Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Liturgical Life and Latin Learning at Paradies Bei Soest, 1300-1425: Inscription and Illumination in the Choir Books of a North German Dominican Convent

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Liturgical Life and Latin Learning at Paradies Bei Soest, 1300-1425: Inscription and Illumination in the Choir Books of a North German Dominican Convent

Article excerpt

Jeffrey F. Hamburger, Eva Schlotheuber, Susan Marti, and Margot Fassler, Liturgical Life and Latin Learning at Paradies bei Soest, 1300-1425: Inscription and Illumination in the Choir Books of a North German Dominican Convent (Münster: Aschendorff Verlag/National Museum of Women in the Arts, 20i6). 2 vols: xiv + 781 pp.; x + 636 pp. ISBN 978-3-402-13072-8. €178.00.

This book is exceptional on many levels - not the least of which is value for money. Aschendorff are to be congratulated for undertaking such an enormous production, lavishly designed and beautifully illustrated throughout (vol. II alone has 400 full-page illustrations of individual folios) at a comparatively affordable price. The 100-page, double-column bibliography is worth the cost on its own. Working together, Hamburger, Schlotheuber, Marti, and Fassler present the liturgical books (three graduals, one two-part antiphonary, and numerous fragments) produced by a convent of Westphalian Dominican nuns from an affluent northern outpost of the diocese of Cologne. They show the nuns not only creating their own liturgical texts, but producing in effect a kind of liturgical commentary, by the imaginative and original variety of illustration they provided for the historiated initials and the Latin captions they added to them. These teeming, tiny texts are drawn from a fascinating range of authors, from Bede and Bernard to Johannes Scotus Eriugena and Pseudo-Dionysius. The nuns did not stop at text and image; their own new musical sequences for the liturgy are reproduced and analysed.

Volume I first situates the nuns in the historical and ecclesiastical context of high-medieval Dominican reform in Germany. Part 2 presents the surviving manuscripts made at Soest (not all for internal consumption), some of which were collaborations between the nuns and outside professionals. Colophons allow us to name the sisters who wrote, decorated, and commissioned the material, although in practice these divisions were not quite so cut-and-dried. The authors suggest that the novelty of much of the illumination can be explained by the nuns taking as models the inscribed textiles found in women's monastic houses in that part of Germany. …

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