Rogatrix atque donatrix: the silver cover of the Berta Evangeliary (Vatican, S. Maria in Via Lata, MS. I 45) and the patronage of art by women in early medieval Rome


  • Research for this article was supported by the Alfred Bader Fellowship for Doctoral Research in Europe and the Graduate Dean's Doctoral Field Travel Grant at Queen's University, Kingston, Canada. My thanks to the scholars and staff of the British School at Rome for facilitating my research in Rome, to Dr Paolo Vian at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana for granting me permission to view the silver cover of the Berta Evangeliary, and to the staff at the Biblioteca Vallicelliana for allowing me to consult the SS. Ciriaco e Nicola Martyrology. I am grateful to Dr John Osborne, Dr Cathleen Hoeniger, Dr Gillian Mackie, Dr Malcolm Thurlby, Dr Elisabetta Caldelli, Dr Giorgia Pollio, Dr Stefano Riccioni, Dr Jo Story and to the anonymous readers of Early Medieval Europe for their advice and comments on various drafts of this article.


A luxury silver manuscript cover in the Vatican Library bearing an inscription identifying the patron as a nun named Berta offers the opportunity to investigate the patronage of art by women in early medieval Rome. The cover housed an evangeliary that served the female monastic community of SS. Ciriaco e Nicola in Via Lata founded in the tenth century by the family of Prince Alberic of Rome (d. 954). This paper argues that the cover was a product of Roman monasticism that had personal and liturgical significance for the nun Berta, who was a scion of the monastery's founding family.