Period: 1550 (circa)
Color: Hand Color
4.2 x 5.8 inches
10.7 x 14.7 cm
The origins of liturgical music traditionally date back to St. Gregory the Great (d. 604), who was inspired by the Holy Dove to record the principles of 'Gregorian' chant. The Gradual contained the musical parts of the Missal and was sung from the steps (gradus) of the altar. The Antiphoner contained the musical sections of the Breviary. These terms have become interchangeable in modern times. Because of their size and complexity, these manuscripts were still being handmade in the traditional way for centuries after the introduction of printing. They were boldly hand-written and illuminated on large sheets of sturdy vellum so that the entire choir could read from one book.
A very nice leaf from a small antiphonary, a book used in divine services to sing the psalms. Generally these antiphonaries are large books, so that they could be used by a choir. This leaf is from a smaller version, called a Processional, which was used during a procession on feast days. It is written on a fine piece of vellum with the staves in black ink and three large initials in red, blue and gold ink. Beginning with the large letter "B" on recto, the hymn reads:
Benedicamus, quem nobis ora prophetica nasci spondebant ex matre criminis nescia, domino. Deo dicamus gracia.
Veni creator spiritus, qui prophetarum cordibus illapsus es, vt canerent deum nasci de virgine.