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Instructions for Prayers, in a Breviary

Instructions for Prayers, in a Breviary

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1490

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Appendix XIV

Item number: f.129r

Length: 16.5

Width: 10.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

A breviary is the prayerbook compiled especially for the daily prayer services (divine office or hours) of monks and nuns. Monks and nuns recited psalms and prayers, read aloud excerpts from the Bible and commentaries in a series of services every day at set hours, beginning very early in the small hours until bedtime, which was at nightfall. The prayers for each day of the year were different. The breviary contained all of the texts needed for the divine office. This breviary belonged to the English nuns of St Brigitta (or Brigittines) whose house, Syon, was originally located near Twickenham. After Henry VIII dissolved Syon in 1539, the Brigittines wandered in the Netherlands, France and Spain, eventually settling in Lisbon.

The writing in red has instructions to the reader to say the Seven Penitential Psalms or to repeat other prayers, which should then be recited also by the nuns of the convent. This relates to another inscription in the manuscript which asks for prayers for the souls of Margaret and John Edwarde, parents of a nun of Syon, who had the breviary made for her use.

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