Medieval Civilization and Culture

National and University Library of Slovenia

Treasures of the National and University Library of Slovenia

Medieval Latin Codices
The collection of Medieval Latin manuscripts is undoubtedly among the library’s most valuable holdings. It comprises 85 codices, most of which were acquired by the National and University Library's predecessor, the Lyceum Library from its establishment in 1774 to the end of the 18th century. The majority of manuscripts come from the Carniolian monasteries, which were suppressed during Joseph II’s administrative reforms, like the Stična, and the Kostanjevica Cistercian monasteries and the Carthusian monastery in Bistra.

Gregorius Magnus: Moralia (cum Ecloga Latheni)
First half of the 9th century; 126 leaves, parchment

The oldest manuscript in the library and in Slovenia. It contains Lathen's Eclogue of Moralia by Gregory the Great.

Monaldus de Iustinopoli: Summa de iure canonico
Second half of the 14th century
324 leaves, parchment

Monaldus de Iustinopoli: Summa de iure canonico
Second half of 14th century

A treatise on canon law, full of vivacious drolleries made after the French example.

Drolleries, also called grotesques, are small, decorative images, often containing various hybrid creatures in the margins of illuminated manuscripts. They are usually unrelated to the content, but testify to the illuminator’s ingenuity and imagination.

Augustinus, Aurelius: De civitate Dei
Bistra, 1347; 172 leaves, parchment

One of the most luxuriously illuminated medieval manuscripts in Slovenia. The arcade title page, the title page, the initials, the miniatures, and the drolleries are also in gold and silver.

One of the authors, illuminator Nicolaus hid his name amidst the ivy branches in the lunettes at the top of the page.

Nicolaus used red, blue, white, green, yellow, brown, orange, and violet colours. There are scenes of rabbit and foxhunting with dogs on the margins.

Surrounding the medallion with Saint Augustine on the throne, is a ribbon, containing the name of Prior Herman from Bistra, who commissioned the manuscript.

The initials are surrounded with stylised vines and naturalistically depicted animals: rabbit, dog, monkey, peacock and other birds.

Calendarium portatile ad annum 1415
Parchment folder

A miniature foldable calendar, consisting of 36 parts is an exceptional rarity. Each month contains depictions of typical peasant’s work, zodiac signs, saints, and feasts.

A month with weeks, saints, and the zodiac sign.

Boethius, Anicius Manlius: Philosophiae consolationis liber
First half of 15th century; 229 leaves, paper.

The manuscripts contains 12 decorative initials in blue, pink, red, violet and ochre. The title is written in Roman, and the text in Gothic (bastarda) script. Watermarks correspond with those, found in contemporary manuscripts from the Stična monastery.

Chronica de la nobel cita de Ueniexia
Beginning of the 15th century; 108 leaves, paper

A list of Venetian Doges, a list of castles in the lands ruled by the Venetian republic, a list of castles in Italy, an alphabetic list of Venetian nobility with coats of arms; with a brief explanation of the origins of Venice's name, and a brief account of city’s earliest history.

Cyrilic and Glagolitic Medieval Monuments
The Old Church Slavonic language based on a South Macedonian dialect, which was the original language of early Church liturgy, gradually began to acquire the role of literary language in the Slavic lands from the 9th century onwards. It retained that role until the end of the Middle Ages, when individual national languages began to evolve. The earliest Old Church Slavonic texts resulted from the missionary work of St. Cyril and St. Methodius, who began to spread Christianity among the Slavic peoples in a language, which was understandable to local population. The earliest Old Church Slavonic manuscripts were written in two alphabets: Glagolitic, which the experts ascribe to Cyril, and the slightly younger Cyrillic alphabet, which was most probably developed by his disciples. Most of the Cyrillic and Glagolitic manuscripts come from Jernej Kopitar’s and Sigismund Zois’s collection, which were acquired by the Lyceum Library during the 1820s and 1840s.

Codex Suprasliensis
First half of 11th century; 11 bundles, 118 leaves, parchment

One of the oldest and most valuable Slavic linguistic monuments, written in Eastern Bulgaria in the 1st half of the 11th century. 118 leaves of the manuscript are now in the National and university Library of Slovenia, while 16 leaves are kept at the National Library of Russia in Saint Petersburg, and 151 are at the National Library of Poland in Warsaw. The entire document is inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World registry.

The text is written in elegant, broad Cyrillic script. It contains 24 hagiographies, 23 homilies and a prayer.

Macedonian Lent Triodium
Mid-13th century; 72 leaves, parchment

A fragment, containing only half of the whole work. The text is an earlier version of a Triodium, without a Paremium, and the moral, and with complete vespers for every day.

