Codex of the month (XIII): Madrid, Real Academia de la Historia, Emilianense 30

This month we would like to bring attention to codex Emilianense 30, an extraordinarily interesting volume, if very damaged, of one of the basic readings of the Middle Ages: a Misticus.

Codex Emilianense 30 is the only more or less complete existing copy of the first volume of the Liber Misticus, an altar book used by the presiding priest which holds the formularies required for the celebration of the non-monastic Office as well as the Mass according to the liturgical year calendar. A Misticus contains the prayers, hymns and other chants for the Mass and the Office. This exemplar was copied at the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla in the last quarter of the 10th century or in the early 11th, to be used in the celebration of the liturgy and not to be kept at the library of the monastery.

Emilianense 30 is a thick volume made up of 230 parchment leaves measuring 380 x 275 mm. with a text box of 245/250 x 180 mm. The parchment is white and of good quality. It is written in beautiful liturgical Visigothic minuscule script to a column with Northern-type Visigothic musical notation. The rounded profiles of the letters are due to an early stage of influence from Caroline minuscule. The whole codex was written by the same scribe. Each folio has from 13 to 26 lines. It uses horizontal prickings in the right margin while the vertical prickings are imperceptible. Only a few scattered remains of polychrome filled zoomorphic initials are left. Some fish-shaped motifs stand out for the freshness of their layout.


Unfortunately, Emilianense 30 stands out for its poor condition. It is due to both the humidity and the abuse received: ruined margins, crumpled or missing folios torn off or cut with a razor. Since it was also subjected to the test of fire, you see burns and mutilations. [When the Roman rite was being imposed in Iberia supressing the Mozarabic rite, the ordeal by fire was usually practised. It involved throwing one book for each rite into a bonfire and see which (the one approved by God) survived]. Many miniatures - quite simple, judging by the ones that remain - were systematically ripped off with a blade in recent times, leaving circular or oval holes in the places where they were. The most damaged folios are the first forty. A failed restoration attempt sometimes makes it difficult to read as a result of the ink used, which has run, leaving the folios stained with an ochre color.


In the current binding, it consists of 33 booklets of 8 folios each (quaternions). The first four, up to folio 29, are slightly smaller in size and on their edges, the effects of fire and humidity are better appreciated. There are two recent number schemes: one with large font at the center of the lower edge and another, very tiny, at the upper margin towards the right. Up to folio 76 both coincide; from then on, they differ a bit until folio 109, in which the one at the bottom ends. The texts agree with those of the Veronense (Codex LXXXIX of the Capitolare Library of Verona) and of the Londoner (Additional Manuscript 30.852 of the British Library, London) in the part relative to the prayers contained in those “Orationales”, and with the Antiphonary of Leon (Manuscript 8 of the Archive of the Cathedral of León) regarding the chants. It begins (fol. 1r) with a prayer for the feast of Saint Acisclus, at the beginning of Advent (Deus Pater Omnipotens, qui es fons et origo totius...) and ends (fol. 230v) with texts used at the beginning of Lent in the office “ad Carnes Tollendas” tollendas (O quam suaves sonus quum sonsone te Christe fideles ... perueniamos ad gaudia repromissa, amen ...). Here is the list of the missing pages:

1. At the beginning there are several folios (4?) missing with the introduction and Vespers of St. Acisclus.

25. The Feast of these saints is celebrated on November 27 and, therefore, should go after the fol. 32, but there is no room there. This folio, together with another, which would contain the sentences, and which is missing, was introduced here because it is the middle of the booklet. Another folio is also missing with the Vespers of the first Sunday.

35. Next a folio with the beginning of the Vespers of San Saturnino.

54-55. Two folios with the office of Vespers and the Matins of the third Sunday of Advent.

73-74. Several (2?) folios with the last chants of the Matins and the first part of the hymn of Saint Eulalia.

77. This folio is no longer found in the Codex, but another one must still be missing. They contained the weekly office of Wednesday and Thursday of the fourth week of Advent.

80. It is not in the codex any longer. Possibly, another one is still missing. They had the Vespers and the beginning of the Matins of the fourth Sunday.

86-87. A folio with the end of the Vespers of Thursday of the fifth week.

