262J  Saint Bonaventura (1217-1274)

or rather a Fraticelli,?

  Vita christi


 [Paris : Philippe Pigouchet, about 1487].             $11,000

Originally assigned by BL to Caillaut and sometimes attributed to Johannes de Caulibus (BBFN Inc p.119f)

Quarto 7 3/4 x 5 1/2 inches a-i8. 72 leaves of 72. This copy is completely rubricated, paragraph signs and underlining in red, and bound in an early (but later) limp vellum binding.

This work’s precise date of composition, and its author, has occasioned much debate.  Until the late nineteenth century, it was traditionally ascribed to Bonaventure. Once it was realised that the work was not by him, but by an unknown author, the ascription was changed to pseudo-Bonaventure, representing a work previously thought to have been written by Bonaventure, but now of unknown author. It has since been thought to be the work of a Franciscan friar.[1]

The critical editor of the Meditations associated it with a John of Caulibus     ( Johannes de Caulibus),[2] It was also suggested that the work may have been based on a vernacular work, perhaps one written by an Italian nun,[4] but this view has not won wide acceptance.[5]

 Newly discovered documentary evidence showed that the work was indeed that of a Franciscan, and was written around 1300 by Jacobus de Sancto Geminiano, who is also identifiable as the leader of a revolt of Tuscan spirituals, one of the Fraticelli, in 1312.[6][7]

“On Monday, start at the beginning (of the Lord’s life), and go as far as the Lord’s flight into Egypt; then stop at this point. On Tuesday, resume there, and meditate as far as his opening of the Book in the synagogue. On Wednesday, proceed from there to the ministry of Mary and Martha. On Thursday, go from there to the passion and death. On Friday and Saturday, go as far as the resurrection. Finally, on Sunday, meditate on the resurrection itself up to the end of his earthly life.”  (Ed. and trans. Stallings-Taney et al. Meditations, 332)

Meditationes verosic divide, ut die Lunae incipiens, procurras usque ad fugam Domini in Aegyptum. Et eo dimidimisso, die Martis, pro eo rediens, mediteris usque ad apertionem libri in synagoga; die Mercurii exinde, usque in ministerium Mariae et Marthae; die Jovis abinde, usque ad passionem; die Veneris et Sabbati, usque ad resurrectionem; die vero Dominica, ipsam resurrectionem, et usque in finem. (Meditationes, ed. Peltier, 329

The work’s popularity in the Middle Ages is evidenced by the survival of over two hundred manuscript copies, including seventeen illuminated ones.[8] The popularity of the work increased further with early printed editions, with a surviving Venetian blockbook of 1497.[9]

The work’s detailed evocations of moments from the Gospels influenced art, and it has been shown to be the source of aspects of the iconographyof the fresco cycle of the Life of Christ in the Scrovegni Chapel by Giotto. It has also been credited with inspiring the great increase in depictions of the Veil of Veronica from the late 14th century.[10]

Vita Christi Introduction

AMONG the many encomiums and praises bestowed on the holy Virgin, St. Cecilie, it is recorded of her, that she kept the Gospel of Christ continually enshrined in her breast : the meaning of which seems to be, that she selected such passages from our Lord’s life and actions, contained in that divine volume, as tended most to raise her devotion, and inflame her love. On these she medi tated day and night, and such was the fervor of her heart, and the ardor of her affections, that she did not content herself with a single perusal, but was accustomed to read the most striking parts many times over, and carefully deposit them in the sanctuary of her heart. The like practice I recommend to you, as I look upon it to be the most material branch of spiritual study, and even the most beneficial of all devout exercises, and that which is most capable of leading you to the summit of Christian perfec tion. For surely the holy life of Christ, not merely free from the minutest blemish, but even divinely perfect, must be the best and only sure fountain whence we can hope to draw the perfect knowledge necessary to arm our breast against the flattering, yet fleeting vanities of the world ; to render us steady amidst tribulations and adversities ; and finally, to preserve us from vice, and facilitate the possession of every virtue. Frequent and habitual medita tions on that divine subject being the readiest means to introduce the soul, as it were, into such a kind of famil iarity, confidence, and love of him, as will insensibly create in it a contempt and distaste of everything else, and will effectually instruct it, both in what to do, and what to ftvoid doing. And first, that the contemplation of Christ’s blessed life * engthens the heart against the transient pleasures and * ceitful vanities of the world, sufficiently appears in the life of the sacred virgin, St. Cecilie, already mentioned, whose capacious heart was so filled with the divine senti ments gathered thence, that it had no space left for the entrance of vain affections. Even amidst the allurements of magnificence, the dissipations of music and other sensual pleasures, profusely combining to render the solemnity of her nuptials the more inviting to the sense, her heart, un affected by them, and, as it were, insensible of all these flattering appearances, remained immovably fixed on God, to whom she often recurred in these words : ” O Lord ! render my body and heart pure and undefiled, that I be not confounded”

