Bobbio Missal

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The Bobbio Missal Paris, BNF lat. 13246[1]) is a seventh century liturgical codex containing a lectionary, a sacramentary and some canonical material (such as a penitential). It was found in Bobbio Abbey by the Benedictine monk Jean Mabillon, sometime between June 4 and 9 of 1686.[2] It is the earliest liturgical manuscript surviving from the medieval period. Its specific authorship and provenance is much disputed, though general agreement points to the valley of the Rhône, with Besançon (Mabillon's suggestion) and Vienne given as two popular options.[3]


"The manuscript is small in format, 180 x 90 mm (130 x 70 mm) with an average of 22 long lines to the page. That is, it is slightly narrower and taller than a modern paperback book. It has the appearance of a chunky (at 300 folios/600 pages) and easily transportable working copy of the crucial mass texts it contains".[4] According to E.A. Lowe: "The Missal proper is written by one hand, designated as M... the few pages in uncial - the Mass pro principe, written by another hand - are referred to as M2... the pages containing added matter, in two different styles of crude writing, one showing distinct majuscule and the other as distinct minuscule traits, are referred to as A and a".[5]

List of contents[edit]

  • Excerpts from Pseudo-Theophilus’ commentary on the Gospels (later addition)
  • Pseudo-Augustine’s sermon De Dies Malus (later addition)
  • Daily readings
  • Canon Missae
  • Adventus
  • Vigilia natalis Domini
  • Natalis Domini
  • St. Stephen
  • The Holy Innocents
  • Sts. Jacob and John
  • Circumcisio Domini
  • Epiphania
  • Cathedra Sancti Petri
  • In Sollemnitate Sanctae Mariae
  • Quadragesima
  • d Aurium Apertionem
  • Expositio Symboli
  • Traditio Symboli
  • Cena Domini
  • Lectiones in Parasceue
  • Sabbato Sancto
  • Orationes in Vigilio Paschae
  • Benedictio Caerei
  • Ad Christianum faciendum
  • Ordo Baptismi
  • Vigilia Paschae
  • Pascha
  • Inventio Sanctae Crucis
  • Litaniae
  • Ascensio Domini
  • Quinquagesima
  • A daily reading
  • St. John the Baptist
  • St. John’s Passion
  • St. Peter and Paul
  • St. Sigismund
  • Martyrs [unspecified]
  • A Martyr [unspecified]
  • A Confessor [unspecified]
  • St. Martin
  • A Virgin [Unspecified]
  • Dedication of a Church
  • For the sick
  • St. Michael
  • Pro iter agentibus
  • For a priest [Sacerdos]
  • Missa omnimoda
  • Votive Masses
  • For the living and the dead
  • In domo cuiuslibet
  • Sunday Masses
  • Apologia
  • Missa Pro Principe (later addition)
  • Devotiones sive imprecationes (later addition)
  • Missae cotidianae dominicales
  • Depositio sacerdotis
  • For the Dead
  • Exorcismi salis et aquae
  • Oratio in domo
  • Various Benedictions
  • Orationes vespertina et matutina
  • Exorcismum olei
  • Benedictio olei (later addition)
  • Penitential
  • Orationes super paenitentem
  • Benedictio hominis cum domo sua (later addition)
  • De lege ad missam celebrandam (later addition)
  • De septem gradibus ecclesiae (later addition)
  • De Peccatis ad infirmum ducentibus (later addition)
  • De tempore nativitatis Christi (later addition)
  • Orationes pro paenitentibus (later addition)
  • Benedictiones panis (later addition)
  • De omnibus cursibus (later addition)
  • Symbolum apostolorum (later addition)
  • De libris canonicis (later addition)
  • Orationes ad missam (later addition)


Jean Mabillon believed the missal to be of the Frankish tradition. He cited the collections post nomina, ad pacem and the formula of the Contestatio as being characteristic of Gallican Liturgy. He also cited similarities between the Bobbio missal and the Missale Gothicum/Gallicanum and the Lectionary of Luxeuil. The order of some significant feast days were also similar to the Gallican tradition, and this also excluded it from being of the Mozarabic, Ambrosian or Roman tradition. The order of the liturgy in the Bobbio missal, such as the placement of the scripture readings and the Pax Vobiscum is also such as to distinguish it from the African tradition (here Mabillon quotes Augustine to support his deductions).[6]

The content of the Bobbio being not in complete agreement with Gothic/Gallican missal, Mabillon explains that liturgy was not uniform in Francia prior to Charlemagne and his reforms. Thus differences between dioceses and even parishes in their liturgy was common. Mabillon dated the manuscript to the late 7th century, and as proof references a name found in the margin of a leaf: “Bertulfus”, who was known to have been Abbot of Bobbio in the mid 7th century.[7]

The contents are listed as collections, readings from the prophets, the apostles and the gospels, contestations of the Mass for the whole year and a penitential. The penitential is particularly of interest to Mabillon, as it particularly enhances our facility with the disciplinary customs of the church in those venerable times.[8]

