Dec 13, 2006

Single Leaf from a Decretum by Gratian: Decorated Initial Q[uidam habens filium obtulit]

Single Leaf from a Decretum by Gratian: Decorated Initial Q[uidam habens filium obtulit]

c. 1160–1165

Part of a set. See all set records

Ink and tempera on vellum

Sheet: 44.8 x 32 cm (17 5/8 x 12 5/8 in.); Framed: 63.5 x 48.3 cm (25 x 19 in.); Matted: 55.9 x 40.6 cm (22 x 16 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1954.598.a



This leaf was excised from a copy of the handbook of church law known as the Decretum written by Gratian, an Italian Camaldolese monk active in Bologna from about 1130 to 1140. The focus of the leaf is a large decorated letter Q with spiraling lotus petals introducing the first Causa, or case of law. The text begins, "A man having a son offered him to a very wealthy cloister." This case concerns the definition of simony (making profit from sacred things). The style of the illumination and the script date the leaf to between 1160 and 1165. In November 1164, Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, took refuge at Pontigny as a result of his conflict with King Henry II of England. During his stay, Becket immersed himself in the study of church law, as evidenced by his later use of citations from the Decretum. This leaf could have been part of the original manuscript Becket consulted. The volume was later dismembered following the suppression of the monastery during the French Revolution in the late 1700s.

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