Before reaching the city of Gerona, the Martyrology of Usuard had an eventful life. It originated in Prague, in the court of the king of Bohemia and emperor Wenceslas IV. It has now been in Catalonia for more than three centuries although according to our information, after leaving Prague it moved to Austria, Hungary and then Moravia. It was subsequently in Rome and later in Naples. It may have been housed for a while in Stockholm and Madrid prior to its arrival in Poblet in 1673. As fate would have it, it was taken to Gerona where it was safeguarded at first in Cadins monastery and subsequently in the Museu Diocesà, in Gerona where it remains to this day.
The Martyrology is a copy of the work completed by Usuard in 860, only part of which has been retouched to include later saints. We know that from 841 to 847 Usuard was a monk at Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. His journey through Spain in 858 was decisive as regards the incorporation of Spanish saints into the martyrology that he was working on in that period.
This manuscript plays a key role in the history of Central-European painting. The links between its illuminations and the activities of the leading artistic centres of Europe on the borderline between the 14th and 15th centuries enable this great work to be situated in the ambit of international courtly art. Similarly, the Martyrology of Usuard falls within the local bohemian tradition of book illumination, constituting a high point in its long evolution.
All the researchers dealing with the Martyrology have shown interest in the rather unusual location of the different scenes upon the pages of the manuscript. Apart from folios 12r - 13v, the images of the saints, most of which depict scenes of their martyrdom or the burial of their relics, are set inside medallions situated at the bottom and on the side margin of the pages. The medallions are linked by splendid plant ornamentation that is a fine example of naturalism, lavishness and perfect design.
Unanimously deemed to be the most lavish work in International Gothic.