Durham Ritual

Durham Ritual – Rosenkilde and Bagger – A.IV.19 – Durham Cathedral (Durham, United Kingdom)

Chester-le-Street (United Kingdom) — 10th Century

A fruitful union of the Gallican Rite from Gaul with the Roman Rite: the Durham Rite as an invaluable source on the history of the English Church and language

  1. It is a mix of the Roman and Gallican Rites and became standard across Northern England

  2. The contents of the encyclopedic text include hymns, exorcisms, and notes on canon law

  3. Glosses provided by Aldred the Scribe are written in the Northumbrian dialect of Old English

Durham Ritual

A.IV.19 Durham Cathedral (Durham, United Kingdom)
  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Durham Ritual

Compiled from various fragments into a single volume ca. 1000, this precious manuscript is an incredible resource for researchers of the history of the English language and the English church. The encyclopedic work contains the Durham Rite, a blend of the Roman and Gallican Rites that became the standard across Northern England, in addition to numerous other texts. Furthermore, glosses added by Aldred the Scribe represent one of the most important sources on the Northumbrian dialect of Old English.

Durham Ritual

This fascinating manuscript contains the oldest surviving document of the Rituale ecclesiæ Dunelmensis or Durham Rite, also known as the "Ritual of King Aldfrith" after a learned monarch who ruled over the Kingdom of Northumbria from 685 until 705, just a generation or two before the beginning of the Viking attacks. The Durham Rite is a mixture of the Roman and Gallican Rites and eventually became the standard across Northern England. It is one of the oldest manuscripts attesting to both the traditions of the English church as well as the development of the English language, and as such is a precious treasure of the Durham Cathedral Library.

An Old English Monastic Encyclopedia

Although compiled into a single volume sometime around the year 1000, many of the texts are presumed to be much older and previously existed only as fragments. As such, there is evidence of at least eleven scribes in the text. The contents include texts ranging from hymns to exorcisms to a list of contractions used in books of canon law. It was created as a practical reference work and as such the ornamentation of the manuscript is restricted to some decorative initials and a few drawings in the margins. The manuscript was used until the 13th century, when it fell into obscurity before being rediscovered in the 18th century as a rich source on Old English, liturgy, and life in a monastic community in pre-Norman England.

From Lindisfarne to Durham

After the peace and tranquility of Lindisfarne Abbey was violated by Viking raiders, the monks were forced to flee south in 883 to Chester-le-Street in County Durham, bringing the remains of Saint Cuthbert (ca. 634-687) with them. In 995, the community moved to the city of Durham where they rebuilt the cathedral beginning in 1093 and gave St. Cuthbert a final resting place there in 1104 when he was interred in a shrine. It was during the community’s 112-year-long sojourn in Chester-le-Street that Aldred the Scribe, famous for his gloss of the Lindisfarne Gospels translating them into Old English, also provided glosses for the Durham Ritual, probably between 883 and 895. These two manuscripts represent the most substantial sources of the 10th century Northumbrian dialect of Old English, and the colophons contain Aldred’s accounts of his own travels and his reflections on the politics and events of his time.


Alternative Titles
Durham Collectar
Durham Rite
Rituale ecclesiæ Dunelmensis
Size / Format
178 pages / 22.0 × 14.6 cm
10th Century
Carolingian Minuscule Insular Minuscule Insular Uncial Roman Uncial
Numerous zoomorphic ornamental initials; figural marginalia
Collectar for the Durham Rite and supplementary liturgical and encyclopedic texts
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Durham Ritual – Rosenkilde and Bagger – A.IV.19 – Durham Cathedral (Durham, United Kingdom)
Rosenkilde and Bagger – Copenhagen, 1969
Facsimile Editions

#1 The Durham Ritual

Rosenkilde and Bagger – Copenhagen, 1969

Publisher: Rosenkilde and Bagger – Copenhagen, 1969
Commentary: 1 volume by Thomas J. Brown, Francis Wormald, Alan S. C. Ross and Eric G. Stanley
Language: English
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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