Introduction

When we think of liturgy today, we imagine short, formal, congregational events happening periodically within the confines of churches. Medieval liturgy, however, took up many hours of every day, filled the city's largest meeting halls, and even spilled onto the streets. At the center of the medieval liturgy were the books we will study in this course.

In this ninth and final module of The Book: Histories Across Time and Space, we’ll explore and explain the beautiful service books of the medieval church. No prior knowledge of liturgy or Latin is required, but there will be a lot of both, along with music.

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The medieval services consisted of a complex system of cycles, and the liturgical books correspond to the various functions of the people who used them: Laypersons, nuns and monks, readers, singers, priests, and bishops.

We will explore and examine these precious objects using materials from Harvard’s collections. Close examination of various types of books will help to explain the complex and collaborative nature of medieval worship. Ultimately, we will learn how these beautifully adorned books  represent the importance of liturgy as an essential function of society in the Middle Ages.

HarvardX pursues the science of learning. By registering as an online learner in an HX course, you will also participate in research about learning. Read our research statement to learn more.

 

Meet The Author

Thomas Forrest Kelly

Thomas Forrest Kelly

Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music

Tom Kelly is the Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music at Harvard University. Professor Kelly received his B.A. from Chapel Hill; spent two years on a Fulbright in France studying musicology, chant, and organ. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard (1973) with a dissertation on office tropes. He has taught at Wellesley, Smith, Amherst, and at Oberlin, where he directed the Historical Performance Program and served as acting Dean of the Conservatory. He was named a Harvard College Professor in 2000 and the Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music in 2001. 

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