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Treasures of the Rare Books and Special Collections Library: Manuscripts

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Boniface VIII. Decretals.
Bologna. Late 14th century.
Boniface VIII. Decretals.. Click to enlarge.

This fine manuscript is an example of the great work on canon law by Boniface VIII (Benedetto Gaetano, Pope, 1294-1303). Boniface added a large number of laws to the existing ecclesiastical legislation; these came to be known as the Liber Sextus, or "six books" since the Decretals of Gregory IX, promulgated around 1239 A.D. consisted of five books. It is one of the most common of all surviving ecclesiastical law books, and many examples were produced in Bolognese workshops throughout the 14th century.

Decoration of both the miniature, which depicts the Pope handing down a copy of his laws in the form of a scroll to a kneeling figure on the left with a notary writing below him together with a another kneeling figure on the right, and of the historiated initials, is in the style of Niccolo of Bologna, although not by the master himself. Other decoration includes on and two line initials in blue or red, and two to four line decorated initials in pink on square gold grounds.