The Manuscripts of the "Chronography/Calendar of 354 A.D."

In ancient Rome a wealthy Christian aristocrat named Valentinus received a codex containing an illustrated calendar for the year 354, together with a  group of unillustrated documents, including a list of names of the consuls, prefects and bishops of the city Rome to that date.  Other illustrated sections included depictions of the consuls of that year, and astrological signs.  The calligraphy was of exceptional quality, being the work of the most famous calligrapher of the century, Furius Dionysius Filocalus.  Indeed Filocalus, as a fellow Christian, had inscribed his own name alongside the wishes for Valentinus' well-being which adorned the opening page of the codex.  The illustrations that accompanied the text were the earliest full-page illustrations in a codex in the history of Western art, and may also have been executed by Filocalus.

The original codex continued to be of use long after Valentinus' day.  Polemius Silvius probably consulted it, almost a century later, for his own annotated calendar for the year 449.  In the sixth century a planisphere for the year 579 was prepared, which seems to have been illustrated with copies of the illustrations from the codex of 354.  Other traces of its existence are that St. Columbanus of Luxeuil may have copied its paschal cycle in 602, and an Anglo-Saxon work of 689 may refer to it.

The ancient codex still existed in the 9th century, when, because of its associations with the age of Constantine, a complete and faithful copy was made (the now lost Luxemburgensis).  At the same time an unillustrated copy of the text was made, either directly from the original or from an intermediary.  This latter is now St. Gall 878.  After this point there is no further sign of the original autograph; indeed fewer than 20 fourth century codices survive altogether (see E. A. Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores, Oxford, 1934, vol. 1: codices I, IV, XIV-XV).

In the renaissance, the discovery of the 9th century copy caused great excitement, inspiring several copies during the 16th and 17th centuries.  Unfortunately leaves were lost during the renaissance, and the best copy (the Romanus), which was executed under the supervision of the scholar Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, was made after this event.  On the death of Peiresc the Luxemburgensis was lost.  Our knowledge of the text is thus from the surviving renaissance copies, no one of which is adequate by itself. 



Shelfmark & Notes

Date /


Lost  Codex Luxemburgensis. Illustrated. 9th century manuscript copy of 4th century original.   

In B. there is a note indicating that it belonged to Jean Brenner.  Brenner's son-in-law, Remacle Huart, was guardian of the archives of Luxemburg.  On f.212 of B there is a further note which indicates that Brenner gave L to Christophe d'Asonville of Arras in the last years of Brenner's life.  Brenner died in 1571.  Christophe d'Asonville was the owner until his death, ca. 1608, but it was in the possession of his son-in-law, Renon de France, president of the council of Artois, until it passed to Peiresc.  Held by Peiresc from 1620 until his death on 24 June 1637, after which it disappeared. Peiresc acknowledged that the true owner was the president of Arras, but he did not return it to him or let it out of his control.   

Text and illustrations are described by Peiresc in a letter of 18 December 1620, published by Mommsen (MGH 1892, below), pp.17-29, and in Stern (1953), pp.14ff.  The letter was written to his friend Girolamo Aleandro the Younger.  At that time Aleandro was in the service of Maffeo Barberini, whose elevation to the papacy in 1623 as Pope Urban VIII explains in part the survival of Peiresc's letter in the Vatican library.

According to this letter, L began with the list of consuls (section VIII, below), continued with the unillustrated sections (IX-XIII) and ended with the illustrated sections (I-VII).  Note that the same order is preserved in B.  Mommsen reasoned that since the illustrated sections commenced with a title page, this section must have commenced the original manuscript; and such an order is preserved in V and Ber. today.

Some time after V. was copied from it, L lost a number of pages. Peiresc's description indicates the manuscript was already damaged when he got it in 1620.  He only mentions sections I-XIII in his letter, and indicates that certain folios were missing.  The section for astrological signs, for instance, was missing both its title page and the representations of Jupiter and Venus; the Calendar was missing the text for the months March-June, and the images for April-July.  The R and B mss. reproduce this diminished L.  Fortunately the Voss., V, and the 15th century German mss S and T were executed before L lost these folios.

