The Salzinnes Antiphonal

A mid-sixteenth century choir manuscript, the Salzinnes Antiphonal contains the text and music for the Divine Office. The manuscript covers the winter season, beginning with the first Vespers, the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent and goes to the Easter Vigil. In addition to a colophon page, it features several striking illuminations of varying sizes revealing a unique insight into the spiritual and cultural lives of the nuns from the Cistercian Abbey of Salzinnes near Namur, present day Belgium.

Conservation and Exhibition

The Antiphonal has recently undergone intensive conservation treatment at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa.  A video highlighting the conservation work can be found at:

The Antiphonal will be available for public viewing at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia between May and October 2017.  For more information, visit:

About the Salzinnes Antiphonal


The antiphonal was commissioned in 1554-1555 by Dame Julienne de Glymes, former cantrix and Prioress of the Cistercian Abbey of Salzinnes. Written in Latin in a late Gothic hand on vellum, the manuscript measures 61.5 x 39.5 x 14.5 cm. and contains 240 folios or 480 pages, including a colophon page. It features 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 honour 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.

Founded in 1196-97 by Philip the Noble Count of Namur, the Abbey of Salzinnes was incorporated in the Cistercian Order in 1204 under the Diocese of Liège. The convent was destroyed by the French Revolutionary army in 1794-95. The only remnant that remains today is an arched gateway known as Porte St. Julienne.

The Antiphonal and Saint Mary's University


The antiphonal was likely brought to Nova Scotia by Bishop William Walsh, the first Archbishop for the Archdiocese of Halifax in the 1840s or 1850s.  It was donated to the Patrick Power Library, Saint Mary`s University by Archbishop James. M. Hayes in 1975. It remained in the care of the Rare Book collection until 2000 when it was loaned to Judith Dietz (at the time, Manager of Collections and Gallery Services) at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia for potential exhibition in a display of religious art, and for further examination and research. As a graduate student at Saint Mary`s University, her thesis centered on the Salzinnes Antiphonal resulting in its detailed study and identification and several related multi-disciplinary projects.

Please do not reproduce text or images without the permission of the Saint Mary's University Library. Text and images by Judith Dietz.

Salzinnes3Images: The Annunciation, folio 2r; The Agony in the of Garden of Gethsemane, interpolated between folios 117v and 118r;The Holy Kinship, folio interpolated between 133v and 134r.


Cantus: - A database for Latin Ecclesiastical Chants, University of Waterloo

SIMSSA:  Single Interface for Music Score Searching and Analysis project