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A Reading For Christmas Day, in the Liber Vitae of New Minster and Hyde Abbey

A Reading For Christmas Day, in the Liber Vitae of New Minster and Hyde Abbey

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1031

Shelfmark: Stowe MS 944

Item number: f. 44r

Length: 25.4

Width: 14.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

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 largest section of material for church services is part of a collection of gospel readings for Sundays and feast days between Christmas and Palm Sunday. This page has one of the readings for Christmas Day, from John 1, "In the beginning was the Word." This passage represented a powerful statement of the incarnation of God as the man, Jesus. It appears in several forms in church services during the year, but on the feast of the Nativity it was read in full.

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