des prieures du monastere de S. Louis de Poissy, Ordre de S. Dominique, fondé l'an 1304 par le Roy Philippe le Bel, extraite des anciens comptes, et autres Monumens …, c. 1664, passim).


The manuscript was bought in 1947 by the Library following the dispersal of the books of the celebrated English collector, Sir Thomas Phillipps, whose thousands of dearly-loved manuscripts were to him “a never failing solace in every trouble” (quoted in A. N. L. Munby, Phillipps Studies, IV, Cambridge, 1956, p. 171), as he may well have needed when, indebted by his purchases, his creditors were demanding satisfaction. The Antiphonary, one of the earliest additions to his collection (number 223), was probably acquired on a buying expedition to Paris before 1824 (Sinclair, “Phillipps Manuscripts”, p. 333). It is one of a numbr of very fine manuscripts from the Phillipps' collection in the State Library of Victoria, almost all purchased in the same year after a consignment of former Phillipps' manuscripts was sent to Australia for exhibition and resale (Manion and Vines, Illuminated Manuscripts, pp. 39, 178). I have recently identified a second manuscript from Poissy in Australia, a sixteenth-century processional in the State Library of Western Australia.