During the Middle Ages as now, there were a number of liturgical books that were designed to be used by specific ranks of the clergy. Pontificals were intended for the use of bishops, holding the orders of service for rites that they could perform. This Anglo-Saxon Pontifical, probably produced in southern England in the middle of the tenth century, includes the readings and prayers for the ordination of a bishop, the consecration of an abbot or abbess, and the coronation of a king. It also includes a variety of other miscellaneous blessings and prayers, asking for the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the Angels and early Christian martyrs and saints. Anglo-Saxon neumes, an early form of written musical notation, accompany some of the texts
The book is commonly known as the ‘Ecgberht Pontifical’ because of an incorrect scribal attribution to Ecgberht, the first archbishop of York (b. c. 732, d. 766), an important early Anglo-Saxon educator and theologian, in a text at the very beginning of the manuscript. Like many Anglo-Saxon manuscripts in the years following the Conquest, the Pontifical was taken across the English Channel to Normandy, and by the end of the eleventh century, it was among the books housed at Évreux Cathedral.
This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.
- Article by:
- Nicolas Bell
- Christian religion and belief
Music played a central role in Christian liturgy throughout the Middle Ages. Nicolas Bell describes the evidence for this music in manuscripts made before 1200.