Leofric, the Liturgy, and Saint Michael

Over the centuries scholars have focused on the Bede text in Corpus 41 with the occasional foray into the Latin and Anglo-Saxon marginalia, and if the marginalia are studied, the approach has been to focus on their origins and not on their use. This chapter will instead focus on possible reasons for the existence in Corpus 41 of the St Michael text and the other marginalia and their potential use by Leofric and other religious figures.

The liturgy of the early church varied according to local traditions and leadership encouraged by the lack of an officially sanctioned structure and the fact that the liturgy was not recorded in written form. The earliest record of the mass celebrations dates from the first century BC, as noted by the Council of Trent (1545-63):

The Council declared that Jesus instituted the Mass at his Last Supper: ‘He offered up to God the Father His own body and blood under the species of bread and wine; and, under the symbols of those same things, He delivered (His own body and blood) to be received by His apostles, whom He then constituted priests of the New Testament; and by those words, Do this in commemoration of me, He commanded them and their successors in the priesthood, to offer (them); even as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught.’[1]

Continual changes including the gradual conversion of the language of the mass from Greek to Latin happened over the next two or three centuries. Less gradual changes were the result of such innovators as Pope Gregory 1 and his changes to the Roman rites. The first record of a complete rite is from Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) and dates from the first century BC; however, there is debate amongst scholars about whether Justin was witnessing a public or private Eucharistic ceremony and whether the two services would be different. Whatever the type of service recorded by Justin, his is our most complete record of the events that occurred during the Eucharistic celebrations of the early church. In the next two centuries, the Eucharistic services, while becoming more codified, would be separated into distinct branches of liturgical practices, and by the fourth century there were four main and distinct liturgies, two for the Eastern churches and two for the Western.

England had converts to Christianity prior to the fall of Rome, and it is likely that survivors adhered to the more Gallican rites before the invasions that destroyed Rome's hold over Roman Britain, and while there is evidence that small pockets of Roman Christians might have survived the fall of Roman England, it is doubtful that their belief system had much impact on the faith of the Anglo-Saxon invaders.

The Roman rite was most likely the rite introduced into England in the seventh century with the conversion of Æþelberht of Kent, and for the next several centuries it would dominate liturgical services in a slowly converting England. We do not have any intact rites from this period, so our understanding of which rite was dominant in England is incomplete. The conversions of the English in the seventh century with the introduction of the Roman rites also saw the English converts adapting the liturgy to suit the needs of the English. It should, however, be noted that, like the earliest liturgical rites of the church, the exact nature of every liturgical service was very dependent on local bishops, nor should one ignore the potential influences of the Celtic church or other liturgies.

It was Charlemagne's desire to create a Christian Empire in the West that would enjoy a more codified Catholic rite, which would include a fusing of the Gallican and Roman rites. And with Charlemagne's desire for influence resulting in the spreading of this newly fused rite, one sees its influences in England. However, as much as Charlemagne and Papal authority wanted uniformity in the liturgical practices of all Western Christians, the process would not be complete for several centuries.

As noted above, England had had Christian converts prior to the fall of the Roman empire, and while even less is known about their liturgical practices than is known of the early English church, one can safely assume that there were some rituals that may have survived, at least in the Celtic territories; and while the conversion of England would have introduced new rituals (and one has to assume that there was a record of these liturgical practices), all we do know is that differing parts of England celebrated the mass and other liturgical events differently. As well, the surviving records in Latin, in Anglo-Saxon, or in the Celtic church are fragmentary enough to leave much in doubt.

As noted in an earlier chapter, Leofric received the sees of both Devon and Crediton, with the head of his new united see being at Crediton, and he petitioned Pope Leo IX for permission to transfer the head of the see to Exeter, which permission he received, partially on the grounds that Crediton was too small to be the head of two sees. While it would be safe to assume that the monastery in Crediton would have had a library and possibly a scriptorium, the surviving evidence suggests that the library at least in the early part of the eleventh century was relatively limited. One surviving bishop's donation list from the beginning of the eleventh century suggests that a donation of five manuscripts was substantial.[2] This would possibly suggest, together with the lack of any evidence to the contrary, that the Crediton monastery did not have an extensive library. If that was the case, it would make logical sense that Leofric would arrange to have copies made of manuscripts that he needed in Exeter as the distance between the two towns was not insurmountable, only eight miles; it does, however, seem unlikely that Leofric, in the throes of dealing with daily duties and potentially trying to avoid being caught in the turmoil found in the later part of Edward's reign, would have had time continually to travel back and forth between Crediton and Exeter. It is possible that Leofric would have sent assistants back and forth to retrieve needed manuscripts but, given his desire to leave behind a library in Exeter, this suggestion does not seem practical. One might perhaps suggest that Leofric, knowing his need to enlarge the paltry library he found in Exeter as well as wishing to prove his loyalty to the Anglo-Saxon nobility who controlled Exeter and the surrounding regions, began to collect materials that would promote and expand his image as a ‘loyal Anglo-Saxon bishop.’

