This is a page taken from a medieval breviary from 13th century Italy2

Found this document at The Antiquarium in Houston. Would like to know what it is describing. Translations as well as paraphrases will be equally appreciated.

  • Huge thanks to all of you for adding so much helpful information! Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 7:15

4 Answers 4


Here is a transcription starting from the first initial with only a few lacunae. I've mostly filled in the abbreviations and added punctuation, except when I didn't.

Cumque Anolinus huiuscemodi litteras accepisset, palam recitavit, sibique Nazarium offerri iussit. Dixitque ad eum, "Iussit inclitus imperator incidi cervices tuas pariter et puerorum Gervasii et Prothasii et Celsi pueri." Nazarius respondit, "Magnus Deus et magna opera eius qui nos absolvi iam iubet."

R/ Isti sunt incliti martyres Christi Gervasius et Prothasius, qui monita Dei ardentes, spernendo mundum secuti sunt domini nostri Iesu Christi pia vestigia.

V/ Nichil terrenum, nichil carnale concupiscentes in Mediolanensi urbe in Dei servitio perdurantes manserunt. Secuti [etc.]

?: Iusti autem in perpetuum vivent et apud Dominum est merces eorum.

[up to the initial, this next line is unclear and contains many technical abbreviations. I can only make out "Vos servi? Domini." The red line starts with "secundum." It continues:]

In illo tempore, egrediente Iesu de templo, ait illi unus de discipulis suis, "Magister, aspice quales lapides et quales structurae [column break] templi..." et rel[iqua]. (h/t Ben)

Iuxta historiam manifestus est sensus quia quadragesimo secundo anno post passionem Domini sub Vaspasiano et Tito Rommanorum principibus, ita funditus est ipsa civitas eversa cum templo suo magnificentissimo ut solo coaequaretur.

R/ Quae Beato Ambrosio revelata atque ab eodem reperta in ecclesia quam ipse proprio fundavit studio ostensis miraculis sunt sepulta. Quae domini, etc.

Quod etiam modo ambitus murorum qui ipsum locum circumdat, testatur eum locum Calvariae ubi Dominus extra passus est, et infra muros amplectitur.

R/ Beatissimo Ambrosio Mediolanensi episcopo per visum apparuit quo loco laterent corpora Gervasiii et Prothasii. At ubi agnitio sancti sacerdotis divina ostensione condonavit, invenit sanctos martyres in profundo terrae sicut the[saurum], etc.

Some notes:

  • I'm not an expert in thirteenth century Medieval liturgy, but based on what I know of more recent centuries, this looks to be like a part of the office for the feast day of Sts. Protasius and Gervasius. It includes the usual variation between verses, responses, and readings, building on a general theme.
  • Some of the narrative sections are taken, either word-for-word or in paraphrase, from the Analecta Bollandiana.
  • One strange part is that it launches into a Gospel before abruptly transitioning (starting with "iuxta historiam") to Jerome's Rabanus Maurus's (thanks, luchonacho!) commentary on that Gospel. I'm not sure why this is done.

Just wanting to add to brianpck's helpful answer since my account is too new to comment yet. The abrupt transition from a Gospel snippet to a patristic commentary on that Gospel is a standard feature of the Office of Matins on important liturgical days. It's still found in the most recent pre-Vatican-II edition of the Roman Breviary.

The snippet is the opening of the Gospel of the day's Mass. The words after templi are et rel.; i.e., et reliqua (and the rest).

So it is a brief recollection, or if you will, a preview, of the day's Gospel, with commentary. In recent breviaries this would be found in the final nocturn of Matins in place of the more extended hagiographical or patristic readings found in the other nocturns.


Update: Thanks to the text reconstruction by Brian, I could expand a bit my search. In effect, it seems to be a liturgical text, related to the feast of saints Gervasius and Protasius, celebrated on June 19. Text marked in red seems to be rubrics for instructions on praying.

The first column starts (from the capital C) with a main (boldish) text which Brian already presented:

Cumque Anolinus huiuscemodi litteras accepisset, palam recitavit, sibique Nazarium offerri iussit. Dixitque ad eum, "Iussit inclitus imperator incidi cervices tuas pariter et puerorum Gervasii et Prothasii et Celsi pueri." Nazarius respondit, "Magnus Deus et magna opera eius qui nos absolvi iam iubet."

