Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 4274, fols. 2-11

Statutes of the Ordre de Saint-Esprit au Droit Désir Facsimile Edition

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The Statutes of the Ordre de Saint-Esprit au Droit Désir is the royal copy of the foundation document of the chivalric order established by Louis of Taranto, King of Naples, in 1352. Lavishly illuminated by Cristoforo Orimina, the thin volume was created in the court scriptorium of the kingdom of Naples in 1353-1354. Every one of its seventeen pages shimmers with figural scenes and ornamental motifs of high artistic quality in a brilliant palette dominated by deep blue and gold.

The statutes of the order—dedicated to the Holy Spirit of the Christian Trinity and known also as the Order of the Knot—outline the membership of and rules of conduct for the order's elite "company" of knights loyal to Louis, styled in the manuscript as "King of Jerusalem and Sicily."

Influence of Giotto

The manuscript's painter, Cristoforo Orimina painted in the manner of Giotto, an undisputed master active at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Although working in the medium of manuscript painting, Orimina painted in a style strongly influenced by the illusionistically rendered solid figures and calm narrative clarity of the panel and mural painting of Giotto, who was employed by King Robert "the Wise," to create works in Naples.

A Frontispiece Honoring the Trinity

This copy of the Statutes was made for Louis and his wife, Joanna. They are both shown kneeling before a Throne of Grace Trinity—the dove of the Holy Spirit descending from a large, seated God the Father to the crucified Christ—in the full-page frontispiece (fol. 2v). They are labeled in gold display script above and below the image.

Scenes of Ceremony and Military Preparedness

Many of the manuscript's miniatures show aspects of the induction of knights into the order, which involved kissing Louis's feet, and the annual convocation of the knights. Orimina has taken advantage of the border of one page (fol. 5r) to show knights traveling to the meeting. At the annual gathering, which included a banquet hosted by Louis, they are all dressed in the order's "habit" of a white robe with a gold band across the chest (fol. 6v).

Knights of the order were expected to be prepared to fight to recapture Jerusalem if called upon to do so by the king, a scenario evoked in the manuscript by a scene of a ship being loaded to transport knights to the Holy Land and featuring banners—including those of Naples, the papacy, Jerusalem, and England (fol. 6r). The banners of the order, one featuring the dove of the Holy Spirit and the other a gold Solomon's knot, are also on display.

Conscious Use of the French Language

Niccolò Acciaiuoli composed the statutes in the "French of Naples" to emphasize Louis's ties to the ruling Angevin dynasties north of the Alps. The text was written by a single scribe in Gothic Rotunda, with the opening rubric in gold. One rule, established at the first meeting of the order in 1353, is inscribed in gold display script in a space originally reserved for a miniature (fol. 4r).

Bound with a Printed Book

The Republic of Venice owned the manuscript by 1574, when the republic donated it to Henry III (1551-1589), King of France. It then passed through the possession of Philippe Hurault (1528-1599); Philippe II Hurault de Cheverny (1579-1620), Bishop of Chartres; René de Longueil (1597-1677); and Nicolas de Nicolaï (1623-1686). The antiquarian François-Roger de Gaignières (1642-1715) had a copy made and then acquired the book. After ownership by Louis-Jean Gaignat (1697-1768) and Louis César de LaBaume LeBlanc de La Vallière (1708-1780), the manuscript was purchased for the Bibliothèque royale in 1784. By then the manuscript had been bound with a printed book about the order published in 1764. The royal library was a foundation collection of the Bibliothèque nationale (now Bibliothèque nationale de France).

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Statutes of the Ordre de Saint-Esprit au Droit Désir": Le Regole della Cavalleria. Statuti dell'Ordine del Santo Spirito dal Giusto Desiderio facsimile edition, published by Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani, 2019

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Manuscript book description compiled by Elizabeth Teviotdale.
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Le Regole della Cavalleria. Statuti dell'Ordine del Santo Spirito dal Giusto Desiderio

Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani, 2019

  • Commentary (Italian) by Barbero, Alessandro; Cursi, Marco; Palumbo, Giovanni; Perriccioli Saggese, Alessandra
  • Limited Edition: 299 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Statutes of the Ordre de Saint-Esprit au Droit Désir: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

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