The ordering of the New Customary – NCC and NCS

A Customary for the New Cathedral

The architectural references confirm that the New Customary was intended for the second cathedral: as a rule, ceremonies located at the south door in OCO and OCR take place at the west door in NCC and NCS. One detail in NCC confirms that it represents a form of the Customary in use after 1330: in the ritual instructions for Vespers on major feasts, the officiant is directed to cense the tombs of Simon Ghent (d. 1315) and Roger Martival (d. 1330).

Distinguishing the New Customary from the Old Customary

By comparison with the versions of the Old Customary, the New Customary is neither as comprehensive, nor as coherent. It demonstrates a marked shift in the way the liturgy and its ritual are articulated. OCO based its norms on Advent Sunday, Christmas Day and the feast of St Thomas the Apostle. OCR was more general in its treatment of Sundays and two levels of feast (though still beginning with Advent and Christmas). The New Customary is ordered by classification, ranking feasts, Sundays and weekdays in descending order, with the Sunday and ordinary weekdays being placed near the end, rather than at the beginning, of their respective parts of the texts.

The New Customary pays greater attention to the Office than to either the Mass or Processions. This is in marked contrast to the Old Customary, where Office, Processions and Mass were addressed in turn. The detailed description of the Mass comes near the end of NCC, and is placed in the Ordinal section of the manuscript from which NCS is taken (Salisbury Cathedral, MS 175). Just one section relates specifically to Processions.

Finally, there is no place in the New Customary for the elements of Instutio Osmundi which had been incorporated into the opening sections of both versions of the Old Customary. The New Customary therefore represents a significant departure from both versions of the Old Customary, in content, order and emphasis. There remains significant overlap, nevertheless, as Frere’s parallel presentation of the two conflated texts of Old and New Customary demonstrates.

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The contents of the New Customary

There are six surviving sources of the New Customary: in addition to NCC and NCS, there are four more manuscript texts, listed here. All share much the same ordering and contents, and are far more closely related to one another than OCO is to OCR. Nevertheless, the sources of the New Customary display some differences.

Cumulatively there is a total of 71 sections, most but not all of which appear in any of the six sources. For ease of reference, it is this cumulative numbering of the sections (as employed by Frere and set out here in his text as NCF) that is used here to distinguish between the two sources of the New Customary included in the website.

NCC includes five sections not found in NCS (NCF sections 2, 3, 52, 66, 69), and NCS includes three sections not found in NCC (NCF sections 11, 67, 68). (NCF sections 70 and 71 do not appear in either NCC or NCS.) There are also differences in the order in which sections appear (though not within each individual section).

Overall, the New Customary falls into three main parts.

1.Arrangements in quire, including the officerssections 1-21
2.The Office, according to rank of feast daysections 22-45
3.Various lists and directionssections 46-65
 Ritual instructions for Mass, gracessections 66, 69 (found in NCC only)
 Memorials, prayer endingssections 67, 68 (found in NCS only)

Part 1(sections 1-21) represents a conflation of earlier sections found in OCO and OCR as sections 1-24, giving precedence to arrangements in quire, omitting some paragraphs on the institution, introducing a table of duties for Mass (found at a later point in OCO and OCR), and placing the lists of feasts at the end (including one that is new).

The lists of feasts give an indication of a new emphasis in the New Customary which is concerned far more with the exceptional on feast days than with the normative on Sundays and weekdays. There are three lists:

  • double feast days (with their three sub-divisions),
  • other feast days when the choir is ruled,
  • feast days when the choir is not ruled.

Part 2 (sections 22-45) is dominated by instructions for the conduct of the Office on feast days. In the New Customary, Part 2 deals initially with the double feasts and their sub-divisions: major, minor and inferior; first, during the main part of the year (sections 22-26), and then during the season of Easter (from Easter Day to Pentecost – sections 27-35). The remainder of Part 2 (sections 36-45) deals with other feast days, Sundays and weekdays (including variants during Eastertide). Ordinary Sundays are included with simple feasts of nine lessons (sections 40, 41), and weekdays are combined with the lowest rank of feasts of three lessons (section 44).

Part 3 is not systematically ordered, and gives the appearance of a gathering together of materials rather than systematic compilation. It is in this part that there is greatest variety between the sources in the ordering of the sections. There are lists identifying days when certain items of the Office are to be included, omitted, or sung in a particular way or by specific numbers of persons; there are general instructions on reciting certain items (e.g. invitatory, lessons). Almost as an addendum to Part 2 in NCC, section 55 deals with the Office at the end of the week after both Easter Day and Pentecost (found much earlier, section 35, in NCS). Other sections deal with dress and liturgical colours, the Lenten Cross, covering images in Lent, the Paschal Candle, the Easter Sepulchre, and use of bells.

The conclusion of all four surviving sources of the New Customary varies in content and ordering. All appear in Frere’s edition, including the two sections found in neither NCC nor NCS (NCF 70, 71). NCC concludes with a full description of the ritual of the Mass and a collection of graces; neither is included in NCS, though the Mass description is included in the Ordinal of that manuscript.

There appears to be a new mind-set at work in the compilation of the New Customary, and a new status for the Customary in relation to other liturgical books. By the fourteenth century, the Ordinal and Processional evidently included sufficient information on processions to obviate their inclusion in the Customary. Similarly the Ordinal and Missal must have provided most of the necessary information for the Mass. The texts of the Customary in OCR, NCC and NCS appear alongside (and in the case of NCS, framed by) the Ordinal.

The inclusion of so many musical examples in NCS, and its survival in the chancellor’s library (i.e. the library used for study and education) might raise the question whether it was intended primarily for teaching or reference rather than a working book that was part of the precentor’s liturgical library (now entirely lost). The chancellor had responsibility for those reading lessons in the liturgy, and they would need to learn how to find out what was to be read (from the Ordinal) and who was to read it and in what manner (from the Customary).

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