The Ars Moriendi: An examination, translation, and collation of the manuscripts of the shorter Latin version

The Ars Moriendi: An examination, translation, and collation of the manuscripts of the shorter Latin version

Campbell, Jeffrey

University of Ottawa, Graduate Thesis (1995)


The Ars Moriendi is a Mediaeval Christian death manual that appeared around the middle of the fifteenth century. Though no-one is certain who the author was, there is no doubt that Jean Gerson was the major inspiration through his Opusculum Tripartitum. The general consensus is that the text was written by a member of the mendicant orders, probably a Dominican, and it was through them that the text spread so rapidly across Europe. The text was originally written in Latin with translations into the various vernaculars coming later. The Ars Moriendi appears in almost every major European language. I choose to limit my study to those in Latin. Since there are two Latin traditions, the longer or CP, and the shorter or QS, I further narrowed the field of study and concentrated exclusively on the latter. The text seems to have been produced as a response to the devastation of the Black Death. With so many priests either dead or missing. The popularity of a manual that instructed how to die in a way that ensured one made it to heaven is easy to understand. Of the three hundred known manuscripts, only six are of the shorter version. Five of these I have studied. The sixth unhappily was destroyed in 1944 in Metz. This paucity is not surprising since the true appeal of this work is the woodcut. Of the five manuscripts, at least two were copied from printed editions. The text itself is not very impressive as it is comprised mostly of various quotations from the Church Fathers and the Vulgate.

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