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Liturgical manuscripts – University of Copenhagen

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Liturgical manuscripts

Beginning of a prayer: O sødhe herre Iesu Christe Jeg bedher teg ydmyghelig ffor thin hellighe døbelssæ...

Liturgical manuscripts include psalters, prayer books and legends.

Prayer books

The bulk of the preserved Danish prayer books from the late Middle Ages were used by women. The female owners often named themselves in the prayers, especially in prayers for themselves, known as 'name prayers'. An example of this can be found in AM 421 12mo where the owner, Marine Jespersdatter, calls upon God to 'give me, your humble servant Mariane Jespersdatter, strength to overcome all my foes'.

AM 421 12mo. Marine Jespersdatter's prayer book from after 1514 (1517)

The pages shown here contain an illustrated prayer for Jesus' ascension. The prayer is part of a rosary called the Psalter of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Trinity. Click on the picture to turn the pages in the manuscript. See a transcription of another prayer on page 58.

A digital edition of Marine Jespersdatter's prayer book with pictures, the transcribed text and a description of the manuscript may be found here.

AM 423 12mo. Marine Lauridsdatter's prayer book from around the Reformation

A note at the back of the manuscript states that this prayer book belongs to Maren Lauridsdatter Løvenbalk of Tjele (d. 24/10/1554), who in 1529 got married to Erik Skram Fasti of Hastrup (d. 30/04/1568), with whom she had four children. The book measures 111 x 85 x 35 mm (approx. 4½" x 3½" x 1½") and consists of two parts, 186 leaves in all, wrapped in a homemade leather binding covered in silk. The same name also appears in a name prayer (as 'marine Lawrits datter') as well as in an intercession to Virgin Mary (as 'marinne lauris Datther').

 

Legends

Fragment of a translation of Legenda Aurea in Old Danish: an excerpt from the legend of St. Cecilia is shown here.

A legend or vita is a didactic story about a holy person's life and death. A legend (Latin legenda, literally 'that which has to be read') was read during mass on a saint's day and gave a didactic narration of the holy person's way of life, miracles and death as a martyr. Legenda aurea (the Golden Legend) from the middle of the 13th century contains more than 400 legends.

AM 233 a fol.

AM 233 a fol. from the first half of the 1300s is an Icelandic manuscript that contains several fragments of legends of both male and female saints and holy persons: John the Baptist, Virgin Mary, Saint Catherine and more.

AM 235 fol.

The Icelandic manuscript AM 235 fol. from around 1400 contains a wide collection of legends of holy men and women. The manuscript has once belonged to the bishop's see in Skálholt. It was at some point owned or used by a woman who left her traces in the shape of an embroidery pattern on fol. 20v.

AM 429 12mo

AM 429 12mo, also known as Kirkjubæjarbók (book from Kirkjubær), is a manuscript in Icelandic from around 1500 containing various legends of female saints, for example Margrétar saga, which was used to protect women during childbirth. Furthermore, a user's comment on p. 54 tells us that the manuscript had also been used as a toy ('þetta er bok gudrunar ad leika sier ad þui hun rifnar ei þo ostillt sie med fared': 'This is Gudrun's book for her to play with, since it does not get damaged no matter how badly you treat it').