Ivrea, Biblioteca Capitolare di Ivrea, ms. LXXXVI/31

Sacramentarium Episcopi Warmundi Facsimile Edition

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Little is known with certainty concerning Bishop Warmundus of Ivrea who compiled this fascinating and unusual sacramentary in late tenth-century Italy. Enriched with interlace initials and sixty-two miniatures, the text of the sacramentary is based on the Gregorian model and includes a collection of prayers, masses, and sacraments for the bishop’s use on the feast days of Christ, the Virgin, the saints, as well as a liturgy for the dead. Since the sacramentary was to be used by a bishop it also includes rites for the consecration of a king and the ordination of a bishop. Warmundus also composed poetry and prayers for the sacramentary which themselves identify him as a highly educated man. The codex is divided into two discrete parts, the sacramentarium, or sacramentary, and a supplement. Both parts begin with a list of the chapters they contain.

The rites for the ordination of a king provide a clue to the dating of the manuscript. The accompanying miniature depicts the Virgin crowning a king named as Otto (fol. 160v). It is unclear which of three Ottos it might be, and there are convincing arguments to support all three. Otto III was Emperor at the time the manuscript was produced; since the text in the Missa pro Regibus mentions "our Emperor Otto," who died in 1002, the manuscript must therefore have been initiated prior to 1002.

Unusual and Extensive Cycles

The sixty-two miniatures within the 222 folios are the work of several artists who shared common techniques, presenting a relatively homogenous appearance. The Byzantine style figures are more rounded than their Eastern counterparts, providing a more naturalistic appearance to the depictions.

They are complemented by numerous initials decorated with interlace throughout the manuscript, which clearly demonstrate their Carolingian and Ottonian origins. Often included are such motifs as dogs’ heads biting tails.

The miniatures are in pen and wash with a palette of green, red, turquoise, and yellow, sometimes applied in an apparently random manner. For example, on two folios which depict Warmundus, his hair is green on one (fol. 52v) but blue on another (fol. 57v). The miniatures are framed by borders, many with decorated corners, with explanatory text and prayers within the frame.

The unusual and extended cycle of eleven depictions detailing the order of Christian burial includes explanations and prayers as to how each stage should be ministered. A contemporary cycle concerned with ministering to the dying exists in a Fulda manuscript, the Göttingen Sacramentary (Göttingen, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Theol. 231) dated to around 975, but this cycle only features three depictions. Although Fulda was north of Ivrea, there are no known links between the two centers.

The moment of death is depicted in the Warmundus Sacramentary on fol. 194r with the soul, as a homunculus, leaving the mouth of the dying man. This is an extremely early motif of the soul at the last dying breath and one which became a feature in many depictions of dying saints and other dying figures during the Middle Ages.

The other unusual cycle is that of torture and martyrdom which accompanies the text for the feast of All Saints. The depictions are graphic in content and not linked to particular saints by name, thus providing a catalog of designs and devices.

There is no other such manual; sources for these depictions may have included the vitae, or Saints’ Lives, of individual saints which were often illustrated. One of these may have been the contemporary Life of Saints Kilian and Margaret, the Passio Kiliani, (Hannover, Germany, Niedersächsische Landesbibliothek, Ms. 189) created at Fulda.

Clear, Legible Writing

The text is written in Carolingian Minuscule, a form which included spaces between words and clear and regular rounded letter forms. The text varies in color with some sections in red, others blue or black, often with the initial capital larger and in a contrasting color.

From around 820 Carolingian Minuscule was used in Italy and became the standard form of script during the Carolingian period. The manuscript text exhibits various signs of earlier Merovingian and chancery practice, for example in the use of frequent monograms, and conventional abbreviations with flourishes and embellishments.

Kings, Nobles, and Conflict

The diocese of Ivrea was an important position for the three Ottos. Ivrea was not only a culturally significant center but was also strategically important, providing ready access to the kingdoms of what is now Italy to the Germanic Kings and nobles.

Warmundus is considered to have had Germanic origins and was appointed to ensure local allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire. Opposition by local minor nobles was supported by Arduin, the marquis of Ivrea who eventually was overcome. Otto III personally reinstated Warmundus as lord of Ivrea at the synod in Rome in April 999.

Warmundus features in several miniatures with a square nimbus, an iconographic feature of the period attesting to his being alive at the time the manuscript was initiated. Unusually for the period, the date of his death is uncertain. Scholars consider that he died in the early eleventh century between 1002 and 1006, but also that he may have died as late as 1011.

The dates of his abbacy are equally uncertain, but evidence demonstrates that he was in place at the time of the provincial synod in Milan in 969 and that his episcopacy began on 7th March 966.

Bishop Warmundus’ Sacramentary, now with two missing folios, remains in the cathedral library at Ivrea.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Sacramentarium Episcopi Warmundi": Sacramentarium Episcopi Warmundi facsimile edition, published by Priuli & Verlucca, editori, 1990

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Manuscript book description compiled by Maria R. Grasso.
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Sacramentarium Episcopi Warmundi

Scarmagno: Priuli & Verlucca, editori, 1990

  • Commentary (English, French, Italian) by Bettazzi, Luigi; Dell'Oro Ferdinando; Magnani, Luigi
  • Limited Edition: 1000 copies
  • This is a partial facsimile of the original document, Sacramentarium Episcopi Warmundi: the facsimile might represent only a part, or doesn't attempt to replicate the format, or doesn't imitate the look-and-feel of the original document.

The facsimile (fully colored) is the complete reproduction of the whole original document in its original size. The edition features both facsimile and commentary in one volume. The commentary includes the printed transcription of the Latin manuscript, plus a historical introduction edited by the former bishop of Ivrea Monsignor Luigi Bettazzi, and an accurate study of the codex that Luigi Magnani wrote in 1934 for the Vatican Apostolic Library. The pages are represented on a larger white background.

This facsimile edition was presented for the first time on March 19th, 1990 on occasion of the pastoral visit of the Holy Father John Paul II to the Diocese of Ivrea. 


Hand-bound in natural leather, with blind toolings on the boards and spine. Slipcase with wooden headboards and leather sides with blind toolings. 

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approx US$ 1,568

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