Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Liturgies in Honour of Thomas Becket

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Liturgies in Honour of Thomas Becket

Article excerpt

Kay Brainerd Slocum, Liturgies in Honour of Thomas Becket (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004). xii + 379 pp.; 7 plates. ISBN 0-8020-3650-3. £42.00.

The use of liturgical texts as historical sources for the period in which they were produced or to which they refer is a comparatively fresh field of study when compared with the use of hagiographical texts in this way, where the pioneering work has been done and is now well established. For over a century, to be sure, there have been the excellent editions of important medieval texts under the auspices of the Henry Bradshaw Society, the introductions to which do place them in theological and historical context, but Kay Brainerd Slocum's edition and study of selected liturgies in honour of Thomas Becket is a welcome suggestion that there is more to be done to relate text to context and so further unlock the undoubted riches of the liturgical expression of medieval piety and politics. One needs to look no further than the Carolingian Empire to see the significance of liturgy for certain key periods in the history of Europe, and on a smaller scale in presenting these texts Slocum is underlining and revealing still more the political and ecclesiastical tremors that surrounded this most extraordinary of saints. Becket is unique in the international impact he had in life and in death, in the rapidity of the establishment and dissemination of his cult - his feast day was made universal by papal decree and the extraordinary impact it had on popular and political consciousness and the fortunes of other shrines which had hitherto assumed the security of their pre-eminence, for example St Albans. The materials surviving which document the Becket phenomenon are relatively plentiful, and yet the availability of these liturgical texts in a scholarly edition both adds to our knowledge of the role of liturgy in the inception and promotion of saints' cults in medieval England generally and serves to encourage more work in this area.

Slocum assumes little of the prior technical knowledge of liturgy that is certainly required for Henry Bradshaw Society editions: she explains the meaning of 'Divine Office', for instance, and of Sanim Breriary, both of which are pretty basic elements in the vocabulary of medieval liturgy. This desire to assist is rather laboured at one point, perhaps a fault of the publisher's editing process: twice on the same page we are referred to 'three large sections, known as nocturns' (p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.