The Winchcombe Sacramentary
Orléans, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 127 [105]

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 •  9781870252072

During the tenth century, there were intimate connections between the English Church and the French abbey of Fleury, which was at that time one of the foremost intellectual centres in Europe. A number of leading English churchmen, such as Archbishop Oswald (d.992) and Abbot Germanus, went to Fleury for their training, and it was from Fleury that Abbo, perhaps the most learned man in the Europe of his day, came to England to spend two years teaching at the fenland monastery of Ramsey (985-7). The 'Winchcombe Sacramentary', which may have been written at Ramsey at this time, is the earliest complete surviving English sacramentary, and a product of the links between England and Fleury. Though written by an English scribe, it had been taken to Fleury by the early eleventh century, and remained there during the Middle Ages.

The codex is written in an English Caroline minuscule close to Winchester manuscripts of the third quarter of the 10th century. It is copied for the greater part by a single scribe on good quality parchment in 362 pages, and measures 280x225mm. Between pages 3 and 4 two pages have been excised, from the Canon of the Mass. Preserved with other manuscripts coming from the Abbey of Fleury at the Bibliothèque municipale of Orleans, it was noted at Fleury in the eighteenth century by Dom Edmond Martène, who published some brief extracts in his De Antiquis Ecclesiae ritibus, Antwerp, t. II, 1736, 1054-1076.1 It appears, however, to have come from England. For instance, with other English books it has in common formularies for St Kenelm, St Germanus, St Sigismund, and the Conversion of St Paul.

The editor follows Delisle and Leroquais in the attribution to Winchcombe Abbey, in the diocese of Worcester, county of Gloucester, founded in 798. It received the relics of St Kenelm († 812), whose name appears in red uncials among the Saints of the Nobis quoque peccatoribus and is also featured prominently elsewhere in the sacramentary. In 970 the Abbey was restored by St Oswald, formerly monk of Fleury, later Bishop of Worcester and Archbishop of York, under the abbot Germanus, monk Of Fleury, and with monks from Ramsey, a house governed according to the Fleury customs. The absence of many English saints seems to indicate that the Sacramentary was written for use elsewhere and it could not long have remained in Winchcombe, since there is evidence that it passed via Mont Saint-Michel between 991 and 1009. The possible attribution to monks of Winchcombe in exile at Ramsey is also discussed, and the hypothesis of its being a gift commissioned for presentation to Fleury.

The temporal is close to the Hadrianum, with the add1t1on of many prefaces, almost all from the Supplement of St Benedict of Aniane and some Mass formularies from various sources, usually akin to the 8th-century Gelasians, but with some reminiscences of other English books. In the Sanctoral there is a more complex mixture of feasts and texts from the Gregorian and 8th-century Gelasian traditions with some 22 further additions of feasts which are, however, generally common to French and English books of the period. Most complex of all are the affinities of the texts of the Commons and the Masses for vanous intentions and occasions.

Apart from the English colouring, for the Sanctoral there seems to be some affinity on the one hand with the Sacramentary of Saint-Amand of the latter half of the 9th century (Paris, Bibliothèque national, ms. Lat. 2291),2 and on the other with the Sacramentary of Fulda (Göttingen, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. theol. 231). Given that there are texts common to Winchcombe and Fulda but unknown to the Saint-Amand Sacramentary, a derivation of Winchcombe from Fulda seems improbable. Given that they are also virtually contemporary, the editor hypothesises a special source which would be English, operative between the eighth and the tenth centuries.

Following a concise but rich introduction, in which the editor offers a full codicological and liturgical description, a full diplomatic edition is given, with clear lateral numbering of the 1935 pieces. There are extensive comparative tables, and there is also an index of incipits, of names (principally of Saints) and of Roman stational churches.

1 Klaus Gamber, Codices Liturgici Latini Antiquiores, Universitätsverlag Freiburg, Freiburg, Secunda editio aucta 1968 (= Spicilegii Friburgensis Subsidia l): vol. 2, n. 925; cf. Jean Deshusses, Le sacramentaire gregorien, ses principales formes d'après les plus anciens manuscrits, edition comparative, Presses universitaires de Fribourg, t. 3, 1982 (= Spicilegium Friburgense 28).

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