'The Parc Missal', Missal for Major Feasts, Premonstratensian Use, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on parchment

[Belgium, probably Louvain] 1521


 The Crucifixion miniature in the Park Missal
Click here to see a flat image of these pages

A missal contains the texts necessary for the celebration of mass; the present manuscript only contains the most important feasts of the year, and thus would only have been used on special occasions. While a priest celebrating mass at an altar has his back to the church, an open missal would be visible to any onlookers, with the result that they are often finely illuminated, as befits the paraphernalia used in the celebration of the Eucharist.

This is a particularly large and lavishly decorated example, whose origins are recorded by the scribe at the beginning: 'Istud Missale scribi fecit reverendus pater dominus Ambrosius de Angelis. Abbas modernus huius monasterij Parchensis ordinis premonstratensium prope Lovanium. Per Fransiscum Weert. Anno virginei partus. Mo.CCCCCo.xxio. finit feliciter', i.e. 'The reverend father lord Ambrose van Engelen, present abbot of this monastery of Park, near Louvain, of the Premonstratenian Order, had this missal written, by Francis Weert, in the year 1521 after the Virgin birth. Happily it is finished' (fol.1v).

The Premonstratensians were a religious order of Canons, founded at Prémontré in France in 1120, following a form of the Rule of St Augustine. The full-page Crucifixion miniature, which would have been visible when the officiating priest reaching the central part of the mass, depicts St Augustine in the right foreground and Park Abbey in the background. On the facing page Abbot Ambrose van Engelen is shown kneeling in the corner, between his heraldic arms and his name-sake St Ambrose.

Given to the College in 1852 by Henry Boucher, commoner (B.A. 1819, M.A. 1821).

Text kindly provided, especially for this exhibition, by Peter Kidd