A Digital Library and Database for the Study of Latin Liturgical History in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period

General preliminary notes

The Digital Collection of Sources for the Research Group of Liturgical History (henceforth: Collection) is a part of the Centre for the Study of Religion at Eötvös Loránd University’s Faculty of Humanities, and it is in the care of the said research group.

​​The purchase of the elements of this growing collection was made possible first by the OTKA (Hungarian Scientific Research Fund Programmes) project numbered K 78680 (Középkori pontifikálék Magyarországon, that is Medieval Pontificals in Hungary) then by the project numbered K 109058 (A nyugati liturgia változatainak kutatása, that is Study of the Variants of the Western Liturgy), and currently by the Lendület (Momentum) Programme of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Hungarian Middle-Ages in its European Context: A comprehensive analysis of the first service books, LP 2018-14/2018).

The Principles of Collection

The long-term goal of the Collection is to provide a representative sample of the mediaeval variants of Western liturgy extending to every type of ceremony. Since this would amount to an almost unmanageable amount of material, from time to time different areas of interest will be emphasised. In any case, we shall aim for an ever more complete and proportionate geographical coverage of the Western liturgical family. In the present phase of our research we lay special emphasis on the following categories:

Liturgical Incunabula and Antiqua

Our primary interest is invested in the liturgical Uses of cathedrals, abbeys and centralised religious orders, including their mutual relationships. We hypothesize that these Uses, despite their varying degrees of modification, are historically continuous insofar as they deliberately and persistently maintained their defining features. Our methodological premise is that the accurate description and comparative analysis of these Uses can only be achieved by means of a so-called inverse chronology. This means that the scarcely documented early phases of these Uses have to be approached and examined from the perspective of their mature, well-defined state. Consequently, the liturgical incunabula of the 15th and 16th centuries are highly valued, and we endeavour to make an all-inclusive collection of such. These sources have four distinct advantages:

  1. Their identity is certain since in most cases they actually document which Use they follow.
  2. They are representative either because their edition was commissioned by the competent ecclesiastical authorities and prepared by highly capable experts, or at least because the bookseller who had them printed wanted to make this a profitable enterprise which would have been less likely, had he provided his clerical readers with an unreliable, inauthentic version.
  3. They are comprehensive because they represent the well-developed and complementary book-types of the late Middle-Ages, and the deficiencies and lacunae of a particular copy can easily be supplemented from the others.
  4. They are abstract in the sense that they document the essence of a diocesan Use which can be relevant even outside of environment of the given cathedral.

Control-sources with a Sure Identity

The second group of preference includes manuscripts of an identifiable and representative character. These will help to illustrate the historical depth of the printed source material and through their analysis we can determine whether the specific features identified in our printed sources can be traced back to earlier ages, and if yes, exactly to which time period. For this purpose, we collect manuscripts that are older than the printed sources (at least from the 14th century) and represent the typical liturgy of a cathedral, monastery or religious order. If there are no printed sources available for a particular cathedral, we also collect later manuscripts (whose identity and pertinence can be ascertained). On the other hand, non-central, provincial sources or books whose origin is doubtful or debatable shall not be considered. We expect that mapping out cathedral Uses will enable us to create a typological net which in turn will help to interpret and categorise the remaining sources.

Ceremonies Outside of the Mass and Divine Office

In terms of liturgical analysis, the least accessible material is made up of ceremonies outside of the Mass and the Divine Office because they are very divergent ceremonially, textually, melodically and also structurally. At the same time, their source material is more limited, some of their ceremonies are more transparent than the complex annual cycle of the Mass or Divine Office. Hence the present phase of our research focuses on the sources that belong to the category of Pontificals and Rituals, in the hope that based on the analysis of the ceremonies included in these sources, we shall be able to form a more accurate picture of the typology of liturgical Uses. This will assist us effectively—at least as a strong foundation—when we turn our attention to the Mass and the Divine office. We consider Missals as being on a par with Pontificals and Rituals but not as sources for the actual liturgy of the Mass but as relevant sources for certain Ordos that are—in this regard—comparable to Pontificals and Rituals. Such Ordos are the extraordinary Ordos of the liturgical year (e.g. Candlemas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, the Sacred Triduum, Easter, the Vigil of Pentecost) and the sacramental rites often found in Missals (the benediction of water, Baptism-Confirmation, nuptial and exodiastic Ordos).


