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Decretum: MS 183

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Current Location: In storage




Author: Gratian
Artist: B 18 Master (alias Second Master of the San Domenico Choir




PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Parchment, iii modern parchment flyleaves + 341 fols. (foliated 1-274, 274*, 275-291, 291*, 292-339) + iii modern parchment flyleaves, 480 x 300 mm (except De consecratione, fols. 312r-339v, 478 x 285 mm), four columns (390 x 245 mm), main text in two central columns (270 x 170 mm), varying number of lines, pecia marks, running headers, quire and leaf signatures, catchwords

BINDING: Nineteenth century, blind-stamped brown leather over wooden boards, lettered on spine Corpus Juris Canonici cum splendidissimis picturis Giotti Florentini.

CONTENTS: fols. 1r-339v Gratian, Decretum, with Bartholomeus of Brescia, Glossa ordinaria (with sigla of Laurentius)

DECORATION: Frontispiece including a two-column framed miniature showing Christ conversing with the Doctors in the Temple, supported by three Caryatid-like figures, three historiated initials in pink or grey on gold grounds illustrating the beginning of Gratian’s Decretum , [H, 8 ll.] Gratian writing, quaestio 1, [O, 5 ll.] bust of priest, the start of Bartholomeus of Brescia’s Glossa ordinaria, [Q, 4 ll.] bust of priest, and and an Annunciation in the upper margin consisting of three figures: the Archangel Gabriel approaching from the left, the Virgin seated in the centre, gold rays streaming towards her from a cloud above, and Joseph as a carpenter (fol. 1r).

Thirty-eight framed column miniatures [18-22 ll.] accompanied by historiated initials [8 ll.] enclosing a bust-length figure of a lawyer, scholar or ecclesiastic, for Causae: fol. 78v Causa I, A child being grabbed by his mother, while another child is being presented by his father to monks standing by an altar (artist’s conflation with Causa XX and misunderstanding of this case, which treats the admission of an under-age child into a monastery through a bribe); fol. 100r Causa II, Pope enthroned and addressing a bishop accused of fornication by a girl standing with her companion before clerics; fol. 117v Causa III, Bishop, who has lost his see, appeals to the Pope to reinstate him; fol. 125v Causa IV, Two young clerics kneeling before the Pope and accusing an older cleric (a bishop without a mitre), who turns away, refusing to respond to charges brought improperly; fol. 128r Causa V, A lawyer, secretly instructed by a clergyman on the right, kneels before the Pope and accuses a bishop in his absence (bishop shown behind among clerics); fol. 130v Causa VI, Two fornicators accusing a bishop of simony before the Pope; fol. 133v Causa VII, Young man standing before the Pope replaces an ill bishop, who recovers, sitting up in bed on the right, and instructs his lawyer to seek his reinstatement; fol. 138v Causa VIII, Dying bishop unlawfully appoints his successor, who is shown receiving his mitre and standing before the Pope; fol. 141v Causa IX, Pope blessing two clerics, while two others bring in an excommunicated bishop who had improperly deposed clergy in his province and ordained others in a different one; fol. 144r Causa X, Pope addressing a lay patron who had withdrawn a church from Episcopal control, while two clerics address a civil judge; fol. 147r Causa XI, Pope addressing a pleading cleric who has been sued by another cleric in a civil court (two clerics addressing a civil judge behind), in violation of the Church’s immunity from civil prosecution; fol. 157r Causa XII, Bishop in his sickbed, with a cleric and two companions, two other clerics handing a plea to the Pope (artist’s conflation with Causa VII and misunderstanding of this case, which treats clerical bequests of church property); fol. 167r Causa XIII, Soldier standing over a mother and a child, while two women lay offerings on an altar attended by a priest (the case treats disputes over the tithes of parishioners fleeing their church in war time); fol. 171r Causa XIV, Two clerics, who have been involved in commerce and lawsuits to recover debts, appeal to the Pope, while a lawyer and a girl look on; fol. 174r Causa XV, Priest committing a murder and being accused of fornication, prior to his ordination, by his mistress who addresses a bishop; fol. 178v Causa XVI, Abbot consecrating an altar in an abbot’s church, to which he has appointed a monk as a parish priest, and a priest celebrating Mass in a local church, which is subject to the bishop; fol. 192r Causa XVII, Priest in his sickbed decides to become a monk and resigns his benefice; fol. 195r Causa XVIII, Two clerics approaching an abandoned altar with an abbot who has been ordained bishop, but wants to influence the election of his successor to the abbacy; fol. 197v Causa XIX, Two clerics, who want to become monks, one against his bishop’s will, the other having renounced his canonry, approach the Pope, on the right one of them puts on the habit while three monks look on; fol. 198v Causa XX, Two brothers join a monastery as novices, one of them willingly, being presented by his father, the other one coerced by is mother, against his will; fol. 201r Causa XXI, Pluralist priest, involved in secular affairs, is disciplined by his bishop (Pope on the left), abandons his office and seeks refuge before a secular judge (on the right); fol. 202v Causa XXII, Pope conducting an oath (artist’s misunderstanding of this case, which concerns a bishop who has committed perjury and compels his clergy to swear obedience); fol. 209v Causa XXIII, Heretical bishop, who has committed, together with his community, violent crimes against their orthodox neighbours (on the right), appears with his clergy before the Pope; fol. 226v Causa XXIV, Heretical bishop (on the right) dismisses some of his clerics who appeal to the Pope (on the left); fol. 236v Causa XXV, Pope receiving pleas from two groups of monks led by a kneeling brother in blue (artist’s misunderstanding of this case, which discusses the conflict between parish clergy and the monks who own the parish partially and whose monastery is exempt from tithes); fol. 240r Causa XXVI, Two priests and two women accused of sorcery and divination appear before the Pope, the priest accused of necromancy and fortune-telling is shown on the right seated on a bridge and gazing up at the stars; fol. 246r Causa XXVII, Pope looks on as a man vowed to chastity is rejected by his wife-to-be and she is then embraced by her newly chosen husband; fol. 253v Causa XXVIII, Man who converts to Christianity is abandoned by his wife, who marries a non-Christian man depicted on the right in a prosperous merchant’s gown, when his second, Christian wife dies, the convert becomes a cleric and is shown on the left kneeling before the Pope who is cutting his tonsure; fol. 256v Causa XXIX, Nobleman kneeling before a noble woman who is to marry him on the left, on the right she is married to an imposter of servile rank standing before a priest; fol. 258r Causa XXX, Two mothers, one holding a child, an old man and a young man approach a priest bending over a baptismal font, the young man receives his child back after the baptism, while his wife would receive the other couple’s child; fol. 261r Causa XXXI, Woman grabs a young man by the waist, old man addresses another woman, the first woman kisses the hand of the first man, now in long robes (artist’s incongruous representation of the case, which concerns a wife who marries her seducer after her cuckolded husband’s death and the disputed marriage of their daughter); fol. 263r Causa XXXII, Man rapes a woman, another man and woman conduct union between a boy and a girl (artist’s incongruous representation of the case, which involves a man who married a sterile prostitute and then sought to have children with a servant, to have his wife raped and dismissed, and to remarry a non-Christian); fol. 271v Causa XXXIII, Impotent man, affected by witchcraft, stands beside his wife, who embraces (and subsequently marries) a lover, on the right the impotent man makes a gesture of rejection, since he has recovered his virility and his wife, but is now taking a vow of chastity, his wife gestures in dismay; fol. 275r De poenitentia, Bishop preaching from a pulpit, while a Dominican friar hears a woman’s confession on the right; fol. 303r, Causa XXXIV, Man is held captive in a tower on the right, his wife, shown embracing a lover in the centre, remarries, but her first husband is released and appeals to the pope on the left; fol. 304v Causa XXXV, Bishop addressing a group of women and a widower gathered around his wife’s body on a bier (the case concerns a widower who marries a woman too closely related to his first wife and feigns ignorance); fol. 310v Causa XXXVI, Man and woman dine on the left, embrace in the centre and marry on the right (the case deals with ‘date rape’); fol. 312r De consecratione, Bishop, accompanied by an acolyte and another cleric, sprinkles holy water over an altar on the left, on the right, a priest, accompanied by two clerics, elevates the Host during Mass.

