The Homiliary of Luculentius - an Overview

Isaac Lampurlanés i Farré

The tenth-century manuscript Madrid, Biblioteca de la Real Academia de la Historia, ms. 17, fol. 74vb, with a section of Luculentius' homily 37.

October 16, 2022 | Isaac Lampurlanés i Farré | Historical Identity Research Blog

The expansion of the Carolingian Empire towards new territories entailed the spread of its own cultural, religious, and intellectual programme into these regions. This implementation did not result in the replacement of the previous identity or culture, but rather in a hybridisation or complementation of both, a constant conversation between the previous autochthonous substrate and the new Carolingian superstrate. This particular scenario is even more fascinating in peripheral regions like Septimania and Catalonia (the so-called Spanish March), which not only experienced the combination of an old Visigothic background and Carolingian-Frankish culture, but were also located at the gates to the Muslim World in Europe. In this context, we find the case of the highly popular Carolingian Homiliary of Luculentius, which emerged within and was circulated across Catalonia and Septimania.

Angelo Mai originally discovered the first eighteen homilies under the name of Luculentius in two twelfth-century manuscripts of Rome: Vaticanus latinus 6081 and Biblioteca Vallicelliana, Tomus XX. He published them in Scriptorum Veterum nova collectio, vol. 9, Rome 1837 (also published in Patrologia Latina 72, cols. 803–60). Later, in 1911, Alfons Müller found and published another homily which is attributed to Luculentius in the above-mentioned Vaticanus latinus 6081. According to the scant sources which were available, Luculentius was thought to have been an Italian writer who lived in the seventh century. Nevertheless, later discoveries of manuscripts containing Luculentius’ homilies in the twentieth century point to a different origin and context.

At present, we have identified more than one hundred witnesses that contain some of Luculentius homilies, the majority of which were spread and copied across Catalonia, most of them older than the ones studied by Angelo Mai and Alfons Müller. The most important manuscripts are the mid-tenth century ms. 17 and ms. 21, now preserved in the Biblioteca de la Real Academia de la Historia in Madrid, but produced almost contemporaneously in the Benedictine abbey of Sant Cugat del Vallès, near Barcelona. In addition to their antiquity, these manuscripts are almost complete collections of the Homiliary of Luculentius, while many medieval compilations which include Luculentius’ homilies gather them alongside homilies of other authors such as Gregory the Great, Smaragdus of Saint-Mihiel, Haymo of Auxerre, etc. Unfortunately most exemplars containing the text of Luculentius are fragmentary and damaged: folios or bifolios which were pulled out of an original codex and reused as guards for other manuscripts. That is why the critical edition of this homiliary entails a philological challenge for the preparation of a stemma codicum and establishing the relations between the witnesses. However, in the manuscripts (complete or fragmentary) we can distinguish two main families or traditions in which the text of Luculentius has been transmitted. The most significant difference between them is how they develop Biblical quotations: the oldest textual tradition (the one present in the previously mentioned ms. 17 and ms. 21) provides an abridged Biblical text while the second tradition, also known as the “Catalan tradition”, develops these quotations further. The latter is the most abundant and the most popular, which is why we find so many later versions of the text of Luculentius (such as sections in Breviaries or collections of a reworked Luculentius) that rely on this tradition.

By taking all these new witnesses into account, we can better assess the place and time in which the Homiliary of Luculentius was produced. First of all, it is noteworthy that a great number of witnesses did not only circulate across Catalonia, but were also copied there, with most of these being the oldest witnesses. Moreover, we now have the complete series of the homilies of Luculentius (156) and can thus see how its text and structure are related to other Carolingian homiliaries, such as that of Haymo of Auxerre, but particularly the one belonging to Smaragdus of Saint-Mihiel, a Carolingian author who also had a Visigothic background and whose writings were popular across these peripheral regions. The use of typical Carolingian sources in the Homiliary of Luculentius forces us to correct the first assessment of Luculentius as an author of the seventh century; rather, Luculentius must have been active around the tenth century.

Furthermore, the content of some of the homilies shows that, in contrast to his predecessors Smaragdus and Haymo, Luculentius was familiar, and concerned, with aspects related to the border region of Catalonia and Septimania. Let us take a look at an example of a Biblical passage quoted in a similar manner within the homilies of Luculentius, Haymo of Auxerre and Smaragdus. Here Luculentius provides a new interpretation, one which would be more familiar and suitable for a Septimanian or Catalan audience:

Luculentius, Homily 37

Haymo of Auxerre, Homiliae, “Homilia XXVIII”, Dominica prima in QuadragesimaSmaragdus, Collectiones in epistolas et evangelia, “In initio quadragesimae”, Evangelium Matthaei, cap. IV

Madrid, Biblioteca de la Real Academia de la Historia,
ms. 17, fol. 74va/vb; ms. 21, fols 31vb–32ra

