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The Rule of St Benedict, in a Martyrology

The Rule of St Benedict, in a Martyrology

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1150

Shelfmark: Royal MS 7

Item number: f.74r

Length: 34

Width: 24

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript

A martyrology was a collection of lives of saints (especially stories of their martyrdoms), lists of names and dates of death of members or patrons of a monastery arranged according to the calendar of feast days, and the 'Rule'--the guidelines for conduct and daily prayer, the most common being the Rule of St Benedict (benedictine rule). It was made to be read from during the meeting called 'chapter', which was held after early morning prayer (about 6 am) for the purpose of commemorating the dead and reading a chapter of the Rule. After the reading, assignments for various tasks were made and any necessary punishments or complaints delivered. This martyrology belonged to the priory of Christ Church, Canterbury, and records the names and death dates of many of its monks, as well as brothers from Glastonbury, Faversham and others in its confraternity.

An essential component of the martyrology was a copy of the Rule. Because Christ Church was a benedictine foundation, the use is that of St Benedict. Typically its prologue opens with a large, coloured and decorated first letter ("Asculta O fili", "Listen O my child"). A chapter of the Rule would have been read each day, hence the name of the service, 'chapter'. The stains and smudges on the page bear witness to the manuscript's role as a working book.

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