Users may orientate themselves with the Collection’s inventory of sources. The purpose of this inventory is to make the available material more easily organisable and searchable from relevant and standardised aspects. The inventory is in English, only proper names and parts taken from the original sources are in Latin or some vernacular language. If certain data exists theoretically, but is unknown to us, a question mark in parenthesis (?) is used. The same symbol also follows hypothetical or unverified data or data of uncertain authenticity. If data is not simply unknown but objectively inexistent, it is signalled with a dash (—).

Storing Data

Entries within the inventory are stored in folders according to document-types, in line with our study of the typology of liturgical sources (Liturgical Books, in Hungarian). These are the following: 1. Mass (shelfmarks beginning with 1, e.g. Missals, Sacramentaries, Graduals etc.), 2. Office (shelfmarks beginning with 2, e.g. Breviaries, Collectaries, Antiphonals etc.), 3. Other (shelfmarks beginning with 3, e.g. Rituals, Pontificals, Processionals), 4. Norm texts (shelfmarks beginning with 4, e.g. Ordinals, Directories etc.), 5. Mixed (shelfmarks beginning with 5).

The Digital Collection’s inventory of source, organised in columns, includes the following data.


This means the two-letter ISO code of a particular country. The code is given to help the reader’s primary orientation, the hypothetical identification of the wider origins of a Use. The country thus indicated is usually the same as the state in which a given city is found today, but if considered necessary, the political and cultural differences of the mediaeval setting were regarded. If it was not unequivocal in the Middle-Ages either (e.g. Breslau/Wrocław was Polish around the first millennium but later it was typically German), we preferred the country in which the city is located today. If, however, the city definitely used to belong to a different country than in our days (e.g. Lund to Denmark and Straßburg to Germany), we followed the mediaeval borders. States that did not exist in the Middle-Ages are only indicated if the corresponding region had distinct features liturgically (e.g. Switzerland, Belgium). Based on liturgical considerations, other countries will have to be seen as smaller than today (e.g. Salzburg is German but Seckau is Austrian, Zagreb is Hungarian but Spalato/Split is Croatian). Centralised religious orders will be indicated by ISO codes in correspondence with the origin and character of their Uses (e.g. the Dominicans are French, the Gilbertines are English, the Paulines are Hungarian), while the Benedictines and Augustinian canons receive the country code according to their geographical location. Since this system can never be completely consistent, switching to a three-letter code referring to liturgical regions is planned, but this necessitates further research.


This means the ecclesiastical institution whose Use the given data represents, without any regard for the further use or provenance of the source. It can only be considered completely reliable if the source specifically mentions it, or if the liturgical features identify the Use without any shadow of a doubt. In case of secular cathedrals, collegiate chapters, and urban parish churches, the name of the city is written in its current form, as it is used in the country where it is located (if needed, with the proper accent marks). If the origin of the source is uncertain but the country is known, the name of the country is specified (e.g. Germany), if the closer region can be determined, that is indicated instead (e.g. Île-de-France). In reference to the sources of centralised religious orders, we used the customary traditional abbreviations without periods (e.g. OPraem), in case of extinct or largely unknown orders similar abbreviations have been generated (e.g. OGC = Ordo Gilbertinorum Canonicorum, that is, Gilbertine Canons). As to Benedictine monasteries, the OSB abbreviation is only used if the exact monastery is not known. The same can be said about the books of Augustinian canons (abbreviated CRSA).


Genre identifies the type of source in question according to standard Tridentine terminology without any regard for the title the source itself employs or the title that was customary at the time and in the region. Our aim is to use comprehensive categories that are clear, uncomplicated and by the help of which the material can be sorted effectively. In this sense, the set of liturgical genres is as follows:

​In borderline genres inconclusive logic is used, that is, the more specific categories are only employed when we are faced with a clear-cut genre (e.g. Benedictional only means a pure Benedictional), otherwise documents are put into a wider category (for instance, if it contains abbatial or episcopal ceremonies, it is a Pontifical, independent of the fact whether it contains material appropriate to a Ritual, Processional or Benedictional). As to obviously mixed genres—if the material so warrants— a double classification has been assigned in alphabetical order, without a space in-between, connected by a hyphen (e.g. Processional-Ritual).


