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Walters Ms. W.342, St. Catherine of Bologna's Le Armi Spirituale

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St. Catherine of Bologna's Le Armi Spirituale

Text title
Le Armi Spirituale


Authority name: Bologna, Catherine of, Saint, 1413-1463


St. Catherine of Bologna (1413-1463), also known as Catherine de' Vigr, was an Italian nun from the order of the Poor Clares. She was born to a fairly wealthy family and spent time as a young woman at the court of Niccolò III d'Este (1383-1441), the Marquess of Ferrara. Catherine became jaded with court life after Niccolò had his wife Parisina executed for adultery in 1425. In In 1455 she left Ferrara to become the abbess of a new convent, Corpus Domini in Bologna. Her most famous work is Seven Spiritual Weapons Necessary for Spiritual Warfare (Le Sette Armi Spirituali), which she wrote in 1438, then edited between 1450 and 1456. The text encourages the reader to take up the cross as a kind of spiritual arms. According to the colophon on fol. 62r-v, the Walters copy was written in 1466 at the monastery of Corpus Christi in Ferrara by the nun Beata Illuminata Bembo, a companion of St. Catherine. It was copied from St. Catherine's own manuscript found in her cell at the time of her death in 1463 by Father Batista da Modena. Especially wonderful is the sensitively painted portrait of St. Catherine on fol. 1v, which was created in her memory shortly after her death by her friend Beata, and which may therefore offer a lovingly personalized portrait of the saint by someone who knew her well.


Dated 1466 CE


Ferrara, Italy


Authority name: Bembo, Illuminata, approximately 1410-1493

Known as: Beata Bembo







The primary language in this manuscript is Italian.

fols. 62r to 62v:
  1. Transliteration: Prego humilemente omne una de uuy la qualle legera questo libro

Support material


Medium-weight, cream colored parchment


Foliation: i+64

Foliation written in modern pencil, upper right corners, rectos


Formula: i+Quires 1-6: 10 (fols. 1-59); Quire 7: 8 (fols. 60-66)

Catchwords: Written in black ink horizontally on the bottom margin, versos

Comments: Last folio of Quire 7 is now the back pastedown


10.5 cm wide by 14.0 cm high

Written surface

6.0 cm wide by 8.6 cm high

  1. Columns: 1
  2. Ruled lines: 22

fols. 1r - 64v:
  1. Title: Le Armi Spirituale
  2. Author: Bologna, Catherine of, Saint, 1413-1463
  3. Scribe: Bembo, Illuminata, approximately 1410-1493
  4. Rubric: Cunreuetentia prego per lo dolce e suave amore yhu xpo. qualunqua persona alaquale vignira anotitia de questa picoleta opera...
  5. Incipit: In nome sia dell' Eterno Padre
  6. Contents: Contains "Le Armi Spirituale" of St. Catherine of Bologna as well as a spiritual chant on fols. 63v-65r that begins "Esu signor piacente / sempre situ laudato"
  7. Hand note: Written in Italian Gothic script; the spiritual chant that begins on fol. 63v is written in another hand
  8. Decoration note: Historiated initial "I" with St. Catherine of Bologna holding a cross and book (fol. 1v) along with foliate decoration in the left margin; decorated initial "A" (fol. 55v); both initials with green, pink, blue, and white pigment and gold leaf; penwork in blue and red ink; rubrication in red ink; the text in black ink


fol. 1v:

  1. W.342, fol. 1v
  2. Title: Historiated Initial "I" with St. Catherine of Bologna
  3. Form: Historiated Initial "I," 8 lines

fol. 55v:

  1. W.342, fol. 55v
  2. Title: Decorated Initial "A"
  3. Form: Decorated Initial "A," 7 lines


The binding is not original.

Original wooden boards covered in a nineteenth- or twentieth-century red silk corded cloth; strap stub on the upper cover and brass catch plate on the lower are both perhaps original; the edges in full gilt with gauffering, likely modern; front pastedown and endleaf a parchment bifolium


Written in 1466 at the monastery of Corpus Christi in Ferrara, Italy by Sister Beata Illuminata Bembo (according to the colophon on fol. 62r-v)

Leo S. Olschki, bookseller, Florence

Henry Walters, Baltimore, purchased from Leo S. Olschki; inventory number 17917 written in ink on bookplate that reads "Ex Libris Leonis S. Olschki" on inside of upper board


Walters Art Museum, 1931, by Henry Walters' bequest


De Ricci, Seymour. Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. Vol. 1. New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1935, p. 844, no. 497.


Principal cataloger: Berlin, Nicole

Cataloger: Walters Art Museum curatorial staff and researchers since 1934

Editor: Herbert, Lynley

Conservator: Quandt, Abigail

Contributors: Damon, Elena; Emery, Doug


The Walters Art Museum


Licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Access Rights, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode. It is requested that copies of any published articles based on the information in this data set be sent to the curator of manuscripts, The Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201.