Interdisciplinarity and Open Access
The Breviarium research and valorisation project is the result of a synergy between The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage and the KU Leuven (Book Heritage Lab and Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies) and was launched at the initiative of the Abbey of Maredsous with the support of the Baillet Latour Fund. Through this project, one of the central values of the Institute was implemented: interdisciplinarity, both within the Institute and in collaboration with a major university in Belgium. Our Institute is also committed to Open Access, making the manuscript fully available on the Internet.
Art history study and the expertise of our laboratories
Our colleague Dominique Vanwijnsberghe led the art historical study: the codicological examination (the structure of the book and the way it was produced) and the study of the stylistic elements, which made it possible to determine the intervention of at least five painters during two successive years of production. The iconography of the miniatures, the themes represented at the beginning of the different parts of the book, was also studied. Some of them are pretty original, especially the page describing the martyrdom and legend of Saint Adrian, the patron saint of Grammont Abbey. It brings to life a little-known local tradition.
The laboratories made the second significant contribution of KIK-IRPA. The analysis of several pages of the Breviary by MA-XRF (macro X-ray fluorescence mapping), carried out by Marina Van Bos, confirmed the stylistic study by showing that the illuminators each used a vibrant palette of colours, which is unique to them. Surprisingly, one used a hitherto rarely observed pigment, bismuth, which gave a unique silver hue.
It was a real Benedictine task. We benefited from the long restoration period to examine the manuscript and to immerse ourselves in its incredible aura... We worked in a monastic spirit.
A rich history of collaboration
The Institute had already photographed the Breviary in black and white in 1975. A colour cover, available on BALaT, was made in 2012. Dominique Vanwijnsberghe returned to one of the volumes of the Breviary the following year as part of a research project on the Masters of Guillebert de Mets, a group of Ghent illuminators who participated in the illumination of the manuscript. The project grew out of the initiative of Abbot Bernard Lorent, who wanted to take advantage of an in-depth study of the Breviary to have it restored. Lieve Watteeuw, curator-restorer of ancient books and professor at the KU Leuven, was therefore contacted. She had already dealt with important manuscripts, including those of the Royal Library. Together with the Book Heritage Lab of the KU Leuven, she had the technical means to make a complete facsimile of the four volumes available online.
A dedicated website
This collaborative project has been very productive: a brochure for the general public in two languages, available at the Maredsous Abbey Bookshop, articles in specialised magazines, and a website that allows anyone to virtually leaf through the four volumes of the manuscript and admire all the details. Discover them now.