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Van der Weyden, Descent from the Cross
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London, Lambeth Palace MS. 559

Described by: Ryan Perry.
Source: Microfilm analysis and with reference to the Descriptive Catalogue.
Revision Date: June 1st, 2010


Miscellany containing prayers and devotional material in English and Latin including the Meditations on the Supper, early-mid C15

Condition of the MS

Many leaves are grubby and badly stained; text on fols 14v and 15r is "washed out" (Catalogue, 766). The book looks like it has been well thumbed.

Number of Items

41 (some items contain multiple sub-items (eg. 24), whilst others might be viewed as a single text (eg. 27-8).

Title(s) of Pseudo-Bonaventuran Text(s)

Meditations on the Supper of Our Lord and the Hours of the Passion


The Meditations on the Supper begins on the bottom 2 lines of fol. 89r with the heading (in red ink), 'Here begynnith the passion of oure lord Ihesu criste'; the text itself opens with a two line initial on fol. 89v and the lines, 'Almy3gti god in trinite/ nowh & euir with thou be.'

Many texts (both Latin and English) are introduced by interesting prefatory instructions (usually in red ink) written in English which announce the following material, and give directions as to the devotional contexts in which the text should be used (see, eg. item 9). The most extraordinary instance occurs in the case of the Latin text which begins, 'Domine deus omnipotens pater & filius & spiritus sanctus da michi .N.' at the bottom of fol. 142v; the prefatory text (not in red ink) which begins on fol. 140r, decribes the text as a 'gracious orison of grete vertu the whiche þat criste makid him silfe' (140r-v); the preface argues for multiple utilities for the 'orison', including: remission of sins (140v); helping in the case of a dangerous childbirth [when one should also 'singe this masse of oure ladi ouir this orison' (140v-141r); gaining the 'grete luf' of kings, princes and lords (141r-v); calming a 'tempest in the see' (141v-142r); avoiding being 'scomfited...ne slayne' in battle; curing the 'blodi fluxe'; all this, we are told is 'preiued bi sent paule the apostele.' (142v) The preface concludes with the injunction to say 3 x Pater Noster and 5 x Ave Maria before beginning the orison itself.


No colophons by the scribe or the original compilator of the items in the book.

Secundo Folio



Items conclude in a variey of ways, such as a rubricated direction to say the Pater Noster, a simple 'Amen', or merely with line-filler deccoration.

Languages of the MS

Devotional texts in Latin and English; interestingly, a number of Latin texts are prefaced by English headings, which serve to explain the function and appropriate use of the Latin text that follows.

Detailed Description of Contents



  • 1. Liturgical Kalendar, fols 1-12v

  • 2. Text listing the 'Namis of Ihesu', with a cross after each name, 13r-14r. (For another example of this type of text, see fol. 68r of Aberdeen University Library MS 25, 'The Burnet Psalter' [click links for digital facsimile]).

  • 3-4. 'Salue sancta parens', Latin prayer written in later hand, 14r; the original text which has been washed out (other than the opening initial) was identified by Carleton Brown as 'Swete Ihesu crist to the / a synful wrecche Ich 3elde me', however, the ending to this text, preserved on 15v, does not correspond with the version of this text in the Vernon MS. (IMEV, 3231; Minor Poems of the Vernon MS., 19-21), 14v-15r (?)

  • 5. 'Heyl be thou mari blisful quene of heuene', Marian prayer, in English; includes a prefatory rubric advising that the 'orisone...schal be sayde un to oure ladi saynt marie deuouteli and wt kneling'; (IMEV, 1030; Minor Poems, 30-2), 15v.

  • 6. 'Mari modir wel þow be', English devotions dedicated to Mary, (see IMEV, 2118 which wrongly associates this poem with the poem in Vernon [it only repeats the first 2 lines before departing from this text; cf. Minor Poems, 133-4), 19r-22v.

  • 7. 'Goddes modir quene of heuen', English prayer dedicated to Mary, (IMEV, 2116; Minor Poems, 33), 22v-24r.

  • 8. 'O Milde mari', English prayer dedicated to Mary, 24r-v.

  • 9. 'O merciful Ihesu', English prayer to 'be sayd bifore the leuacion', (IMEV 2512), text concludes with a Pater Noster rubric, 24v-25r.

