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Introit for Christmas Day, in a Missal

Introit for Christmas Day, in a Missal

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1345

Shelfmark: Additional MS 39675

Item number: f.20r

Length: 26.2

Width: 17.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

The missal presents texts for the celebration of the Mass. Most of the Mass remains constant throughout the year, but within it are read and sung texts which are unique to each day of the calendar, some of them from the Bible, some special hymns and prayers. This missal was produced in the 14th century for use in Hereford Cathedral. The mass that it presents was meant for a lay congregation as opposed to a monastery. Although by the 14th century much of the Mass was standardised, it could still vary from place to place. This manuscript can be identified as being of 'Hereford use' by the kinds of texts in it, the way they are arranged, and the saints whose feast days are 'red letter,' that is, written in red. The simple ornament of vines and leaves, drawn in coloured inks, is typical of missals made for everyday use in the later Middle Ages. The large initial P ('Puer natus est nobis...) marks a special text, one that was sung at the beginning of Mass on Christmas day as the priest and attendants entered the church and approached the altar. It is constructed of parts of Isaia 9:6 ('To us a child is born...') and combined with responses. Across from the introit, is the reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews 1:1 ('In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets...'), referring to the prophecy of Isaia, understood as a foretelling of the birth of Jesus.

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