La queste del saint Graal

  • S. XIII ex.; parchment; mm 358 × 250; ff. 104; ill. (33 coloured drawings, an inhabited initial, 8 ornamented initials)
  • Udine, ‘Biblioteca Arcivescovile’, 177

A codex of the Queste, originally belonging to the library of the Gonzaga of Mantua, that later was part of the Patriarchal library of Udine.

A work written between 1225 and 1230 by an anonymous author, perhaps coming from Champagne, La queste del saint Graal is the fourth part of the Vulgate, the wide Arthurian cycle in prose divided into five ‘branches’. This allegorical romance narrates the mystical journey of some of the main knights of the Round Table in quest of the holy bowl used by Jesus in the last supper, in their attempt to know the secrets it was tied with. Among more than forty manuscripts that hand on the Queste

f. 39r, Lancelot is witness of an exorcism practised by a religious

f. 39r, Lancelot is witness of an exorcism practised by a religious

f. 4v, bishop Josephés reaches the Grail’s table from the heaven

f. 4v, bishop Josephés reaches the Grail’s table from the heaven

, the witness kept at Udine is one of the only five that convey it separately, without links to the other romances of the cycle. Recorded in the eighteenth century among the manuscripts of the Patriarchal Library, it had presumably been part of the Gonzaga library of Mantua. The codex falls within a large corpus of manuscripts prevailingly on a courteous subject and in French language, output of a serial production. Studies of different disciplines, both referring to the outer and the inner features of these codices and concerning the language of the texts and their tradition, have strengthened the hypothesis of their production in connection with the presence of Pisa prisoners in Genoa between 1284 (Battle of Meloria) and 1299 (peace of Venice): the same milieu and years Rustichello da Pisa and Marco Polo worked in. The narration is improved by many vivid drawings of wonderful animals and ships, evidence of a sea-connected coast culture, and above all fights of knights on foot and horseback.

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