  • 10. 'Wel cum lord in forme of bred', English prayer, (IMEV 3883; Minor Poems, 24-5), 25r-26v.

  • 11. 'I Byseche the god gracious', English prayer, 26v-29r.

  • 12. 'Gracious god lord thou knowist althing', English prayer, 29r-31v.

  • 13. 'Lord I the honoure wt all my myght', (IMEV 1372; Minor Poems, 25), English prayer to be 'sayd at agnus dei', 32r-v.

  • 14. 'Hayle Ihesu crist, the worde of the fadur', English prayer, 33r-v.

  • 15. 'Ihesu for thi precious blod, that thou bled', English prayer, (IMEV 1708), 33v-35r

  • 16. 'Ihesu criste mi lord swete, that deidist on the rode tre', (IMEV 1684, 1727; Minor Poems of the Vernon MS., 22), English prayer/hymn which introduces Richard de Caistre's Hymn with the opening stanza of a 'prayer of the five wounds' (IMEV 285; Furnivall, 15-17 [Richard de Caistre]), and concludes uniquely, 35r-37v. [See also item 23, where the lost opening to de Caistre's hymn appears to have been recycled].

  • 17. 'O Good Ihesu, O, swete Ihesu', English prayer, 37v-39v.

  • 18. 'O holi lord fadir almighti', English prayer, 39v-40v.

  • 19. 'O thou sauior of all the world', English prayer, 40v-41v

  • 20. 'Lord Ihesus crist that woldist for the redempcion of the world', English prayer, 41v-42r.

  • 21. 'Saue me lord kyng of euer lasting glorie', English prayer, 42r-43r.

  • 22. 'I knowliche to the God ful of might', (IMEV 1325), English prayer, 43r-45r.

  • 23. 'O god swete lord Iesu criste that madest me', (IMEV 2451), English prayer which concludes with a Pater Noster, Ave Maria and Crede rubric, 47v-54v.


    The IMEV entry records that item 23, "is a composite text, beginning with 1727, incorporating 775 entire, and including other material, eg. lines from 2119" (385). Ogilvie-Thompson has argued against the idea that this is one composite poem because of a perceived discontinuity of sense, and her argument has varying degrees of plausibility; for instance, she plausibly maintains that the first stanza is transposed from Richard de Caistre's hymn (see item 16, which lacks this opening stanza); the second quatrain, Ogilvie-Thompson argues, is a "free" English translation of the Latin, 'Criste qui lux et es dies', the original text of which occurs on fol. 150r. O-T goes on to argue for another 4 separate poems within this item demonstrating their existence as separate entities in other books (other than poem v, which occurs preceded by poem iv in the only other copy in Longleat MS 29). It is thus argued that these items have been misrecognised by the scribe as a single item- however, nowhere else in LP 559 does the compiler use poems of a single quatrain (as O-T argues for poems I and II), and it seems unlikely in this case; it is entirely possible that the "lively and inventive" (Ogilvie-Thompson, 395) compilator created this poem from six disparate texts; indeed, some of the compiler's other innovations with existing materials do not always make perfect sense. The suggestion of some kind of genetic link between Lambeth Palace 559 and Longleat MS 29, however, would certainly appear to be warranted.
  • 24. Memoriae of saints in Latin:
    John the Baptist (54v), John the Evangelist (55v), Blasius (56v), Antony (57v), Osmund, text begins:
    'O Osmunde pastor bone solita clementia Gregem tum sic compone ut percepta uenia;...' (58v).

    Nectan, (rubric reads 'De sancto nictano martire), text reads:
    'Martir cesum capud ab impiis; Sumens gestat manibus propriis; Istis constat certis indiciis; Quod iam gaudet in celi gaudiis; Pater assistens regi glorie; Opem posce tue familie V. gloria et honore coronasti eum domine...
    Oracio (red ink); Deus quem non locorum spacia nec temporum claudunt interualla qui mundi partes occiduas beati Nectani martirio decorasti tribue quis ut qui in tui noiminis confessione purpurium sanguinem effudit in terris pro nobis intercedere dignetur in celis. Per christi n.' (59v-60r)

    Thomas of Canterbury (60r-61r), Fabian & Sebastian (61r-v), Anne (61v-62r), Katherine (62v-64v), Margaret (64v-65r), Dorothy (65r-66v), Sitha (66v-67r), Mary Magdalene (67r-68r), Ursula, ends 'Amen' (68r-69v), 'De apostolis martiribus et uirginibus' (69v-70r).

