Bobbio Missal


The Bobbio Missal was discovered in Bobbio Abbey (in Piacenza, Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy) in 1686 by the French scholar and Benedictine monk Jean Mabillion (1632‒1707). Mabillon published the work in 1687 under the title Liber Sacramentorum Ecclesiae Gallicanae, thereby identifying it as a Gallican sacramentary, which he suggested had been executed in the Besançon diocese in the late seventh century. Since then, the critical importance of the manuscript for the history of the Frankish liturgy has come to be universally recognized. Scholars have yet to reach a consensus regarding either the origin or the contents of the manuscript, both of which are complex. Recently, a team of researchers has suggested that it was a hybrid liturgical production from the early eighth century―one that combines a lectionary and a sacramentary, in addition to disparate educational or canonical materials. The latter include, for example, the enigmatic Missa pro principe, a votive mass to commend to God the legislator before he left to fight; Joca monachorum, collections of puzzles in the form of questions and answers; and instructions for the celebration of a mass. The rare portable format of the manuscript tends to support the idea of a private compilation, intended for a cleric who used it in a pastoral setting during his journeys. In addition to the knowledge about Frankish liturgical practices that the manuscript yields, this unique collection provides valuable insights into the status and training of priests. A few reading marks are noticeable in some places, possibly indicating the use of the manuscript in a liturgical context. Several scribes transcribed the text in an uncial script enameled with cursive forms, with passages in cursive minuscule. Folios 296‒300 are palimpsests: another text has been previously copied in light-brown ink, with minuscules and enameled uncial forms. The manuscript has many marginal or contemporary interlinear annotations. Bobbio Abbey was founded by the Irish monk Columban in 614. It developed one of the most famous libraries of the Middle Ages.

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Physical Description

300 folios ; 18.5 x 95 centimeters


  1. Yitzhak Hen and Rob Meens, editors, The Bobbio Missal: Liturgy and Religious Culture in Merovingian Gaul (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Last updated: December 20, 2017