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Oil of the Sick, in a Pontifical

Oil of the Sick, in a Pontifical

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1050

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Tiberius C I

Item number: f.78r

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

The 17th-century English bibliophile, Robert Cotton, sometimes bound together separate manuscripts which were otherwise unrelated, creating books of miscellaneous contents, this book being a good example. It is made of an early 12th-century English scientific textbook and an 11th-century pontifical (manual of services conducted by a bishop), some parts of which were probably made in France but which are bound with sections which clearly were made before the Norman conquest in Southwest England, probably at Sherborne Abbey in Dorset, where other additions in Old English and Latin were made. The monastery of St Mary, Sherborne, is mentioned in a form for a monk's profession of his vows, and later in the century the pontifical went to Salisbury after the see of Sherborne was removed in 1078 where it was updated further with instructions for Salisbury services. Written in extremely fine Anglo-Saxon script, this page is the start of a series of prayers relating sermons and prayers relating to holy oils, such as the oil used in baptisms. The first concerns the oil of the sick, used in Extreme Unction. The blessing of the oils and their distribution were conducted only by bishops. Since the early 8th century, Sherborne had been seat of the bishop for western part of the kingdom of the West Saxons.

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