Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Odoard de Bersaques: The Assumption

The workshop of Simon Bening (1483–1561)
From The Office of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in The Missal of Odoard de Bersaques
c, 1530
Illuminated manuscript
Ms 60 Folio 58v
Bibliothèque d’agglomération de Saint-Omer, France

Simon Bening  was described as "the greatest master of illumination in all of Europe" in his own time. His clients were the most powerful and the richest people in Europe.

This Missal was commissioned by Odoard de Bersaques, the Provost of the Collégiale of Saint-Omer (which later became the cathédrale Notre-Dame in Saint-Omer) as well as chaplain and then Grand Almoner (clericus elimosinarius) to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V

In medieval times Saint-Omer was one of those important towns and flash points which powerful men and their armies attempt to conquer and control

It was situated on the borders of territories frequently disputed by French, Flemish, English and Spaniards,

In 1493 the town became part of the Low Countries and under Spanish dominion for more than 170 years. 

The French made futile attempts against it between 1551 and 1596. During the Thirty Years War, the French attacked in 1638 (under Cardinal Richelieu) and 1647.

Odoard de Bersaques was an official in one of the greatest and most powerful Courts of Europe: that of Charles V (1500 - 1558), the Holy Roman Emperor

At its zenith Charles`s empire  spanned nearly four million square kilometres across Europe, the Far East, and the Americas

As chaplain then Grand Almoner to Charles V, the responsability of Odoard de Bersaques would have been, in the Emperor`s name, to distribute money to the deserving poor. He was responsible for the Emperor`s charitable duties. He would also have had important administrative duties at the Court. In England at the time the Almoner to the King would have been a Bishop

Charles V had a large number of almoners presumably because of the large number of his  territories, their respective Courts and the greatness of his wealth. Another of his almoners was Francis Louis of Blois 1506 - 1566, Abbot of Liesse.who refused on an number of occasions  both the Archbishopric of Cambrai and the Abbey of Tournai

Another was Augustino Cazalla who was not quite as fortunate in those turbulent times

The office of Almoner still exists in some courts and countries as it does in the Papal  Household

We do not know terribly much about Odoard de Bersaques. A plaque was put up in his memory in the cathedral which indicated that he was the last Provost of the Collégiale. We know that he died in 1557

We know what he looked like from the image of one of the pages in his Missal:

The workshop of Simon Bening (1483–1561)
Odoard de Bersaques in prayer before the saints in The Missal of Odoard de Bersaques
c. 1530
Illuminated manuscript
Ms 60 Folio 2v
Bibliothèque d’agglomération de Saint-Omer, France

It is likely that Odoard set the text and after the text was written the Missal was sent to Bening`s workshop for the final paintings to be done and the final illumination

What we see is what Odoard saw and read nearly 600 years ago on the Feast of the Assumption

The image of Our Lady is that of Our Lady of the Apocalypse. She stands on a crescent moon barely hidden

It was a turbulent time. In nearby Germany the Lutheran reformation was in full swing and was spreading throughout Europe. 

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