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A Litany, In A Prayerbook

A Litany, In A Prayerbook

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 820

Shelfmark: Royal MS 2 A.xx

Item number: f.26r

Length: 23

Width: 16

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

A collection of prayers, hymns, liturgical material, charms, and extracts from the gospels on healing miracles, this prayerbook belongs to a group which, on the basis of their scripts, probably were produced in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia during the late 8th and early 9th centuries. It may have been at Worcester Cathedral during the Middle Ages. Like the other prayerbooks, this one gathers the material around a theme, in this case centred upon healing, focusing on the Trinity as healer of mankind. It has been suggested that it was made for a medical person, possibly a woman physician, based upon some feminine word endings in the text. The page presents a litany of saints, a prayer invoking their intercession or help before God on behalf of a human or humanity in general. It is entitled 'laetania' (litany) at the top, and, to the left of the title, its invocation of spiritual power is enhanced by a small monogram of the Greek letters chi (X) and rho (P), a protecting sign of Christ, from the first two letters of the name in Greek. Beginning with an address to Christ ('Christ hear us'), it calls upon saint after saint. First is St Michael, whose name is often mentioned in magical formulae. Those following include saints known as powerful intercessors on behalf of the sick, such as St Bartholomew. Initials filled in with alternating colours would serve as an aid to the reader in separating the invocations.

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