Mabillon states that it is possible the manuscript could have come from, and been in use at, Besançon, where Luxeuil monastery is located, as the mass for St. Sigismund, King of the Burgundians, is found in the missal. He states unequivocally that it could not have originated in Bobbio, as it does not refer to or contain any local saints or St. Columbanus and his disciples, nor does it contain monastic materials as would be commonly used in the liturgical year by monks. As it does not contain anything about Columbanus and his disciples, Mabillon’s guesses indicate he may have thought that St. Columbanus himself may have been involved with the missal, placing it in the Celtic tradition - but he does not elaborate on this.[9] Indeed, the Catholic Encyclopedia (1917) in its entry on the Celtic Rite, lists the Bobbio Missal in its section entitled Manuscript sources - Irish (whether insular or continental).[10]

Mabillon notes that in the Missa Pro Principe (Mass for the Prince), after the Contestatio in the Canon, the name of the martyr Eugenia is commemorated as well as the other usual saints, this being a unique occurrence. It also happens in the mass for Christmas Eve. This special inclusion of Eugenia could be linked to a province or part of Frankia where a cult of Eugenia was prevalent, but Mabillon knew of no such place.[11]

Mabillon’s title for the manuscript is Sacramentario de Ecclesia Gallicana ("Sacramentary of the Gallican Church") - that is, a book about Gallican liturgy, which he deems more correct than simply naming it a Gallican Liturgy or a Liturgy from Bobbio, both of which titles refer specifically to books containing only liturgy.[12]

Modern scholarship[edit]

Many modern scholars consider the Bobbio Missal to be "one of the most intriguing liturgical manuscripts from early medieval Francia".[13] The most comprehensive study to date is Yitzhak Hen and Rob MeensThe Bobbio Missal: liturgy and religious culture in Merovingian Gaul. This book of collected works by international scholars who met in Utrecht in 2001 examines in detail "virtually all of the issues that have swirled around the Bobbio missal". It was published in 2004, and summarizes the history of scholarship on the manuscript in terms of philology, paleography, Latin spelling and orthography, theology and liturgy amongst other aspects.

Rosamond McKitterick suggested that the manuscript could have been a gift to a certain priest or bishop, in celebration of his ordination or perhaps a special appointment. She says, "the book itself, therefore, may be witness to a complex web of social and pastoral association, and possibly to the relationship between a bishop and his clergy. Such a gift... would most likely have been a working copy, designed for constant reference and use".[14] McKitterick also indicated that the additions to the manuscript which occurred at a later time may have been added by members of the community in which the book was used, for practical purposes.[15] McKitterick agrees with Mabillon on the origin of the manuscript in Provençal or somewhere in South-East France, around the late 7th/early 8th century, and that it was not designed for use in a monastic community.[16]

David Ganz reports that the script in the Bobbio missal is the "earliest true minuscule, a script which allowed scribes to save space without sacrificing legibility".[17]

Marco Mostert, building on E.A. Lowe’s division of the script into four characteristic styles of writing - M, M2, a and A - asserts that three of these styles were meant to be read aloud: "Having considered the punctuation and word spacing of the oldest quires, we have found the conventions of M to be consistent with those of late antique (liturgical) books meant for reading aloud by a native speaker of Latin - even if the consistency of the punctuation may leave something to be desired... M2 follows M’s conventions, as did A. The scribe of a, however, does not seem to have meant his texts to be read aloud (or performed) by anyone but himself".[18]

Charles and Roger Wright note that additions were made to the Bobbio Missal - that is, texts were added some time afterward by a subsequent scribe, notably the sermon De Dies Malus and an untitled question/answer dialogue primarily regarding biblical and ecclesiastical history. The somewhat confusing grammatical state of these texts may have been due to the scribe’s intention to utilize them as a basis or template for reading aloud, and thus was not designed to have been grammatically accurate.[19]

Yitzak Hen hypothesizes, along with Lowe, that the Bobbio Missal was created by an individual in his private capacity for practical purposes, and that its small size indicates it traveled with its owner: "Judging from the script and the manuscript layout, it is well justified to describe the Bobbio Missal as a vade mecum of a Merovingian clergyman...It seems, therefore, safe to conclude that the Bobbio Missal is indeed a vade mecum of a bishop or even a priest, who offered liturgical services to secular, clerical and monastic communities...its unique and practical selections of prayers and benedictions supports this conclusion. A sacramentary like the Bobbio Missal would have been inadequate for the liturgical celebration in a Merovingian episcopal church".[20]

A facsimile volume of the Bobbio Missal was produced for the Henry Bradshaw Society by E. A. Lowe in 1917 and an edition of the text in 1920.[21]



  1. ^ Hen and Meens 4.
  2. ^ Hen and Meens 1.
  3. ^ Frazier, Alison (September 2005). "Rev of Hen, Meens, Bobbio Missal". H-Net. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  4. ^ Hen and Meens 22-23.
  5. ^ Hen and Meens 23.
  6. ^ Hen and Meens 9-15.
  7. ^ Hen and Meens 9-15.
  8. ^ Hen and Meens 9-15.
  9. ^ Hen and Meens 9-15.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Hen and Meens 13.
  12. ^ Hen and Meens 13.
  13. ^ Hen and Meens 4.
  14. ^ Hen and Meens 51.
  15. ^ Hen and Meens 51.
  16. ^ Hen and Meens 51.
  17. ^ Hen and Meens 59.
  18. ^ Hen and Meens 66.
  19. ^ Hen and Meens 136-139.
  20. ^ Hen and Meens 152-53.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-13. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 

Reference bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]