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 large vellum leaf from an antiphonary. Both sides with five staves of four-line music, written in black and red ink with two large initials illuminated in blue and red ink and a superb decorative border on recto. This hymn includes lyrics from Psalm 21, and beginning with the large initial "I" on recto, translates as:
Because truly they have considered and looked at me.
They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots. Free me.
A bright sheet of vellum with very light soiling, a few small cracks due to the oxidation of the pigment, and several creases at right.