The Book: Books in the Medieval Liturgy

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Course Description

When we think of liturgy today, we imagine short, formal, congregational events happening periodically within the confines of churches. Medieval liturgy, however, took up many hours of every day, filled the city's largest meeting halls, and even spilled onto the streets. At the center of the medieval liturgy were the books we will study in this course.

In this module of The Book: Histories Across Time and Space, we’ll explore and explain the beautiful service books of the medieval church. No prior knowledge of liturgy or Latin is required, but there will be a lot of both, along with music.

The medieval services consisted of a complex system of cycles, and the liturgical books correspond to the various functions of the people who used them: Laypersons, nuns and monks, readers, singers, priests, and bishops.

We will explore and examine these precious objects using materials from Harvard’s collections. Close examination of...

When we think of liturgy today, we imagine short, formal, congregational events happening periodically within the confines of churches. Medieval liturgy, however, took up many hours of every day, filled the city's largest meeting halls, and even spilled onto the streets. At the center of the medieval liturgy were the books we will study in this course.

In this module of The Book: Histories Across Time and Space, we’ll explore and explain the beautiful service books of the medieval church. No prior knowledge of liturgy or Latin is required, but there will be a lot of both, along with music.

The medieval services consisted of a complex system of cycles, and the liturgical books correspond to the various functions of the people who used them: Laypersons, nuns and monks, readers, singers, priests, and bishops.

We will explore and examine these precious objects using materials from Harvard’s collections. Close examination of various types of books will help to explain the complex and collaborative nature of medieval worship. Ultimately, we will learn how these beautifully adorned books  represent the importance of liturgy as an essential function of society in the Middle Ages.


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Reviews 9/10 stars
1 Review for The Book: Books in the Medieval Liturgy

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Tiffany Rondón Román profile image
Tiffany Rondón Román profile image

Tiffany Rondón Román

10/10 starsCompleted
3 years, 8 months ago
Another great course by the excellent professor Thomas Forrest Kelly. In here you will learn not only about the books that the clergy used for the Mass or for when they had to travel; but you will also learn about the day office and night office (the Matin) and the books that they had to use in the Office (which was visited around 8 times a day!) to be able to read, sing and pray during the many hours of the day. This course will also teach you a basic plant of a church and about the calendar and the proper of the time, the proper of the saints and the common saint and what they all have in common regarding the books. While I don't know a bit at all about music I was able to understand the explanations of the chapter of Musical Notation and the impact of course that made the improvement created by Guido of Arezzo. Had the pleasure of learning about all these books and what they are and happy to have gain more information for future r... Another great course by the excellent professor Thomas Forrest Kelly. In here you will learn not only about the books that the clergy used for the Mass or for when they had to travel; but you will also learn about the day office and night office (the Matin) and the books that they had to use in the Office (which was visited around 8 times a day!) to be able to read, sing and pray during the many hours of the day. This course will also teach you a basic plant of a church and about the calendar and the proper of the time, the proper of the saints and the common saint and what they all have in common regarding the books. While I don't know a bit at all about music I was able to understand the explanations of the chapter of Musical Notation and the impact of course that made the improvement created by Guido of Arezzo. Had the pleasure of learning about all these books and what they are and happy to have gain more information for future references in my works. Thank you.
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