  • 25. 'Letania sancta Jeronimi', in Latin, 70v-79v.

  • 26. 'Domine Iesu criste- fili dei viui qui in hunc mundum', "Augustine is the only saint named besides Apostles" (Catalogue, 767), 80r-88r.

  • 27. Item opens with the incipit (in red) 'This seynt Gregories trental good for the soule helthe '; the item goes on to list the masses to be said in the Trental, 3 each of the Nativity, Epiphany, Purification, Annunciation, Resurrection, Ascension, 'holi goost' (Pentecost), Trinity, Assumption of Our Lady, Nativity of the Virgin Mary, 88r-88v. The item concludes with instructions (in red) which link item 27 to item 28:
    'And thes masses I the prey wit in viij dayes of the same fest tha thou hem say. 3et thou hast weill more to do. this orison muste thou say there to'.
  • 28. 'God it madist alle & sum and 3eldist thi silf for oure raunsome', (IMEV 984), English prayer which ends imperfectly, but there is no space between this and the next item, 88v-89r.
  • Items 27-8 are taken from a single English verse literary piece known in the Vernon MS. as 'The Pope trental' and elsewhere, such as in BL MS Cott. Cal. A II, as 'Trentale sancti grergorii'. In the tale this combination of masses saves a Priest's mother from purgatory. (See Minor Poems 264-5, ll. 109-146, for the corresponding section; see also Richard Pfaff, 'The English Devotion of St. Gregory's Trental', Speculum 49.1 (Jan. 1974): 75-90). It would seem the imagined utility of the trental is an innovation (that is, as a one-off soul cleansing exercise, rather than a mass to be said for a soul in purgatory), but the run of masses is typical of the English tradition (as opposed to Vernon where the Nativity of Mary and the Conception of Mary are the final two masses).
  • 29. Meditations on the Supper of our Lord and Hours of the Passion, contains opening 22-line prologue, after which, the compiler inserts a short enigmatic rubric (see 'Rubrication / Ordinatio') before continuing with the text; a leaf has been lost near the end of the text (subsequently replaced with a blank leaf), resulting in the loss of text between ll. 1090-1115; the text of the Meditations ends normally, and is followed by 'Amen' (not in red ink), and here begins a 12-line excerpt from a Passion lyric (IMEV 1761) that the compiler clearly saw as an apt Explicit to the pseudo-Bonaventuran Passion narrative; it begins on the same line as the end of the Meditations:
    'Ihesu that hast me dere bought. write nowh goostly in my thought. that I may wt good deuotion thenke hartili on thi passion. for thowh my hart be dede as stone. 3et maist thou gostely. write ther on. with nayle and spere kene. so schul the letteris weil be sene. write in myn harte. thi spechis swete when iudas the traytor gan the mete. and 3et thou callid hym thi frend. god send us cherite wt outin ende. Amen.' The last line is an innovation to provide closure [line 11 of the original lyric has been dropped by the compiler], (cf. Davis, 45, 'A devout prayer of the Passion', ll.1-12).

  • 30. 'Stabat mater dolora'; the scribe has mistakenly written, 'Salue mater dolora', (Catalogue 768), 134v-136v.

  • 31. 'Domine Ihesu criste qui septem uerba', Latin text, (contains an English rubric, 'hel' hele' on fol. 137v), 136v-139v.
    It is likely that this text has been taken from 'Bede's prayer on the last seven words of Christ'; cf. Oxford, Queen's College MSS 207 and 210, items 14 and 8 respectively (click link for on-line Catalogue of Queen's College manuscripts).

  • 32. 'Psalterium sancta Bernardi', Latin text, 139r-140r.

  • 33. 'This is a gracious orison of grete vertu the which þat criste makid him silfe . . .', English preface to Latin item (see 'Incipits' for further discussion), 140v-147v; Latin item begins:
    'Domine deas omnipotens pater et filii et spiritus sancti da michi . N - famulo tuo victoriam'.

  • 34. A selection of Psalms: Deus in nomine. De profundis. Deus misereatur. Miserere mei. Uoce mea, deprecatus sum, 147v-148v.

  • 35. 'Libera me domine Ihesu christi Tetragramaton', Latin text, 148v-149v.

