Royal Breviary of Philippe IV praying to the Head of Saint-Louis BnF cropped

 Royal Breviary of Saint Louis up for Sale

Classified as “National Treasure” in 2014, BnF is trying to raise the funds to buy the Royal Breviary of Saint-Louis from Poissy

Breviary of Saint Louis de Poissy (ca. 1310 - 15) the Crown of Thorns
Breviary of Saint Louis de Poissy (ca. 1310 – 15) the Crown of Thorns. Photo: Christie’s/ Anna Buklovska

This breviary was presented to the Abbey at Poissy by the French King, Philippe the IV of France (Philippe le Bel), who had it made in honour of his grandfather, Saint Louis. Written and illuminated between 1310 – 1315, it was a present to Marie de Clermont-Bourbon, another of the saint’s grandchildren, who lived at the priory from the age of four.

The breviary was designed to promote the cult of Saint Louis and contains the texts appropriate for the celebrations of the royal saint. Thus it contains the liturgy to the feast of Saint Louis on the 25th of August.

The breviary consists of 600 sheets of parchment. The binding is from the 16th century.It measures 176 x 115 mm and is illustrated by Richard de Verdun (also known as the Maîtra de Jean Papealu). Among his extant works are a historical Bible (Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal) and five bibles preserved in Paris (BnF), Berlin (Deutsche Staatsbibliothek), London (British Library), Harvard (Houghton Library) and at Lisbon (Fondation Goulbekian). He was a disciple of Maître Honoré.

The breviary testifies to the importance of Poissy as the centre of the cult of the Capetiens and their royal saint, Saint Louis. It belongs to a group of other important manuscripts from the same milieu: the Breviary of Phillippe IV made by Maître Honoré and the Belleville Breviary painted by Jean Purcelle between 1323 – 26, both kept at BnF. Part of the picture-program in the Royal Breviary of Saint-Louis from Poissy is echoed in the Belleville-breviary, which is later. The importance for BnF of the present manuscript is the way in which it can be used to trace the relationship and   artistic collaboration in the royal workshop of Philippe IV.

Some of the illuminations record the events of the life of Saint Louis (Saint-Louis feeds a leper, as a prisoner of the Muslims etc.); thus it also preserves one of the very earliest illustrations of the relics, which Saint Louis acquired for Sainte-Chapelle, among which was the Crown of Thorns. Another story-line is the establishment of the cult of Saint-Louis and the translation of his relics to Saint-Denis and elsewhere.

It is possible to donate funds to BnF until the 27.11.2015. Frenchmen, who donate, will receive a tax reduction of 66%. The price is set at € 1 mill. It is currently in private possession.


Le bréviaire royal de Saint-Louis de Poissy


The Abbey of Poissy