World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Stowe Missal

Article Id: WHEBN0003878688
Reproduction Date:

Title: Stowe Missal  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Stowe manuscripts, Celtic Rite, History of the Roman Canon, Stowe, Suitbert Bäumer
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Stowe Missal

Stowe Missal folio 1r initial page

The Stowe Missal, which is, strictly speaking, a Stowe House. When the collection was bought by the nation in 1883, it and the other Irish manuscripts were handed over to the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, where it remains, catalogued as MS D II 3.[1] The cumdach or reliquary case which up to this point had survived together with the book was later transferred, with the rest of the Academy's collection of antiquities, to the National Museum of Ireland (museum number 1883, 614a). The old story was that the manuscript and shrine left Ireland after about 1375, as they were collected on the Continent in the 18th century,[2] but this appears to be incorrect, and they were found inside a stone wall at Lackeen Castle near Lorrha in the 18th century.[3]


  • Manuscript 1
  • Cumdach 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


There are 67 folios, measuring 5 58 by 4 12 inches (14 by 11 cm). Only the last three folios are in Irish. These contain a short treatise on the Mass and, on the last page, folio 67v, three spells "against injury to the eye, thorns, and disease of the urine".[4] The Latin sections contain extracts from the Gospel of John (f 1), which were probably from another manuscript, then the order of Mass and some special Masses (f 12), the Order of Baptism and of Communion for the newly baptised (f 46v), and the Order for the Visitation of the Sick and Last Rites (f 60).[5] The version of the mass used is thought to be older than the manuscript, and reflect the early usage of Celtic Christianity. The five original scribes of the Missal wrote in an angular majuscule script. A more cursive hand was used by a scribe signing himself Moél Caích (f 37) who revised several pages. A few initials are decorated, notably the one on f 1, and the extracts from John contain a "crude" full page evangelist portrait of John with his symbol of the eagle, unusually placed at the end (f 11v), with panels of Insular interlace on either side of the standing figure, and the eagle above. Apart from the eagle, it is rather similar to the portrait of John in the Book of Mulling.[6]


Drawing of the older face of the cumdach by Margaret Stokes

The manuscript retains its cumdach or book-shrine, a distinctively Irish form of reliquary case for books associated with an important religious figure; this is one of only five early examples. It is a box with metalwork plaques attached with nails to a wooden core of oak. The metalwork is elaborately decorated, with some animal and human figures, and one face and the sides probably date to between 1027 and 1033, on the basis of inscriptions recording its donation and making, while the other face is later, and can be dated to about 1375, again from its inscriptions.[7]

The older "lower" face, which is currently detached from the case, is in silver-gilt copper alloy, with a large cross inside a border that carries the inscription in Irish, which also runs along the arms of the cross. The centre of the cross was later replaced ("severely embellished" as the National Museum put it),[8] probably at the same time as the later face, by a setting for a large stone (now missing) with four lobed sections, similar to the centre of the lower face. The inscription has missing sections because of this, but can mostly be reconstructed: "It asks for a prayer for the abbot of Lorrha, Mathgamain Ua Cathail (+1037) and for Find Ua Dúngalaigh, king of Múscraige Tíre (+1033). It also mentions Donnchadh mac Briain, styled 'king of Ireland' and Mac Raith Ua Donnchada, king of the Eoganacht of Cashel (+1052) as well as the name of the maker, Donnchadh Ua Taccáin [a monk] 'of the community of Cluain (Clonmacnoise)'."[9] The four spaces between cross and border have panels of geometric openwork decoration, and there are small panels with knotwork decoration at the corners of the border and inside the curved ends of the cross members.[10]

The sides have unsilvered copper alloy plaques with figures of angels, animals, clergy and warriors, set in decorative backgrounds. The newer "upper" face, of silver-gilt, is again centred on a cross with a large oval rock crystal stone at the centre and lobed surrounds, and other gems. The inscription, engraved on plain silver plaques, runs round the border and the spaces between cross and border have four engraved figures of the crucified Christ, Virgin and Child, a bishop making a blessing gesture, and a cleric holding a book (possibly St John). The inscription "invokes a prayer for Pilib Ó Ceinnéidigh, 'king of Ormond' and his wife Áine, both of whom died in 1381. It also refers to Giolla Ruadhán Ó Macáin, abbot of the Augustinian priory of Lorrha and the maker, Domhnall Ó Tolairi".[11] Black niello is used to bring out the engraved lines of the inscription and figures, and the technique is very similar to that of the later work on the Shrine of Saint Patrick's Tooth (also in the NMI), which was also given a makeover in the 1370s, for a patron some 50 km from Lorrha. They were probably added to by the same artist, something that can only rarely be seen in the few survivals of medieval goldsmith's work.[12]


  1. ^ Warner, vii – viii
  2. ^ Warner, lvii – lviii
  3. ^ Wallace, 234
  4. ^ Irish script website, as Ó Floinn, first page
  5. ^ Warner, viii – ix
  6. ^ Warner, xi and Plate IX; image
  7. ^ Ó Floinn, "Description"; Warner, xliv – lvii, Plates I – VI; Stokes, 78; older face from Flickr
  8. ^ Wallace 234
  9. ^ Ó Floinn
  10. ^ Wallace, 219, 234, 253; Stokes, 74
  11. ^ Ó Floinn; Wallace, 271, 294
  12. ^ Wallace, 262–263


  • Ó Floinn, Raghnall, "Description" of the "Book-shrine" on The Stowe Missal, from "Irish Script on Screen", with good images and catalogue information – select "Royal Irish Academy" from drop-down "collections" menu at bottom left, then select "Stowe Missal" from the next menu.
  • Stokes, Margaret, Early Christian Art in Ireland, 1887, 2004 photo-reprint, Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 0-7661-8676-8, ISBN 978-0-7661-8676-7, google books
  • Wallace, Patrick F., O'Floinn, Raghnall eds. Treasures of the National Museum of Ireland: Irish Antiquities, 2002, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, ISBN 0-7171-2829-6
  • Warner, George F., The Stowe Missal: MS. D. II. 3 in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, 1906, The Henry Bradshaw Society, from the Internet Archive

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • The Stowe Missal, from the Royal Irish Academy
  • Image of Cover, older face
  • Irish Script on Screen, with good images and catalogue information – select "Royal Irish Academy" from drop-down "collections" menu at bottom left, then select "Stowe Missal" from the next menu.
  • Article on the Stowe Missal from OrthodoxWiki
  • English translation of the Stowe Missal Ordinary of the Mass by Dr West
  • The Stowe Missal in comparison with later Medieval English Usages of the Roman Mass, such as the Sarum
  • Treasures of early Irish art, 1500 B.C. to 1500 A.D., an exhibition catalogue from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on the Stowe Missal (cat. no. 36,58)
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.