A Gospel Reading For Christmas Day, in The Liber Vitae of New Minster and Hyde Abbey
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
The Liber Vitae ('Book of Life') of New Minster and Hyde Abbey contains a list of names of the members of the community and its associates and benefactors, living and dead, along with two unusual pictures, grants, historical accounts, material for church services, prayers and other devotional material. It is thought that Aelfwine, abbot 1031-1057, had the book made at the beginning of his abbacy and to commemorate the New Minster's associations with royal patrons. The name of the scribe, Aelfsige, a monk and priest who also wrote Aelfwine's prayerbook (British Library), appears on one of its pages. This manuscript is called the Liber Vitae because it was meant as a contribution to the Eternal Book of Life in which the names of the saved were believed to have been written. Every day, at one of the major church services held at Hyde Abbey, names were read aloud from the list at the high altar. In 1110 the New Minster moved from Winchester to Hyde.
The material for church services includes part of a collection of gospel readings for Sundays and feasts from Christmas to Palm Sunday. On this page, the reading for Christmas Day is given. It is from Matthew 1:1-18, the genealogy of Christ. This was a special text which was sung rather than simply read. Some of the oldest musical notations which survive (9th century) were written for the genealogy in Matthew, although none is given here.