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The Celtic Rite

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This subject will be treated under the following seven heads:

I. History and Origin;
II. Manuscript Sources;
III. The Divine Office;
IV. The Mass;
V. The Baptismal Service;
VI. The Visitation, Unction, and Communion of the Sick;
VII. The Consecration of Churches;
VIII. Hymns.


The term "Celtic Rite " is generally, but rather indefinitely, applied to the various rites in use in Great Britain, Ireland, perhaps in Brittany, and sporadically in Northern Spain, and in the monasteries which resulted from the Irish missions of St. Columbanus in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, at a time when rites other than the then existing rite of Rome were used, wholly or partially, in those places. The term must not be taken to imply any necessary homogeneity, for the evidence such as it is, is in favour of considerable diversity. This evidence is very scanty and fragmentary, and much of what has been written about it has been largely the result of conjectures based upon very insecure foundations, and has been influenced by controversial motives.

The beginning of the period is vague. There is no evidence before the fifth century and very little even then. The extreme end of it may be taken as 1172, when the Synod of Cashel finally adopted the Anglo-Roman Rite. The existence of a different rite in Britain and Ireland has been used to prove that the Christianity of these islands had an origin independent of Rome, though, even if it were true, it is not easy to see how that should prove anything more than the fact itself. In reality the existence of a Celtic Rite has no bearings, one way or the other, on the Anglo-Roman controversy. In the period before the eighth century diversity of rites was the rule rather than the exception. Rome, though when its advice was asked it might naturally recommend its own way of doing things, did not then make the smallest attempt to force uniformity on any local church. With a very complete unity of faith, and at times a considerable amount of intercourse between different parts of the Western Church, there existed great diversity of practice in things in which diversity, as St. Gregory's answer to St. Augustine seems to imply, was not considered to matter very much. Gradually, no doubt, the influence of important centres, such as Rome itself on one side, and Toledo on another, tended to lessen the diversity and to draw divergent Churches together into larger liturgical districts, so that by the time of the final fusion, which happened in the Charlemagne period, the Roman Rite with its Ambrosian variant, the Romanized Celtic Rite, and the Hispano-Gallican Rite, now represented by the Mozarabic survival, were practically all that were left, but we must beware of antedating this classification. The essential unity of the Roman Empire was such that whether Christianity came to Britain from Rome, from Gaul, or from the East in the first instance, the fact would have no bearings on the origin and spread of the liturgical customs, which certainly developed at a later period than its first introduction. In the fourth century we find an apparently organized British Church, with bishops who represent it at the Council of Arles in 314, and certainly at Rimini in 359. This Church was evidently in close communication with the Church in Gaul, as may be inferred from the dedication to St. Martin of the two churches at Withern and at Canterbury, and from the mission of Victridius of Rouen in 396, and those of Sts. Germanus and Lupus in 429, and Sts. Germanus and Severus in 447, directed against that heresy of Pelagius which had its origin in Britain. It is not unreasonable to suppose that at the period when liturgies were beginning to be differentiated more or less by districts and provinces the liturgy of the Church of Britain should resemble that of the neighbouring Church of Gaul, and it is possible to infer from St. Augustine's question to St. Gregory, concerning the different customs of Masses observed in Rome and in Gaul, that he found Gallican customs prevailing in Britain. But St. Augustine may only be referring to the use of Queen Bertha's Frankish chaplain, Bishop Luidhard, at Canterbury, and there is no evidence one way or the other as to what liturgy was in use among the Romanized Britons themselves.