The description of Peiresc also includes details of its execution.  He records the colours of the inks used in the various sections, noting that the designs were executed in black ink on parchment and that the figures were drawn only in black ink.  He adds that the text of the Calendar; the Kalends, Ides and names of the festivals celebrated on these days; and the astrological notations of the sun's movements in the various zodiac signs were written in red ink in majuscule lettering. (V reproduces this colour scheme for the inks used in the text of the calendar, as does R2.  In addition R2 includes the hebdomadal letters in red ink, a point not mentioned by Peiresc).  He also notes that red ink was used in the unillustrated sections for every fourth year in the List of Consuls (VIII), for the headings in the list of Easter dates (IX) and for the headings in sections XI and XII; in the illustrated section it was used for the dedicatory page inscription.  The colour scheme is consistent with Carolingian practise, and, for the calendar, reproduces the use of red and black still to be seen on calendars carved on walls in antiquity.

The colour scheme is reproduced to some extent in the copies.  R1 has much less of the red ink, however, apart from the dedicatory page, names of the months in the natales Caesarum, and the days in the astrological sections; R2 and V follow L, except in adding the hebdomadal letters.  

The height of the figures in V (185x210mm) is very close to that in R (180x200mm) suggesting that L had a similar size page.  This is within the limits of known 4th century codices.  

Peiresc judged that the handwriting showed an 8th or 9th century copy of a 4th century original.  While he lived before the invention of paleography, his judgements in other cases have generally been upheld.  The analysis of certain letter forms in R as 17th century imitations of Carolingian also supports this date.  


R1 Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Codex Vaticanus Barberini latinus 2154. Illustrated. Copied from L in 1620.  Described by Stern, pp. 14ff.  Some illustrations in monochrome in Salzman.  Note that the additional image for January is a renaissance invention.  The manuscript was sent to Aleandro the Younger in December 1620.  This manuscript alone contains the illustrations of the cities, the imperial dedication, the illustrations of the two consuls for the year, and the architectural decoration for the lists beginning with the Natales Caesarum. 1620
R2 Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Codex Vaticanus latinus 9135. Illustrated. Copied from R1 at the same time as R1 was copied from L.  Described by Stern, pp. 14ff. Some illustrations in monochrome in Salzman. 1620
B Brussells, Bibliothèque Royale Codex Bruxellensis 7543-7549.  Illustrated. Copied from L between 1560 and 1571, after the loss of several folios.  Description in Mommsen p.29f; by Gaspar and Lyna, Les principaux mss à peintures de la Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, vol. 1 (1937). Some illustrations in monochrome in Salzman.  A note at the front indicates that B. belonged to Jean Brenner of Nalbach, secretary of state and delegate to the provincial council of Luxemberg; his son-in-law was in charge of the archives in Luxemburg, and Brenner clearly owned L.  B. concentrates more on the text than the illustrations. 1560-1571
V Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Codex Vindobonensis 3416.  Illustrated.  Copied from L ca. 1500-1510, before the loss of several pages. Description in Mommsen, p.31; by J.H. Hermann, Die illustrierte Handschriften und Inkunabel in Wien..., vol. 1 (Leipzig, 1923), pp.1-5. Some illustrations in monochrome in Salzman.

V is very important for the study of the illustrations, because it was copied before L had lost several folios.  It was owned by Dr. Fuchsmagen, and this and its style indicate that it was copied in the Nuremberg region between 1500-1510.  The design of the images suggests that they were carried out by someone from the school of H. Vischer, possibly even Peter Vischer himself, whose group was closely connected to the Nuremberg circle of A. Dürer.  Only V and Voss. contain illustrations of all 12 months.  V also contains an illustrated dedication page, copied from a later edition.  The illustrations in V show sylistic -- late gothic -- rather than substantive differences from R.  However, unlike R, V does sometimes omit elements of the image which are unfamiliar to a Renaissance copyist, or may have been unclear in L.

G St. Gallen, Bibliothèque du Convent Codex Sangallensis 878. Not illustrated.  Copied either from the original codex or a lost intermediary.  Described by Mommsen, p.32ff.  