92-93. A folio with the end of the prayer of the responsory of the fourth mass and the first three antiphons and prayers of the fifth mass of the Feast of St. Mary.

130-131. These folios have been ripped off, but two more must also be missing. They contained the end of Vespers and all the antiphons and prayers until the responsory of the third Mass of the Matins of the feast of St. Stephen.

136-137. Two folios with the end of the Matins and the beginning of the Mass of Saint Eugenia.

138-139. Three folios with the end of the Mass of St. James the Lesser, vespers and the beginning of the Matins of St. John.

143-144. These two folios have been lost. They had the Vespers of Saint Colomba.

160. It has been ripped out. It contained the Sext of the office “in initium anni.”

161-162. Several folios (4?) with the Vespers and the beginning of the Matins of the Feast of the “Apparitio.”

176-177. Several folios (2?) with the end of Vespers and the beginning of Matins of Saint Julian and Saint Basilisa.

183-184. Two folios with the fifth mass and the end of the Matins of the “Allisio infantium.”

199-200. Two folios with the fifth mass and the end of the Matins of the Feast of St. Fructuoso.

224-225. A folio with the end of the second and the beginning of the third mass of the Chair of St. Peter.

226-227. Several folios (4?) with the Vespers and the Matins of the office of St. Emeterio and Celedonio, and Vespers and the beginning of the Sunday Matins “Ante introitu quadragesimae.”

228-229. Several folios (2?) with the Vespers of the Office in “Carnes tollendas.”

230. The codex ends here, in the midst of the prayer of the Alleluiatic of the second mass; a full mass is missing and the end of Matins and the chants of the Mass of “Carnes tollendas.”. About 4 (?) folios are missing.

by M. Ferro

Faculty of Divinity

Trinity College, University of Toronto



Ferro, M. (1972.). El Ciclo Natalicio en el Calendario del Oficio Hispánico. Madrid: Universidad de Salamanca. Colección de Estudios No. 5, pp. 18-20.

Millares Carlo, A. (1961) Manuscritos visigóticos. Notas bibliográficas. Hispania Sacra, 14, num. 100, p. 385.

Millares Carlo, A. (1983) Tratado de Paleografía Española, 3 ed., Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 1983, vol. I num. 192, p. 333.

Pinell, J. (1965). Los textos de la antigua liturgia hispánica. Fuentes para su estudio. In Rivera Recio, J. F. and Louis Brou, eds., Estudios sobre la liturgia mozárabe. Toledo: Diputación Provincial, p. 134.

Randel, M. (1969) The Responsorial Psalm Tones for the Mozarabic Office, Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 6, 8, 17-18, 46, 53-64, 68 and append.

Ruiz García, E., et al. (1997). Catálogo de la Sección de Códices de la Real Academia de la Historia. Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, pp. 219-220.

Zapke, S., ed., (2007). Hispania Vetus: Musical-Liturgical Manuscripts from Visigothic Origins to the Franco-Roman Transition (9th–12th Centuries). Bilbao: Fundación BBVA, p. 264.


>>> Unpublished. It cannot be consulted physically due to it being in a very bad state of conservation; there is however a digital version with free access available here. <<<

3 Comments | Leave your comment

Andrey A. Volkov


I thank the author of this article, Mauricio Ferro, and I also thank Dr Ainoa Castro for publishing this article.

However, I would like to add a comment regarding this passage: «When the Roman rite was being imposed in Iberia supressing the Mozarabic rite, the ordeal by fire was usually practised. It involved throwing one book for each rite into a bonfire and see which (the one approved by God) survived». It is likely that this is nothing more than a medieval legend. See: Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada. Historia de rebus Hispaniae. No. 6, pp. 24-25; Item. Historia de rebus Hispaniae sive Historia Gothica. Ed. J. Fernández Valverde. Turnhout, 1987, pp. 205-209.

I would also like to comment on this: «Unpublished. It cannot be consulted physically due to it being in a very bad state of conservation; there is however a digital version with free access available here». In fact, the manuscript was published, as far as possible, by Miquel S. Gros in Miscel·lània litúrgica catalana, Barcelona, 1984, Vol. III, pp. 111–224.

