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The relics of the Magi who had visited the infant Jesus were enshrined at the cathedral at Cologne in the twelfth century, where they became an important focus of pilgrimage. The cult was widespread and diverse in form, and was especially focused on the season of Epiphany; devotional practices included formal liturgical rites, representative drama, and the invocation of the Magi in medical remedies. This chapter considers the relationship between such categories as devotional and liturgical in relation to examples of the cult in Insular sources. In particular, the presence of a votive Mass for Travellers of the Three Kings of Cologne, as found in a fifteenth-century manuscript belonging to priest Henry Wells, presents an opportunity to consider individuals for whom the cult held particular significance.
Locus iste: This place. So begins the well-known sung text, or plainchant, forming part of the religious dedication of a building or altar. It can be found in hundreds of musical sources across Europe, from the earliest complete surviving antiphonary to include neumes (probably copied at the Swiss Benedictine monastery of Einsiedeln by Abbot Gregor the Englishman in the years around 960–70) to the printed liturgical books that circulated in the early sixteenth century, and up to the present day.1 The full gradual, Locus iste a Deo factum est inestimabile sacramentum irreprehensibilis est (‘This place was made inestimably sacred by God; it is beyond reproach’), emphasises the permanence and enduring holiness of ceremonial spaces within the Christian church. Its presence served as a performative connection between widely distributed churches and chapels and Rome, the spiritual centre of the Christian West. Religious buildings were all individually designed and decorated, and the unique liturgical books held within each one bear testament to the diverse services that were held there throughout the church year, from daily Mass to occasional rites such as baptism.2 Textual witnesses – manuscripts throughout the pre-Reformation period
Scholarship of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century – not least that cultivated by members of the Plainsong and Medieval Music Society and other scholarly groups – regularly sought to define the means through which liturgy moved between Continental Europe and Britain and Ireland. In the later twentieth century, a concept of cross-cultural exchange became more prominent: this model emphasised how people shared knowledge and ideas as they travelled between different religious centres. As the first set of case studies has shown, the presence of Sarum and York liturgy across the greater part of Britain and Ireland offered a certain consistency, but the reality was certainly much more subtle and complex, with no two textual witnesses supporting a picture of uniformity even between institutions connected by geography or other factors. Instead, the picture that emerges is more of a patchwork of regions and networks, within which there might be a striking diversity of related customs.
There is little that reminds us more of the limitations of thinking according to modern political and ecclesiastical boundaries than the study of the cults of regional saints, a field of research that has been gaining increasing momentum in recent years. This applies right across Europe: one need only think of the borderlands between France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg; the shifts in the definition of what is now the Federal Republic of Germany; the State of Bavaria, which once included parts of Austria (and thus the Diocese of Salzburg), or Hungary, which, until after World War I, formed part of the Hapsburg Empire of Austria–Hungary and included Serbia and Transylvania, which continues to have an ethnically mixed population of Hungarian- and German-speakers (as well as Romanian). So also for liturgy and the cults of saints, not least the traces of medieval devotion that are still preserved in liturgical manuscripts held in libraries across modern frontiers and thus belong to a shared history that needs to be included within our purview.
The written evidence considered in Music and Liturgy in Medieval Britain and Ireland has included sources of every type, from formal service books to informal additions, and from fragmentary manuscripts to early printed books. The picture that emerges is one of intersecting devotional cultures, both textual and practical: liturgy was constantly in development, open to adjustment, and affected by changes in international sacred customs as well as by local cultural interests and requirements. Furthermore, we have shown that though set apart geographically from the larger landmass of Continental Europe, Britain and Ireland were actively engaged in liturgical discourse through the constant travel of musicians, ecclesiastics, writers, books, relics, and via intellectual exchange, and rather than an agent of separation, the sea was in fact a connector of people.
From music written in praise of Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and English saints to the selection of Gospel readings by the Dominicans, this book introduces readers to the richness of medieval liturgical culture from across Britain and Ireland. Each of its three main sections opens with a chapter that offers a contextual frame for its key themes. With contributions from leading experts in pre-Reformation music and its sources, the book's focus on Insular liturgy – rather than that of only one part of Britain or Ireland – allows readers to learn about the devotional, political and creative networks at play in shaping liturgical practices: personal, secular, monastic, lay, and professional. The opening part includes broader discussions of Uses, including that of Salisbury, and case studies explore Insular witnesses to devotional activities in honour of both local cults and widely known figures, including St Columba, St Margaret, St Katherine, and the Magi.