500th Manuscript Online

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Bernard Gui (1260-1331) was a Friar-Preacher perhaps best known as an Inquisitor against the Albigensians (or Cathars). He ended his career as Bishop of Lodève. This manuscript (R.4.23) includes various works by Bernard, but we are highlighting the beautifully illustrated genealogical tree – Arbor genealogie regum – which traced the lineage of the French Kings from their Trojan origins (ff. 49v-52v).

Each page is a sequence of illuminated pictures which narrate the succession and genealogy of the kings of France. Each king is represented standing in a medallion in which their name and the length of their reign is also written. The kings have the royal insignia – the crown and sceptre – and are dressed in gowns covered with the fleur-de-lys. Beside them there are usually some smaller medallions in which their ancestors, offspring and spouses appear.

The tree begins on f.49v with medallions representing the chiefs of the Sicambri and, at the top of the page, a damaged miniature of robed men conversing. The tree continues with larger medallions. The first (on f.50r) is Pharamond, a legendary early King of the Franks; he was not mentioned in any chronicles from the Middle Ages (for example he was omitted by Gregory of Tours in his famous Historia francorum). The legend says that his daughter Argotta, from his second marriage, is the ancestress of the French royal line, as she was Merovech’s mother. Below Pharamond follow Chlodio, Pharamond’s son and Merovech, the founder of the Merovingian dynasty in the 5th century.

R.4.23, f.50r
R.4.23, f.50r

The lineage continues on the subsequent pages. Those depicted on f.52v, for example, represent Dagobert II, king of Autrasia (676-679) who was made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church; his feast is on 23 December. He is pictured with some of his relatives. Ansegisel, a son of Arnulf of Metz, is pictured in the uppermost medallion. Through his marriage to Begga, the daughter of Pepin the Elder, the clans of the Pippinids and the Arnulfings were united, giving rise to a family which would eventually rule the Franks as the Carolingians. Below, other important figures appear, like Charles Martel (king of Franks between 737-741) and Pepin the Short.

R.4.23, f.52v
R.4.23, f.52v

The last page (f. 57r) presents Louis X (who reigned between 1314-1316); he was the eldest son of King Philippe IV ‘the Fair’, most famous for having annihilated the order of the Knights Templar. The name of Louis X is not written in the medallion but it is mentioned in the accompanying text. Some later notes continue the genealogy.

R.4.23, f.57r
R.4.23, f.57r

2 thoughts on “500th Manuscript Online

  1. Pingback: 500th Manuscript Online – Trinity College Library, Cambridge - Protocol Bloggers Point

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