In addition, there is an important fact that is not mentioned in the article, namely: Liber misticus usually includes a complete set of liturgical elements for the Mass: chants, excerpts from the Holy Scriptures and prayers (see other liturgical codes of Misticus). However, this code of Aemil.30 includes ONLY chants for the Mass. Therefore, in fact, in this part it is not a Misticus, but only an Antophonarium. See my book: Andrey A. Volkov. Celebración Eucarística según el rito Hispano-Mozárabe: I. fuentes litúrgicas, Tambov; Toledo, 2015, pp. 85-86 (in Russian).

Thank you.



Dear Andrey,

Many thanks for reading Littera and for your comment.

I guess we will never know if the "ordeal by fire" is no more than a legend; I quite see medieval people trying to justify the rite by doing something like this, although it might just represent and idea and not the act itself.

As for Mossen Gros's reference, I will take a look; it is sometimes not the same for a philologist, a liturgist or a palaeographer to consider a manuscript "published". I would add that we might argue no manuscript is ever published in as much detail as we would like it to be.

Regarding the last note, I leave it to Mauricio to answer, as he is the expert.

All the best,



Dear Andrey,

It is always a temptation to look at the past from our modern perspective and to project our current liturgical usage to the past. Today, all Christian denominations have a standardized liturgy, regulated by a central body, using authorized printed books. Every congregation follows the liturgy as prescribed. There is very little room for variations. In medieval Spain, it was quite different, there were many variants as attested by the manuscripts that made their way to us.

A manuscript was a major investment, quite costly and time consuming. Each “Liber Misticus” is a bespoken manuscript tailored to a specific church and to the liturgical usage of that community. There is no such thing as a standard “Misticus” to be followed. Each one is unique and different from the other remaining manuscripts and fragments of this type. Actually, this “Misticus” is a combination of the Antiphonary, festive Orational, Hymnarium, and Liber Precum. The texts and chants selected constitute yet another variant of TALOS. The communities using TALOS never reached the liturgical standardization looked after by the Spanish Councils such as Toledo IV (633), and Toledo XI (675) [Arocena, F. M. (2017). Cánones litúrgicos de los concilios hispano-visigóticos. Barcelona: Centre de Pastoral Litúrgica].

A Misticus is not a modern missal. It contains some of the chants and prayers needed for Matins and Vespers, as well as some elements of the Mass. All the manuscripts and fragments we have now indicate that the celebrant and the congregation had to use other books, because no Misticus contains all the texts and chants required for a liturgy.

Aemilianensis 30 is important for the prayers and for the questions that it raises. Certainly, it is not a simple Antiphonarium, given the amount of prayers and hymns that it contains.

It is worth mentioning that there are 14 prayers which are not found neither in the Silos nor in the Verona Orationals, but are present in the “Breviarium Gothicum”, which poses the question of the variants in the Ancient Liturgy of Spain [Pinell, J. (1976). Unité et diversité dans la liturgie hispanique. Liturgie de l'Église particulière et Liturgie de l'Église universelle. In Conferences Saint-Serge, XXII Semaine d'Études Liturgiques. Roma: C.L.V.-Edizioni liturgiche, 245-260] and the relationships over time between what has been called Traditio A and Traditio B, and the role of A. Ortiz in the edition of the liturgical texts at the beginning of the XVI century and the possible manuscript sources he used.

The transcription of M.S. Gros with an introduction in Catalan is a very peculiar one, that does not follow any of the standard rules for either a “Diplomatic” or a “Critical” edition of a medieval manuscript. In fact, you need to have in front of you other editions of the texts to be able to read a prayer or a chant. He provides only the incipit and the desinit of texts that are common with other manuscripts.

A “Diplomatic” edition of a liturgical manuscript tries to reproduce as faithfully as can be achieved the text of the manuscript, as is, which includes the transcription of the texts, rubrics- if any-, marginalia and musical notation. There are some standards, as how is it to be done [Masai, F. (1950). Principes et conventions de l'édition diplomatique. Scriptorium, 4, 2, 177-193]. A “Critical” edition attempts to render the text closest to the original written by the author by comparing different variants [Dondaine, A. (1962). Variantes de l’apparat critique dans les éditions de textes latins médiévaux.. Bulletin de Philosophie Medievale, 4, 82-100].

There are a lot more questions to be answered concerning TALOS. A lot of research is needed to provide answers to the unsolved issues.

Mauricio Ferro

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