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Liturgical Books In the Carolingian Times

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To help the reader to understand the meaning of some book's names upon which he may tumble when he interests himself into the Carolingian book production, here is a short summary of what liturgical books were in use at the time of the Carolingians. Liturgical books, in the Roman Catholic Church, are books which contain the texts and the directions for the liturgical services. The habit of writing down the liturgy appeared gradually as the existence of such writings becomes certain by the middle of the 4th century. The "diptychs" (the list of persons -living or dead- and of churches for whom prayers were to be said), the collection of prayers said by the celebrant ("sacramentaries", "euchologia"), the indications for the readers ("comites", "capitularia", "synaxaria"), the various books for the singers ("antiphonaries", "books of Troparia") and the "rubrical directions" ("ordines", "typika") were the first things to be written

From that time onwards, the first comprehensive liturgical books to appear in the West were the "sacramentaries" or "libri sacramentorum". A sacramentary is for the use of the celebrant (a priest, a bishop for example). A sacramentary contains all the prayers to be said (the "Collects", "Prefaces", and "Canon") as the texts of the ministers or choir (the "Lessons, the "Introits", the "Graduals" and the "Offertories") were not therein due to that, at that time, the celebrant had not to repeat whatever was sung by them. These first sacramentaries, on the other hand, were used by the celebrant for other uses that just the Mass, like the ordinations, the consecrations of churches and altar, exorcisms, blessings, etc (all those texts, later in the Middle Ages, became part of the "Pontifical" and "Ritual"). Books of hymns (the "Hymnarii") exist too. The part of the Mass' text which is of the responsability of the choir turned into "Libri Antiphonarii" (or "Graduales", or "Antiphonarii Missae")

As the sacramentaries and antiphonaries were for the use of the celebrants or of the choir, books for readers developed too. The "Evangelarii" and "Lectionarii" were indicating the texts of the Bible to be read. The homilies of the Fathers were collected into "Homilaria", as the Acts of the martyrs (which were read for their feasts) into "Martyrologia". The book of psalms had them arranged in order (the psalms were sung through the week) in the "Psalterium". As far as the liturgy of the hours (or the "Divine Office") is concerned, that is this series of prayers stretching along the day, the antiphons and responsories formed the "Libri Responsalis" or "Antiphonarii Officii"

All the liturgical books described above were copied with local modifications. As hymns were introduced into the Roman rite about the 5th or 6th century, those of the Mass were included into the Gradual and those of the Divine Office in the Psalter or Antiphonary. Separate collections of hymns ("Hymnaria", "Libri Sequentiales" -or "troponarii"), were containing the sequences and additions to the Kyrie and the Gloria. The predecessors of the Ritual were little various books containing other services, the sacraments, the burial service, blessings. Such books were called by various names like "Liber Agendorum", "Agenda", "Manuale", "Benedictionale", "Pastorale", "Sacerdotale", or "Rituale". The writting of the actions of the celebrant, at last, came last. These were called the "rubrics" are they were written with red ink. The growing elaborateness of the papal court and liturgy brought to books of rules, the "Ordines". These books were supplementing the sacramentary and choir-books, as they contained no prayer (they contained the first words only) but they were centered on directions about the ritual. All the liturgical books continued to develop along the following eras

Between 750 and 825 A.D., Carolingians had a work of liturgical unification to be undertaken, as it began with Pippin the Short. It was eventually Alcuin who corrected and unified reference books. The work was completed between Easter 800 and Easter 801 A.D. For the most part one came back to the Vulgate, the translation of the Bible in Latin by St Jerome and Alcuin also revised the 'Sacramentary,' the book used by the celebrant during the mass. He inspired himself from the Roman liturgy, which was appreciated for its simplicity. Charlemagne, by 781 A.D., as he had been impressed in Rome by the ceremonies he had attended, had asked the Pope to send a official Roman sacramentary. Alcuin used it like a basis, adding a certain number of rites used among the Franks as a supplement. Charlemagne, at last, had a Homliairy to be made by Paul Deacon, a defector from the Lombard courts of Pavia and Benevento, a collection of texts to serve as a pattern of sermons to Frankish clerics. During the Carolingian era, the practice of the private devotion appeared. That lead to laymen to possess at home a Psalter, that book containing the biblical books of the Psalms. Such that book allowed laymen to train in reading, to meditate and to entertain themselves. The Duke of Friul, for example, was reknowned at the time, for possessing several private psalters. Are well known too, for the Carolingian era, the Psalter of Utrecht, or the Psalter of Stuttgart. Those books were illustrated both with illustrations pertaining to the psalms and too with ones related to texts of the Bible which were not contained therein

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 11/3/2017. contact us at
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