The Divine Office in Anglo-Saxon England, 597-c.1000

Jesse Billett

First full-scale survey and examination of liturgical practice and its fundamental changes over four centuries.
Date Published :
February 2019
Series :
Henry Bradshaw Society Subsidia
Illustration :
2 black and white
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Paperback
ISBN : 9781907497353
Pages : 485
Dimensions : 8.5 X 5.5 inches
Stock Status : Available


At the heart of life in any medieval Christian religious community was the communal recitation of the daily "hours of prayer" or Divine Office. This book draws on narrative, conciliar, and manuscript sources to reconstruct the history of how the Divine Office was sung in Anglo-Saxon minster churches from the coming of the first Roman missionaries in 597 to the height of the "monastic revival" in the tenth century.
Going beyond both the hagiographic "Benedictine" assumptions of older scholarship and the cautious agnosticism of more recent historians of Anglo-Saxon Christianity, the author demonstrates that the early Anglo-Saxon Church followed a non-Benedictine "Roman" monastic liturgical tradition. Despite Viking depredations and native laxity, this tradition survived, enriched through contact with varied Continental liturgies, into the tenth century. Only then did a few advanced monastic reformers conclude, based on their study of ninth-century Frankish reforms fully explained for the first time in this book, that English monks and nuns ought to follow the liturgical prescriptions of the Rule of St Benedict to the letter. Fragmentary manuscript survivals reveal how monastic leaders such as Dunstan and Æthelwold variously adapted the native English liturgical tradition - or replaced it - to implement this forgotten central plank of the "Benedictine Reform".

Jesse D. Billett is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Divinity, Trinity College, Toronto.


Towards a 'New Narrative' of the History of the Divine Office in Anglo-Saxon England
The Divine Office in the Latin West in the Early Middle Ages
The Divine Office in England from the Augustinian Mission to the First Viking Invasions, 597 - c.835
The Divine Office in England from the first Viking age to the abbacy of Dunstan at Glastonbury, c.835 - c.940
The Divine Office and the Tenth-Century English Benedictine Reform
A Methodology for the Study of Anglo-Saxon Chant Books for the Office
Two Witnesses to the Chant of the Secular Office in England in the Tenth Century
A Fragment of a Tenth-Century English Benedictine 'Breviary'
A Fragment of a Tenth-Century English Benedictine Chant Book
Conclusion: Ways of Making a Benedictine Office
Index of Manuscripts
Index of Liturgical Forms

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