Četveroevangelij (Tetra Gospel), Serbian version
Third quarter of 14th century; 49 leaves, parchment

Large and very beautiful Cyrillic ustav. The text is sewn into a single book-block, without covers, and inbound blank paper leaves where pages are missing.

Četveroevangelij (Tetra Gospel)
Second half of the 14th century; 239 leaves (226 parchment, 13 paper)

Cyrillic script of Bosnian type. Illuminations follow the tradition of the Zeta-Hum scriptoria.

Missale Romanum Glagoliticum
End of the 14th or beginning of the 15th century

This codex contains colourful, richly decorated initials, several splendid miniatures and even some full-page illustrations.

It was written in Beram in Istria. The script is angular Glagolitic.

Slovenian Medieval Manuscripts
Medieval texts in Slovenian language date from the end of the 10th to the end of the 15th century. The number of texts, written during the period certainly exceeded the number of those, which have been preserved. The most important monuments attesting to Slovenian language’s characteristics and development during the Middle Ages are: the Freising Manuscripts, a couple of chivalrous poetry fragments, the Klagenfurt Manuscript, the Stična Manuscript, the Cividale Manuscript, the Udine Manuscript, the Škofja Loka Manuscript, a couple of verses from the Auersperg family archives praising female beauty, and the Stara Gora Manuscript. They all prove the early existence of Slovenians as a community with a distinctive language, which had differentiated from the Old Slavic quite early.

The Freising Manuscripts / Monumenta Frisigensia
Around 1000; 5 leaves, 9 pages, parchment.
Facsimile. Ljubljana: Slovenska knjiga, 1992.

The oldest preserved text in Slovenian language in Carolingian minuscule. It contains a short general confession form, a common prayer, and another version of a general confession form. The original is kept at the Bavarian State Library in München.

The Stična Manuscript
First half of 15th century; 3 leaves, 5 pages, paper

The most important medieval manuscript partly in Slovenian language kept at the National and University Library. The script is rounded Czech bastarda. It contains two general confession forms, an Easter hymn, an invocation of the Holy Spirit, a prayer, Salve Regina and some individual Slovenian words.

The word “incunabulum” comes from the Latin expression for “cradle”. It stands for the earliest prints, made from the beginning of printing in the 1450s until the end of the year 1500. It is estimated, that over 40.000 different editions in approximately 4.500.000 copies of these earliest typographical monuments have been preserved. The invention of printing had an extraordinary impact on science, literature, culture and economy. The National and University Library keeps 497 copies of incunabula, which is only a small fraction of the 15th century prints which were once kept by different religious and secular institutions in the present day Slovenian territory. The National and University Library’s predecessor, the Lyceum Library only acquired a smaller part of incunabula from the disbanded monasteries of the Carniola Duchy. The most valuable copies were taken to the imperial Library in Vienna, while the incunabula from the Styrian monasteries were handed over to the Graz Lyceum, and are now part of the University Library in Graz’s collection.


A unique fragment believed to have been printed even before Gutenberg by a mysterious Dutch printer Laurens Janszoon Coster. Probably the oldest printed text in our library. The fragment was used as binding material of another incunabulum, printed in 1480.

Protokoll des Friedens zu Basel vom 22. September 1499

The Basel peace treaty protocol from September 22, 1499 is one of three single known copies of incunabula in the National and University Library.

Hartmann Schedel: Liber chronicarum
Nurembergae Anton Koberger, 1493

The National and University Library keeps two copies of this popular and lavishly illustrated chronicle, which also describes the regions of Istria, Carniola, Carinthia and Styria, and Counts of Celje family.

Bernardus Perger: Oratio in funere Friderici III. imperatoris Viennae habita Romae: Stephan Plannck, post 29. VIII. 1493

The funeral speech for the Emperor Frederick III is the only incunabulum in the collection, containing a text, written by a Slovenian humanist scholar Bernard Perger, who was the chancellor of the Vienna University.

Nikolaus Oresme: De latitudinibus formarum
Padue: Mattheus Cerdonis, 1486

A treatise on geometry, one of approximately 60 works printed by Mattheus Cerdonis from Slovenj Gradec, probably for the University of Padua.

Psaltir s posledovaniem
Cetinje: Jeromonah Makarije ot Crnie Gori, 1495

A book of psalms of the Orthodox Church in Cyrilic, printed at Crnojevič's workshop in Cetinje.

The illustrations and the initials are an interesting mixture of Venetian and Byzantine artistic traditions. The copy comes from Jernej Kopitar's collection.

National and University Library of Slovenia
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From the book Treasures of the National and University Library of Slovenia
Exhibition: Tomaž Bešter, Žiga Cerkvenik, Sonja Svoljšak
Narodna in univerzitetna knjižnica, 2017

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