Parma Ildefonsus

Ms. Parm. 1650 - Biblioteca Palatina (Parma, Italy)

Alternate Titles:

Ildefonso da Toledo, Parma Ildefonso, Ildefonso Toletano

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Alternate Titles

Ildefonso da Toledo
Parma Ildefonso
Ildefonso Toletano

Extent / Format

224 pages / 23.0 x 15.8 cm

Between 1090-1100

9 pages fully illuminated; 16 half pages, 8 smaller illuminations representing the prophets, 9 big capital letters, 28 golden smaller letters and many other decorations. Every text page with beautiful border.

Former owners

Bernardo de la Sauvetat, formerly a monk in Cluny and later Bishop of Toledo

Short description

Parma Ildefonsus is a codex that was written and illuminated in France’s Cluny Abbey. The splendid work, which is closely associated with the Spanish Reconquista, contains stunningly beautiful illustrations. Every page of the work is richly furnished with gold, silver, and purple. The colored miniatures belong among the most splendid illustrations of Byzantine-Romanesque illumination.

Facsimile editions available


Parma Ildefonsus

The abbey of the French city of Cluny produced an outstanding illuminated manuscript between 1090 and 1110. It is a codex known worldwide today by the title Parma Ildefonsus. The religious text was written as a doxology to the Virgin Mary and is a copy of the tract De Virginitate Sanctae Mariae, which was composed by Saint Ildefonsus of Toldeo (607-667). The manuscript is wonderfully illustrated with nine large, full-page miniatures, 16 half-page miniatures, and 8 small, square miniatures. Additionally, the work is decorated by numerous initials, some historiated and some gilded.

The Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula.

Toledo was the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom from ca. 531 to 711. In the year 712, the city was conquered by the Moors and under Islamic rule, particularly during the Caliphate of Cordoba, it truly flourished. On the 25th of May, 1085, the city was reconquered by Alfonso VI in the course of the Reconquista. Archbishop Bernard of Toledo was to be the Primate of the Catholic Church on the Iberian Peninsula from then on. It is assumed that the treatise De Virginitate Sanctae Mariae was composed for the Archbishop. That manuscript was written shortly after the Catholic recapture of the city and it has been closely associated with this event as a result. Parma Ildefonsus is the only copy of the treatise that exactly reproduces its original text. Additionally, it is the only copy worldwide attended by such phenomenal book decoration.

A Complex System of Illustration

The pages of the Parma Ildefonsus are illustrated in a unique, complex manner. All of the pictures as well as the text of the codex are rimmed by frames of gold, silver, and purple, which are patterned in the most various ways. Some of the frames demonstrate geometric forms, others stylish plant motifs. The large and small miniatures, in which saints and prophets are illustrated, boast splendid colors and doubtlessly belong among the highest-quality images of Byzantine-Romanesque illumination. Many large initials were set against a purple background and are also framed by various patterns. A particularly large and elaborately embellished initial shows the author of the manuscript as he presents his work kneeling before Christ.

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