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 Sarum rite of worship, which had been declared as the practice of the churches of Dublin in a synod held at Christ Church in 1186. It was prominent particularly in the Pale. Unsurprisingly, the liturgy is primarily English, as is evident from the inclusion of such saints as St. Wulfstan, St. John of Beverly, St. Swithin and the translation of St. Edward in the calendar, and of relatively few Irish saints. Beside Sts. Columba, Brendan and Patrick, St. Malachy (of Armagh) is given the honour of nine lessons on his feast day. The Antiphonary formerly belonged to the ‘Culdees’ of Armagh Cathedral and the emphasis on Malachy’s feast as well as the presence of notated chants for St. Patrick, founder of the see of Armagh, in the manuscript likely reflect the direct interests of the community.

The obits in this volume, which cover the second half of the sixteenth century, are of historical interest. Four of these record the death of members of the McGillamura family, various members of which held offices at the Cathedral during that period. The Antiphonary was likely in their possession at that time. On f. 51 the deaths of John McGillamura, the ‘mechanic of the city of Armagh’, and of Brian McGuinness, heir apparent of Iveagh are recorded. On f. 53r the death of Nicholas McGillamura (d. 1574), last known Culdee of Armagh Cathedral, a ‘perfect priest’ is remembered.

On this leaf between the office for the Feast of the Relics and the Calendar (f. 48r) is a statement in Irish recounting that, in 1535 AD, Archbishop Dowdall charged Conn O'Neill, who was then Earl and Chief O'Neill, and others, with having seized much of the estate of the Primate and Church of Armagh. O'Neill surrendered the lands after a hearing. TCD MS 77 f48r Antiphonary of Armagh © The Board of Trinity College Dublin

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Dublin Antiphonal

TCD MS 78, Clondalkin, fifteenth century

This Antiphonal likewise stands in the Sarum tradition, but also contains notated Offices for Saints Brigit, Patrick and Canice, the latter indicating that it was likely designed for use at St. Canice’s Cathedral in Kilkenny. A number of annotations in sixteenth and seventeenth-century hands throughout the codex, however, place it Clondalkin during that period. F. 79v (the second on your left) bears the signature of a Mr. Gibbons of Clondalkin.

A regular feature of this calendar is the inclusion of computistical ‘calendar verses’ and annotations at the start and end of the month, such as notes on the number of solar and lunar days in the month, the hours of night and day, and the zodiac. At the top of January (f. 79r), for instance, an entry in red indicates that there are 31 solar days in the month and 30 lunar days: Ianuarius habet dies xxxi. luna uero xxx. An entry at the end indicates that the night has sixteen hours, and the day eight: Nox habet horas xvi. dies uero viii. In the calendar for January and February (f. 79v) respectively the position of the sun in Aquarius and Pisces is recorded.