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Library Place Rome (Città del Vaticano)
Library Name Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
Shelfmark MS
Folio Range Whole MS (53 fols)
Date IX ex. / X
  • Brittany (probably)



This MS contains the compilation of homilies and exegetical materials collectively known as Catechesis Celtica. Note that fols are numbered 1 to 54, but fols 5 and 6 are the top and bottom half of a single folio. The folios are bound in the incorrect order: the correct sequence is fols 1–2, 4, 3, 7, 6, 8–23, 32–47, 24–31, 48–54 (Wilmart 1933a: 112).

Old Breton Materials Yes
Irish / Hiberno-Latin materials Yes
Connection with Brittany

This MS presents a unique compilation of homiletic and exegetical material collectively referred to as the Catechesis Celtica following Wilmart’s (1933a) description of it as 'Cathéchèses celtiques'. The MS has attracted much attention over the course of the last century due to its striking combination of insular, including specifically Irish, and continental features, both palaeographical and textual, as well as its vernacular glosses (see bibliographies in Rittmueller 2003: 68–9, and CLH §192).

The script shows a clear mix of Caroline minuscule and insular features (including striking instances of insular r being retained, e.g. at fol. 6r). The MS also contains a strong combination of both conventionally insular and continental abbreviations, including the insular abbreviations for autem, enim, eius, and con (Rittmueller 1992–3: 299–302; 2003: 72–6). The name of the scribe is supplied as Guilhelm in a colophon (fol. 53r). The MS contains three glosses initially identified as Brittonic, though the precise nature and meaning of these remains open to debate. The first of these, guorcher (fol. 21r), glosses Lat. summitas. This was first identified by Linsday, who thought it to be Breton, but Loth (1915–16), who reported Lindsay’s finding, concluded that the gloss was likely Cornish. Fleuriot later claimed the gloss as Breton (DGVB 198; Bauer 2008: 183). The second gloss, tra pen (fol. 39v), glosses the Latin phrase pro capite and was also identified as Breton by Fleuriot (DGVB 318; Bauer 2008: 183; cf. Loth 1933). The final gloss reads hebē (fol. 50r) and was interpreted alternatively as heber, hebere and heben (Loth 1933; Wilmart 1933a: 108, n. 1; Grosjean 1936: 116; DGVB 207–8; Bauer 2008: 183); however, most recently Ó Laoghaire (1987: 162) has argued on the basis of a parallel reading in the Collectio Canonum Hibernensis that this gloss is in fact an abbreviation for the Latin hebraice. The MS contains a number of additional Latin glosses, and Wilmart (1933a: 31) hypothesised that the exemplar contained numerous vernacular glosses which were not copied because they were either not understood or not deemed useful by the copying scribe (who, we should not forget, had a non-Breton name).

Discussion of origin and dating of this MS best begins with Wilmart (1933a), who edited 14 of what he delimited as 46 items comprising the collection (the division and numbering of the items vary: '55 or so' according to McNamara 1999: 181; 57 according to McNally’s as yet unpublished edition, as cited in McNamara 1990b: 292; 54 according to Rittmueller 1992–3: 263–96; further editions of individual items appear in Andrieu 1931–61: vol. 3, 39–41; McNally 1971: 185–6; McNamara 2000a; a translation and study of a further item is presented by Carella 2013). The MS has been dated to varying phases of the second half of the ninth and the entirety of the tenth centuries (s. IX ex. or X, Wilmart 1933a: 29; s. X, Wilmart 1937–45: vol. 1, 112; s. IX 2/2 or X 1/2, PMSB 109; s. X, McNamara 1994: 197–8; s. IX or X, Kat. §6608). In light of the vernacular glosses and the interaction of insular and continental features, Wilmart (1933a: 31) stated a preference for a Breton origin for the MS, though he also proposed Fleury as a possibility, noting the similarities between this MS and Rome (Città del Vaticano), BAV, Reg. lat. 81—both Wilmart (1937–45: vol. 1, 117) and McNamara (1999: 198–9) concurred that the MS was likely in Fleury in the sixteenth century. Another potential location for the production of the MS would be a continental centre with an Irish presence; however, in addition to discussing connections to Hiberno-Latin and Irish vernacular sources (McNamara 1990a; 1990b; 1994; 1999; see also Grosjean 1936), McNamara (1990b: 302–3; 2000a) has also presented a number of links with texts in Breton MSS. Furthermore, Lemoine (2001: 264–7) discovered what appears to be a uniquely Breton reading of mittis for mitis in Matthew 11:29, for which an etymological explanation is given in this MS (fol. 12r; Lemoine cites the more modern numbering in the lower right of the folio: 14r), further cementing the evidence for Brittany as the most plausible place of origin for the MS and perhaps the compilation itself.

Number(s) in Bischoff's Katalog 6608
Essential bibliography

Bauer 2008: 183; CLH 112 (§69), 226–7 (§192); Deuffic 2008: 113; DGVB 6, 198, 207–8, 318; Dumville 1994: 88; Grosjean 1956: 38; L&S §905, 974; Le Duc 1995: 176; Lemoine 1985: 290; Lemoine 2001; Lemoine 2008: 188–91; Loth 1915–16; Loth 1933; McNamara 1990a; McNamara 1990b; McNamara 1994; McNamara 1999; McNamara 2000a; PMSB 317 (§109); Riché 2004: 20; Rittmueller 1992–3; Rittmueller 2003: 67–79; Schrijver 2011: 10; Smith 1992: 170 (n. 94); Wilmart 1933a; Wilmart 1933b; Wilmart 1937–45: vol. 1, 112–17.

URLs for digital facsimile
Last Updated 2021-05-27 13:09:11
Author Sarah Corrigan
DHBM Identifier #189
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