Vita Christi.          signature a vi

MANKIND having for the long and tedious space of more than five thousand years continued in a miserable state of exile, not one of them being able to shake off the clog of original guilt, and soar to his native country Heaven; the blessed choir of angelic spirits, (moved to compassion, and concerned at the dreadful havoc sin had made among them, as well as solicitous to see the numbers of their own heavenly legions again completed) as soon as the fulness of time was come, resolved to renew the instances they had often before made to the Almighty.

  1. McNamer, Sarah (1990). “Further evidence for the date of the Pseudo-Bonaventuran Meditationes vitae Christi”. Franciscan Studies. 50 (1): 235–261. doi:10.1353/frc.1990.0003.
  2. Stallings-Taney, C. Mary (1997). Iohannis de Caulibus Meditaciones uite Christi, olim S. Bonauenturo attributae. Corpus Christianorum, continuatio mediaevalis. 153. Turnhout: Brepols. ISBN 978-2-503-04532-0.
  3. Taney, Francis X.; Miller, Anne; Stallings-Taney, C. Mary (2000). Meditations on the life of Christ. Asheville, NC: Pegasus Press. ISBN 978-1-889-81823-8.
  4. McNamer, Sarah (October 2009). “The Origins of the Meditationes vitae Christi”. Speculum. 84 (4): 905–955. doi:10.1017/S0038713400208142.
  5. Karnes, Michelle (2011). Imagination, meditation, and cognition in the Middle Ages. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-226-42531-3.
  6. Tóth, Peter; Falvay, Dávid (2014). “New Light on the Date and Authorship of the Meditationes vitae Christi”. In Stephen Kelly, Ryan Perry (eds.). Devotional culture in late medieval England and Europe: diverse imaginations of Christ’s life. Medieval church studies. 31. Turnhout: Brepols. pp. 17–105. doi:10.1484/M.MCS-EB.5.103036ISBN 978-2-503-54935-4.
  7. Falls, David J. (2016). Nicholas Love’s Mirror and late medieval devotio-literary culture: Theological politics and devotional practice in fifteenth-century England. London: Routledge. pp. 39–42. ISBN 978-1-317-08755-7.
  8. Ragusa, Isa; Green, Rosalie B. (1961). Meditations on the life of Christ; an illustrated manuscript of the fourteenth century (2 ed.). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-10031-9.
  9. “Le devote meditatione sopra la passione del nostro signore”. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  10. Mâle, Emile (1986). Religious art in France: The late Middle Ages. A study of medieval iconography and its sources (5 ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 26–48. ISBN 978-0-691-09914-9.

For a complete  English translation you can follow this link.



British Library (IA.40282)
British Isles Cambridge
FranceCambrai BM
Metz BM
Troyes BM (2)
Valognes BM (imperfect)
Vire BM (copy destroyed)
Germany Isny NikolaiK
Sweden Stockholm Swedish anonymous institution
Switzerland Luzern ZB
Ukraine Kiev NL

Number of holding institutions 11


Not In Goff ;  BMC VIII 112; GW 4747;Pell 2698; Arnoult 329; Girard 125; SI 855; Leuze(Isny) 165; Oates 3068;