  • 36. 'Antiphona / Stella celi extirpauit', Latin text, 149v-150r.

  • 37. 'Christe qui lux es', Latin text, 150r-v.

  • 38. 'Cultor dei memento te fontis et lauacri rorem subisse sancti', Latin text, 150v-151v.

  • 39. '0 intemerata', Latin text, 151v-154r.

  • 40. 'Here folwyn the xv oois the whiche be good dayli for to say in the onovre of the passion of oure lord Ihesu criste', English preface to Latin text, 154r-165r.

  • 41. 'Gracias tibi ago domine Ihesu cristi quod passionem tuam inchoasti', Latin text, 165r-166v.

Estimated Date of Production

Poss. 1st-2nd quarter C15

Writing Support



167 fols, no original flyleaves.

The manuscript has been foliated in pen (duplicated in pencil) on top right corner of every recto leaf.

Dimensions of Page and Writing Space

Folio size: 127 x 89 mm approx.

Writing space: 84 x 51 mm approx.


112, 2 -38, 4 10 (7 canc.), 5-14 8, 15 6, 16 8, 17 8 (2 gone and replaced with blank leaf), 18-20 8, 21 4 (Catalogue, 765). Catchwords are visible and there are quire signatures (A-X), on the opening side of each quire, probably added later.


1 column, 14 lines (16 in the case of the Kalendar), frames and lines ruled, prickings visible.

Rubrication/ Ordinatio

  • Main textual divisions are marked by good quality 2 and occasionally 3-line champ style initials in gold and colours ('I' is a sinuous 7-line gold initial placed on the margin of the text); lesser divisions marked by 1-line thickened Lombard-style initials (alternating red and blue) within the text.

    The Kalendar contains 1-line gold initial 'A's (marking the first unit of each liturgical week) set in a pen-work box with small flourishes, (similarly styled 1-line capitals occur on a few rare occasions elsewhere in the Book) and a typical 'KL" initial (marking new months).
  • Incipits/headings in red ink, j-motif line fillers, in red and/or blue ink; paraphs, poss. alternating red and blue distinguish the concluding words of a text from the following text (if they share a line); item 2 in the book, "the namis of Ihesu", is punctuated by crosses (poss. in coloured inks), presumably reminding the reader to perform the sign of the cross after each citation; there are some interesting uses of rubrics, particularly in reference to the P-B text- following the 22-line prologue, a 2-line rubric is inserted in the text, "Whe[n] the fullnes of time schold come for the helthe of mannis soule".

    'Pater Noster; Ave Maria' which follows each of the 15 Os, are also penned in red-ink.

    Verse items are always presented as prose, albeit with punctus and punctus elevatus marks.

    The way in which the ordinatio of the Meditations compares to that in other manuscripts containing the text is perhaps noteworthy. The text lacks the introductory rubrics supplied in manuscripts such as Bodley MS. 415, and other than the opening of the text, and the beginning of the second section, the text does not even mark sections (such as the various Hours of the Passion, or the 4 'Points' of the Supper) with the fine 2-line initials usually used in other parts of the Book for major divisions; the exception to this rule is the opening to the section on the Lamentation of Mary, which has a decorative 2-line initial, although it still lacks the usual incipit to this part of the text, 'The medytacun of þe sorowe þat oure Lady had for þe wunde yn here sones syde' [Bodley MS. 415] (perhaps surprisingly, the beginning of the Passion is not distinguished in this manner). Most of the major divisions in the text are thus relatively hard to distinguish, marked only at the beginning by the thickened blue/red initials that grace the most insignificant subdivisions throughout the manuscript. Indeed, there is a sense that the programme of ordinatio in the manuscript is not as well-planned as it might have been, with 1-line gold initials with pen-work flourishes being used sparingly, and somewhat haphazardly in the manuscript.
  • Illustration

    2-sided pen-work Border decoration, scrolling design of feathering buds, on fol. 13r ("the namis of Ihesu"), kidney and spade shaped motifs and gold balls, poss. a later addition to the MS.

    Number of Scribal Hands


    Style of Hands

    A bold and confident formal Textura script in black ink.

    Estimated Date of Hands

    The formal nature of the hand makes it difficult to date with much confidence; other aspects of the production, particularly the initials, suggest a dating in the first or second-quarter C15.

