Codex St. Lascivius
Known to present-day scholars of pornographica monastica as the Libellus Sancti Lascivii--based on the illumination of the spurious saint receiving services of questionable propriety--this little book no doubt represents the efforts of several artists from various periods.

The manuscript itself clearly predates the bindery work with its post-Renaissance marbleized end pages, crudely applied to the folio sheets. A monastic sense of frugality is evident in the glued-in frontispiece facing the incipit: holding this up to the light, one notices a recycled hymnal on the reverse. That materials of such obvious utility should have been sacrificed leads one to speculate on the illegitimacy of this volume: the author was perhaps compelled to cannibalize other manuscripts for the materials of the unsanctioned opus.

Note too that in the very center of the book one finds a legitimate--albeit incomplete--excerpt from Genesis, and that it has been written in several different hands. Could it be that a scribe busily at work on less lofty endeavors would flip to this page whenever the master of the scriptorium passed by? That this page appears in a number of hands is in agreement with the notion that a number of individuals contributed to this book's completion. While the style of the ductus is consistent and can probably be attributed to a single 12th century scribe, the illumination styles clearly display a variety of periods. Note for example the Renaissance-style "R" initial (Resistetē) and foliate border with sheep (Atque hīc), the layered confessional scene (etenim coniunx) and the realism of the final page Hell portrayal; all suggesting that at various stages of completion, the manuscript was hidden away, only to be rediscovered and further embellished at subsequent dates.

So while this codex is not of the artistic caliber of other surviving 12th century illuminated texts, it does none-the-less contribute to a scant corpus operis that includes such unique examples as the Carmina Burana--works that wryly imply that monastic life was perhaps not as cloistered as one might assume.

-- Brian Zegarski
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Libellus St. Lascivius Back cover Front marbleized endpages
Incipit - Omnes cupidi Hic dispositura quae optime... servat
Atque hic Videlicet Vel vir
Specious page - Genesis Multa nocte Two details
Femina diabolum... vexit The eponymous Resistete page Item cavete
Ne feminas etenim coniunx homo miserque...
Details of Hell, 1 Details of Hell, 2

Copyright © 2004 - 2011 Brian Zegarski, all rights reserved.

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