C.L.Verkerk, Aratea: A review of the literature concerning Ms. Vossianus lat. q. 79 in Leiden University Library, Journal of Medieval History 6 (1980) pp.245-287 considers the ms. 9th century and prior to 842; But B.S.Eastwood, Origins and contents of the Leiden Planetary Configuration (Ms. Voss. Q. 79, fol. 93v): an artistic astronomical schema of the early middle ages, Viator 14 (1983), p. 1-40, considers it was written in the 6th century.

Voss. Leiden, Bibliothek der Rijksuniversiteit Codex Leidensis Vossianus latinus q. 79, folio 93v.  Illustrated.  This is not a manuscript of the codex; but a single page copied from a 6th century manuscript, and appended to a manuscript of the Aratea.  This page contains miniature illustrations, set within a planisphere.  Each month is depicted in its own medallion, and placed in a circle between the signs of the zodiac.  The configuration of the planets allows us to conclude that the original was drawn up on 28 March 579.  Certain of these illustrations seem to have been copied from either the original manuscript of the codex of 354, or a copy of it.  However it cannot be used without reserve, as some modifications can also be seen.  Described by Stern, G. Thiele, Antike Himmelsbilder, Berlin (1898), pp.138-141, and W.Köhler and F. Mütherich, Die karolingische Miniaturen, vol. 4: Die Hofschule Kaiser Lothars, Berlin (1971).   9th - probably before 842
Ber. Bern, Bibliothèque municipale Codex Bernensis 108.  Not illustrated.  Copied from L in the 10th century for bishop Werinhar de Strasbourg.  Described by Mommsen, p.30. 10th
A Amiens, Bibliothèque municipale Codex Ambiensis 467. Not illustrated.  Copied from L ca. 1608-1620 (so Mommsen: Stern thinks 1622-8, for Renon de France, president of the tribunal of Malines from 1622 on).  Description in Mommsen p.30 and Stern p.15ff.  A note at the front (in a different hand) reads "ex cod. ms. antiquissimo d.n. de Francia praesidentis. in parlamento. Machliniensi."  Mommsen gives the shelfmark wrongly as 407.
Berl. Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz. Codex Berolinensis lat. 61, folios 231r-237r (new pagination).  Illustrated. Copied from L before 1604, according to Stern.  Description by Mommsen (p.30ff) and Stern. An illustration in monochrome in Salzman.  < 1604
S Rome, Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana Codex Vaticanus Palatinus latinus 1370, ff. 79-100.  Illustrated. Copied in the region between Ulm and Nuremberg.  Part of the S group which were all copied in Germany and all contain certain illustrations copied either from the 4th century manuscript or a now lost copy.  The illustrations supply images missing from L, notably of the planets Jupiter and Venus, and four signs of the Zodiac: the Ram (=Ares), the Bull (=Taurus), the Twins (=Gemini) and the Crab (=Cancer).  Described by Stern; monochrome illustration in Salzman. 1472
S Darmstadt, Stadtbibliothek Ms. 266. Illustrated. German 'S' type ms. Described by Stern. 15th
S Salzburg, Studienbibliothek Ms. Cod. V2, G 81-83. Illustrated. German 'S' type ms. Described by Stern. 15th
S Lost Illustrated. German 'S' type ms. Written in Southern Germany (Swabia) dated to the second half of the 15th century.  Described by A. Brown in Archaeologia 47 (1883), 337-360; noted by Stern, p.22. 15th
T Tübingen, Universitätbibliothek Ms. Md 2.  It was copied from either L, or the original 4th century codex, or an intermediary.  Either dated to 1404 or (according to Stern) between 1450-75.  Written at Ulm.  Includes the illustrations of Jupiter and Venus missing from all other mss except the S-group. Monochrome illustrations in Salzman. 1404

There are two further mss. worth mentioning, which were copied from R1.  These are the illustrations of the months in Florence, Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana Ashburnham 1061, and the illustrations of the months in the Library of Windsor Castle, vol. 196: Designs of Cassiano del Pozzo, nos. 11363-11374, fols. 124-135.  Stern believes that the illustrations in the Library of Windsor Castle were copied from R1.  In a letter of 17 May 1629, however, Peiresc mentioned that he prepared these designs and sent them to the Chevalier del Pozzo (so Mommsen, p.12, n.2).  The designs themselves provide no clear indication of whether they were copied from L or R1.

