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Title: The Divine Office in Anglo-Saxon England, 597-c.1000
Author: Billett, J. D.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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This dissertation traces the history of the Divine Office (the daily round of fixed services of psalmody and prayer) in England from the Augustinian mission to c.1000. After a chapter exploring early medieval developments in the Office on the Continent, the first part of the dissertation uses literary and manuscript evidence to refute as anachronistic the common assumption that English monks used from an early stage the form of the Office laid down in the Rule of St Benedict. Instead, a Roman form of the Office, perhaps first introduced in 597, came into widespread use by both monks and secular clergy in the seventh and eighth centuries. It was ‘pre-Gregorian’ in structure and content, differing from later Carolingian codifications of the Roman Office. Contrary to some earlier scholarly views, the Divine Office was maintained throughout the ninth century in the face of Viking invasions and a decline in learning. The reign of Alfred (871-99) was probably a watershed in the introduction from the Continent of new ‘Gregorian’ ways of singing the Roman Office. Only in the second half of the tenth century did Dunstan, Æthelwold, and Oswald, inspired by their study of ninth-century Frankish monastic reform texts, seek to implement a Benedictine Office liturgy in their monasteries. The second part refines a methodology for reportorial comparison of Office chant texts. A secular Office chant repertory from Lotharingia or Bavaria (preserved in tenth-century additions to Durham, Cathedral Library, A. IV.19, and in eleventh-century marginalia in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41), perhaps transmitted to England under Alfred, was known in Wessex and perhaps also in Canterbury, and may lie behind some later English Benedictine Office books. Comparison of two fragmentary tenth-century English Office books (London, British Library, Royal 17. C. XVII, fols. 2-3 and 163-6, and Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawl. D. 894, fols, 62-3) with later English and Continental sources reveals two very different approaches to the establishment of a Benedictine Office liturgy in newly reformed English monasteries: the imitation of a Continental model (as in Royal 17. C. XVII, apparently from one of Æthelwold’s monasteries) and the adaptation of a local secular Office tradition for Benedictine use (as in Rawl. D. 894, from St. Augustine’s Canterbury). In both approaches, existing English traditions seem to have been preserved where possible.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available