The date of a source’s origin. If it can be determined with certainty, an exact year is given, otherwise an interval is indicated. The date is always written with Arabic numerals; in case of intervals an En dash (–) is inserted between the numbers without any spaces (e.g. 1300–1400), rounding to quarter, third or half centuries (e.g. 1300–1325, 1300–1333, 1300–1350). Following the date, a temporal adverb (before, after or about) may follow with a space, in parenthesis, for example: 1300 (about).

Short title

This is made up of the Latin name for the source’s genre and the Latin adjective referring to its origin. It also features in the name of the corresponding file, and at the same time it also makes reference to popular data bases (such as ISTC, USTC). The Latin name of the genre is what can be found in the original, or if it is not written there, the most characteristic title at that time and in that region (this occurs mostly in the case of Rituals, where instead of the standard expression, the terms e.g. Agenda, Manuale, etc. are often used). The adjective is the adnominal form of the mediaeval Latin name of the city, with the original spelling, while in the case of religious orders, we use the colloquial, one-word formula (e.g.Franciscanum, not Fratrum Minorum). In some cases the short title may actually be a little longer. If the source’s original title is short and characteristic but does not refer to a particular Use, it is normally kept unchanged (e.g. Informatorium sacerdotum, Agenda communis, Ordo et ritus).

Original title

This is the source’s own self-designation (if there is one). It is mostly encountered in printed books, but if references are found within manuscripts to the circumstances, place and time of production, such information is included here. The original title is transcribed with normalised Latin spelling, without interpunctuation, but the original form of proper names is preserved. Since a source may include the title in several places, more than one may be used, each separated by a vertical bar (│) with one space before and after it. The order of importance for the original titles is as follows: (1) title page, (2) beginning of the text, (3) beginning of further divisions, (4) colophon, (5) hidden rubrical reference within the text. If the title is given at the beginning of the text or some subdivision of it, special care is taken to ensure a correct genre definition, otherwise this could be misleading. For instance, a Breviary could use the first self-designation at the beginning of its Psalter (hence calling itself a Psalterium), whereas it is clearly a Breviary. If in the original the title forms part of a complete sentence (e.g. In nomine … incipit … feliciter), it is not reproduced in its entirety, but the actual title is extracted from it. The same is done with long titles and verbose additions which may be in reference to the circumstances of its printing or the novelty of its edition.

Typographer (Printer)

This means the city where the press was located and the name of the typographer. This data is usually contained in the colophon or may be inferred based on the fonts or the paper used (watermarks). The fact that sources often mention the name of the bookseller, along with the name of the typographer—sometimes on the title page— must be taken into account. The latter is not used in our inventory. If the data is not taken from the source itself, it is placed in square brackets. The name of the city is written in its current form and in the original language, then—following a comma and a space—the name of the typographer in its Latinised form (e.g. Venezia, Petrus Liechtenstein). When writing proper names, the original spelling is kept. If the source had several typographers, the names are separated with a Em dash (—) with one space before and after. Other persons, e.g. the bookseller, the author of the engravings, the commissioning prelate or the cleric who corrected or prepared the edition may be included as remarks. As to manuscripts, instead of the printer, the abbreviation MS (manuscript) is written in the appropriate field.


This includes the name of the library where the source’s original is kept and the local shelfmark or call number. Some of the libraries do not assign call numbers to books, in such cases only the name of the library is given. This reference contains the name of the city in the original language, then—following a comma and a space—the complete name of the library in the original language (as to upper and lower case letters, the library’s own custom is followed. If the library has a double name, a comma is put in-between. This is followed—with only a space inserted—by the call number. If the call number includes an abbreviation (e.g. Ms., Lat.), a period is inserted after it but if it is only an acronym (e.g. NAL, Clmae), there is no period. After the abbreviation stands (after a space) the number itself (without a period at the end). If the call number was very peculiar, the original form of the source’s library was kept exactly as it was, except that a period is never inserted after the numbers.


