Cassianus: De institutis coenobiorum

The works of Cassianus (c. 360‒435), including the one in this codex and Conversations of the Desert Fathers played an invaluable role in laying the foundations of monastic life in Europe. They are the first and most authentic descriptions of the world of hermits and monks in the East. The author traveled to the Holy Land in his youth, and after a brief period in a monastery of Betlehem, went to Egypt, the desert of Skete (today Wadi El Natrun) to learn about the life and teachings of the Desert Fathers – hermits and Cenobites (monks living in community). Cassianus returned to Europe at the turn of the century and later founded two monasteries near Marseilles.

This manuscript, the Cassianus Corvina, was the basis for the researchers to call ’Cassianus master’ the unidentified illuminator who worked on this volume and several other Corvinas. As the decoration of the codex was completed after King Matthias’s death, it contains also elements that allude to Vladislaus II.

The miniature of the title-page depicts typical scenes of monastic life. In the bottom right, the abbot of the community (cenobium) teaches the monks; in the upper right, a monk returns from the city with his donkey (the monks sold in the market their own products like ropes and baskets); in the bottom left, two anchorites (hermits) hold a conversation; and on the upper right, a man appears in secular clothing, as the townspeople often turned to the fathers for spiritual advice. (Ferenc Földesi)

Source: The Corvina Library and the Buda Worskhop: [National Széchényi Library, November 6, 2018 –February 9, 2019] A Guide to the Exhibition; introduction and summary tables: Edina Zsupán; object descriptions: Edina Zsupán, Ferenc Földesi; English translation: Ágnes Latorre, Budapest: NSZL, 2018, p. 106


The data sheet is partly based on the detailed description of the manucsript: MIKÓ Árpád, “E3 (= Kalauz/Guide 2018, Kat. E3) Johannes Cassianus: A cönobita szerzetesek szabályai; Cassianus élete (De institutis coenobiorum; De vita Cassiani)”, in  ZSUPÁN, Edina, szerk., “Az ország díszére”. A Corvina könyvtár budai műhelye. Kiállítási katalógus (Budapest: Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, 2020.), 245–250.



Shelfmark: Cod. Lat. 2129.
Country: France
City: Paris
Keeper location: Bibliothèque Nationale
Digitized corvina: at the keeper location
Author: Johannes Cassianus (c. 360–435)
Content: Johannes Cassianus: De institutis coenobiorum; De vita Cassiani
Writing medium: parchment
Number of sheets: I + 131 + II*
Sheet size: 385 × 270 mm
Place of writing: Naples or Buda
Date of writing: c. 1481–1485 (?)
Scriptor: Pierre de Bordeaux (Petrus de Abbatis)
Illuminator: "Master of the Cassianus corvina", who, according to international research, is identical to Francesco da Castello; according to Edina Zsupán, the decoration is the work of a workshop led by Francesco da Castello
Place of illumination: Buda
Date of illumination: 1489–1491
Crest: the manuscript was originally written for Matthias Corvinus (King of Hungary 1458–1490, King of Bohemia 1469–1490), and the coats-of-arms of him and his wife Beatrice of Naples (1457–1508) adorn not only the title page of the volume but also the title pages of the individual chapters; the manuscript was completed after the death of Matthias, and the coats-of-arms were therefore partly repainted; the manuscript as it stands contains the Hungarian and Czech royal arms, sometimes with the Dalmatian arms and the Moravian eagle, or with the Austrian arms and the Moravian eagle, usually with the Jagello eagle in the inescutcheon, and the Aragonese arms; coat-of-arms of Charles X of France (r. 1824–1830) on the binding
Possessor, provenience: Vladislaus II (King of Bohemia 1471–1516, King of Hungary 1490–1516); the manuscript was part of the book collection of Raphaël Trichet du Fresne (1611–1661), which was deposited in the Royal Library of France in 1662; the corvina was 'discovered' in Paris in 1846 by a 'research expedition' sent by Chancellor Klemens von Metternich (1773–1859)
Binding: modern leather binding
Language of corvina: Latin