The Abbey of Grandpré gradual

The Abbey of Grandpré gradual, a rare choral manuscript, bears witness to the wealth of the abbey’s library. A major acquisition by the Pierre-François Tilmon Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Fund.

In 2018, the Pierre-François Tilmon Fund, which works to preserve and promote Namur’s heritage, acquired an extremely rare manuscript from the Abbey of Grandpré (Faux-les-Tombes, Gesves) and entrusted it to the Société Archéologique de Namur (SAN).

This choral manuscript comprises 221 parchment pages illuminated in the 15th century during the time of Abbot Jean de Maillen (1440-1447). It is exceptional for more than one reason. Firstly, its rarity. A unique 17th century source signals the wealth of the abbey’s library. Yet no other manuscript from this source had come our way before this gradual appeared on the Parisian art market. The ensemble had either been dispersed or destroyed during the French Revolution.

Moreover, the Grandpré gradual is the only known example of a Cistercian work linked to the liturgy in an abbey for men, founded as such in the Namur region in 1231.

Initial research indicate that the gradual was probably copied in an abbey in the Namur region. Most of these abbeys had scriptoria, (where manuscripts were copied). Was it done at Grandpré? Research currently under way are examining the question, the results of which should open new perspectives for interpretation.

The work is written in gothica textualis, a precious script reserved for the most sacred texts. Between each line are written the neumes, the signs of musical notation used throughout the Middle Ages until the appearance of the stave. In this manuscript, the notes take the form of little nails and are characteristic of Cistercian musical manuscripts. 

The Grandpré gradual will be kept by the Société archéologique de Namur in the precious reserves of the TreM.a – Musée d’arts anciens du Namurois.

Material / technique: 
Illuminated manuscript on parchment
Type of acquisition: 
Acquired by the Pierre-François Tilmon Fund
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
TreM.a – Musée d’arts anciens du Namurois