Catherine of Cleves prayerbook available online

The prayerbook of Catherine of Cleves is one of the most beautiful — perhaps the most beautiful — I have ever studied. Now all the major illuminations and the facing pages are available online, thanks to the Morgan Library. This is a fantastic opportunity to examine it.

Also included is a decent amount of scholarly commentary and introduction (via the “About this manuscript” and “About this page” links), although I wouldn’t object to much more.

The mutual interpenetration and interpretation of the texts of the Little Office (and the Office of the Dead, etc) and the images of these offices in these late medieval and early Reformation prayerbooks is a very interesting example of the gray area between the “liturgical” and the “popular” of Christian prayer. In fact I love these prayerbooks because they are potent reminders that the two can never grow too far apart — from one side or another, something will spring up that pulls them closer together, because the essence of Christianity is its trinitarian prayer life.

Found via BoingBoing.


  1. During the two years I spent studying at General Seminary in New York (2007-2009), I more than once visited the Morgan Library precisely to examine the prayerbook of Catherine of Cleves. It is truly a wonder to behold, and I am glad to know that the illuminations are now online. Thank you for posting this, Prof. Belcher!

  2. Yes, thank you, Prof. Belcher. These illuminations are stunning. Cannot cite the exact page, but the one featuring “Mass of the Blessed Sacrament” with the “Last Supper” illumination is, at least for the moment, my favorite.

    Thanks, too, Pray Tell!

  3. Cody, how lucky you are to have seen this masterwork in person! And please, everybody stop calling me Professor. I don’t even let the grad students do that.

  4. I recently purchased a nicely bound copy of prints of the illuminations of the Catherine of Cleves prayer book.

    One thing that is lacking in both the book I have and the one online (a great find, by the way!) is that little is said about all of the rich symbolism found in the images and their borders. From what I understand there is so much stuffed away in these images that educate on the Faith and the times it was made. Does anyone know where there has been a thorough analysis of the illuminations to document and explain all of the medieval symbolism present?

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