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Caporali Missal opens windows into many worlds

The Caporali Missal isn’t just an eye-popping Renaissance masterpiece. Turns out it’s also the perfect starting point for discussing a wide variety of religious, historical and musical topics.

Cleveland State University is co-sponsoring a series of lectures revolving around this extraordinary liturgical book, the focus of a new exhibit that opens Sunday, February 17, at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

“There are other books like this, but the interesting thing about the Caporali Missal is that we can locate where it came from with such precision, in terms of place and time, which makes this an especially rich object for raising all sorts of questions,” said Dr. Matt Jackson-McCabe, chairperson of CSU’s Religious Studies Department.

The lavishly illuminated manuscript features artwork by the Caporali brothers, Bartolomeo and Giapeco. They created the missal in the 15th century for a Franciscan community in the Perugia region of Italy.

“It’s a very multi-layered thing,” said Dr. Marian Bleeke, associate professor of art history at CSU.

“The Franciscan connection is interesting, because it gets you into religious history. We also know who the artists were, so you can approach it from the art history point of view. Then we have the music, too. A lot of the surviving books from this time period are books of hours, which are very different. Those are private prayer books. This is a missal, which is a book for use in Mass, so it also has all this musical content that brings in a whole other aspect.”

The lecture series will include two talks at the CSU Student Center Ballroom: “The Book Arts in World Religion” at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, and “Praying Mantises in Gray Vesture: The Followers of St. Francis Between Ideal and Praxis in Late Medieval Italy” at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 17. Other sessions will be held at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where “The Caporali Missal: A Masterpiece of Renaissance Illumination” will be on view through Sunday, June 2.

Lectures are free and open to the public. Click here for the complete Caporali Lecture Series schedule.

To mark the opening of the exhibit, CSU will host a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, March 3, in the museum’s new private dining room. The event will feature a presentation by Dr. Jackson-McCabe, followed at 2 p.m. by curator Stephen Fliegel’s lecture on the missal. Luncheon tickets are $25 for CSU alumni; $35 for non-alumni. RSVP here by Wednesday, February 20.