The Old Customary 2 – the revised version

Harley MS 1001

The version of the Old Customary found in British Library, Harley MS 1001, represents a recension which is radically re-ordered and includes some differences of content from that found in the Register of Saint Osmund (and those versions related to it). It is the only witness to this recension.

The manuscript was copied in the first quarter of the fourteenth century, and came into the ownership of the parish church of Risby, not far from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. At that time Risby was part of the diocese of Norwich. Because Norwich Cathedral was staffed by Benedictine monks, the liturgy followed the Benedictine pattern, and the non-monastic churches in the diocese needed to follow a liturgical pattern of a secular (i.e. non-monastic) Use. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that Risby owned a Salisbury book.

The manuscript contains the earliest surviving Ordinal and Tonary of the Use of Sarum as well as the sole exemplar of this revised version of the Old Customary. As well as the Ordinal, Customary and Tonary, there are two sections of additions, indicating that the main texts needed to be supplemented. In Harley MS 1001 these five elements are all written by the same scribe, suggesting (but not confirming) that he copied from a manuscript that was in a complete state by the time it reached him. However, evidence within the texts of the manuscript suggests that it represents layers of compilation and addition which stretch from before 1220 to after 1295.

  1. Locations specified in the text of the Customary (e.g. ceremonies at the south porch) relate to the old cathedral building at Old Sarum, implying a date before 1220.
  2. Both the Ordinal and the Customary include reference to the feast of St Edmund of Canterbury (Edmund Rich) instituted in 1246, by which time half of the new cathedral was complete and in use.
  3. The Ordinal specifies processions to specific altars which seem not to have existed in the old cathedral, and were not available before the completion of the great transept of the new cathedral c. 1244-45.
  4. The writer of the longer set of additions (generally referred to as ‘Addiciones’) reports that the Ordinal and Customary were taken to the cathedral succentor for him to review in 1279. This resulted in the writing of the first part of this section.
  5. The Addiciones were later extended, ending with directions for the celebration of double feasts which include the Four Doctors of the Church, instituted by Pope Boniface VIII in 1295.

While the texts of the Ordinal and Customary now found in Harley MS 1001 represent the ritual practice of Salisbury Cathedral, the copy of each brought to the succentor for inspection had evidently been written out in another church which followed the Use of Sarum but realised that their version was out of date. Although we can be certain that the early items in the Addiciones were provided by the succentor in 1279, we cannot tell what he deleted, amended or added (perhaps in the margins) in the main texts of the copy of the Ordinal and Customary he inspected, and which a later scribe may have assimilated into the main text when making a new copy.

There are still many questions to address in relation to the texts included in Harley MS 1001. But of this we may be certain: the ritual practice of Salisbury Cathedral in 1279 no longer matched the underlying texts of the Ordinal and Customary found in Harley MS 1001 in the form brought to the succentor in that year. We may go further, to suggest that the ritual practice was not so significantly changed as to make the process of updating by the succentor unworkable. This implies that no New Customary had been written at this stage for the new cathedral. The cathedral clergy may still have been using an amended and updated form of what is identified here as the Old Customary.

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Use of the Old Customary in the new cathedral?

It may seem very unlikely that the Old Customary intended for the old cathedral would be used in the new cathedral. There was no ceremonial south porch in the new building: the main entrances were the north porch and the west doors. The cloister of the new cathedral was built on the south, west of the south transept; that in the old cathedral was on the north, east of the north transept. But some thought needs to be given to the phasing of the new cathedral building.

The new cathedral was built in four main phases:

  1. the three eastern chapels, consecrated in 1225
  2. the quire and transepts, completed in about 1244-45
  3. the nave, after which followed the consecration of the whole cathedral in 1258
  4. the cloister and chapter house, completed on a revised ground plan by 1266

Not until about 1258 were the north porch and west doors available for ritual use; not until 1266 was the cloister completed for processions. Throughout the whole period of building the daily services, and especially the processions, had to be adapted to what was available and what could be achieved on a constantly changing building site. Quite how the cathedral community adapted the liturgy to the emerging building and worked around the builders we cannot tell. However, until the completion of the whole building it may have been difficult to prepare a new Customary, or it may not have been a priority within a community that knew its liturgy well, and where ongoing change could readily be accommodated without the need for preparation of new documentation.

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