To better understand what possible books Leofric would need, one must understand the needs of an Anglo-Saxon bishop and those of both his ecclesiastical and lay communities, and also what surviving evidence tells us about Anglo-Saxon church libraries. Michael Lapidge, in his work on Anglo-Saxon libraries, notes that unfortunately no official inventories survive from the Anglo-Saxon period; instead one is forced to rely on a handful of donation lists.[3] From the handful of surviving donation lists one can ascertain that, in general, Anglo-Saxon libraries were rather limited in resources, containing fewer than sixty manuscripts.[4] Perhaps more interesting is Lapidge's discussion regarding how the manuscripts were most likely stored, not on shelves as in modern libraries but in chests, which would require the librarian to dig through them to find the appropriate manuscripts.

The surviving donation lists show that different communities had different focuses. A list linked to an Æthelstan suggests that the collector of the books was a tenth-century grammarian. Another list, found in the margins of a manuscript probably copied from Worcester, includes a wealth of grammatical and educational works as well as eleven liturgical manuscripts.[5] A tenth-century list of donations by Æþelwold of Winchester to his new foundation of Peterborough sees the bishop donating twenty-one manuscripts to his new monastery. The topics of the manuscript include a variety of liturgical material and lexicographical interests, and appear according to Lapidge to be ‘a sort of start-up collection.’[6] Another donation list from the same monastery, dated a century later, contains references to sixty-five manuscripts but only a handful can be linked to Æþelwold's donations, which suggests, according to Lapidge, that Anglo-Saxon libraries had a high turnover rate for manuscripts.[7]

This would support the argument that Leofric, when moving the head of his sees, was faced with a library inadequate for his needs; according to Leofric himself there were only five old books at Exeter when he arrived from Crediton:

he ne funde on þam minstre þa he tofeng boca na ma buton .i. capitularie, ⁊ .i. forealdod nihtsang. ⁊ .i. pistel boc ⁊ .ii. forealdode ræding bec swiðe wake. ⁊ .i. wac mæssereaf.[8]

While there is limited evidence regarding the exact number of manuscripts at Exeter prior to Leofric's arrival, it is apparent that Leofric dedicated some of his valuable time to creating a library to be envied by other Anglo-Saxon bishops. This fact is confirmed by the survival of a donation list (there are two copies) bearing Leofric's name, which contains references to sixty-four manuscripts.[9]

Of the sixty-four manuscripts listed many are liturgical works including missals, gospel-books, antiphonals, hymnals, lectionaries, and epistolaries, which is not a surprise since Leofric was creating a library for a cathedral. The survival of three donation lists would also imply that Leofric very much desired to be remembered for his bequests. But Leofric's manuscript collection was not focused solely on liturgical works but also included philosophical works, early Christian poetry, Anglo-Saxon poetry, and the works of Latin authors, to name a few of the different works collected. Such a large collection of manuscripts confirms the argument that one of Leofric's greatest achievements was the collecting of manuscripts, which must have been difficult considering the limitations he faced in Exeter. There is debate amongst scholars about the number of manuscripts brought by Leofric to Exeter from his time on the Continent, and there is strong evidence to suggest that many of the foreign manuscripts had already been collected by Leofric prior to his being assigned the bishoprics of Devon and Cornwall.

