The cedars of Lebanon and the sparrows who nest in them. The sparrows are preachers and heads of monasteries, their nests are convents and the cedars, planted by God, are the rich of the world.
A woman holding a dove stands in a vesica with six doves in its border. She wears a red tunic, a blue mantel and has a brown hood. The whole scene is surrounded by an exquisite frame.
At first sight this is the most enigmatic picture in the book. It appears to have no relation to the text about cedars. According to Morgan (1982, 64) the figure is the Virgin, according to Unterkircher (1986, 15) she is Eternal Wisdom surrounded by the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and according to Clark (1992, 70) she is Ecclesia (the Church) holding a sparrow representing the preacher described in the text. This image evolved through several stages in the Aviarium, gradually departing from a clear illustration of the text. (Clark, 1992, 32) 1. In the Heiligenkreuz Aviary (f. 135) the centre of the composition is a seated man identified in the rubric as Count Thibaut of Heilly, the founding patron of St.-Laurent-au-Bois, of which Hugh of Fouilloy's own house was a dependency (Clark, 1992, Fig. 7a). He is framed by a vesica of six sparrows sitting in their nests among the leaves of a cedar tree with a trunk descending the length of the picture. 2. In some examples the figure is an unnamed seated man (Clark, 1992, Figs.38a, 41: London, B.L.Sloane 278, f.12v; Bruges Episc. Sem. 89/54 p.45). Perhaps by this stage of transmission Count Thibaut was no longer a recognised person. 3. In most other aviaries (Clark, 1992, Figs. 7c, 7d: Lisbon Arq.Nac. Torre do Tombo 90, f21; Troyes, Bibl. Mun. 177, f142v) the figure is Christ, standing or seated, as mentioned in the text. In these two examples the branches of the tree have been replaced by a geometric frame and the birds are in roundels, not nests. 4. In the Bordeaux Aviary (Clark, 1992, Fig. 7e: Bordeaux, Bibl. Mun. 995, f67v) the living tree trunk has turned into a vertical column. Five strange birds in roundels are beside Christ in a vesica but the sixth bird descends vertically above Christ's head and clearly represents the Dove of the Holy Spirit. 5. In the Aberdeen group (which includes Ashmole 1511 and Oxford, Bod. Douce 151) the vestigal tree trunk of the Bordeaux Aviary has gone, only the vesica remains of the branch design, there are the usual six birds in the frame but the innovation is to introduce the standing woman holding the seventh bird. The white birds are now clearly depicted as doves, not sparrows. The previous examples show that the central figure was frequently liable to vary and that the notion of the dove had crept in with the Bordeaux Aviary. The unidentified woman in Aberdeen evolves in Oxford, Bodleian University College MS 120, p.36 (Clark, 1992, Fig.63) as a nun, perhaps indicating the patron's wishes. If the illustration is still tied to the text then the birds are sparrows, the central bird is the head of a monastery and the other fledglings are his disciples. If the birds' roundels are vestigal nests then they represent the convent buildings, in which case the central figure could be Ecclesia. However, the illustration may have evolved so far away from its original that it has acquired a meaning of its own. If the birds are understood as doves they are likely to represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit in which case the woman could be Eternal Wisdom. Clark (1992, 76) finally suggests that perhaps the painter had no idea of the meaning of his model. This is not likely, due to the exceptional wear on this page. There is a noticeable patch of dirt and wear above the figure, as though this page has often been referred to. It suggests that the book has been held upside down on this page, for a teacher to show students. (See , The patron of MS24). Editorial addition on right margin:non (Cedars of Lebanon which the Lord did not plant). 'non' is found in this cntext in Bruges, Episc. Sem. MS 89/54 (Clark, 1992, 158). One initial type 2, margins visible, Folio mark of two horizontal 'match sticks' in top right corner.
- Transcription and Translation
Transcriptionqui cum esset sublimis, factus est\ humilis. Passeres sunt predi\catores. Pulli sunt hi qui ver\bo predicationis sunt procreati.\ Nidus, quiete mentis locus.\ In hac igitur cedro nidificant, qui\ tranquille vivendo de eterna be\atitudine non desperant. Sunt\ cedri Libani quas plantavit dom\minus. Cedri Libani sunt\ divites huius mundi. Pas\seres sunt cenobiorum rectores.\ Pulli discipuli. Nidus, offici\narum locus. In his cedris\ passeres nidificant, quia rectores animarum in possessionibus divi\tum cenobia locant. Ibi passeres clamare non cessant, ut sibi a deo\ escam querant. A deo sibi escam querant, qui verbi divini eloquii\ quasi cibo saciari volunt. Die ac nocte clamitant, qui [PL, quia] pro suis bene\factoribus toto annisu mentis deum rogant. In mundo tranquille\ mentis pennas contemplationis nutriunt, quibus ad predictam\ cedrum quam citius poterunt evolare contendunt. Circa ligna Li\bani volitant, quia viam seu mores virorum sublimorum scire desi\derant. Ex his lignis Libani Salomon ferculum fecisse legitur, quia\ ecclesia de viris sublimibus et infatigabilibus (A, fatigatur; PL, edificatur).\ Item de cedro\ Sicut [PL, sunt] cedri quas non plantavit dominus non plan\tavit in propria voluntate, non dilatavit in cupiditate. Omnis\ plantatio quam non plantavit pater meus celestis, eradicabitur. Hii\ cedri Libani sunt divites superbi. In his nidificant herodii et accipitres\
Translationwhich, although it grew tall, was made humble. Sparrows are preachers. Their fledglings are those born of the word as it is preached. Their nest is a place where there is peace of mind. Build your nest in the cedar, therefore, if you are one of those who, by living at peace, have not given up hope of eternal bliss. There are those cedars of Lebanon which the Lord planted. They represent the rich of the world. Sparrows represent the heads of monasteries; fledglings are their disciples. The nest represents convent buildings. Sparrows nest in these cedars, because spiritual rulers place their convents on the estates of the rich. There the sparrows call ceaselessly, seeking food from God. Let all those who wish to be filled with the word of God as with food, seek their nourishment from him. Day and night the sparrows call out, like those who pray with all their heart to God on behalf of their benefactors. Their minds at peace in the midst of the world, they care for their wings, the wings of contemplation, on which they seek to fly to the cedar as swiftly as they can. They fly around the trees of Lebanon, because they wish to know of the life and behaviour of spiritually eminent men. From this timber of Lebanon we read that Solomon made himself a chariot (see Song of Songs, 3:9), as the Church was made from illustrious and untiring men. Again of the cedar There are those cedars which the Lord did not plant. He did not plant them of his own will, he did not extend their number out of desire. 'Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up' (Matthew, 15:13) These cedars of Lebanon are the rich and proud. Gyrfalcons and hawks nest in them