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The passage attributed to Gidas (Haddan and Stubbs, I, 112), "Britones toti mundo contrarii, moribus Romanis inimici, non solum in misa sed in tonsura etiam", is probably of the seventh century. Yet upon this frail foundation of conjecture an elaborate theory has been built and still remains almost an article of faith with so large and important a school of Anglican controversialists that it is impossible to ignore its existence, though it has been given up by all serious liturgiologists. This theory (for which see also AMBROSIAN LITURGY AND RITE) is to the effect that St. Irenæus, the disciple of St. Polycarp, who was the disciple of St. John the Divine, brought the Rite of Ephesus to Provence, whence it spread through Gaul and to Britain. This so-called "Ephesine" Rite (a term often used as synonymous with "Hispano-Gallican"), say the supporters of the theory, was the foundation of the Sarum Rite, and from this it derived a belief that the Church of England had an origin independent of Rome. It is hardly necessary to assert here that the Sarum Rite is merely a local variety of the Roman, and that the influence of the Gallican Rite upon it is no greater than upon any other Roman variety, so that the deductions, which have recently been reasserted with great certainty by the Bishop of Chichester in his "Story of the English Prayerbook", are quite unwarranted by the facts. But on examination it will be seen that the Ephesine origin of the Gallican Rite rests only upon the assertion of an eighth-century Irish writer (in Cott. manuscript Nero A. II in the British Museum), who, by the way, derives the Celtic Rite, as far as the Divine Office is concerned, from Alexandria, and on a statement by Colman at the Synod of Whitby , in 664, respecting the origin of the Celtic Easter, which, as St. Wilfrid pointed out at the time, was certainly incorrect. The theory seems to have been first put forward in modern times by Sir William Palmer in his "Origines Liturgicae", on the authority of the said Irish writer, and has found its way into many Anglican textbooks. Yet the only points of difference between the British Church of St. Augustine's time and the Roman of which we can be certain are: (1) The rule of keeping Easter ; (2) the tonsure ; (3) some differences in the manner of baptizing.

(1) The Easter Question

The Britons adhered to the old Roman cycle of 84 years instead of the newer cycle of 19 years. They counted the third week of the moon, on the Sunday of which Easter must fall, from the 14th to the 20th instead of from the 15th to the 21st as the vernal equinox. Until 457, when the 532-year cycle of Victorius of Aquitaine was adopted at Rome, Britain agreed with Rome in its differing from Alexandria and the East. In 525 Rome altered its rule again to the 19-years cycle of Dionysius Exiguus, to conform to the Eastern usage, and from that time until the change of style in 1582 Rome and the East agreed in their rule of Easter, and even now calculate by the same rule, though the fact that the Greek 21st of March is only an imaginary vernal equinox, thirteen days later than the real one, makes the actual Greek Easter generally fall on a different day from the Roman. Yet it is still argued (e.g. in Archbishop Nuttall's Catechism; s.p.c.k., 1907) that the Easter difference proves the Eastern origin of the British Church. If it proves anything it is the exact opposite. Colman at the Synod of Whitby evidently had some vague memory of the long extinct Quartodeciman controversy in his mind when he claimed an Ephesian origin for his Easter, and St. Wilfrid rightly pointed out that the essence of the Quartodeciman rule was that Easter might be kept on any day of the week, whereas the Celts kept theirs on Sunday only. St. Aldhelm, in his letter to King Geruntius of Cornwall, seems to charge the Cornish with Quartodecimanism, but he also mistook the point of that controversy. The Easter question was eventually settled at various times in different parts of the Celtic Church. The following dates are derived from Haddan and Stubbs: South Ireland, 626-8; North Ireland, 692; Northumbria (converted by Celtic missions), 664; East Devon and Somerset, the Celts under Wessex, 705; the Picts, 710; Iona, 716-8; Straathclyde, 721; North Wales, 768; South Wales, 777. Cornwall held out the longest of any, perhaps even, in parts, to the time of Bishop Aedwulf of Crediton (909).

(2) The form of the tonsure

The Britons were accustomed to shave the whole head in front of a line drawn from ear to ear, instead of using the coronal tonsure of the Romans. This, though there is no real evidence that it was the practice of the Druids, was nicknamed tonsura magorum . ( Magus was accepted as equivalent to druid , and to this day the Magoi of Matthew 2 , are druidhean in the Scottish Gaelic Bible.) Later, the Roman party jeered at it as the tonsura Simonis Magi , in contradistinction to their " tonsure of St. Peter ". This is mentioned in the passage attributed wrongly, to Gildas (Haddan and Stubbs, I, 113).

(3) Some unspecified difference in the manner of baptizing

It has been conjectured, on no real evidence, that the British Church resembled the Spanish in baptizing with a single immersion. But this form had been allowed by Rome in the case of Spain. It would seem however, from a letter from Pope Zacharias to St. Boniface (1 May, 748, Haddan and Stubbs, III, 51), that an unnamed English synod had forbidden any bapism except in the name of the Trinity, and had declared that whoever omits the Name of any Person of the Trinity does not truly baptize. Spelman and Wilkins put this synod at London in the time of St. Augustine, 603. Mansi makes its date the first year of Theodore of Tarsus, 668. It would seem by this that it was the formula that was at fault, and certainly in the time of Theodore the possibility of priests, presumably Celtic, having been invalidly baptized was considered. "Si quis presbiter ordinatus deprehendit se non esse baptizatus, baptizetur et ordinetur iterum et omnes quos prius baptizavit baptizentur", says the "Poenitentiale Theodori" (Lib. II, cap. iii, 13), and in cap ix of the same book, after ordering the reordination of those ordained by Scottish and British bishops, "qui in Pascha et tonsua catholici non sunt", and the asperging of churches consecrated by them, Theodore adds: "Et qui ex horum similiter gente vel quicunque de baptismo suo dubitaverit, baptizetur".