There is also a 10th century manuscript in the Bibliothèque Municipale of Boulogne-sur-Mer, Ms. 188.  On fol. 30r is a planisphere generally thought to be copied from the same source as that in Voss.  A copy of the Boulogne planisphere can be found in the Bibliothèque Municipale of Bern, Ms. 88, on fol. 11v. 

Order and contents of the Chronography

List of sections.  Following each section is a list in brackets of the mss that contain it, and on which pages.  (Sections in brackets and starred were probably not in the original codex).

I.  Dedication to Valentinus.  (R1, fol.1; B, fol. 197; V, fol. 1)

II.  The four city Tyches: images of the spirits of the cities of Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Trier.  (R1, fols. 2-5)

III.  Imperial Dedication. (R1 fol.6, then List of Natales Caesarum, then R1 fol. 7; B fol. 198)

IV.  The 7 planets, and their legends.  (R1, fols.8-12; legends only in S, G, fols.240v-241; B. fols 198v-200v, but missing Jupiter and Venus).

V.  Effectus XII Signorum. (S, G, fol 241).

VI.  Calendar.  Illustrations and text of the months.

Illustrations of February, March, August-December. (R1, fols. 16-23; B, fols. 201-202; Berl. fols 231-237)

Text of January, February, July-December. (R2, fols 232-239; B, fols 203-211)

Text of December (Ber. fol. 1r)

Texts and illustrations for twelve months (V, fols. 2-15)

Illustrations (in miniature) for twelve months (Voss. fol. 93v)

Distichs of the months (S,G, fols. 301v-302; R1, fols. 16-23; R2, fols. 232-239; Ber. fol. 1 (=verse 24))

[Tetrastichs of the months. (R1 fols 16-23; R2 fols 232-239)]

VII.  Portraits of the consuls, Augustus Constantius and Caesar Gallus.  (R1, fols. 13, 14).

VIII.  List of consuls 508 B.C. - A.D. 354. (V, fols. 25-38; Ber. fols.2-13; B. fols. 190r-191v).

IX.  Easter cycle A.D. 312-358, with a continuation (albeit incorrect) to 410.

X.  List of Urban Prefects of Rome from 254 - 354 A.D., ending with Vitrasius Orfitus, who took office on 8 December 353.  (B, fols. 193v-195; V. fols. 40v-43v, 46v).

XI.  Depositions of the Bishops of Rome from 255 - 352, ending with the last deceased bishop, Julius, d. 352. (B, fol. 195; V., fol. 46; A, fol. 1)

XII.  Depositions of the Martyrs. (B, fol. 195v; V, fol. 44; A, fol. 1)

XIII.  List of the bishops of Rome, ending with Liberius who took office in 352 A.D.  (V, fols. 44v-45v, 65v-66; A, fols. 2-6v)

[XIV.  Regions of the city of Rome (Notitia).  This notitia is dated 334-357 A.D. (V, fols. 66v-69v; not present in B, despite what Stern says).]

[XV.  World Chronicle (Liber generationis) from creation to A.D.334. (V, fols. 55v-62v)]

XVI.  Chronicle of the City of Rome (Chronica Urbis Romae) from the kings of Rome until the death of Licinius in A.D.324. (V, fols. 62-65v, 70; S, G, fol. 303)

[XVII. Vienna Annals (Fasti Vindobonenses) A.D. 390-573/575 (V, fols 15-24, 47-53; S, G, fol. 303) ]


T. Mommsen, "Chronographus Anni CCCLIIII", Monumenta Germaniae Historica.  Auctorum Antiquissimorum, part 9: Chronica Minora Saec. IV-VII, vol. 1. Berlin (1892), repr. Munich (1981).  pp. 13-148.  Reference from Salzman.  The Latin text (unillustrated).
Michele Renee SALZMAN, On Roman Time: the codex-calendar of 354 and the rhythyms of urban life in late antiquity.  University of California Press (1990).  ISBN 0-520-06566-2.  The source of all the information on this page.  
H. STERN, Le Calendrier de 354. Etude sur son text et ses illustrations. Paris (1953).  Reference from Salzmann.

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse. Corrections and additions are very welcome.

This page has been accessed by  ****** people since 3rd September 2005

Return to the Manuscripts Pages             Return to Roger Pearse's Pages