16 December 2004
[MEXICO--MANUSCRIPT]. CONVENT AND HOSPITAL OF OUR LADY OF BETHLEHEM; Choir Mass Book, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM. Mexico, 1702
ii + 137 = i leaves: 1-126, 275 (of 6, vi either cancelled blank or below pastedown), endleaves with conjoint pastedowns carrying added texts and music, 12 lines in black ink in a round bookhand framed with a double fillet in red, one-line initials of red, decorated punctuation, FIFTY-SIX LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS (mostly c.120 x 120mm and including BIRDS AND FLOWERS in colors and liquid gold, gilt edges (darkening to lower corner of first 7 folios and faint hatching on 4v-5). Contemporary brown leather gilt over wooden boards, two metal clasps and catches.
The rubric on f.7v identifies the manuscript as for the use of the Convent and Hospital of our Lady of Bethlehem, Mexico City: 'Para el uso del Convento y Hospital de Nuestra Señora de Bethlem de Mexico' The date of completion by 'un esclabo de Maria' is given on f.136 as 24 September, 1702. The Order of the Bethlehemites, or Bethlemites - the first religious order founded in the Americas - originated in Guatemala. It developed from the charitable works of St. Pedro de Betancur (d.1667: canonised 2002 in Mexico City by Pope John Paul II). The first community grew up around the hospital that Pedro de Betancourt had set up in his own house. In 1673 Clement X confirmed the congregation and its constitutions, and in 1687 the Bethlemites attained the status of a regular religious order through the bull of Innocent XI: their work continued to be the care of the sick and the education of the poor. By this date Bethlemite hospitals had been established in Peru and Mexico. By the middle of the 18th century the convent and hospital of Nuestra Señora de Belen in Mexico City had attracted such generous benefactions that splendid new buildings were commissioned from the influential architect Lorenzo Rodriguez; secularized, these have recently emerged from an extensive program of restoration funded by the Bank of Mexico. The present manuscript, with its highly decorative initials housing a mixture of fantastic and indigenous birds and flowers, is itself an accomplished example of Mexican baroque decoration and a witness to the importance and appeal of the Bethlemites.
Kyrie, Gloria, Credo ff.1-7; Masses of the Virgin ff.7v-60; Masses from the Sanctoral and Temporal ff.60v-134. Hymn to the Virgin added to front pastedown and endleaf and Asperges added to final pastedown and endleaf.
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