Thus it may be seen that, with these exceptions, and excepting also one statement by Gildas (to the effect that certain lessons, differing from those of any known rite, were read at ordinations), and a possible allusion by him to the anointing of hands at ordination, we have no information about the rites of the British Church. They may have been Gallican but they may just as well have been Roman in type, or if the Christianity of Britain preceded the construction of definite liturgies, they may have been indigenous, with or without foreign influences. The Britons were quite capable of composing their own liturgy on that nucleus which was common to all Christendom ; but we do not know whether they did so or not.

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One part of Britain, indeed, derived a great part of its Christianity from post-Patrician Irish missions. St. Ia and her companions, and St. Piran, St. Sennen, St. Petrock, and the rest of the Irish saints who came to Cornwall in the late fifth and early sixth centuries found there, at any rate in the West, a population which had perhaps relapsed into Paganism under the Pagan King Teudar. When these saints introduced, or reintroduced, Christianity, they probably brought with them whatever rites they were accustomed to, and Cornwall certainly had its own separate ecclesiastical quarrel with Wessex in the days of St. Aldhelm , which, as appears by a statement in Leofric's Missal, was still going on in the early tenth century, though the details of it are not specified.

The rites of the Irish Church stand on firmer ground, though even there the information is scanty. There were Christians in Ireland before St. Patrick, but we have no information as to how they worshiped, and their existence is ignored by the "Catalogus Sanctorum Hiberniae", attributed to the seventy-century Tirechan. This interesting document, which, though its dates need not be accepted too exactly, is worthy of general credit, divides the saints of Ireland into three orders, each of which orders is stated to have lasted during the reigns of four kings, the three orders covering, between them, a period of about 225 years, from the coming of St. Patrick in 440, in the reign of Laoghaire MacNeil, to the reign of Blathmac and Diarmait, sons of Aodh Slane, in 665. Symmetry is attained by omitting about six intervening reigns, but the outside dates of each period are clear enough, and the liturgiological value of the document consists in the statements, very probably true in the main, respecting the customs of the saints of these orders as to the Masses and celebrationes , i.e. the Divine Office, and the Easter and tonsure questions. ( Celebratio -- " Divine Office "; Irish, Celebrad . Dr. MacCarthy in his edition of the Stowe Missal gives several instances of this use of the word.) the first order was in the time of St. Patrick. They were all bishops, 350 in number, founders of churches. They had one Head, Christ ; one leader, Patrick ; one Mass, and one tonsure from ear to ear, and they celebrated one Easter "quarta decima luna post aequinoctium vernale". All these bishops were sprung from the Romans, the French (i.e. the Gauls), the Britons, and the Scots. Their period is given from the reign of Laoghaire to that of Tuathal Moelgarbh (c. 440-544). The second order were a few bishops and many priests, 300 in number. They had one head, Christ, they celebrated different Masses and "diversas regulas", they had one Easter, the fourteenth of the moon after the equinox, and one tonsure from ear to ear. The received a Mass from the Britons, David, Gilla (Gildas), and Docus (Cadoc). It may be noted that the "Vita Gildae" tells how King Ainmerech sent for Gildas to restore ecclesiastical order in his kingdom "quia paene catholicam fidem inipsa insula omnes reliquerant". The second order lasted from the end of the reign of Tuathal to that of Aodh MacAinmerech (c. 544-99). The third order were priests and a few bishops, 100 in number, "qui in locis desertis habitabant et oleribus et aqua et eleemosynis vivebant, propria devitabant", evidently hermits and monks. They had different Masses, different rules, and different tonsures, "alii enim habebant coronam, alii caesariem", and celebrated different Easters, some on the fourteenth, some on the sixteenth, of the moon, "cum duris intentionibus" -- which perhaps means "obstinately". These lasted from the reign of Aeda Allain (Aodh Slaine) to that of his two sons (Blathmac and Diarmait, c. 599-665). The meaning seems to be that the first order celebrated a form of Mass introduced by St. Patrick, the second and third orders used partly that Mass and partly one of British origin, and in the case of the third order Roman modifications were also introduced. Though we have no direct evidence one way or the other, it would seem probable that St. Patrick, who was the pupil of St. Germanus of Auxerre and St. Honoratus of Lérins, brought with him a Mass of the Gallican type, and it is clear that the British Mass introduced by Sts. David, Gildas, and Cadoc differed from it, though to what extent we have no means of knowing. The "unam celebrationem" of the first order and the "diversas regulas" of the second and third probably both refer to the Divine Office, and we may take the authority of the eighth-century tract in Cott. manuscript Nero A. II for what it is worth in its not improbable statement that St. Germanus taught the "Cursus Scottorum" to St. Patrick, who certainly was under his instruction for some time. The working of the "Catalogus" seems to imply that the first and second orders were Quartodecimans, but this is clearly not the meaning, or on the same argument the third order must have been partly Sextodecimans -- if there were such things -- and moreover we have the already mentioned statement of St. Wilfred, the opponent of the Celtic Easter, at the Synod of Whitby, that such was not the case. Tirechan can only mean what we know from other sources: that the fourteenth day of the moon was the earliest day on which Easter could fall, not that it was kept on that day, Sunday or weekday. It was the same ambiguity of expression which misled Colman in 664 and St. Aldhelm in 704. The first and second orders used the Celtic tonsure, and it seems that the Roman coronal tonsure came partly into use during the period of the third order. After that we have an obscure period, during which the Roman Easter which had been accepted in South Ireland in 626-28, became universal, being accepted by North Ireland in 692, and it seems probable that a Mass on the model of the Carlsruhe and Piacenza fragments and the Stowe and Bobbio Missals, that is to say a Roman Canon with some features of a non-Roman type came into general use. But it was not until the twelfth century that the separate Irish Rite, which, according to Gilbert, Bishop of Limerick (1106-390), was in use in nearly all Ireland, was abolished. St. Malachy, bishop of Armagh (1134-48), began the campaign against it, and at the Synod of Cashel, in 1127, a Roman Rite "juxta quod Anglicana observat Ecclesia" was finally substituted.

