Life of the Apostle Matthew Leaf


Vita sancti Matthaei apostoli Leaf
Life of the Apostle Matthew Leaf

Italian, 1150-1199

Language: Latin

2 leaves

ink on vellum
height 53.5 cm
width 35.5 cm

State University Library Special Collections
Mss 16, Rose-Wright Manuscript Collection no. 8


Elizabeth Schultz, Medieval Portland Capstone Student, Winter 2005
This large manuscript leaf from the Vita sancti Matthaei apostoli, or the Life of St. Matthew, dates to the late 12th century. The work, which has unfortunately sustained some significant water damage, is written in Latin and originates from Italy. This religious work is written on vellum, also known as parchment, which is more durable than papyrus and made from treated animal skins. The majority of vellum manuscripts were written during the 14th and 15th centuries and predominately consisted of religious and legal works. In this particular manuscript, writing is present on both sides of the leaf and is divided into two columns. Pinholes, which were used to ensure the 46 lines of text that are present on the manuscript were straight, can be seen on the far right and far left of the leaf. In addition to these features, handwriting of a possible previous owner can be distinguished on the leaf. The only words from this later handwriting that can easily be recognized are Riccard Niccolo 1542-1545.

The style of writing that was used in a medieval manuscript can help to determine what period the work was created in as well as where it originated. The characters present in the Vita sancti Matthaei apostoli belong to a style popular throughout Western Europe at the time known as Caroline miniscule, or Carolingian. Although abbreviations do not seem to be present in this work, this particular style of shorthand became common beginning in the 11th century.

The Vita sancti Matthaei apostoli leaf is a part of a larger manuscript detailing St. Matthew's life. St. Matthew, also commonly referred to as Levi, is one of the twelve apostles and is said to have written the first gospel of the New Testament. Although not much is known about Matthew, his profession before becoming a follower of Jesus offers much insight into life. As a tax collector, Matthew was reviled and feared by much of society. Men in his profession were often thought of as sinners and were grouped in the same category as prostitutes and thieves in contemporary, popular attacks.

During the late 12th century, when the Vita sancti Matthaei apostoli was produced, Europe was experiencing what some scholars refer to as the "12th century Renaissance," part of the High Middle Ages. This period introduced an increase in literacy and the origin of universities. The church and Christianity also played a large role as they became the unifying institution throughout Italy and the rest of Europe.

Religious manuscripts were often used for educational purposes during the 12th century. It is very likely that the Vita sancti Matthaei apostoli leaf was created by a student in either a monastic or episcopal school. Monasteries were numerous throughout Italy in the 12th century, and monks often studied the lives of the apostles by copying existing religious works. Episcopal schools became popular in the late 12th century and rapidly spread throughout Europe. Such schools often had students copy existing manuscripts in order to quickly expand their libraries.

A portion of the Latin text follows:

"ut uulnerati ipsos rogarent quos ideo ipsi curare uidebantar quoniam a lesione cessabant. Matheus apostolus Christi non solum hos curabant quos illi ledebant sed etiam qui ad eum deferrebantur infirmitatibus diursis obsessi praedicabat dei ueritatem ita ut omnes mirarentur de eloquentia eius. Tunc Candacis eunuchus qui eum susceperat eum omni affectione interrogauit cum dicens: obscero te ut digneris indicare michi quomodo cum sis Hebreus nosti Grecam et Egyptiacam."


Wilma Fitzgerald, PhD, SP - Quoted with permission from an unpublished study
Vita sancti Matthaei apostoli et euangelista. Saec. XII/XIII. Italy. Vellum bifolium once used as a bookcover. 500-535 x 355 (390 x 240) mm., two columns 46 lines. Prickings on outside. There are sewing marks on top and bottom of both leaves. No rubrication or large initials. Previous owner marks: center [f. 2v] Riccard Niccolo 1542 ad 1545; on outside edge: la moglie de Vagni a cortes 157(?); top margin: Al- mag-. Threads are visible at bottom of leaf where probably sewings were made to justifiy the lower edge. Dealer mark: 5444m lower left corner.

See Acta Sanctorum Septembris Tomus Sextus (Paris and Romae 1867) , pages 220 (221.5) to 224, 20.  September 21. The manuscript used for the text of the edition is Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana, Ms. Vat. lat. 1188.

// [Prologus. Matheus apostolus et euangelista qui Latine vocatur Donatus qui etiam ex tribu sua Leui ...Undecemo kalendas Octobris.  Textus: Beatus Matheus apostolus et evangelista primo Hebreis ... Uerum cum pararet transire ad Ethiopiam ... Ideo enim] ut uulnerati ipsos rogarent quos ideo ipsi curare uidebantur quoniam a lesione cessabant. Matheus apostolus Christi non solum hos curabant quos illi ledebant sed etiam qui ad eum deferrebantur infirmitatibus diuersis obsessi predicabat dei ueritatem ita ut omnes mirarentur de eloquentia eius .../...  de his uasis iam tuo nomine consecratis prevaleat uendicare. Omnem etiam [gehennium calorem imber gratiae tuae celestis exstinguat] //