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Breviary

From Academic Kids

A breviary (from Latin brevis, 'short' or 'concise') is a liturgical book containing the public or canonical prayers, hymns, the Psalms, readings, and notations for everyday use, especially for priests, in the Divine Office (i.e. at the canonical hours or Liturgy of the Hours, the Christians' daily prayer).

Before the rise of the mendicant orders (wandering friars, in the thirteenth century, the daily services were usually contained in a number of large volumes. The first occurrence of a single manuscript of the daily office was written by the Benedictine order at Monte Cassino in Italy in 1099. By a strange twist, the Benedictines were not a mendicant order, but a stable, monastery-based order, and single-volume breviaries are rare from this early period.

However, mendicant friars travelled around a lot and needed a shortened, or abbreviated, daily office contained in one portable book, and single-volume breviaries flourished from the thirteenth century onwards.

These abbreviated volumes soon became very popular and eventually supplanted the Roman Catholic Church's Curia office, previously said by clergy.

Before the advent of printing, breviaries were written by hand and were often richly decorated with initials and miniature illustrations telling stories in the lives of Christ or the saints, or stories from the Bible.

Later printed breviaries usually have woodcut illustrations, interesting in their own right but the poor relation of the beautifully-illuminated breviaries.

The word breviary can also refer to an abridged version of any text, a brief account or a summary of some subject.

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