Numerous historiated initials enclosing bust-length figures of lawyers, scholars, priests, civilians or disembodied ‘moon faces’, for Causae [8 ll.] and quaestiones [4 ll.].

ORNAMENTATION: Pink or grey initials [3-4 ll.] with foliate ornament on gold or blue grounds for gloss on Causae and quaestiones; alternate red and blue initials [1-3 ll.] with purple or red pen flourishing for titles within distinctiones, quaestiones and gloss on them; alternate blue and red paraph marks; numbers of Causae and quaestiones written in alternate blue and red capitals and Roman numerals in gloss and running headers.


History note: Copied for or by dominus Hertm[un]dus (according to Pink 1959) or dominus Bertm[un]dus (for Bertrandus according to Kuttner 1937), as recorded on fol. 99r; seventeenth-century inscription, Ex bibliotheca V. Zanli (fol. 1r); William Bragge (1823-1884); purchased for the Museum at his sale, Sotheby’s, London, 7-10 June 1876, lot 149, for £105.

Place(s) associated

  • Bologna

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bought (1876) by Bragge, William


14th Century, first half#
Circa 1320 CE - Circa 1330 CE

People, subjects and objects depicted


  • Cambridge Illuminated

Materials used in production


Components of the work

Support composed of parchment

Techniques used in production


Inscription or legends present

  • Text: [maio]res nati simul
  • Type: Secundo folio

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: MS 183
Primary reference Number: 178463
Project ID: 408
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 24 August 2020 Last processed: Thursday 7 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Manuscripts and Printed Books

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Decretum" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-04-22 05:19:28

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