PL 118, cols 192–96

PL 102, cols 124–25

Et cum ieiunasset quadraginta diebus (Mt 4, 2). Dei filius, sicut in ceteris causis, ita quoque in ieiunio praefiguratores habere voluit. Nam Moyses legislator, ut legem domini accipere mereretur, quadraginta diebus ieiunavit in monte. Helias totidem diebus abstinuit in solitudine. Dei filius in mundum veniens per quadraginta dies nullum omnino cibum sumpsit. Quare hoc? Ne videretur discrepare a lege vel prophetis. Ipse enim dicit: Non veni legem solvere (Mt 5, 17). Noluit nec amplius nec minus ieiunare. Si enim amplius ieiunare voluisset, dicerent eum quidam esse tantum deum et non hominem, si autem minus, dicerent eum inbecillitate corporis non posse tantum ieiunare, et quod tantum homo esset. Ideo, ut dixi, nec plus nec minus ieiunare voluit, nisi quod illi anteriores patres fecerant. Et nota, quia, cum dixit dies, addidit et noctes propter hereticos, qui dicturi erant, quasi non comedisset in die, comedisset in nocte more Sarracenorum, qui palam vinum non bibunt, clam vero potant usque ad feces.“Et cum jejunasset quadraginta diebus et quadraginta noctibus, postea esuriit”. In eo quod superaturus Dominus diabolum, quadraginta diebus et quadraginta noctibus jejunavit, necessaria arma contra tentationes diaboli, jejunium et orationem esse ostendit, juxta illud quod ipse ait in Evangelio: “Hoc genus non ejicitur, nisi in oratione et jejunio” (Matth. xvii). Et Paulus: “Omnis qui in agone contendit, ab omnibus se abstinet (I Cor. ix). Cum ergo quadraginta diebus et noctibus jejunavit, omni tempore vitae praesentis electos contra tentationes antiqui hostis certamen habere docuit. Sive certe quadraginta diebus et quadraginta noctibus Dominus jejunavit, praedicaturus Evangelium, ut ostenderet Vetus a Novo non discrepare Testamentum. Legimus enim duos eximios Patres quadraginta diebus et noctibus jejunasse, Moysen scilicet et Eliam. Quorum alter legislator fuit, alter eximius prophetarum. Per Moysen ergo lex, per Eliam prophetia significatur.
Jejunavit autem non solum quadraginta diebus, sed etiam noctibus: ut sive prospera blandiantur, quae significantur per dies, sive adversa terreant, quae significantur per noctes, immobiles perseveret animus Christianus, sicut faciebat ille, qui “Per arma justitiae a dextris et a sinistris, per gloriam et ignobilitatem, per infamiam et bonam famam, ut seductores et veraces, sicut qui ignoti et cogniti” (II Cor. Vi). <...>

Et cum jejunasset quadraginta diebus et quadraginta noctibus. Sed quia his diebus, quadragesimae lectio congruit, nam quadraginta dierum abstinentiam nostri Redemptoris audivimus, qui quadragesimae tempus inchoamus, discutiendum nobis est, cur haec ipsa abstinentia per quadraginta dierum numerum custoditur. Moyses enim, ut legem acciperet secundo, diebus quadraginta jejunavit. Helias in deserto quadraginta diebus abstinuit.
Tentatur quadraginta diebus et quadraginta noctibus, ut indicet quia, quandiu hic viventes Domino servimus, sive prospera blandiantur, quod ad dies pertinet, seu nos adversa feriant, quod noctis figurae congruit, semper ambulantibus in lege Domini adsit toto orbe adversarius qui iter nostrum tentando impedire non cessat.

This extract interprets the Biblical passage concerning Jesus’ fasting in the desert, which is related to similar passages about Moses' and Helias' fasting in the preceding work of the Carolingian Smaragdus and Haymo of Auxerre. Smaragdus and Haymo followed the arguments of Bede who interpreted the presence of noctibus as the adversity that terrifies the Christians who serve God. Conversely, Luculentius says that the apostle included the “nights” because of the heretics who were said not to eat at day, but at night, according to the Muslim tradition. Additionally, Luculentius claims that Muslims do not drink wine in public, while secretly they drink nonstop. This case, among others, hints at the author’s background as well as the audience to which this text was intended to be addressed: the Homiliary of Luculentius was actually a Carolingian work produced in and for the peripheral regions of Catalonia and Septimania instead of being a product of a seventh-century Italian environment.


FWF Project "Carolingian Culture in Septimania and Catalonia"


Further reading:

Altès i Aguiló, Francesc Xavier. “La tradició codicológica i litúrgica de l’homiliari carolingi de Luculentius a Catalunya: La recensió catalana. Inventari i homilies recuperades.” Miscel·lània Litúrgica Catalana 18 (2010): 71–241.

Lemarié, Joseph. “La collection carolingienne de Luculentius restituée par les deux codices Madrid, Real Academia de la Historia Aemil. 17 et 21.” Sacris Erudiri 27 (1984): 221–371.

Müller, Hildegund. Das ‘Luculentius’-Homiliar. Quellenkritische Untersuchungen mit Teiledition. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1999.

Tischler, Matthias M.; Vernet i Pons, Eulàlia. “An Untapped Treasure of Carolingian Text Culture: The Homiliary of Luculentius from the Spanish March (c. 900).” Revue d’Histoire Ecclésiastique 115/3–4 (2020): 715–29.