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In Scotland there is very little information. The intercourse with Ireland was considerable, and the few details that can be gathered from such sources as Adamnan's Life of St. Columba and the various relics of the Scoto-Northumbrian Church point to a general similarity with Ireland in the earlier period. Of the rite of the monastic order of the Culdees ( Céli Dé or Goillidhe-Dé , servants of God, or possibly Cultores Dei ) very little is known, but they certainly had a rite of their own, which may have been similar to the Irish. The Roman Easter and tonsure were adopted by the Picts in 710, and at Iona in 716-18, and much later, in about 1080, St. Margaret of Scotland , wife of King Malcolm III, wishing to reform the Scottish church in a Roman direction, discovered and abolished certain peculiar customs of which Theodoric, her chaplain and biographer, tells us less than we could wish. It seems that the Scots did not begin Lent on Ash Wednesday , but on the Monday following. This is still the Ambrosian practice. They refused to communicate on Easter Day, and the arguments on the subject make it seem as if the laity never communicated at all. In some places they celebrated Mass "contra totius Ecclesiae consuetudinem, nescio quo ritu barbaro". The last statement may be read in connection with that in the Register of St. Andrew's (drawn up 1144-53), "Keledei in angulo quodam ecclesiae, quae modica nimis est, suum officum more suo celebrant". How much difference there may have been cannot be judged from these expressions. Scotland may have retained a primitive Celtic Rite, or it may have used the greatly Romanized Stowe or Bobbio Mass. The one fragment of a Scottish Rite, the Office of the Communion of the Sick, in the Book of Deer, probably eleventh century, is certainly non-Roman in type, and agrees with those in the extant Irish books.

In 590 St. Columbanus and his companions invaded the Continent and established monasteries throughout France, South Germany, Switzerland, and North Italy, of which the best known were Luxeuil, Bobbio, St. Galen, and Ratisbon. It is from the Rule of St. Columbanus that we know something of a Celtic Divine Office. These Irish missionaries, with their very strict rule, were not altogether popular among the lax Gallican clergy, who tried to get them discouraged. At a council at Mâcon, in 623, certain charges brought by one Agrestius were considered. Among them is the following: "In summâ quod a caeterorum ritu ac norma desciscerent et sacra mysteria sollemnia orationum et collectarum multiplici varietate celebrarent". There has been more than one interpretation of this phrase, some holding, with Pope Benedict XIV, that it refers to the use of many collects before the Epistle, instead of the one collect of the then Roman Missal, others that it implies a multiplicity of variables in the whole Mass, analogous to that existing in the Hispano-Gallican Rite. The Columbanian monasteries gradually drifted into the Benedictine Order.

