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2002 articles 1987 articles

The structure of English pre-conquest Benedictional

Andrew Prescott


A FORM of liturgical manuscript which particularly interested Derek Turner was the benedictional. In his edition of the pontificals in BL, Cotton MS. Claudius A. III1 he made an important contribution to the study of this type of service-book, providing in his mtroduction a useful account of their nature and development, and printing the texts of two early benedictionals. Of all the manuscripts in the British Library's collections, the one which fascinated him most was probably the Benedictional of St Æthelwold (Add. MS. 49598) (pi. I), produced at Winchester between 971 and 984. Derek's enthusiasm for this manuscript is not surprising, given its significance in both his main areas of interest, the history of the liturgy and medieval illumination. It is the finest surviving artistic product of the great cultural revival in England during the tenth century and, after the Lindisfarne Gospels, the most important surviving English illuminated manuscript. It is also of interest as a product of the influential and imaginative liturgical reforms undertaken by St thelwold as Bishop of Winchester between 963 and 984. Moreover, as a manuscript commissioned by St Æthelwold for his personal use, it is a splendid illustration of one of Derek's favourite themes, the hagiographical significance of manuscripts of this kind, which are one of the best authenticated forms of saintly relic and should be venerated as such.

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