The Great Easton Missal

This illuminated missal from the mid-15th century would have been used as part of the divine service before the Protestant Reformation. It was originally produced probably in a workshop in London for the church of Great Easton, Essex; the Calendar contains a note dedicating the Missal to the church ('Dedicacio ecclesie sancti Egidii de Eyston. ad montem') as well as evidence that it was still there in 1508.

 

As often seen in ecclesiastical books of this period, references to the pope, purgatory and St Thomas of Canterbury have been erased or crossed out - signs of the changes that were introduced with the Reformation and secession from the Roman Catholic Church. Interestingly, it also contains English forms of the priest’s address to couples added in the late-15th or early 16th century.

Decoration

The Missal contains beautiful and striking decoration. The borders of pages are decorarted with stylised acanthus leaves, aroid flowers and other flowers and foliage, in gold and blue, pink, green and reddish brown.

History of the manuscript

The Revd W. H. Maskell put forward the theory that the Missal was the sole survivor of the ‘use of Bangor’, which led to it being known as the ‘Bangor Missal’, but this has not been substantiated by subsequent authorities on liturgical studies. An inscription at the end of the Calendar in the Missal states that the manuscript was presented to the parish church of Oswestry (then in the Diocese of St Asaph) in 1554 by Sir Morys Griffith, priest in Great Easton at the time. Its subsequent owners include James Brydges, Duke of Chandos (ob. 1744); Thomas Martin (who sold the Missal in 1772); William Maskell (before 1844); Henry Huth (1815-78), and then his son, Alfred Henry Huth (1850-1910); John Meade Falkner (1858-1932); and then sold on 13 December 1932 to The National Library of Wales.

The Missal was purchased, and later digitised, with financial assistance from The Friends of the National Libraries.

Further reading

  • Sally Harper, Music in Welsh Culture Before 1650: A Study of the Principal Sources (Aldershot, 2007), p. 377.
  • A. J. Collins, 'The Bangor Missal', The National Library of Wales Journal, 4 (1945), 57-60 and additional notes in NLW Journal, 5 (1947-48), 227.
  • William H. Maskell, The Ancient Liturgy of the Church of England (Oxford, 1882).