Cambridge Illuminations

26 July to 11 December 2005
At Cambridge University Library and the Fitzwilliam Museum




The Liturgy and the Offices

At the Fitzwilliam Museum

Liturgical books were central to religious practice and ceremony throughout the Christian world. By the twelfth century, the variety of early medieval texts were amalgamated into two volumes, the Missal and the Breviary, which became indispensable for the celebration of the Mass, the Eucharistic liturgy, and the Divine Office, the services for the eight hours of daily prayer. The musical parts of the Mass were contained in the Gradual and those of the Office in the Antiphonal and Hymnal.

High-ranking ecclesiastics, such as bishops and popes, also needed books for the services only they could perform. The Pontificals, Benedictionals, and Coronation Orders made for them, together with the Graduals and Antiphonals commissioned for wealthy religious houses, are among the most splendidly illuminated liturgical manuscripts to survive from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.