Still in its first binding, with the addition regarding Cistercian nuns first added in 1316

[Libellus antiquarum definitionum]. Early 14th century Cistercian constitution (Libellus antiquarum definitionum).

Himmerod (Rhineland), ca. 1316.

Small 4to (130 x 172 mm). Latin ms. on vellum. 124 ff., comprising 3 codicological units. First quinio (index) on somewhat finer, lighter vellum, trimmed a little smaller (160 x 117 mm). Main part comprising 10 quinios (170 x 123 mm) and 1 binio, with a quaternio inserted after fol. 103 at a later point. Written area 129 x 81 mm ruled in ink (vertical and horizontal rules touching edges of leaf). Pinpricks for lines visible in margins. Main section written in textualis, index and addenda in a cursive hand, with punctus flexus in the appended liturgical section. Few annotations. Rubrications and red page headings to individual distinctiones, red signatures and cursive catchwords at bottom of each gathering's final leaf. Later mediaeval foliation and section markers for the index in main section. Gothic blind-stamped binding of brown leather over glued vellum leaves. The leather of the lower cover was originally drawn over the fore-edge and fastened to the upper cover with a metal clasp. Stamps in central compartment: Agnus Dei (12 x 10 mm) and a mythical creature breathing fire (13 x 10 mm), arranged in five rows of three framed rectangular stamps each, enclosed by double rules and a border showing repeats of the rectangular stamps in the corners, "hilf maria" at top and bottom, and an alternating series of rosettes and fleurs-de-lis stamps on the sides. Stored in custom-made black half morocco case.


Libellus antiquarum definitionum from the Cistercian Abbey of Himmerod in Germany's Eifel region, the main section written shortly after 1316. While the text had to be copied at all Cistercian monasteries and has survived in a fair number of manuscripts, no edition has so far been published. Together with the oath formulae and the appended texts relating to the religious vows and visitations, the manuscript constitutes a compendium for the spiritual administration of the Cistercian Order.

The Libellus definitionum begins with the Carta Caritatis posterior (inclusive of prologue), followed by the bull "Parvus Fons" promulgated by Pope Clement IV in 1265, both texts essentially providing the constitution of the Order (cf. Lucet 1965, 255 und 257). Arranged in 15 distinctiones, the work ends with the Decretum ordinis generalis (fol. 96r), to which is appended a paragraph regarding the Libellus's application to Cistercian nuns, first added in 1316. This is followed by a list of the various distinctiones and their capitula. To facilitate the use of the manuscript, an index was inserted at the beginning, and corresponding leaf numbers and chapter markers were added throughout.

The present manuscript, bearing a 15th century shelfmark "D XVIII" at the beginning of the main section, fits in with a series of other 13th and 14th century manuscripts formerly in Himmerod and now kept at the State Library in Berlin, the consecutive shelfmarks indicating that they once were grouped together in the abbey library: Berlin Lat. oct. 242 has the late-mediaeval shelfmark D XVII, while Berlin Lat. oct. 243 is D XIX. The library of the Arnburg Cistercian monastery, where the volume was transferred in early modern times, was pillaged and dispersed in the Thirty Years' War, but later rebuilt. After secularization in 1802 the books were removed to the library of the counts of Solms in Laubach (cf. Kuczera 2011, 145).


(1*v) addendae: entry regarding the approbation of the Libellus definitionum, 1317 (Canivez III, 336 no. 12); oath formulae for the abbot in Latin and German.

(2*-11*v) alphabetical index.

(1r-102v) Libellus antiquarum definitionum, 1316 (inadequate publication in Séjalon 1892, pp. 367-470; for several parallel traditions see Lucet 1965, p. 257). Tit.: Libellus statutorum Cysterciensis ordinis illorum videlicet que ad regularem observantiam, correctionem morum viteque disciplinam pertinenere noscuntur. Prologus super cartam caritatis. Inc.: Antequam ordo cysterciensis esset plurimum dilatatus … Expl.:… et faciant ab aliis firmiter observari. Explicit liber diffinitionum.

Followed by an enumeration of distinctiones and their capitula. Expl.: ... De institutione abbatissarum, capellanis et conversis monialium.

(103v) appendix: brief instructions for the religious profession rites.

(104r-110r) liturgy for profession and investiture. Text uses the feminine singular throughout; plurals (and occasional masculine plurals) are given in interlinear insertions.

(110v-113v) appendix: instructions and texts for visitations.

Several mediaeval ownerships: "Liber monachorum Hymmenroden(sium)" (1st leaf recto); "Monachorum de Hymmerode, ordinis Cisterciensis, Treverensis diocesis, pro abbacia" (last leaf verso); 15th century Himmerod shelfmark "D XVIII" at beginning of main section. Later in the Arnsburg Cistercian monastery with an early modern ownerhship "Bibliotheca Arnsburgensis" (1st leaf recto); a dated ownership on fol. 106r within the D initial: "Frater Iohannes Wellen. Anno domini 1582". Binding rubbed; covers show traces of worming; spine a little chipped in places; fore-edge flap missing save for a fragment. Interior a little stained, but very well preserved altogether.

J.-M. Canivez, Statuta capitulorum generalium ordinis Cisterciensis, tom. III (1262-1400) (Bibliothèque de la Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 11, Louvain 1935). A. Kuczera, Arnsburg, in: F. Jürgensmeier - R. E. Schwerdtfeger (eds.), Germania Benedictina IV/1, Die Mönchs- und Nonnenklöster der Zisterzienser in Hessen und Thüringen 1 (St. Ottilien 2011), pp. 113-163. B. Lucet, L'ère des grandes codifications cisterciennes (1202-1350), in: Études d'histoire du droit canonique dédiées à Gabriel Le Bras I (Paris 1965), pp. 249-262. H. Séjalon, Nomasticon Cisterciense (Solesmes 1892). A. Schneider, Skriptorium und Bibliothek der Cistercienserabtei Himmerod im Rheinland. Zur Geschichte klösterlichen Buchwesens im Mittelalter, in: Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 35 (1952/53), pp. 155-205. The same, Skriptorium und Bibliothek der Abtei Himmerod: ein Beitrag zur Geistesgeschichte des Eifelklosters (Himmerod 1974).

Stock Code: BN#56206