I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving and a good start to Advent. I’ve got some posts in the works that are proceeding in fits and starts. Barring actual substance, then, here are some manuscript pictures!

Advent puts us in mind of the Second Coming and the judgement; suitably, here’s a rendition of the Last Judgement complete with the selected “sheep” at Christ’s right hand and the “goats” being led off by devils, all surmounted by Christ clearly displaying his five wounds from the Carrow Psalter (Walters, W.34 first discussed here):

The Last Judgement
Carrow Psalter f.30v


The kalendar page for December is pretty typical for a thirteenth-century kalendar, but does have some items to remark on. Here’s the full page:

Kalendar for December
Carrow Psalter, f.41v

Like most December kalendars, it’s rather spare since Advent was a penitential season. There are a couple of points to make on the feasts at the top of the page…

First feasts of December
Carrow Psalter f.41v detail

I’m at a loss concerning the bishop being celebrated on December 4th. I’d expect St. Osmund or St. Barabara here ordinarily; I’ll have to poke into this one a bit more… I was initially trying to read “Ambrose” here and we do have the “A”, an abbreviated m/n (that’s the line over top the “a”), and a likely “b”, but nothing else fits. And it’s on the wrong day. In any case, the note in red next to his name indicates that this is the last possible day for the first Sunday of Advent.

Nicholas and the Conception of the BVM get gold lettering; these are major feasts—I’d expect nine lessons and special propers. The Octave of St. Andrew falls between them.

A bit lower down, we see one of the liturgical entries that will survive into the first BCP:

Middle feasts of December
Carrow Psalter, f.41v detail

The entry on December 16th is the “O Sapientia” that signals the start of the O Antiphons. Again, note that the sequence begins on the 16th, not the 17th (the now standard Roman Catholic date) meaning that the Marian O Antiphon that we find in the Sarum tradition was likely included in the sequence used in this region. Of course, this makes me wonder how widely this usage was found. I should probably check some German, mid-French, and Italian souerces of similar date and compare…

6 Replies to “Advent”

  1. The saint in question is St. Birinus. The letter that looks like an ‘a’ is actually ‘ci’ with a macron, i.e. that end of the word ‘Sancti’, as in ‘Sancti birini’. In this calendar, it looks like the ‘S’ is given a column of its own, with the appropriate ending in the next column, e.g. ‘cti’, ‘ctorum’. I don’t think I’ve seen that style before.

    Also, the scribe has placed the feast on the wrong line, since 3 December, not 4 December, is the feast day for St Birinus and also the latest date for Advent Sunday.

  2. FYI, this is from the Wikipedia entry for Birinus (

    “Birinus’ feast day is 3 December in the Roman Catholic Church,[13] but some churches celebrate his feast on 5 December. In the Church of England his feast day falls on 4 September and has the status of a Commemoration.[14] His relics were eventually translated to Winchester after his death.[15]”

  3. Great catch, John—you’re quite right! It is Birinus, and I hadn’t noted the habit of the seperated “ci”. I’m curious abut the date differences Barbara notes, if there are any local clusterings around the date variation…

    It is a great manuscript! The gold column identifies which day we’re heading for. Remember, the Latin calendar didn’t number days sequentially but used a count-down where they counted down to the kalends, the nones, and the ides of the month. the Church kalendars adopted this method so in this one you’ll see a KL at the top and bottom abbreviating “Kalends”, a Non for the “Nones”, and an ID (with a little tail which is an abbreviated “-us”) for the “Ides.”

  4. Wow! I had no idea that calendar was still being used on a regular basis by this time…..

  5. Great website. Fr. Paul Hartzell, in a supplement to the Prayer Book Office gives two additional O Antiphons from the Use of Paris: O Sancte Sanctorum and O Pastor Israel. The Antiphons began to be sung December 15, a day earlier, of course, than the Sarum texts.

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