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The ultimate origin of the various prayers, etc., found in the fragments of the Celtic Rite in the books of private devotion, such as the Book of Cerne, Harl. manuscript 7635, and manuscript Reg. 2. A. xx, which are either Irish or have been composed under Irish influence, is still under discussion. The Turin Fragment and the Bangor Antiphoner (See BANGOR, ANTIPHONARY OF) contain for the most part pieces that are either not found elsewhere or are only found in other Irish books. The Book of Cerne is very eclectic, and pieces therein can also be traced the Gelasian, Gregorian, Gallican, and Spanish origins, and the Stowe Missal has pieces which are found not only in the Bobbio Missal, but also in the Gelasian, Gregorian, Gallican, Spanish, and even Ambrosian books. The general conclusion seems to be that, while the Irish were not above borrowing from other Western nations, they originated a good deal themselves, much of which eventually passed into that composite rite which is now known as Roman. This seems to be a rough statement of the opinion of Mr. Edmund Bishop, who is the soundest English authority on the subject, which involves the much larger question of the origin and development of all the Western rites.


The following manuscripts contain fragments of the Celtic Rite:

British (i.e. Welsh, Cornish, or Breton)

None. There is a Mass in Bodl. manuscript 572 (at Oxford), in honour of St. Germanus , which appears to be Cornish and relates to "Ecclesia Lanaledensis", which has been considered to be the monastery of St. Germanus, in Cornwall, a few miles on the western side of the Tamar. There is no other evidence of the name, which was also the Breton name of Aleth, now part of Saint-Malo. The manuscript, which contains also certain glosses, possibly Cornish or Breton-it would be impossible to distinguish between them at that date-but held by Professor Loth to be Welsh, is probably of the ninth century, and the Mass is quite Roman in type, being probably written after that part of Cornwall had come under Saxon influence. There is a very interesting Proper Preface.

Irish (whether insular or continental)

(1) The Turin Fragment. A manuscript Of the seventh century in the Turin Library. It was published by W. Mayer, with a dissertation comparing it with the Bangor Antiphoner, in the Gottingen "Nachrichen" of 1903. Mayer considers the fragment to have been written at Bobbio. It consists of six leaves and contains the canticles, "Cantemus Domino", "Benedicite", and "Te Deum", with collects to follow those and the Laudate psalms (cxlvii-cl) and the "Benedictus", the text of which is not given, two hymns with collects to follow them, and two other prayers. There is a facsimile of one page and a description in "Collezione paleografica Bobbiese", Vol. I.

(2) The Bangor Antiphoner. A manuscript from the monastery of Bangor, in Down, written or copied from a manuscript written during the time of Abbot Cronan (680-91). It is now in the Ambrosian Library at Milan. It has been edited, in facsimile, for the Henry Bradshaw Society (1895-96) by F.E. Warren, having been already printed in Muratori's "Anecdota Bibl. Ambros.", IV, pp. 121-59, in Migne's "Patrologia Lat.", LXXII, 579, and in the "Ulster Journal of Archaeology", 1853. It contains a large collection of canticles, hymns, collects, and antiphons, all, with very few exceptions, relating to the Divine Office. All but two of the twenty-one pieces in the Turin fragment are found in this manuscript also. (See BANGOR, ANTIPHONARY OF.)

(3) The Bobbio Missal. A manuscript Of the seventh century found by Mabillon at Bobbio in North Italy now in the Biblotheque Nationale at Paris (Lat. 13,246). Published by Mabillon (Lit. Rom. Vet., II) and by Neale and Forbes (Ancient Liturgies of the Gallican Church ). There is an analysis of it by Dom Cagin in "Paeographie musicale", V. By Neale and Forbes it is entitled "Missale Vesontionense seu Sacramentarium Gallicanum", its attribution to Besançon being due to the presence of a Mass in honour of St. Sigismund. Monseigneur Duchesne appears to consider it to be more or less Ambrosian, but Mr. Edmund Bishop (liturgical note to Kuypers' "Book of Cerne") considers it to be "an example of the kind of book in vogue in the second age of the Irish Saints", and connects it with the undoubtedly Irish Stowe Missal. It contains a "Missa Romensis cottidiana" and Masses for various days and intentions, with the Order of Baptism and the "Benedictio Cerei".

