Glossary

This glossary defines important terms relating to medieval culture and art.



Alb

Ammonian sections

Anglo-Saxon

Antiphonal

Author portrait

Benedictine Rule

Benedictional

Bestiary

Cabochon

Camaїeu

Canons

Canon tables

Canon of the Mass

Canticles

Capetian

Carolingian

Channel Style

Chasuble

Display script

Evangelist portrait

Evangelist symbols

Fathers of the Western Church

Franco-Saxon

Gesso

Gloss

Gospel-book

Gradual

Herbal

Historiated initials

Incipit page

Initial

Insular

Interlace

Lectionary

Merovingian

Missal

Mitre

Ottonian

Pallium

Pediment

Prefatory cycle

Psalter

Psalter translations

Sacramentary

Scriptorium

Septuagint

Three fifties

Treasure binding

Troper

Winchester style

Zoomorphic

Alb

An ankle-length sleeved tunic, generally of white linen, worn by priests and others, typically under vestments.

Ammonium sections

Eusebius’s divisions of the Gospels into verses that he attributed to Ammonius of Alexandria, and used within canon tables to correlate related passages.

Anglo-Saxon

The period in Britain from c. 500 to the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Antiphonal

A service book that includes the sung portions of the Mass.

Author portrait

An image of the author of a text, typically placed at the beginning of the book as a frontispiece or in a historiated initial.

Benedictine Rule

Guidelines developed by St Benedict for monastic practice.

Benedictional

A type of book that contains lists of the blessings given by bishops during the principal feasts of the liturgical year, from the Latin ‘benedicere’ (to bless).

Bestiary

A ‘book of beasts’, including descriptions of the characteristics and habits of animals together with associated allegorical moral lessons.

Cabochon

A round gemstone that has been polished but not cut, from the Middle French caboche (head).

Camaїeu

A technique employing different shades of the same colour.

Canons

Clerics living in a community who have not taken monastic vows.

Canon tables

Tables, or canons in Greek, of concordances of parallel and unique passages in the Gospels.

Canon of the Mass

The part of the Mass that comes after the Offertory and before the Communion.

Canticles

A group of songs from the Latin canticum (song) or prayers taken from biblical books that typically follow the Psalms in Psalters.

Capetian

The French dynasty founded by Hugh Capet (r. 987–996).

Carolingian

The French dynasty and period of the rule of the Emperor Charlemagne (d. 814), and his immediate descendants.

Channel Style

A style of illuminated initials widespread in England and in northern and eastern France during the last decades of the 12th century employing strong colours, fleshy leaves and small white dog-like or leonine creatures.

Chasuble

The principal outermost garment worn by a priest for the celebration of Mass.

Display script

Enlarged coloured letters typically used to delineate important divisions, such as the beginning of new sections of text.

Evangelist portrait

An image of an Evangelist, typically in the act of writing the Gospels, usually placed at the beginning of each Gospel.

Evangelist symbols

Symbols that came to be associated with each Evangelist: the man for St Matthew; the lion for St Mark; the ox for St Luke; and the eagle for St John, based on Ezekiel’s vision of the four living creatures with four faces (Ezekiel 1:5–11), and St John’s vision of the four living creatures before the throne (Revelation 4:6–8).

Fathers of the Western Church

Sts Gregory the Great, Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome.

Franco-Saxon

A style developed in northern France in the ninth century employing Anglo-Saxon or Insular decorative motifs combined with Carolingian motifs.

Gesso

The base on which gold leaf was laid, from the Italian for gypsum.

Gloss

A commentary on the main text, often presented interlinearly or marginally.

Gospel-book

A book containing the first four books of the New Testament: the Four Gospels of Sts Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which recount the life of Christ.

Gradual

A service book that includes the response and verses for the Epistle readings during Mass.

Herbal

A type of book describing the properties of various plants and their uses, particularly medicinal ones.

Historiated initials

Initials with narrative or other images in the body of the letter.

Incipit page

A title page introducing a text, from the word incipit (it begins).

Initial

An enlarged or decorated letter beginning a word, usually at the beginning of a textual division such as a verse, chapter or book.

Insular

Manuscripts or art made in the seventh to ninth centuries on the islands of Britain and Ireland and in Continental monasteries established by Anglo-Saxon or Irish monks.

Interlace

Decoration of interwoven straps, lines or ribbons.

Lectionary

A collection of the lessons or Scripture readings for Mass.

Merovingian

A dynasty that ruled over the Franks in the territory similar to Roman Gaul from the time of Merovech (or Merovich), by tradition the father of Childeric I (d. 481) and grandfather of Clovis I (d. 511).

Missal

A book including the necessary texts for Mass, including lessons and prayers.

Mitre

The headdress of bishops and certain abbots.

Ottonian

The dynasty of the Saxon kings Otto I (d. 973), his son Otto II (d. 983) and his grandson Otto III (d. 1002).

Pallium

A strip of woollen material worn round the shoulders of a bishop as a sign of office, often Y- or T-shaped in the medieval period.

Pediment

A triangular section of the front of a classical building, supported by columns.

Prefatory cycle

A series of images before a text, often full-page scenes from the life of David or Christ before the Psalms in a Psalter.

Psalter

A book containing the book of Psalms and usually other texts, typically a calendar, the Canticles, a litany, and various prayers.

Psalter translations

Versions or revisions of the Psalms traditionally ascribed to St Jerome (d. 420): the first was made from the Greek Septuagint, and is now commonly known as the Roman or Romanum Psalter; the second is the Gallican or Gallicanum version; and the third is the Hebraicum, a translation made from the Hebrew that was never used liturgically.

Sacramentary

A book that contains the prayers recited by the priest during Mass.

Scriptorium

The place where manuscripts were made in a monastery or cathedral.

Septuagint

A Greek version of certain parts of the Old Testament translated from Hebrew, from the Latin septuaginta (seventy) based on the tradition that 72 scholars were involved in the project.

Three fifties

The division of the Psalms into three groups of 50 Psalms, usually by including a large initial or image at the beginning of the divisions.

Treasure binding

A binding ornamented with precious materials, such as gold and silver, gems, cabochons, enamels and ivory carvings.

Troper

A book containing music sung on saints’ days and other holy days by a soloist, known as the precentor.

Winchester style

A type of illumination characterised by the extensive use of gold and bright colours in full borders of interwoven stylised acanthus leaves popularised under Æthelwold, (later saint), bishop of Winchester (r. 963–984).

Zoomorphic

Initials, letters or decoration formed of animals.