While the number of foreign manuscripts that Leofric added to his collection is debated, it should not be a surprise considering his time on the Continent and his desire to change the local monastic rule to the collegiate rule of Chrodegang of Metz. The Latin liturgical material is also unsurprising as Leofric would have needed this resource for his role as bishop. The Anglo-Saxon material Leofric collected is more interesting and problematic. Traditionally it has been argued that Leofric collected Anglo-Saxon manuscripts as he was an Anglo-Saxon interested in collecting and preserving his people's literature, although this does not explain the preponderance of foreign manuscripts in his collection. Leofric is often lauded as a pioneer of Anglo-Saxon studies who sought to preserve the vernacular and secular literature of his age, but perhaps it does him a disservice to impute such a modern and rather simplistic motive to his endeavours.

Leofric was far more cosmopolitan than just a simple Anglo-Saxon bishop, and his collections, while doing double duty as being useful in his position of bishop, were also of use in his political career. His eclectic collection of Anglo-Saxon texts included poetry, religious texts, and a history. Two of the surviving religious texts are significant in this regard as they demonstrate Leofric's need to be connected to his congregation. The Rule of Chrodegang of Metz is a bilingual text written in both Latin and Anglo-Saxon, dates from the eleventh century, and is included in Leofric's donation list, thus demonstrating Leofric's interest in including locally trained clerics in the rule he brought to the cathedral.

The Leofric Missal is a complicated compilation of several different liturgical manuscripts that fall into three principal and distinct divisions. The largest of these, Leofric A, is a Gregorian Sacramentary from the Continent (Lotharingia) and is ninth-century or early tenth-century, whereas Leofric B is English, an Anglo-Saxon Kalendar with Paschal Tables, and is somewhat later, written in England c. 970. But while both texts are interesting, it is the third text that is of the greatest interest—Leofric C contains a variety of miscellaneous material (masses, manumissions, historical statements, etc.) added in England after Leofric became bishop, and includes material from after Leofric's death. A mixture of Latin and Anglo-Saxon texts, Leofric C contains additions that include a relic list possessed by Exeter and obituaries for a variety of Anglo-Saxon churchmen and nobles (including Cnut and Edward), which update the earlier liturgical material and make it more Anglo-Saxon; the Continental Leofric is asserting the Englishness of his cathedral. The Leofric Missal is Leofric's penitential, and includes a prayer for a childless king, probably Edward the Confessor.[10]

This information comes from the work of Frederick Warren, the first editor of the Leofric Missal, who arranged its material according to how he thought an Anglo-Saxon missal should look. Richard Pfaff paints a slightly different picture. He says Leofric A is a Gregorian Sacramentary written in NE France, probably around Arras before c. 900, which came to England in the tenth century and was supplemented by a calendar (from Glastonbury) and related computistical matter, then migrated to Exeter for Leofric B; Leofric C was a series of additions in blank spaces and in the margins.[11] Pointing out that Leofric left thirty-one liturgical books, a pontifical with benedictional in MS BL Add. 28188 that shows a heavy Winchester influence, he says of Leofric C, ‘it would be no surprise if Leofric had turned to Winchester for extensive help, despite its monastic nature.’[12]

Nicholas Orchard is of the opinion that Leofric A was originally a mass book written in England in the first quarter of the tenth century for Plegmund, Archbishop of Canterbury (890-923). Orchard stresses the Englishness of Leofric A but says that the main scribe was Continental and used a Continental model(s). The second proper preface was used perhaps for the dedication of Wells Cathedral or of a tower at Winchester. Leofric B was added at Canterbury, where it remained throughout the episcopate of Dunstan (959-88). Orchard identifies eleven hands in Leofric C, the first scribe being Leofric himself.[13]

Of special interest is the inclusion in Leofric C of a mass for St Michael's feast-day. The contents of Leofric C are as follows:

De episcoporum institione, et de Leofrico, episcopo Cridionensi, deine Exoniensi
Legitimum ieiunium Missa in Fer. iv
                                Missa in Fer. vi
Sabbato in xii. lectionibus
Reliquiarum nomina in Monasterio Exoniensi
Missa de S. Michahele
Collecta. Manumissiones.

And the mass reads thus:

Missa de sancto michahele
Deus, qui beatum michahelem archangelum electionis tuę populis constituisti principem, presta, quesumus, ut quem nobis dedisti salutis ducem, contra aduersa omnia tribues defensorem. Per.

So the first St Michael material in the Leofric Missal comes from Leofric C, the last and most Anglo-Saxon of the three-missal books. It is seen to have been composed in the late tenth and eleventh centuries, but what is significant is that the St Michael text, almost a complete service, appears just after the relic list and just before the manumissions, which seems odd.