(4) The Stowe Missal. A manuscript of the late eighth or early ninth century, with alterations in later hands, most of them written by one Moelcaich, who signs his name at the end of the Canon, and whom Dr. MacCarthy identifies, not very convincingly, with Moelcaich MacFlann, c. 750. It was discovered abroad, in the eighteenth century, by John Grace of Nenah, from whom it passed to the Duke of Buckingham's library at Stowe. It was bought by the late Earl of Ashburnham in 1849, and from his collection it went to the Royal Irish Academy. It contains part of the Gospel of St. John, probably quite unconnected with what follows, bound up with the Ordinary and Canon of the Mass, three Masses, the Order of Baptism and of the Visitation, Unction, and Communion of the Sick, and a treatise in Irish on the Mass, of which a variant is found in the "Leabhar Breac". The liturgical parts are in Warren's "Celtic Church ". It was edited for the Royal Irish Academy in 1885 by Dr. B. MacCarthy, and is now being re-edited (a facsimile having been already issued) for the Henry Bradshaw Society, by Mr. G.F. Warner, to whose work the present writer is indebted for much help. A translation, by J. Charleston, of the Ordinary and Canon of the Mass appeared in the "Transactions" of the Glasgow Ecclesiological Society, in 1898.

(5) The Carlsruhe Fragment A.--Four pages in an Irish hand of the late eighth or early ninth century in the Library of Carlsruhe. It contains parts of three Masses, one of which is "pro captivis". The arrangement resembles that of the Bobbio Missal, in that the Epistles and Gospels seem to have preceded the other variables under the title of "lectiones ad misam".

(6) The Carlsruhe Fragment. B.--Four pages in an Irish hand probably of the ninth century. It contains fragments of Masses, and includes a variant of the intercessions inserted in the Intercession for the Living in the Stowe Missal and in Witzel's extracts from the Fulda Manuscript. There are also some fragments of Irish in it.

(7) The Piacenza Fragment. Four pages (of which the two outer are illegible) in an Irish hand, possibly of the tenth century. The two inner pages contain parts of three Masses, one of which is headed "ordo missae sanctae mariae". In the others are contained the Prefaces of two of the Sunday Masses in the Bobbio Missal, one of which is used on the eighth Sunday after the Epiphany in the Mozarabic. [The text of these three fragments (5-7), with a dissertation on them by the Rev. H. M. Bannister, is given in the "Journal of Theological Studies", October, 1903.]

(8) The Book of Dimma. A manuscript probably of the eighth century now at Trinity College, Dublin. It contains the Four Gospels and has an order for the Unction and Communion of the Sick written between the Gospels of St. Luke and St. John. This last is printed in Warren's "Celtic Church ".

(9) The Book of Mulling. A manuscript, probably of the eighth century, in Trinity College, Dublin. It contains the Four Gospels, an Office for the Unction and Communion of the Sick, and a fragmentary directory or plan of a service. These have been printed, with a dissertation, in Lawlor's "Chapters on the Book of Mulling", and the Unction and Communion Office in Warren's "Celtic Church ".

(10) The St. Gall Fragments. These are eighth- and ninth-century fragments in Manuscripts 1394 and 1395 in the Library of St. Gallen. The first book (1394) contains part of an ordinary of the Mass, which as far as it goes resembles that in the Stowe Missal. The second (1395) contains the confession and litany, which also begin the Stowe Missal, a fragment of a Mass of the Dead, a prayer at the Visitation of the Sick, and three forms for the blessing of salt and water. All these are given in Warren's "Celtic Church ".

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(11) The Basle Fragment. (A. vii. 3 in the Basle Library ). This is a ninth-century Greek Psalter with a Latin interlinear translation. On a fly-leaf at the beginning are two hymns in honour of Our Lady and of St. Bridget, a prayer to Our Lady and to the Angels and Saints, and a long prayer "De conscientiae reatu ante altare". The last is printed in Warren's "The Celtic Church ".

(12) The Zurich Fragment (Public Library, Zurich ). This is a tenth-century leaf containing part of an office for the profession of a nun. It is printed in Warren's "The Celtic Church ".

