• Ellen E. Sutherland

The Mystery of Halifax’s Lost Manuscript


Since Jamie Poole deals with several “lost” manuscripts, including the Tome of Tubal-Cain, I see it only fitting to discuss a real “lost” manuscript discovered in Halifax, Nova Scotia. While the Tome of Tubal-Cain isn’t real, this one certainly is. And it came with a mystery.

The manuscript is called the Salzinnes Antiphonal. It hails from the mid-sixteenth century and is a choir manuscript. It contains text and music for the Divine Office. It isn’t common for an Antiphonal to be in color, but this one contains vibrant illuminations painted in gouache of Biblical and non-Biblical scenes, and full length portraits of thirty-four nuns including Cistercian, Carmelite and Benedictine. Patron`s coats of arms are also included in honor of the manuscript`s patrons, the de Glymes family. Each portrait is identified by name in cursive or block script and in some cases, their positions within the Abbey. Cistercian portraits include three named abbesses, a prioress and assistant prioress, as well as regular members from the convent.

This Antiphonal was commissioned in 1554 – 1555 by Dame Julienne de Glymes, former cantrix and Prioress of the Cistercian Abbey of Salzinnes. So how did it end up in the Canadian city of Halifax and when?

The answer wasn’t uncovered immediately. In fact, much of recent times, this manuscript has been kept in storage at Saint Mary’s University in the city. Nearly twenty years ago an associate curator was in search of some exhibition material. She came across the large illuminated Antiphonal, tucked away atop a shelf in the special collection section of the library. It had been donated to Saint Mary’s in 1975 where it had sat quietly until that day in 1998.

The curator’s curiosity led her on a search which led her to the Archbishop of William Walsh. The Antiphonal likely was acquired by Bishop William Walsh, as he traveled throughout Europe in the 1840s and 1850s. Archbishop William Walsh, a native of Waterford, Ireland, was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Nova Scotia. He sailed to Halifax in 1842 where he was appointed the first Archbishop of Halifax.

For many years several of the ecclesiastical treasures acquired by the Bishop had been placed in storage in Villa Maria, the former Catholic Archbishops residence which had been built in Halifax in 1931.

In 1967 Bishop James M. Hayes found the Antiphonal in the house, in storage. It was he who presented it to Saint Mary’s University when new facilities were built to house the rare and important manuscript. For the most part it remained here in storage until 2000 when it was brought to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia for examination and study.

Today it is on display and no longer forgotten in storage. Imagine how many documents and paintings are accidentally lost like this? It is no wonder it can stir the imagination of writers. For the full story of this manuscript, please visit this page.

#Irishhistory #canada #bible #catholic #Kells

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For media inquiries, please contact Mr. T.G. Madison:

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

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