Capuchin prayer book with relics

KU Leuven - Maurits Sabbe Library, Leuven

Joannes de Fano, Den reghel ende het testament onses heyligen vaders Francisci. … Antwerp: widow of Christopher Plantin, 1589. – 16°, [192] p.PN0550

Materials: textile (silk), paper (cardboard), wood, bone (relic), gypsum?, transparent film, pigments and dyes, ink, leather (binding), metal (clasp)

Author of the report: Lieve Watteeuw (KU Leuven)

Report date: 21/11/2021

Research keywords: Book, devotion, miniature relic shrine, re-use, Reliquary, paper, silk (green, red, blue), cardboard, reliquary stones, mica and two hatches

Art Historical background

Around 1950, Hildebrand of Hooglede discovered this only known copy of the first Plantin edition of Den Reghel, ende Het Testament onses Heyligen Vaders Francisci (1589). The small (83 × 53 mm) and old print is one of the earliest publications of Capuchins in the Low Countries, together with a more extended Latin version. A few years earlier, the Capuchins had founded a friary in Antwerp (1586), the first one in the Low Countries. Plantin printed 500 copies of this Dutch edition, which further contains a selection of important texts relating to the Capuchin life, including Joannes of Fano's treatise on poverty. The Capuchins did not have to pay for this edition (cost: 68 fl. and 5 st.). Unfortunately, this small book was not handed down to us through the centuries unscathed. Some initial pages are missing (A2-A4 ; p. 3-8), but the greatest loss is situated at the back: the book ends abruptly at page 63 (D8), while there should be 192 (!) pages in total (payment was made for typesetting and printing quires A to M8). Luckily, its complete content can be inferred from the 1624 Plantin edition, which also has collation A-M8, uses the approbation of the 1589 edition, and has the same content (apart from some spelling updates) from pages 9 to 63. The two, originally three, intaglios (on p. 10, 50 and 88) were designed by Maarten de Vos and engraved by Julius Goltzius. Hundred copies were embellished with these intaglios; the remaining four hundred contained three woodcuts instead, designed by Peeter vander Borcht.


Title page

p. 9 : … « die hy altijdt tot de Capucijnen gedraghen heeft, als om dat hy wel wiste dattet del Catholijken seer aegenaem soude wesen) vanden H. Vader den Paus Sixtus den v. vercreghen, dat de Capucijnen in dese Nederlanden souden blijven. » This is a fragment wherein Alessandro Farnese is honored.

pp. 11-38 : « Den reghel ende het testament onses seraphiicsche vaders S. Francisci. »

pp. 38-47 : « Cort begrijp vande gheboden des Reghels »

pp. 47-49 : « De prijsinghe des Reghels »

pp. 51-60 : « Hier begint het Testament, (als een geestelijcke uutlegginge ende verclaringhe des Reghels) […] »

pp. 60-61 : « Lof des Testeme(n)ts va(n) onsen aldersalichsten Vader Francisco »

pp. 61-62 : « Maniere om prosessie te doen »

pp. 62-63 : « De perfectien van onsen heylighen Vader Francisco, de welcke een ieghelijck waerachtich Minderbroeder moet naer volghen nae sijn vermoghen. » (text ends abruptly on p. 63). The most precious aspect of this little book explains why so many pages are missing at the back. By preserving the edges when cutting out the last 128 pages (E-M8; p. 65-[192]), a cavity in the book was created, which was then turned into a beautiful miniature reliquary with on one side a Pensive Christ and the arma christi, surrounded by 18 relics. Each relic is identified in the margin : SS. Ursulae, Seruatii Episc., A Parte Spongiae, A Parte Lanceae, Batholomei Apost., 7 Fratrum Mart., Helenae, Matthei Apost., Willibrordi Episc., Agnetis Virg., Huberti (?), Victoris, Barbarae, Mauritii, Severae, Albini, Reg(ulae) (?). On the other side of the reliquary there are 60 other relics, protected by a mica, concealed by 2 hatches in green and red silk.

Mica fragment

Mica fragment

The enclosed garden incorporated in the booklet was once covered with a transparent material. A very small loose fragment of this material has been analyzed to identify the material correctly. The KIK-IRPA laboratories confirm that the cover consisted of mica.

Link to research report

Research by KIK-IRPA Laboratories


Library of the Capuchins, Antwerp. In 2018, br. Stan Teuns donated the small book with reliquary to the study center, "Capuchins in the Low Countries", Faculty of Theology, KU Leuven. Since then the book is preserved in the Preciosa of the Maurits Sabbe Library (KU Leuven).

Select bibliography:

Bowen, Karen Lee & Dirk Imhof. "Book Illustrations by Maarten de Vos for Jan Moretus I." In Print Quarterly, 18, 3 (2001): 259-289.

Van Hooglede, Hildebrand. De Kapucijnen in de Nederlanden en het prinsbisdom Luik. Part 8/1. Antwerp: Archief der Kapucijnen, 1954, 20-21.

Van Reyn, Geert. "Den Reghel ende Het Testament onses Heyligen Vaders Francisci ('t Antwerpen, by de weduwe van Christoffel Plantijn, 1589)." In Vox Minorum, 73, 2 (2019): 37-49.