Very few missals known to have been used in England before the Conquest have survived—the Leofric Missal (MS Oxford, Bodleian Library 579),[16] the Missal of Robert of Jumièges (Missale Roberti Gemmeticensis, MS Rouen, Bibliothèque Municipale Y. 6),[17] and the Red Book of Darley (MS Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 422).[18] To these may be added the missal portions of Corpus 41, which have been discussed by Grant; the incipits and explicits of the masses have been compared as far as possible with those to be found in the other three missals.[19]

The Corpus 41 missal texts are selected from the Temporale, Sanctorale, and Missae Votivae sections of the supplemented Roman Sacramentary of the tenth–eleventh centuries. The extracts constitute a considerable portion of the Temporale of a regular missal in continuous form and several other masses from the Temporale, Sanctorale, and Missae Votivae more haphazardly and irregularly. Comparison with the other three surviving English missals suggests that Corpus 41's principal exemplar belonged to the same Continental and probably Lotharingian tradition as the Jumièges and Leofric Missals, the regularity of the Temporale suggesting that exemplar was complete. The Corpus 41 material bears no resemblance to Leofric B, but has parallels to Leofric A (a tenth-century Lotharingian text brought to England) and Leofric C (a product of late tenth-century and eleventh century Exeter) as well as to the Jumièges Missal (copied from a Lotharingian exemplar contemporary with Leofric A and then copied in England [Winchester?[20]]). As Grant notes,

There is in fact a great deal of similarity between Leofric A and Jumièges. Both show how, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the Roman Sacramentary was added to from Alcuin's Supplement and from the older Gelesian mass-books; Leofric A and Jumièges. Follow masses provided in the Roman Sacramentary or in Alcuin, any differences being those of addition, and they are together in adding many masses, in the Sanctorale, from the later Gelesian Sacramentaries.[21]

Corpus 41 sometimes repeats individual masses, and the second of the pair is usually longer and more Gelasian than the first.

It is not immediately obvious why Leofric had this missal material copied into Corpus 41, for he already had the Leofric Missal available to him. It may be that he wanted a second service-book to hand in a workaday manuscript for everyday use in Exeter Cathedral; similarly, his need for an Old English version of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica is not immediately apparent. Yet Corpus 41 with its main text and its fascinating marginal materials sits usefully alongside the Rule of Chrodegang of Metz for Leofric the Lotharingian bishop in establishing the Englishness of his cathedral and in changing the local monastic rule to the new collegiate rule for which he was training local clerics in Exeter.

It was remarked earlier that the Leofric Missal contained a ‘Missa de sancto michahele’ in a rather unusual place, between the relics list and the manumissions. Corpus 41 also includes a most remarkable vernacular St Michael text in the midst of the missal. It is found in the margins of the principal Old English Bede on pp. 402-417, and its nearest neighbours among the marginalia are two sections of the missal on pp. 370-3 and pp. 475-8, with which there is no relationship. The St Michael text is usually mentioned in the context of the homilies that run on pp. 254-301 with the Passion and the Record of Gift to Exeter on pp. 484-488; again, there is no physical connection in the manuscript, and of course there is no resemblance between the unique Michael text and a mass or a homily.


