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Vaticinia pontificum

Maker(s) &

, production, Northern Italy, Verona, probably Verona


illuminated manuscript


other; type of text


circa 1431 circa 1447


fifteenth century, second half


PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Parchment, iii modern parchment flyleaves + 14 fols. + iii modern parchment flyleaves, 255 x 178 mm (190 x 110 mm), varying number of lines, ruled in brown ink, bifolio which formed the outer leaves of the second quire (before fol. 9 and after fol. 14) lost

BINDING: Twentieth century, gold-tooled brown morocco over pasteboards, lettered on spine JOACHIMI ABBATIS VATICINIA, by F. Bedford.

CONTENTS: fols. 1r-14v Vaticinia pontificum

DECORATION: Twenty-eight unframed pen and ink drawings accompanied by text and mottoes:
fol. 1r Nicholas III (Giovanni Orsini) enthroned, holding a palm branch, with a dove hovering above it among nine stars, feeding a bear, while another bear paws his knees; text: [A]scende calve ne amplius decalveris…Dominus Jacobus de Ursinis Nicolaus papa...; motto: Stelas (sic) congregabit ut in celi firmamento luceant.
fol. 1v Martin IV (Simon de Brie) standing, touching the beak of an eagle with his processional cross, trees on either side; text: [P]ost lunam ascendet mars sciens…Dominus Simon canonicus turonensis Martinus papa quartus…; motto: Clavibus claudet et nemo aperiet.
fol. 2r Honorius IV (Giacomo Savelli) standing, holding a key and threatened by an armed man with a bludgeon, decapitated head on ground between them; text: [A]ccipe supplantor excelsos honores…Dominus Jacobus de sabellis, Honorius papa quartus…; motto: Duros corporis substinebis dolores seu labores.
fol. 2v Nicholas IV (Girolamo Masci) enthroned between female personifications of the Eastern (in turban) and Western (with nimb) Church, holding out a brimming chalice to the Eastern Church and his left hand to the Western Church, winged dragon clinging to his robe; text: [M]emini me ad masimum gradum…Frater Geronimus ordinis minorum Nicolaus…; motto: Oriens bibet de calice ire dei.
fol. 3r Celestine V (Pietro di Murrone) kneeling and praying to a hand of blessing emerging from a bush, a fox crawling up his back, the standard of St Peter behind; text: [B]enedictus qui venit in nomine domini…Frater Petrus de morrono celestinus papa quintus sanctus; motto: Voce vulpine perdet principatum.
fol. 3v Boniface VIII (Benedetto Gaetano) standing, touching the head of a bird with his cross, another bird hanging from his hand which holds the keys, a cockerel on his right, a monk (Celestine V after his resignation) sitting on his left; text: [E]cce homo de schariotis progenie…Dominus Benedictus Gaienatus Bonifacius papa octavus; motto: Fraudulenter intrasti potenter regnasti gemens morieris.
fol. 4r Benedict XI (Nichola Boccasini) standing, looking at a dragon rampant in front of a tree, a bird flying towards pope’s head; text: [H]ec avis est nigerima corvine generis…Frater Nicolaus de tarvisio ordinis predicatorum Benedictus papa undecimus eius vita et mors clara fuit; motto: Viri fortis invidie orbabuntur.
fol. 4v Clement V (Raymond Bertrand de Got) riding away from a nimbed personification of the Church who stands weeping in a doorway (exile to Avignon); text: [V]ide hic babilonice sponsum fugientem sponsam suam…Dominus Beltrandus Guasco Clemens papa quintus vagabundus; motto: Mobiles et immobilis et maria plura devastabit.
fol. 5r John XXII (Jacques d’Euse) standing, holding a flabellum and papal keys, surmounted by a spread eagle, a sword hanging down from his mouth and touching the back of the Paschal Lamb at his feet, on his right a monster with dragon’s wings and tail and the head of the Anti-pope reaches out for papal keys; text: [D]e infirmo genere ascendet…Dominus jacobus de caturchio Johannes papa vigesimosecundus pessimus; motto: Contra columban ymago turpissima clericorum pugnabit.
fol. 5v Benedict XII (Jacques Fournier) standing, pointing to a cloud surrounding seven stars, a dove at his feet, a tiara surmounting a crown behind; text: [D]e suburbanis montuosis de terra candida…Dominus Jacobus de firnio Benedictus papa duodecimus; motto: Sex planetas lucidabit et unus fulgorem finaliter excedet.
fol. 6r Clement VI (Pierre Roger) standing, wearing a metal girdle under his cloak, a serpent hanging from his sleeve, holding papal keys and an upturned cross, a sheep’s head and a cockerel at his feet; text: [A]lta ascendet duplici benedicione…Dominus Petrus rogerii Clemens papa sextus; motto: Stollam suam in sanguine agni dealbabitis.
fol. 6v Innocent VI (Etienne Aubert) standing within a coronet, holding papal keys and a knife, a wolf facing the Pope and standing beneath the keys with his forepaws resting on the handle of a sword, trees on either side; text: [A]d honores ascendet duplices…Dominus Stephanus de [Aubert] Ynnocentius papa sextus; motto: Lupus cum agno habitabit Daniel propheta.