This contains the bibliographical data of a given source’s modern edition. Such could be: (1) a critical edition of the entire text, (2) an excerpt, e.g. in the form of a table with incipits (3), or a facsimile. If the edition only published the source partially, no note is given. The form of reference used is in complete agreement with the bibliographical standard of the MRH series, that is. e.g. TERRIZI, Francesco SI: Missale antiquum s. Panormitanae ecclesiae (Pa ASD 2: Palermo — Archivio Storico Diocesano — Cod. 2). Herder, Roma 1970. (Rerum Ecclesiasticorum Documenta. Series Maior. Fontes 13). When editions publish more than one source, this field contains all the essential information, but even in this case the data of the source’s origin, age and genre have to be indicated.


This means the number (numeral code) of the liturgically relevant catalogues. Such catalogues can either be organised according to liturgical book types (e.g. Bohatta, Weale, Amiet, Kay) or follow a principle of nationality (e.g. Leroquais, Janini, Odriozola, Salmon, Radó, Szendrei). Non-specifically liturgical catalogues (e.g. Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, ISTC) are only indicated if the book has only been found recently and is not referenced in liturgical catalogues. These catalogues are indicated by the name of their editor and the catalogue number (in Arabic numerals), after a space and without a period at the end.


This is the price of the acquired copies including all the concomitant expenses, in Hungarian currency (Forint or HUF), with Arabic numbers (no spaces in-between), aligned to the right. In the long run, this may be erased from the inventory but at this early stage of acquisitions it is indispensable. If this field is filled out, it also means that the copy is not accessible publically, or it has been made accessible as a result of our own effort.

Online reference

The links to those sources that are freely available on the internet (with regular letters, underlined). They may be useful in acquiring the copy in the original quality (if our download is of a lower quality than e.g.on Google Books or Gallica), it could provide some additional bibliographical or library-related data that our inventory does not include, and in case the files are damaged or faulty, it can be recovered. In the given field the link is live, that is, if clicked, the appropriate page will open up. We take care that these should be permanent links to the particular source (durable URL, permalink, permalien) and not changeable data that open up in a search engine. Wherever such a link is not accessible (e.g., the URL of the webpage is sufficient (and the rest of the information will be provided there).


If any important information is added during the catalogisation, it will be done as a comment in English. In this field we will also indicate if the source is incomplete (fragmentary), has many volumes or there are several copies available. In this latter case, the source (irrespective of its multiple copies) will only be catalogued once, except if these are different editions, in which case they will be entered into the inventory of sources as separate items.

Index of Ceremonies

Orientation within a single source and the comparison of several sources are assisted by an index. The index is meant to help the researcher understand what is contained in each source, how to reference its content in a uniform manner, and how to find particular Ordos. This is especially helpful with ceremonies of the Pontifical, the Ritual, and the hidden content of Missals because the particular order and number of ceremonies included vary considerably.

Since the index can be organised according to both sources and labels, it makes it possible to access an overview of the content of individual sources (within the collection) or to see if and where a particular ceremony is found therein. In compiling the index—in accordance with the nature of the problem—priority was given to Pontificals, Rituals, as well as processional and sacramental rites contained within Missals. The language of the index is English, only the original titles are given in Latin. In the index all of the fields are filled out, the worst scenario being that the original title is missing if the original source does not contain such. In this case an Em dash (—) is placed in the appropriate field. The index contains the following data in columns:


Data that is relevant from a liturgical perspective is given here. Namely: shelfmark, origin, genre and age, as in the inventory of source, separating the first two only with a comma and a space (e.g. Mainz, Pontifical 1167–1183). This line of data appears beside each chapter of a given source (it is repeated in each line of the table) because if the material is arranged according to labels (as it will be explained later), the data listed one below the other will be representing different sources.

Page Number

This indicates the page number of the digital copy and the folio numbers of the original source (if there are any). The former is always in Arabic number format (e.g. 1, 10, 100, etc. so that the order would not be changed in the course of an automatic listing). There is never a period after the numbers. This is then followed—after a space and in parenthesis—by the original numbering with Arabic numbers (this time in text format) with due reference to recto and verso (r/v). If the original source is numbered not by folios but according to pages, naturally, the r/v indications are omitted. The page numbers are always given as they are in the original source, even if they are imprecise or incorrect. If there is no original page numbering, the index also omits it, but if it is only missing from a given page, (while it is indicated on other pages), its absence is signalled with a question mark (?).

