<font face="ge" color="white">HOLY TIME</font>

HOLY TIME

Calendars and Martyrologies Through the Ages

A Digital Exhibition

About

About

About this exhibition

A common denominator of all history, chronology, and future planning is the need to organise time in a meaningful way – the need for a calendar (from Latin calendarium ‘account book’). How time is measured or perceived can depend on the context: time can be measured by the seasons for agricultural purposes, or by reference to important events or people, or by reference to astronomical events. In the chronicles of the Roman Empire, for instance, time was counted by the years of the emperor’s reign, and today the number of the year we live in according to the universal ‘Gregorian’ calendar is determined historically by the year of the birth of Jesus Christ. Such denominations are often culturally specific: in the Germanic tradition, the names for the days of the week refer to the Gods and the elements (Wednesday from Wodan, Friday from Frigg, etc) as opposed to the planets, like in Romance languages. Note that the modern names for Irish days of the week are mixed, having been partially supplanted by names referring to the fast: An Chédaoin ‘first fast’, An Déardaoin ‘day between the fasts’, and Dé hAoine ‘fast day’.

In the past different types of calendars have been used to ‘reckon’ time in the West. This phrase carries more meaning than you might think: before we had the atomic clock or pocket diaries, long and precise periods of time had to be calculated by reference to the cycles of the sun and moon. This became especially complex with the integration of the Christian and the Julian or ‘civil’ calendar after Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire. The structure of the year as we know it, and the length of the months of the year, are based on the Julian (from Julius Ceasar) calendar and determined by the length of the solar year (that is, the time it takes for the earth to revolve around the sun – roughly 365 days). The lunar year, on the other hand, which is the basis for the Christian calendar, follows the cycles of the moon (roughly 28 days).

A Cullen, Creative Commons Source: Wikipedia
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg computus

There is a natural discrepancy of 11 days between the two, and most of the history of the Western calendar revolves around finding a way to integrate them as neatly as possible. For the Christian calendar, the calculation of Easter is essential, as it determines the date of most other feast days.  The date of Easter is officially the first Sunday after the 14th day of the Paschal full moon, provided it falls after the vernal equinox. To ascertain this date, difficult calculations are required (known as the art of computus). And when these proved incorrect – because the full moon no longer fell on the date listed in the calendar – they had to be updated, resulting in a number of heated debates as well as changes to the calendar during the medieval period.

Perpetual Calendar, Graubünden (CH) 1690 A.J. Adri, Creative Commons, Source: Wikipedia
Perpetual Calendar, Graubünden (CH) 1690

In Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, calendars were primarily kept in churches, civic offices, and at court, where they became the basis for the chronicling of annual events (hence the term ‘annals’) and, in a Christian context, of the feast days and deaths of martyrs (hence ‘martyrology’) and saints. The codices selected for this exhibition contain ecclesiastical calendars and martyrologies from the medieval period, primarily from the Trinity collections and primarily focused on the Insular world (though many more could be added). The objectives of the exhibition are two-fold. It explains some of the basic features of these texts and their development from a chronological perspective, while simultanously contextualizing the differences between various texts and codices in light of the divisions in Irish society resulting from the Anglo-Norman conquest. The phrase ‘two churches’ is sometimes used to refer to the ecclesiastical sources of the later medieval period; this exhibition juxtaposes examples from each by placing them in their joint geographical and cultural framework.

 

Did you know?

Our current calendar only dates to 1572, when Pope Gregory XIII issued the bull that gave us the Gregorian calendar. During the previous centuries, the calendar had been proven imprecise and by the mid-sixteenth century there was a difference of ten days between it and the actual position of the moon. This was not the first time either. Over the course of Antiquity and the Middle Ages the calendar had proved faulty a number of times, and continued to be corrected by newer calculations, shifting between 19-year (Alexandrian), 84-year (Roman, Insular), 19/532-year (Dionysian/Bedan) tables. While we now have a universally accepted calendar, there is still no concensus about the calculations for the most important Christian feast of the year, Easter!

The Earliest Calendars and Martyrologies: Willibrord

The Earliest Calendars and Martyrologies: Willibrord

MS Paris, BnF, lat. 10837, early eighth century The image on your left is from the Calendar of St. Willibrord (d. 739), one of the earliest insular calendars that has survived. The calendar in this famous codex was brought to…

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The Tallaght Martyrologies

The Tallaght Martyrologies

Tallaght, early ninth century Roughly a century after Laurentius copied his martyrology, two martyrologies were produced in the monastery of Tallaght. The first, known as the Martyrology of Tallaght, is an adaptation of an abbreviated version of the Martyrologium Hieronymianum…

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The Regensberg Fragment

The Regensberg Fragment

TCD MS 11463, Regensberg, Germany, ca. 1040-1075 AD Over time, outdated martyrologies were sometimes recycled, so that evidence of their transmission is often lost or obscured. It is all the more fortunate, therefore, when fragments resurface. This single leaf from…

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The Rhygyfarch (al. Ricemarch) Psalter

The Rhygyfarch (al. Ricemarch) Psalter

TCD MS 50, Llanbadarn Fawr, twelfth century This small Welsh psalter contains a copy of the Hieronymianum which may be derived from an Irish exemplar. It was written at Llanbadarn Fawr in Ceredigion and belonged to Rhygyfarch ap Sulien (c….

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The Calendar and Martyrology of All Hallows

The Calendar and Martyrology of All Hallows

TCD MS 194, All Hallows, London, ca. 1250-1300 This composite English book belonged to the thirteenth-century community of All Hallows in London and contains, beside a calendar and accompanying martyrology, a number of tracts on time and rhetoric, as well…

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The Calendar and Martyrology of St. Thomas Abbey

The Calendar and Martyrology of St. Thomas Abbey

TCD MS 97, Dublin, 13th-14th century With MS 97 we enter the era of the Anglo-Irish monastic houses. The martyrology in MS 97 was copied for the Augustinian canons of St. Thomas (hence modern Thomas Street). The text is based…

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Two 15th-century Antiphonaries

Two 15th-century Antiphonaries

The Antiphonary of Armagh TCD MS 77, Armagh, mid 15th century This and the following antiphonal are both examples of the Irish use of the rite of worship, which had been declared as the practice of the churches of Dublin…

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An Arrouaisian Psalter from St. Mary’s Abbey, Trim

An Arrouaisian Psalter from St. Mary’s Abbey, Trim

TCD MS 84, Trim, 15th century This psalter belonged to St. Mary’s Abbey in Trim Abbey, which is believed to have been the first of a handful of foundations which adopted the Arrouaisian Rule. It contains special services for St….

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The Martyrology of Donegal

The Martyrology of Donegal

NLI G 27 (Shorter version), 17th century In the early seventeenth century, the Franciscan college of St. Anthony in Louvain was engaged in a project seeking to gather and publish all of Ireland’s textual heritage, which was in danger of…

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A Psalter-Hours from Liège

A Psalter-Hours from Liège

Liège, 1255-1265 AD Office books and calendars were often highly tailored to the community which produced it in both content and form, and, as he have seen, reflect the habits and interests of their users. This Mosan psalter-hours, executed in…

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