Siloé, arte y bibliofilia

President Sanchez's impressive gift on his visit to Pope Francis

At Siloé we feel really proud and honoured by the fact that the Presidency of the Government has chosen one of our facsimiles as a gift for Pope Francis. Specifically, the Book of Hours of Bishop Fonseca, a Ghent-Bruges jewel from the San Carlos Seminary in Saragossa.

It is a splendid, richly illuminated manuscript from the great library of the Marquis of Roda (Zaragoza 1708 – La Granja 1782), later donated to the San Carlos Seminary.

It belongs to that extraordinarily large group of so-called “Books of Hours” which were to have an enormous and unforeseen success and that constitute an authentic social, artistic and religious phenomenon in the 14th and 15th centuries.

It belonged to Bishop Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca, one of the most important and influential figures in the Spain of his time, both in matters of Church and State.

Fonseca was canon and dean of Seville Cathedral and bishop of Seville Cathedral and bishop of Córdoba, Badajoz, Palencia, Rossano (in the kingdom of Naples) and Burgos. As ambassador of the Catholic Monarchs, he travelled all

over Europe, especially to the Netherlands, where he bought tapestries, altarpieces and this beautiful Book of Hours, to which he added his heraldry.

The book would later pass onto the hands of Cardinal Odescalchi, the future Pope Innocent XI, who would also add his heraldry on the beautiful title page.

This excellent manuscript belongs to the famous Ghent-Bruges school.

The traditional calendar of these books stands out here for its variety and exceptional quality, abounding in delightful genre scenes that would later make Flemish paintings famous.

A scene of remarkable execution, but a rarity for a Book of Hours, is the bathhouse, which could also be a brothel, and which offers the most playful, somewhat daring and humorous side of the manuscript.

The realism and perfection of several of its scenes make it a masterpiece of this late medieval school.

Such is its beauty that there is no shortage of those who would like to see in this book the direct hand of none other than Gerard David, Simon Bening, Horenbout or Memling, who have left an indelible mark on the history of the miniature. For the time being, however, it is attributed to the anonymous Master of the Orational of 1500.