Missale Pontificis - Christmas Missal of Alexander VI

Borg. lat. 425 - Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City)

Alternate Titles:

Weihnachtsmissale Papst Alexanders VI., Weihnachtsmissale des Borgia-Papstes Alexander VI., Missa in Nativitate Domini Nostri Iesu Christi, hora tertiarum Pontifice Maximo celebrante, Libellus Missae papalis

Facsimile edition
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Alternate Titles

Weihnachtsmissale Papst Alexanders VI.
Weihnachtsmissale des Borgia-Papstes Alexander VI.
Missa in Nativitate Domini Nostri Iesu Christi, hora tertiarum Pontifice Maximo celebrante
Libellus Missae papalis

Extent / Format

138 pages / 48.0 x 35.0 cm

Late 15th century

Pope Alexander VI

Artist / School

Scribe: Luca


136 initials and numerous miniatures, including 2 very large miniatures

Short description

The Christmas Missal of Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) is a magnificent Renaissance manuscript containing the prayers and hymns for the Christmas mass. The manuscript was commissioned at the end of the 15th century by the infamous Borgia Pope Alexander VI in Italy and was read by him personally at mass. The codex is used to this day for church holidays in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Facsimile editions available


Missale Pontificis - Christmas Missal of Alexander VI

Pope Alexander VI was one of the most colorful people of the Italian Renaissance. He originated from the powerful Borgia family, which is infamous for corruption scandals and intrigues. Alexander VI was not only the Supreme Head of the Catholic Church, but also an influential prince and political ruler. He lead a most dissolute life, carried on with mistresses, fathered numerous illegitimate children, and filled high clerical and political administrative bodies for a price. His lifestyle stands in stark contrast with our modern picture of a cleric, and alienated many of his contemporaries with his escapades. Nevertheless, sources also report on his genuine adoration of the Virgin Mary and strong work ethic. The highly educated and well-read pope commissioned numerous breath-taking manuscripts, which he authorized for ceremonial occasions in St. Peter’s Basilica. Among these manuscripts is his famous Christmas Missal.

What is a Missal?

A missal is a book for mass, in which are contained the prayers, hymns, and precepts for the regime of a liturgical celebration in the church. In the text of a missal, one finds not only prayers and songs with notation that are ordered after the flow of the service. It contains guidelines for the behavior of the priests, for example, recommendations for specific clothing. The unusually valuable Christmas Missal of Alexander VI is one of the most famous examples of this genre.

Valuable Book Adornment

The codex was commissioned in the late 15th century by the Borgia Pope. The quality of the Miniatures indicate a very talented and experienced master of the Renaissance. The Franciscan monk Antonio da Monza is possibly responsible for the design of the work. He created several miniatures that strongly resemble the style of the illustrations in the Christmas Missal. The handwriting contains numerous color pictures with gold adornment, among them two full page illustrations. The text is ennobled with 136 gold initials.

A Milestone of Christian Liturgy

The magnificent manuscript survived the centuries. In his own time, Pope Alexander VI himself authorized the prayers and hymns from the magnificent codex. To this day, that manuscript is used for the ceremonial Christmas mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The numerous popes and high clerics, who were allowed to hold the work in their hands, handled it with great care. Today, the valuable book treasure is stored in the Vatican Library and is presented once a year at the largest Christian feast at the center of the Catholic Church.

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