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The Sherborne Missal - Introduction

Image of the Sherborne Missal cover
British Library Add. MS 59874
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The Sherborne Missal

The Sherborne Missal is the largest, most lavishly decorated late medieval service book to have survived the Reformation intact. Made for the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary's in Sherborne, Dorset, at the opening of the 15th century, it is a masterpiece of the International Gothic style. It weighs over three stone, measures around 536 by 380 mm, and contains 694 parchment pages.

A missal contains the text, and often the music, needed to perform the Christian mass throughout the year. The Sherborne Missal is unusual in revealing much concerning its production. Its key patron, Robert Bruyning, abbot of Sherborne (1385-1415), is depicted about a hundred times; his spiritual overlord and possible fellow-patron, Richard Mitford, bishop of Salisbury (1396-1407), appears eight times. The major artist, John Siferwas, also provides several portraits of himself and of the scribe, John Whas. Heraldic details tell us that the book was made around 1400-1407.

The choice of an ancient version of the texts associated with St. Augustine (died c. 604), and many of the images in the missal are designed to emphasise that the see of Salisbury owed its origins to Sherborne. Founded in 705, Sherborne had been one of the most ancient Anglo-Saxon bishoprics.

British Library Add. MS 74236


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