fol. 7r Urban V (Guillaume de Grimoard) enthroned, holding papal keys and flabellum, angel flying down to touch the keys, God’s hand emerging from clouds on left, peacock at foot of throne; text: [A]d alta alta vocaberis o princeps…Dominus Guillielmus de Grisant Urbanus papa quintus; motto: Aperiet librum scriptum digito dei vivi iste.
fol. 7v Gregory XI (Pierre Roger de Beaufort) standing, holding a pilgrim’s staff, threatened by a man in armour pointing a sword at the Pope’s neck, a hand emerging from cloud holds the hilt of the sword, three spears and two swords upturned on either side of the man; text: [O]bscuratum est aurum…Dominus Petrus de belfortis Gregorius papa undecimus; motto: Flores rubei odoriferam distilabunt aquam.
fol. 8r Urban VI (Bartolomeo Prignano) as a monster with a dragon’s body and a crowned head standing among clouds, his tail encircling seven stars, three more stars above, and ending in a beast’s head holding a sword in its jaws, crescent moon enclosing five stars on right; text: [H]ec est altima fera terribilis aspectu…Dominus Bartolomeus archiepiscopus barensis Vurbanus (sic) papa sextus; motto: Teribilis (sic) es et quis resistet tibi.
fol. 8v Boniface IX (Piero Tomacelli) standing between two bears, a third resting on his shoulders, trees on either side; related text and motto missing; beginning of second series or prophecies, [I]ncipiunt alie distinctiones proprie venerabilis et deo devoti Anselmi morsicani quas obtiunuit a deo de anno 1268 et post Boniffacii octavi obitum fuerunt publicate perusii Dominicino fuerunt apud multas excelentes personas . Potens est dominus mutare propositum quia in manus eius etc.; image and prophecy related to Innocent VII lost with the leaf missing after fol. 8.
fol. 9r Gregory XII (Angelo Corrario or Correr) enthroned, a bird above his tiara, laying his right hand on the head of a child, a unicorn rampant on the right; text: [D]uplicum triticum…Dominus Angelus corario Gregorius papa duodecimus; motto: Penitencia tenebit Simonis magi vestigia.
fol. 9v Alexander V (Pietro Philarghi), three columns supporting the bust of a king (left), the bust of a monk (centre), and an arm holding a blade to the monk’s head; text: [I]ste colus quartus a bursa careens…Frater Petrus de candia ordinis minorum Alexander papa quintus; motto: Confusio Error incitabitur.
fol. 10r (Anti-Pope) John XXIII (Baldassarre Cossa) standing, dressed as a monk, holding a sickle and a rose, leg irons and detached leg (or piece of leg armour) on the ground; text: [V]ide iterum alienum existens…Dominus baldesar cossa de neapoli Johannes papa vigesimisus tercius; motto: Elacio paupertas obediencia castitas temperancia castrimargia et ypocrisorum destructio.
fol. 10v Martin V (Oddone Colonna) standing with hands crossed over his chest, looking at busts of king and queen, a bull sitting at his feet and pawing his cloak; text: [V]acha ante quantum et filii urse…Dominus Otto de la colonna martinus papa quintus; motto: Incisio ypocresim in abominacione erit.
fol. 11r Eugene IV (Gabriello Condulmaro or Condulmerio) standing with arms folded over his chest, looking down at bear with cubs; text: [A]lia ursa secunda pascens catulos…Dominus Gabriel condalmer de veneciis Heugenius papa quartus; motto: Occisio filii babel sectabuntur.
fol. 11v Nicholas V [name added by later hand] (Tommaso Parentucelli), walled city with two groups of armed men facing one another from opposite turrets, papal flag flying above the group on the right; text: [H]eu misera substinens passiones, civitas miserabilis ut appareat…; motto: Potestas cenobia ad locum pastorum redibunt.
fol. 12r Callistus III (Alfonso de Borgia) [name added by later hand] standing and blessing a fox or a wolf which carries the papal key and two papal standards; text: [V]ulpinam figurasti amiciciam patientem sensum…; motto: Bona gratia Simonia cessabit.
fol. 12v Pius II [name added by later hand] (Enea Silvio Piccolomini), Rome surrounded by walls, seven large dismembered hands emerging among turrets; text: [U]e tibi civitas septicolis quam R littera laudabilis…; motto: Potestas unitas erit.
fol. 13r Paul II [name added by later hand] (Pietro Barbo), tonsured man in a loin-cloth seated on a river bank beneath a tree, coins falling from his right hand, an open chest and a money bag on the ground, old man in tattered clothes standing on the right; text: [E]t revelabitur virtus qui habet prenomen…; motto: Bona operacio thesaurus pauperibus erigabitur.
fol. 13v Sixtus IV [name added by later hand] (Francesco della Rovere) standing nimbed, holding the tiara and looking down at four sheep on the ground; text: [M]ortuus nunc et oblitus et aspectas noverunt…; motto: Bona intencio caritas habundabit.
fol. 14r Innocent VIII [name added by later hand] (Giovanni Battista Cibò) standing and praying, an angel flying down to crown him; text: [E]cce item homo de primo genere abscondito…; motto: Prevaricatio concordia fiet.
fol. 14v Alexander VI [name added by later hand] (Rodrigo Borgia) enthroned, holding a book, three angels holding up a canopy behind him; text: [R]ecipe donum ne pigriteris senex…; motto: Bona occasio vivencium sacra cessabunt.