I cannot find any reference to this text, but it seems to name the saints Nazarium and Celsus, which together with Gervasius and Protasius, were martyrs of Milan around the 3rd century.

Then, it comes the response (R):

Isti sunt inclyti martires christi geruasius et prothasius...

which is to the feast of these saints.

Then it comes the versicle Nihil terrenum, nihil carnale, also related to the feast of the saints.

Going to the second main text, this resembles quite well that found in a commentary on the gospel of St. Matthew (regarding the destruction of the temple; text closer to Mark 13:1 though) by Rabanus Maurus, written in the 9th century (so it would not be a commentary by Jerome, as Brian suggested). An example of the text can be found here (bottom of page 1086).

The next response (R) can also be found among the hymns related to the feast of the martyrs:

In Mediolanensis urbe beatorum...

Notice again Mediolanensis refers to the area of Milan in Latin.

The next response resembles that taken from a commentary by Gregoris Turonensis (or Gregory of Tours, from the 6th century) on the saints Gervasio, Protasio, Nazario and Celso (also found in the Patrologia Latina). As an hymn, it also belongs to the feast of the saints.

Then comes another main text, followed by another hymn related to the feast of the saints.

In conclusion, it seems pretty evident that the text, taking pieces and commentary regarding the lives of the saints here and there, and whose verses have been indexed as hymns of such feast, is a liturgical text used for celebrating the feast of Sts. Protasius and Gervasius, as also Brian concluded.

  • I've re-uploaded an image with higher resolution but it doesn't seem to show up here. The document was bought from the Antiquarium Houston and the description simply says "page from a monastic breviary, c. 1300. original manuscript on vellum". Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 14:09
  • 1
    I've uploaded another version to Imgur -- this one should be much more clear. Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 17:45
  • 1
    Thank you for the detailed answer! I am totally unaware that UWaterloo (where I am a student now) has a liturgical manuscript database -- would be good to do some further explorations there! Commented Jul 30, 2018 at 10:04

Here are two sentences from the readings which show that the service celebrates the foundation of a major church building. .1. The bottom line on the left says: What Stones! What Structures!

quales lapides et quales structurae

(which luchonacho identified as Mk 13.)

And .2. on the right, next to the tail of the blue and red “Q” “the circuit of the walls” ambitus murorum

Quod etiam modo (r~) ambitus murorum ipsum locum circumdat testatur calvariae ubi dominus extra passus et infra muros amplectitur.

Next to the last Red R/ on the page it describes how Bishop Ambrose found the relics of Saint Gervase and Saint Protasius, martyred in the time of Nero. These bones were built into the foundations of a magnificent new Church in Milan.

R/ Beatissimo Ambrosio Mediolanensi epo (episcopo) per iusum apparavit (appeared) quo loco laterent corpora Gervasii et Prothasii at ubi agnicio sancti sacerdotis divina ostensione condonavit invenit sanctos iuvenes in profundo

'To the most blessed Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, at his command there was revealed in what place the bodies of Gervase and Protasius lay, and confirmed where by divine indication to the awareness of the holy priest, he found the holy youths glistening deep down.'

  • 2
    I think you're right in the main, but wrong to dismiss luchonacho's identification of a somewhat altered quote from Mark 13. Here's my reading of that portion: In illo tp̃e (tempore) : egrediẽte (egrediente) ihũ (Ihesum)* de templo : ait illi unus de disciplis suis Magister aspice quales lapides & quales structure templi (* egrediente Ihesum looks ungrammatical, but I don't know how else to interpret the tilde over ihũ.)
    – varro
    Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 20:04
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    Sorry, didn't mean to belittle luchonacho. Was trying to say thankyou for identifying Mk 13; and his quote shows, I think, that 'Cum egrederetur' has been replaced by Ablative-absolute 'egrediente Jesu,' (while Jesus is coming out of the Temple, one of his disciples says: Master...) the mark over 'ihu' here means 's' is missing not, here, the usual final 'm'
    – Hugh
    Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 22:47

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