    Scribal Annotation


    Notable Dialect Features

    No reference in LALME; a mixed dialect that is most definitely southern, and that reproduces many of the dialectal features of the Somerset/Dorset/Wiltshire area (a profile which would thus fit well with the inclusion of St. Osmund and St. Nectan in the Kalendar). If Ogilvie-Thompson is right in saying that the scribe copied exactly what was in front of him, it is possible that the dialectal features belong to the original compiler of the materials in the manuscript, rather than representing the dialect of the scribe. There are some interesting idiosyncracies in the orthography within the manuscript, for instance, 'well' is consistently written as 'weil(l)' by the scribe, a highly unusual form found only sporadically along Eastern counties (see LALME, I, item map 914); another consistently used unusual orthographic trait is the tendancy to pen the suffix 'owh(e)', in words such as nowh (now), 'thorowhe' (through), 'thowh', (though); some other, less consistently used unusual forms may stem from the compiler's source texts, as some may have preserved Northern forms (see Ogilvie-Thompson, 393-5).
    Sample of forms (mainly taken from Meditations on the Supper but checked with other items to ensure these are habitual examples of orthography):

    against: a3ens
    busy: busi
    church: churche
    did: dud
    done: doon
    flesh: flesch
    hand: hond(e)
    hear: hure
    it: hit
    if: 3if, 3iff
    self : silf, sylf
    shall: schul, shal, schal
    stand: stond(e)
    well: weil, weill
    whether: whedir
    will: wol
    work: werche, werk

    Localisable on Google Earth
    (click markers to view sample dialect forms)

    Annotation and Marginalia



    St. Patrick has been added to the Kalendar on fol. 3v, prob. by 'Dermiscious Ormorie' whose ownersip incription lies opposite the entry on fol. 4r.

    Names recorded, signatures, ex libris marks

  • Fol. 4r: 'dermiscious omorie frome boltone this is his booke gode make hem a gode ma[n]', C16.

  • Fol. 14v:' Who soeuer in my door (?) looke this is darby mory is booke god', C16.
  • Notes

    This manuscript contains material appropriate to devotional activity which centres on the Liturgy, and perhaps might be understood as a sort of improvised Missal; as such the memoria in honour of St. Nectan of Stoke-by-Hartland in Devon and St. Osmund of Sarum may hint at specific geographic or intitutional connections, such as to Exeter Cathedral, where an image of St. Nectan "was erected in the south tower", c. 1462 (Orme, 159).

    The materials which make up this book are likely to have been compiled by a priest/chaplain, possibly with a particular consumer in mind, or perhaps, with regard to a wider congregational reception. It is likely, owing to several errors in this Book that it is a copy of that original compilation. (Ogilvie-Thompson, 395)

    It is also interesting to note that this MS. shares a great quantity of material with other important books including the Vernon MS (MS Bodl. Eng. Poet. a1.), Lincoln Cathedral MS. 91 (the Thornton MS) and B.L. MS 37787 (among a large number of other books which parallel elements of this manuscript's contents), although there may be no direct relationship in any of these particular cases; tantalisingly, Lambeth Palace MS 559 also carries echoes of the enigmatic title to Vernon, 'Salus anime' or 'sowlehele'; the rubric inserted into the Meditations by the compiler is one example, 'Whe[n] the fullnes of time schold come for the helthe of mannis soule"; item 27 is advertised as being 'good for the soule helthe', and the insertion of 'hel' 'hele' into item 31 also echoes the theme.

    References and Other Resources


    R.T. Davies, Medieval English Lyrics, (1963): 120-5.

    A Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of Lambeth Palace, Montague Rhodes James and Claude Jenkins (1930): 765-8.

    F.J. Furnivall, Hymns to the Virgin and Christ, EETS, os. 24 (1867).

    Carl Horstmann, The Minor Poems of the Vernon MS., Part 1, EEETS, os. 98 (1892).


    S. Ogilvie-Thompson, 'Some Unpublished Verses in Lambeth Palace MS. 559', The Review of English Studies, New Series, Vol. 25, No. 100. (Nov., 1974): 385-395.

    Nicholas Orme, ed., Nicholas Roscarrock's Lives of the Saints: Cornwall and Devon (1992): 93-4; 157-60.

    Richard Pfaff, 'The English Devotion of St. Gregory's Trental', Speculum 49.1 (Jan. 1974): 75-90