Calendar for the use of Augustinian Friars: feasts in red include St Augustine, 28 Feb. (the translation of his relics from Sardinia to Pavia), 5 May, 28 Aug. (‘patris nostri, duplex maius’; with octave, ‘duplex minus’), 11 Oct. (first translation), Monica, Augustine’s mother, 9 Apr., 4 May (‘duplex maius’, with octave), Nicholas of Tolentino, 5 June, 10 Sept. (‘ordinis heremitae S. Augustini duplex maius’; with octave), (f.1r); ‘Incipit Manuale sancte Marie de populo alme urbis secundum consuetudine Romae curie’, Temporale (f.11r), the litany of saints (f.62v) with ‘sancte pater Augustine’; lists of different antiphons depending on what day Christmas falls (f.125r) and rubrics for variants through the year (f.126v); Sanctorale (f.131r) from Saturninus to Simplicianus, with a long rubric (f.181r) following the feast of St Augustine concerning a papal bull dated 1493 of Alexander VI solemnising the feast; Common of Saints (f.203r); Office of the Virgin (f.218v); Office of the Dead (f.225r), followed by the Ordos for visiting the sick (f.23v), Last Rites (f.238v), and burial (f.251r); blessings to be said at meals through the year (f.252r); added prayers to Sts Monica and Nicholas of Tolentino (f.253r).
The opening page of the main text (f.11r) has two historiated initials and a full border encompassing five saints and a Prophet: (1) initial ‘F’ with Virgin and Child behind a ledge inscribed ‘S. M. D. POPVLO’; (2) initial ‘E’ with St Paul; the side borders depict (3) Isaiah and (4) St Nicholas of Tolentino (with book and a lily in his hands and a glowing sun on his breast), the lower corners depict Sts (5) Stephen and (6) Lawrence, while Sts (7) Monica and (8) Augustine are in the middle of the upper and lower borders. The largest initial depicts (9) St Paul (f.203r). The image of the Virgin and Child is clearly a copy of the famous ‘Madonna del Populo’ icon, reputed to have been painted by St Luke.
The other illuminated initials mark the following feasts: Christmas (f.30r), Epiphany (f.42r), Easter (f.93r), Ascension (f.103r, 103v), Pentecost (f.106r, 106v), Trinity Sunday (f.110r), Corpus Christi (f.113r x2), the Conception of the Virgin (f. 133r), Purification (f. 138r), Annunciation (f.142r), Invention of the Cross (f.147r), John the Baptist (f.154r), Peter & Paul (f.157v), Visitation (f.162v), Transfiguration (f.169r), Laurence (f.171v), Assumption (f.173v), St Augustine (f.177r, 177v), the birth of the Virgin (f.184r x2), Nicholas of Tolentino (ff.186v, 187r), the Exaltation of the Cross (f.189r), the dedication of San Michele (f.191v), All Saints (f.195 x2), the Dedication of a church (f.217r); a few of them are historiated, e.g. the second Corpus Christi initial depicts a chalice and host, and the Invention of the Cross depicts the Cross.
Probably founded in the 13th century, the church of Sta Maria del Popolo in Piazza del Popolo was, and remains, one of the most famous churches in Rome. During the 1470s, Pope Sixtus IV (born Francesco della Rovere, d.1484) demolished the medieval church and rebuilt it as one of the city’s first Renaissance churches, and a dynastic monument of the della Rovere family. His nephew, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, commissioned a new high altar for the icon of the Virgin – depicted in the present manuscript – to which another nephew, Giuliano, had a special devotion after he became Pope Julius II (1503–15). The illuminator of the present manuscript has not yet been identified, but the environment of art patronage in which it was commissioned is clear.
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