(13) The Liber Hymnorum. This is not exactly a liturgical book, but a collection of forty hymns in Latin and Irish, almost all of Irish origin, with canticles and "ccclxv orationes quas beatus Gregorius de toto psalterio congregavit". There are explanatory prefaces in Irish or Latin to each hymn. Some of the hymns are found in the Bangor Antiphoner, the "Leabhar Breac", and the Book of Cerne. There are two manuscripts of this collection, not agreeing exactly, one in trinity College, Dublin, of the eleventh century, an done in the Franciscan Convent at Dublin, of somewhat later date. A combination of both manuscripts has been edited for the Henry Bradshaw Society (1897-98) by Dr. J. H. Bernard and Dr. R. Atkinson.


The Book of Deer. A Book of the Gospels of the tenth century formerly belonging to the Monastery of Deer in Buchan, and now in the Cambridge University Library. It contains part of an order for the communion of the Sick, with a Gaelic rubric, written in a hand of perhaps the end of the eleventh century. This is printed in Warren's "The Celtic Church ". The whole manuscript was edited by Dr. Stuart for the Spalding Club in 1869.

Other manuscripts

Besides these manuscripts there are certain others bearing on the subject which are not liturgical, and some of which are not Celtic, though they show signs of Celtic influences. Among these are:

(1) The Book of Cerne. A large collection of prayers, etc., for private use, associated with the name of Aethelwald the Bishop, possibly a Bishop of Lindisfarne (712-40), but perhaps a later Bishop of Lichfield (818-30). This late eighth- or early ninth-century manuscript, which once belonged to the Abbey of Cerne in Dorset, but is now in the University Library at Cambridge, though actually Northumbrian or Mercian in origin, is full of Irish, Gelasian, and Hispano-Gallican matter. It has been edited (with a most valuable "Liturgical Note" by Mr. E. Bishop ) by Dom A.B. Kuypers (Cambridge, 1902).

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(2) Harl. manuscript 7653, British Museum. A fragment of seven leaves of an Irish manuscript of the ninth century, containing a litany, the Te Deum, and a number of private devotions. It has been edited by Mr. W. de G. Birch, with The Book of Nunnaminster, for the Hampshire Record Society (1889), and by Mr. Warren in his monograph on the Bangor Antiphoner (Vol. II, p 83).

(3) Reg. 2. A. xx, British Museum. An eighth-century manuscript of probably Northumbrian origin, containing selections from the Gospels, collects, hymns, canticles, private devotions, etc. It has been fully described in Mr. Warren's "Bangor Antiphoner" (Vol. II, p. 97).

(4) The Leabhar Breac, or Speckled Book. An Irish manuscript of the fourteenth century, belonging to the Royal Irish Academy, and containing a very large collection of ecclesiastical and religious pieces in Irish. The contents are not as a rule of a liturgical character, but the book contains a variant of the Irish tract of the Mass which is also in the Stowe Missal. This has been printed, with a translation, in Dr. MacCarthy's edition of the Stowe Missal, and in "Transactions of the Aberdeen Ecclesiological Society ", with translation and notes by Mr. D. Macgregor (1898). The whole book has been published in facsimile, but without transliteration or translation, though with a detailed table of contents, by the Royal Irish Academy (1876), and the Passions and Homilies contained in it have been edited with a translation and glossary by Dr. R. Atkinson in the Todd Lecture series of the same Academy (1887).


