Thursday, October 22, 2015

Leaves from an 18th-Century Cistercian Gradual

The website of the library of Clairvaux Abbey, famously the home of St Bernard, has a number of digitized manuscripts available for consultation; among them, this beautifully illustrated Gradual, which also includes chants for Terce and Vespers, from the first part of the 18th century. Other liturgical books from the collection, as well as a variety of Bibles, Patristics works, copies of the Rule of St Benedict etc., can be investigated by clicking here.

“Gradual and Antiphonal of the church of Clairvaux, on solemnities and feasts of sermons.” In point of fact, this particular book only includes a small number of major feasts. - Since the Cistercians, with characteristic simplicity, never doubled any of the antiphons in the Divine Office, the traditional Roman terminology for the grades of feasts, “double, semidouble, simple,” was not very useful to them. The highest grade of feast was therefore called “sermonis - of a sermon”, to indicate that a sermon was supposed to be delivered to the community on that day. The other grades were called “two (publicly sung) Masses”, “twelve readings (at Matins)”, “three readings” and “commemoration.”
Decorative page before Christmas
Decorative page before the Annunciation
The first antiphon of Vespers on Christmas Eve 

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