The Libraries of the Augustinian Canons in the Czech Lands

The order of Augustinian canons was brought to Bohemia in 1333 when the Prague bishop John IV of Dražice founded the first canonry in Roudnice nad Labem (Raudnitz). During few decades that followed, several other canonries were founded: in Bohemia there were Karlov, Kladsko, Jaroměř, Borovany, Rokycany, Sadská, Třeboň and Lanškroun; in Moravia Šternberk, Fulnek and Prostějov. The order soon acquired an extraordinary status and it is considered to be very influential for the formation and development of intellectual life in late medieval Bohemia. It was favored by the highest church officials: in addition to John IV of Dražice, also the first archbishop of Prague, Arnošt of Pardubice, as well as one of his followers, John of Jenštejn, were in close contacts with Roudnice. Thus, it is usually assumed in secondary literature that Augustinian canonries were centers of education and culture of the time. The most frequently repeated scholarly statement connected to the houses is that the order, and especially the canonry of Roudnice, played a crucial role in the spread of devotio moderna in the Czech lands. Yet, most of the Czech canonries were destroyed during the Hussite wars in the early 15th century (Roudnice was burnt in 1421). Some of the canons went to exile and they sometimes managed to save some books from their libraries with them and thus to save them. However, no consistent attempts at reconstructing these libraries were made, and thus discussing the intellectual life of the Augustinian canons in the Czech lands has been based only on assumption till now.

This project aims to survey and analyze the contents of the medieval libraries of Augustinian canons. We can suppose that there survived few hundred manuscripts from these monastic libraries (over 300 manuscripts from Třeboň, ca. 160 manuscripts from Roudnice and Sadská, ca. 50 manuscripts from the monastery in Borovany, ca. 50 manuscripts from Rokycany and ca. 20 manuscripts from the monastery in Karlov.) First of all it is necessary to put together the lists of the surviving manuscripts. In the next step the manuscripts will be analyzed from different points of view. Special emphasis will be placed on the transmission of the text of statutes of Augustinian canons, one of the crucial texts for the history of the order. Through establishing the lists of the surviving manuscripts and analysis of their contents, this project aims to contribute to the knowledge of the history of the order of Augustinian canons, as well as its role in the spiritual, cultural and intellectual life of the Czech lands in late Middle Ages.