The Catholic University of Lille listed for sale the “Saint-Mihiel” evangelary, made around 1040 at Reichenau Abbey, on Lake Constance.
It is a priceless treasure, unknown to the general public, held by the library of the Catholic Institute of Lille, announced the magazine La Vie on July 6, 2020. The evangelary called “de Saint Mihiel” is a masterpiece of medieval illumination, explains Eric Palazzo, professor of medieval art history at the University of Poitiers.
In the scriptorium of the Benedictine Abbey of Reichenau, located on an island in Lake Constance, the workshop of copyist monks in the 11th century included the greatest illuminators. Composed of 254 pages and 15 full-page paintings, the evangelary is one of the jewels of the Reichenau school. It was subsequently entrusted to the St. Mansuy de Toul Abbey (Meurthe-et-Moselle), then to the St. Michel de St. Mihiel Abbey (Meuse), which in the 18th century housed a library of 10,000 books. It is in this city that the parish priest, Charles Didiot, future bishop of Bayeux and Lisieux, bought the evangelary from a bookseller in 1830, and gave it to his relative, Canon Jules Didiot, dean of the faculty of theology of Lille, who donated it in 1881 to the library of the Catholic Institute, founded a few years earlier.
“In France, it is very rare for such a work to be kept in a religious institution,” emphasizes Eric Palazzo, recalling that most of the illuminated manuscripts of this period are in the National Library of France (BNF), and belong to the state.
The sale of the manuscript is expected to finance, among other things, the work of the St. Joseph University Chapel, which requires seven million euros. “We are hoping that the state will acquire it,” said Anne-Marie Michel, director of international relations and communication at the Catholic University of Lille. The manuscript would then join the BNF, among the 30,000 manuscripts available for consultation by researchers. “It would only change the place of conservation,” adds Eric Palazzo.