The chief evidences as to the nature and origin of the Celtic Divine Office are found in the Rule of St. Columbanus, in the Turin fragment and the Bangor Antiphoner, in the eighth-century tract in Cott. manuscript Nero A. II., and in allusions in the "Catalogus Sanctorum Hiberniae". The Rule of St. Columbanus give directions as to the number of psalms to be recited at each hour, the Turin fragment, and the Bangor Antiphoner give the text of canticles, hymns, collects, and antiphons, and the Cottonian tract gives what was held in the eighth century to be the origin of the "Cursus Scottorum". ( Cursus psalmorum and Synaxis are terms used for the Divine Office in the Rule of St. Colmubanus.) the last differentiates between the "Cursus Gallorum", which it derives imaginatively from Ephesus and St. John, through St. Polycarp and St. Irenæus, and this "Cursus Scottorum", which, according to this writer, probably an Irish monk in France, originated with St. Mark at Alexandria. With St. Mark it came to Italy. St. Gregory of Nazianzus , St. Basil, and the hermits St. Anthony, St. Paul, St. Macarius , St. John, and St. Malchus used it. St. Cassian, St. Honoratus, and St. Porcarius of Lérins, St. Caesarius of Arles, St. Germanus, and St. Lupus also used it, and St. Germanus taught it to St. Patrick, who brought it to Ireland. There "Wandilochus Senex" and "Gomorillus" (Comgall) used it, and St. Wandilochus and Columbanus brought it to Luxeuil. The part of the story from St. Germanus onwards may possibly be founded in fact. The other part is not so probable. The statements of the "Catalogus" concerning "unam celebrationem" in the first, and "diversas regulas" during the second and third, ages of the saints probably refer to the original cursus of St. Patrick and to the introduction of other cursus , partly (perhaps with the Mass of Sts. David, Gildas and Cadoc) from Britain; and it does not quite follow that what St. Columbanus carried to Gaul was the same as that which St. Patrick had brought from Gaul in an earlier age. The Rule of St. Columbanus and the Bangor book distinguish eight Hours, "ad duodecimam" [ Vespers, called "ad Vespertinam" and "ad Vesperam" in the Bangor book] Adamnan's Life of St. Columba calls it once (iii,23) "Vespertinalis missa"], "ad initium noctis (answering to Complin ), "ad nocturnam", or "ad medium noctis", "ad matutinam" ( Lauds ), "ad secundam" (answering to Prime ), "ad tertiam", "ad sextam", and "ad nonam". At the four lesser Hours St. Columanus orders three psalms each; at Vespers, "ad initium noctis", and "ad medium noctis" twelve each, and "ad matutinam", a very curious and intricate arrangement of psalmody varying in length with the longer and shorter nights. On Saturdays and Sundays from 1 November to 25 March, seventy-five psalms were recited on each day, under one antiphon for every three psalms. From 25 March to 24 June these were diminished by three psalms weekly to a minimum of thirty-six psalms. It would seem, though it does not say so, that the minimum was used for about five weeks, for a gradual increase of the same amount arrives at the maximum by 1 November. On other days of the week there was a maximum of thirty-six and a minimum of twenty-four. The Rule does not say how the Psalter was distributed, but from the Bangor book it seems that the "Laudate" psalms (cxlvii-cl) were said together, doubtless, as in all other rites, Eastern or Western, except certain eighteenth-century French uses, at Lauds and that "Domine, Refugium" (Ps. lxxxix) was said "ad secundam". Adamnan mentions that St. Columba sang Psalm 44 , "Eructavit cor meum", at Vespers on one occasion. The psalms at the lesser Hours were to be accompanied by a number of intercessory versicles. In the Bangor book these, somewhat expanded from the list in the Rule, but certainly to be identified with them, are given in the form of one, two, or three antiphons and a collect for each intercession. There are six canticles given in the Bangor Antiphoner:

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  • "Audite, coeli", headed "Canticum Moysi". This has no antiphons, but a repetition of the first verse at intervals, after the manner of the Invitatory to the "Venite" in the Roman Rite.
  • "Cantemus Domino", also headed "Canticum Moysi".
  • "Benedictus, also called "Benedictio trium Puerorum".
  • "Te Deum, preceded by Ps. cxii, 1, "Laudate, pueri".
  • "Benedicitus", also called "Evangelium".
  • "Gloria in excelsis", followed by psalm and other verses similar to those which, with it, make up the Doxologia megale of the Greek Rite. It is ordered to be used "ad vesperum et matutinam", resembling the Greek Rite use of it at Complin ( Apodeipnon ) and Lauds ( Orthros ). When the Stowe Missal was written the Irish used this canticle at Mass also, in its Roman position.
  • The Bangor Antiphoner gives sets of collects to be used at each hour. One set is in verse (cf. the Mass in hexameters in the Reichenau Gallican fragment). It also gives several sets of collects, not always complete, but always in the same order. It may be conjectured that these sets show some sort of skeleton of the Bangor Lauds. The order always is: (1) "Post canticum" (evidently from the subjects, which, like those of the first ode of a Greek canon, refer to the Crossing of the Red Sea, Cantemus Domino"); (2) "Post Benedictionem trium Puerorum"; (3) "Post tres Psalmos", or "Post Laudate Dominum de coelis" (Ps. cxlvii-cl); (4) "Post Evangelium" (clearly meaning "benedictus", which is the only gospel canticle in the book

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