29 May 2022


 The Stowe Missal, so called because it was once in the ducal library at Stowe, is insufficiently esteemed among those with an interest in Roman Liturgy.

It is of profound interest because it is a unique manuscript witness to some features in the Roman Rite before S Gregory the Great made changes in it. Although the ms dates from the last decade of the eighth century, it was clearly copied from an exemplar of before the 590s. The main deviation from the 'Gregorian Rite' is that the Fraction is in the 'Ambrosian' position, before the Lord's Prayer. And S Andrew, something of a patron for Pope Gregory, has not yet entered the Stowe Libera nos.

The Rite begins with a Litany. When I wrote a paper for the Proceedings  of the Royal Irish Acaemy, some two decades ago (Kerry and Stowe Revisited), I was puzzled by this initial Litany. It is not required by the need for an Intercession; the Stowe Intercession comes between the the Epistle and the Gospel (and, of course, there are the Nomina and the intercessory paragraphs in the Canon Romanus). Its quality is penitential.

Now, having thought my way this week through the concept of lustratio and the Rogation processions, I now have ... at least! ... a hypothesis.

The monastic and ecclesiastical sites which so proliferate in Ireland's most beautiful county, Kerry ('the Kingdom of the West' memorialised in a poem by Sir John Betjeman), normally have a wall or other geographical feature defining the extent of the claustrum

Just like such processions as those in England and elsewhere at Rogation-tide, I believe that these defining features delimit and set apart the Sacred from the Profane; 'our' territory as against that of outsiders. Just like the Rogation Processions, the religious enclosures in Kerry were, I surmise, seen as calling for ritual and periodic reassertion on the part of their community.

G G Willis (1968), in his account of the rites of Consecrating churches in Latin Christendom, makes a number of references to the use of litanies. Stowe, or its archetype, may originally have been compiled for the sacring of a new religious establishment: its Hanc igitur makes especial mention of the person who has donated the site.


Zephyrinus said...

Dear Reverend Fr. Hunwicke.

Thank You for this Article.


Any ideas for similar on the Hereford, York, Aberdeen, Missals, etc, etc ?

Gael éigin said...

As far as I can see, the rubrics are in Old Irish, in which difficult language a commentary on the mass follows the liturgical text.

Wonderful to see the references to sanctam ecclesiam catholicam and papē gelasi which make a nonsense of the "separate Celtic christian church" fantasy.

John Vasc said...

Dear Father H, You mention that St Andrew is absent from the Stowe Missal's Libera nos (Patrick is named instead), but that cannot be for lack of interest, as he is clearly venerated in the introductory litany (as 'Sancte Anrias') in precisely the same pecking order as in the Libera nos prayer we know today - 'Sancta maria, Sancte petri, Sancte pauli, Sancte anrias...' He is also in the list of saints prayed to in the 'oratio ambrosi' (as this time 'andriae').
What strikes me is the similarity of the opening act of penitential imploration ('Peccavimus domine, peccavimus: parce peccatis nostris...'), to the later 'Judica me deus'/'Confiteor'. Penitent, bowed submission is and always was an essential initial moment of prayer. It was extremely wise of Pope Pius V to regularise the Prayers at the foot of the altar as an integral part of Mass, and most unwise of the hasty reformers in that unsatisfactory liturgical halfway-house of compromise to simply delete them.
Apart from everything else, it rather gave their game away.

Prayerful said...

The MS (not the later Munster shrine commissioned by the King of Muskerry) itself is attributed to St Máel Ruain monastery (it contains prayers to the Saint) in Tallaght where now stands a Church of Ireland church rebuilt in the nineteenth century, and which is still in the ancient rounded monastic enclosure which is mostly given over to a graveyard still in use. The enclosure was the site of a pattern dedicated to the Saint, but which was suppressed in 1874, as it became the occasion of a good of drinking and fighting. According to Weston St John Joyce an effigy of the Saint was carried in procession from house to house, the procession led by a piper, and a collection made whose proceeds were spend on alcohol fueled libations to the Saint. Many afterwards slept in ditches. It was probably too cheery for some dour Victorians.