top of page

Sacramentary of  Limoges cathedral

No historian of the Romanesque miniature has ever remained unmoved by the beauty of the Sacramentary of Saint-Etienne Cathedral in Limoges. 


The Sacramentary is a liturgical book, meant for the celebrant, containing all that was needed: prayers, introductions, canon to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries.


Find the Sacramentary on Gallica


The entirety of the painter’s work of the Sacramentary comprises three more pieces of work, including two enormous Bibles (Saint-Yriex Bible) The Sacramentary of Saint-Etienne, despite its rather small format, is a very luxurious manuscript.

It is illustrated with full-page paintings and with some ornate letters. These full-page paintings represent in (their) order: the Nativity, the Stoning of Saint-Stephen, the Baptism of Christ and the Marriage at Cana, the Presentation at the Temple, the Entry of Christ in Jerusalem, the Last Supper and the Washing of the Feet, Christ in Majesty and the Tetramorph, the Crucifixion, the Holy Women at the Tomb,  Ascension and Pentecost.

In his detailed analysis, J. Porcher likens this manuscript to the late X century Ottonian works. However, similarities exist between the Sacramentary and some French pieces of work. 


The Sacramentary’ s colours are split into two groups: they feature very bright colours, lines of deep blue and bright red to highlight facial wrinkles and palms of the hands. Along with these bold colours, are a whole range of precious hues and attenuated shades: pale pink dwindled into white lines, lavender blue outlined with grey.

The discovery of frescoes from the same artist in the Roman crypt of Limoges Cathedral uncovered scenes of the Annunciation, The drawing is similar to that of the Sacramentary’ s characters. Finally, these frescoes are exactly contemporaneous with the manuscript between 1090-1095, long before 1105, which marked the ransacking of the city of Limoges and the burning of the Cathedral by people from the Castle.

(Source - La décoration des manuscrits à Saint-Martial de Limoges /Gaborit-Chopin)



Periodically, analogies can be made with the production of contemporary enamel: such as the similarity of some drapes with soft falls, and also with the puzzling kinship of the powerful angel figure coming out its cloud in Saint-Junien with one of the angels on the roof of the Ambazac Reliquary Casket. However, the use of graphics or of some patterns which are uncommon in murals, provide the most tangible benchmarks.

The series of tear-shaped lobes nestled in each other, the squared hatchings or the crescent-shaped highlights on some characters’ clothes (God in the Creation scene, the Executioners in the Stoning of Saint Stephen in Salles-Lavauguyon) form a very distinctive repertoire, close to that used in the Scriptorium of Saint-Martial in Limoges by the Second Bible painters, and in the affiliated manuscripts at the time of its first Cluniac Abbot, Ademar (1063-1114)

These graphics processes are comparable to those found in the works of the painter of the Sacramentary in Saint-Etienne in Limoges and in that of his successors. Elongated torsos, elegant proportions, outline of profiles, elements of decoration, like the use of a specific palmette, also suggest a kinship too.

It is interesting to observe that this very smooth palmette, with scalloped edges where every lobe is ‘striated’ with three parallel lines, strictly and identical to the miniatures by the Painter of the Sacramentary, which he seems to use in a very exclusive manner (fol.228 r in Saint-Yriex Bible shows a fine illustration of this), and in Saint-Junien where they occupy the space freed by Mandorla.


(Source - Eric SPARHUBERT / Les peintures romanes de la nef de la collégiale de Saint-Junien)

Enluminures sacramentaire
bottom of page