  1. Wikipedia, s.v ‘Mass in the Catholic Church,’ citing ‘On the institution of the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass.’ The Council of Trent: The Twenty-Second Session, retrieved November 19, 2011.
  2. Lapidge Michael. The Anglo-Saxon Library. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 55-56.
  3. Lapidge, loc. cit., pp. 53-55.
  4. Lapidge, loc. cit., p. 50.
  5. Lapidge, loc. cit., p. 54.
  6. Lapidge, loc. cit., p. 55.
  7. Lapidge, loc. cit., pp. 54-55.
  8. Corradini, loc. cit., p. 2, n. 8.
  9. Förster Max. ‘The Donations of Leofric to Exeter.’ The Exeter Book of Old English Poetry, ed. RW Chambers, M Förster, and R Flower (London, 1933), pp. 10-25. Or PW Conner. Anglo-Saxon Exeter: a Tenth-Century Cultural History. (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1993), pp. 226-35.
  10. Frederick Edward Warren, ed. The Leofric Missal as used in the Cathedral of Exeter during the episcopate of its first bishop A.D. 1050-1072. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1883), p. xxvi.
  11. Richard W Pfaff. The Liturgy in Medieval England: A History. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 72, 75.
  12. Pfaff, loc. cit., p. 136.
  13. Nicholas Orchard, ed. The Leofric Missal, 1: Introduction, Collation Tables, and index; 2. Text. (Woodbridge, England, and Rochester, NY: Boydell and Brewer, for the Henry Bradshaw Society, 2002), pp. 113-14. Reviewed by Paul Antony Hayward, Speculum 79, no. 3 (July, 2004), pp. 817-19.
  14. Warren, loc.cit., p. vii.
  15. Warren, loc.cit., p. 5.
  16. Warren, ed., op. cit. In his footnote 2, Warren points to Schultingius' account of a fourth English missal existing in his time (1599) in the Library of St Panaleon at Cologne.
  17. H(enry) A(ustin) Wilson, ed. The Missal of Robert of Jumièges. (London: Henry Bradshaw Society XI, 1896). A digitized copy is available on the internet.
  18. See Ker, NR, Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, 1957), no. 70. The calendar is printed in F Wormald, ed., English Kalendars Before A.D. 1100, vol. 1, Texts, Henry Bradshaw Society 72 (London, 1934), pp. 184–95.
  19. Raymond JS Grant, ed. Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41: The Loricas and the Missal (Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 1979).
  20. ‘Das Missale wurde sicherlich in Winchester—das Kalendarium trägt ganz und gar das Gepräge jener Gegend—und zwar höchstwahrscheinlich in dem 903 gegründeten sog. Neuen Kloster, Novum Monasterium, New Minster oder Petruskloster, S. Petri Coenobium von Winchester geschrieben.’ B Fehr. Altenglische Ritualtexte für Krankenbesuch, Heilige Ölung und Begräbnis, Texte und Fotschungen zur Englischen Kulturgeschichte; Festgabe für Felix Liebermann zum 20. Juli (Halle, 1921), p. 27. Dissenting voices also suggest Ely, Abingdon, and Peterborough.
  21. Grant, op. cit., p. 40.


Conner, Patrick W. Anglo-Saxon Exeter: a Tenth-Century Cultural History. (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1993).

Conner, Patrick W. ‘Parish Guilds and the Production of Old English Literature in the Public Sphere.’ Texts: Studies in Early Insular Culture Presented to Paul E Szarmach, Virginia Blanton, and Helen Scheck, eds. MRTS. (2007).

Corradini, Erika. ‘“Apud Lotharingos Altus et Doctus”: Leofric of Exeter 1050-1072.’ Proceedings of the Mancheters for Anglo-Saxon Studies Post-Graduate Studies Conference. (1 March 2005), pp. 1-13.

Fehr, B. Altenglische Ritualtexte für Krankenbesuch, Heilige Ölung und Begräbnis, Texte und Fotschungen zur Englischen Kulturgeschichte; Festgabe für Felix Liebermann zum 20 (Juli, 1921. Halle, 1921).

Grant, Raymond JS, ed. Cambridge, Corpus Christi College 41: The Loricas and the Missal. (Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 1979).

Ker, Neil Ripley. Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957, reprinted with supplement 1990).

Lapidge Michael. The Anglo-Saxon Library. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Orchard, Nicholas, ed. The Leofric Missal, 1: Introduction, Collation Tables, and index; 2. Text. (Woodbridge, England, and Rochester, NY: Boydell and Brewer, for the Henry Bradshaw Society, 2002), pp. 113-14. Reviewed by Paul Antony Hayward. Speculum 79, no. 3 (July, 2004), pp. 817-19.

Pfaff, Richard W. The Liturgy in Medieval England: A History. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Warren, Frederick Edward, ed. The Leofric Missal as used in the Cathedral of Exeter during the episcopate of its first bishop A.D. 1050-1072, Together with some account of the Red Book of Derby, the Missal of Robert of Jumièges, an a few other early manuscript service book of the English church, edited with intro. & notes. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1883).

Wikipedia, s.v ‘Mass in the Catholic Church.’ ‘On the institution of the most holy Sacrifice of the Mass.’ The Council of Trent: The Twenty-Second Session. Retrieved November 19, 2011.

Wilson, H(enry) A(ustin), ed. The Missal of Robert of Jumièges. (London: Henry Bradshaw Society XI, 1896). A digitized copy is available on the internet.