The wounded missal

Perhaps no image better expresses the violent memory of the Reformation than this damaged missal. Published in Rouen in 1516 for sale in York, an obit for the priest John Best shows it in use in Faceby in Yorkshire in 1530. Possibly in 1548-9, with the order to destroy the Latin mass, it was slashed, seven times in all. The deepest of these gashes is here at the Te igitur, the opening of the Canon of the Mass. The most sacred part of the Roman rite, this page was traditionally decorated with an illuminated crucifixion. The priest would kiss the book when raising it, at the foot of the page, which is here smudged. The cross has been sliced right through, deep into the pages beneath, barely avoiding the body of Christ. On the facing page, the companion image, of God the Father enthroned, has been cut through the nose and between the eyes. Perhaps the iconoclast mistook God for the Pope, due to the iconography of a papal tiara. In addition to the damage, there is a puzzle about how, and why, the violated book survived intact. Scattered annotations show that it was kept not by recusants but by Reformed: first in 1600, with a loyal reference to King James of Scotland; and then in the seventeenth century by two vicars of Stainton, from whence it passed into York Minster in 1911. BC

[‘The Stainton Missal’] Missale ad vsum celeberrime ecclesie Eboracensis ([Paris], P. Holivier; sumptibus & expensis Johannes gachet [York], [1516]).

YML: Stainton 12, sig. N2v-3r, by kind permission of the parish of Stainton

Further Reading

Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, 1400-1580, 2nd Edition (New Haven and London, 2005), chs 11-12.

Margaret Aston, Broken Idols of the English Reformation (Cambridge, 2016), chs 8-9.

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