ORNAMENTATION: Red paraph marks introducing the identifications of prophecies with individual popes; capital letters of names highlighted in red; blank spaces left for the initials to each prophecy (some initials supplied by later hands).


illumination; whole


parchment; support
gold; medium




presented; 1934; The Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum


John Postle Heseltine (1843-1929), his bookplate inside upper cover; purchased at Sotheby’s, London, 7-8 May 1934, lot 66 and presented by the Friends of the Fitzwilliam Museum.


Heseltine, John Postle; previous owner


Like most fifteenth-century copies of the Vaticinia pontificum, a series of mystical prophecies about the papacy, this manuscript combines two works. The earlier one, known as the Genus nequam series, which is usually ascribed to Anselmus Marsicanus and features second in the surviving copies (it is on fols. 9r-14v in the Fitzwilliam manuscript), consists of fifteen prophecies translated from the Byzantine series of imperial prophecies, the Oracles of Leo the Wise, into Latin in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century and traditionally associated with the Spiritual Franciscans (Grundmann 1929; but see Lerner 1988 for an alternative interpretation of the text’s origins; Fleming 1999). The later work, the Ascende Calve series, which normally comes first in the surviving copies (it is on fols. 1r-8v in the Fitzwilliam manuscript) and opens the text with a prophecy associated with Nicholas III (1277-1280), comprises fifteen more prophesies composed probably in the mid-fourteenth century (Degenhart and Schmitt 1968). The two series began to circulate together from the second half of the fifteenth century both in manuscript copies and in printed editions (Lerner 1994). Each prophecy consists of an image, a caption and a short text, and is interpreted as referring to an individual Pope. In the Fitzwilliam copy, the original scribe associated the prophecies with popes down to Eugene IV (1431-1447) on fol. 11r, which suggests that the manuscript was produced during his pontificate. From fol. 11v onwards, the red paraph marks are followed by a blank space in which later fifteenth- and sixteenth-century hands have supplied the names of subsequent popes, matching the unallocated prophecies with successive occupants of the throne of St Peter. Sixteenth-century users of the manuscript have also written above several images the names of different popes from those associated with the prophecy in the main text. Of the several contemporary copies of the Vaticinia pontificum, whose original campaigns are datable to the pontificate of Eugene IV, one manuscript probably made in Siena offers comparative material for some of the compositions, in the Fitzwilliam copy (Lucca, Biblioteca Statale, MS 3369; Paoli 1979; Ciardi Dupré dal Poggetto 1985; for another contemporary copy, formerly in the Kraus collection, see de Polo 1985, who assigns it to Siena, and Ciardi Dupré dal Poggetto, who associates it with Perugia, in Ciardi Dupré dal Poggetto, Gualdi and Giacomelli 2005-2006, 21, figs. 18, 19, 20). But the closest iconographic parallels for the Fitzwilliam scenes are to be found in a north Italian copy of c.1410-1415 (Kremsmünster, Stiftsbibliothek, MS CC Cim. 6; The two manuscripts share almost identical compositions, appearing in the same order, for the representations of Nicholas III, Martin IV, Nicholas IV, Celestinus V, Boniface VIII, Benedict IX, Clement V, John XXII, Clement VI, Innocent VI, Gregory XI, Urban VI, Boniface IX, Gregory XII, Alexander V, John XXIII, Martin V, Eugene IV, and Callistus III.


secundo folio; [a]ccipe supplantor


Wormald, F. and Giles, P. M.. 1982. A descriptive catalogue of the additional illuminated manuscripts in the Fitzwilliam Museum.Cambridge (Cambs.): p. 363-65


Object Number: MS 365
(Manuscripts and Printed Books)
(record id: 178467; input: 2010-11-09; modified: 2012-08-28)


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