Original Title

This is the Latin title of the Ordos, chapters, headers and rites in the very form in which they can be found in the original sources. The titles are transcribed with standardised modern spelling but without interpunctuation. When it comes to several short items within a list, such as e.g. the blessings of utensils, vestments and victuals, it is sufficient to give the title of the first item.


This is a conventional English word or expression which helps us find and organise those liturgical actions that belong together but are classified under different titles. This labelling is based on comprehensive but diverse categories which provide an authentic description of the content of Pontificals and Rituals, and which are neither too broad, nor too narrow for the researcher who tries to analyse many sources at the same time. If the same Ordo is featured several times or in several instalments within a single source, it could receive the same label more than once. If, however, an Ordo can receive several labels (e.g. the Easter blessings of food, from the perspective of the liturgical year, belong to Easter, while based on sacramental action, they are classified among the blessing of victuals), the item is registered twice with the same page numbers and the original title, but with different labels. Wherever the sources contain details that cannot be classified within this system, the label will simply be omitted, marked by a dash (-). The standard terminology used for labelling can be grouped together as follows:

The extraordinary Ordos of the ecclesiastical year: Ash Wednesday, Candlemas, Easter Sunday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Maundy Thursday, Palm Sunday, Vigil of Whitsun. In labelling, traditional English terminology is preferred over the expressions based on the original Latin (e.g. Candlemas and not Purification). The labels referring to the liturgical year always stand at the beginning, irrespective of how many Ordos belong to them (this could often come up, for instance, in connection with Maundy Thursday). In creating labels, the length of the Ordos does not have any significance, therefore, one single item is enough for a reference to be made to a given day, provided that the item definitely belongs to it.

The administration of Sacraments according to the Scholastic synthesis, and its alternative versions: baptismal initiation (scrutinies and preparations for Baptism during Lent, even if the sources include them in separate instalments), bishop (consecration), confirmation, exodiastic rites (illness, visiting the sick, Extreme Unction, agony, death, burial), exorcism (in case of real possessed and not before Baptism), heretic/pagan (their reconciliation), ordinations (from tonsure to priesthood), penance (especially in connection with Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday), matrimony (announcements, wedding ceremony, nuptial Mass, blessing of the nuptial dwelling, introduction of the new wife).

The non-sacramental blessing and consecration of persons: abbess, abbot, emperor, empress, king, monk, nun (we include in this category the blessing of the so-called ‘inclusa’), pilgrimage (sometimes it is mentioned as a blessing of pilgrims or of the staff and haversack; all rites connected to crusades also belong to this category), pope, queen, secular dignitaries (princes, dukes, counts), tonsure (independently of ordinations), virgin, widow. For the sake of simplicity and transparency, the labels do not contain the following expressions: ‘blessing, consecration, dedication’ etc., they only name the object of these sacramentals.

The benediction and dedication of objects, propitiatory and apotropaic rites: altar (portable ones as well), bad weather (against tempest, lightening, draught etc.), banner (flag or other military banner), baptistery, bell, borders, cemetery, church, cross, fire (outside of Candlemas and Holy Saturday), foundation stone, house, incense (outside of Holy Saturday) major blessing of waters, minor blessing of waters, oil (outside of Maundy Thursday), paten and chalice, processions (Rogation Days: minor and major litanies), reconciliation of violated church, ship, statue/painting, tabernacle, utensils, vestments, victuals (bread, wine, etc.), well (if not the baptismal well), ordeals.

Rites of church governance: degradation and restitution, excommunication and reconciliation, synod/council, travel/visitation/reception.

Ordos connected to the Mass: Benedictional (in a given case an entire book could be under a single title), Mass ordinary, preparation and vesting for Mass, thanksgiving after Mass, Temporal, Sanctoral, Commune, Dedication, Votive.

The list of labels can be completed according to the needs of the growing source material. The actual summary of all the possible titles can be found here (in ABC).