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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Gospel lectionary (Saturdays, Sundays and weekdays)

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This large <i>Gospel lectionary</i> manuscript, dating probably to the 13th century, belongs to the fuller of the two main types, the "weekday" lectionary, which includes readings for every day of the week, except during Lent, when a Gospel reading was only given on Saturdays and Sundays. The peculiarities of its liturgical content have led to its identification as a lectionary produced for the use of the patriarchal clergy in Constantinople.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The range of feasts included in the <i>menologion</i> includes an exceptionally large number of commemorations of events that occurred in Constantinople, including earthquakes, the defeat of foreign attacks, the dedication of churches in the city and Church Councils held there. A larger than usual number of Patriarchs of Constantinople are included among the saints to be commemorated. The most significant feature is the inclusion of additional material before the start of the <i>menologion</i>, which begins from 1 September, the first day of the indiction year, based on the ancient Roman tax cycle. This textual content, the "<i>Taxis</i> and <i>akolouthia</i> for 1 September", consists of liturgical instructions and prayers, of a sort more usually found in a service book, an <i>euchologion</i> or <i>typikon</i>, than in a lectionary. These concern the ceremonies performed in Constantinople at the beginning of the indiction year, focusing on the role of the Patriarch. It concludes with a list of feasts on which the Patriarch would personally read the Gospel lection. (Lowden, <i><i>Jaharis Lectionary</i></i>, pp. 27-29, 32-35, 37-38).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Similar textual features are found in two other manuscripts which have similarly been attributed to patriarchal use, which are richly illuminated and provided with miniatures, as might be expected of books produced for use in such an extraordinarily high-status context (Oxford, Bodelian Library, MS Auct. T. inf. 2.7; Venice, Istituto Ellenico, MS 2). This manuscript is much more plain. However, this is partly because its ornament has been left highly incomplete. Boundary markings in red ink have been drawn out at the beginning of sections to indicate the space in which an artist was to add ornamental headpieces, but for the most part these were never provided. A few have been filled in with plain outline decoration in red ink, but this does not necessarily correspond to the original decorative scheme. Even if this ornamentation does conform to the original plan, these headpieces may well have been intended to use coloured infill within these outlines. The design of the more elaborate initial letters suggests that they too may have been intended to receive coloured infill which was, in the event, never added. It is also possible that the blank pages that appear between sections were intended to receive miniatures.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>It should also be noted that a fourth manuscript with the same textual features, indeed the one whose text most closely matches this manuscript - <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Paris, Bibliothèque National de France, MS gr. 286</a> - also lacks miniatures, though its painted ornament has been completed. The range of specifically Constantinopolitan commemorations included in these two manuscripts is, moreover, even fuller than those in the illuminated lectionaries.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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