Missale Nidrosiense

The Nidaros Missal (1519)

Espen Karlsen & Sigurd Hareide

The Nidaros missal, the first book printed on Norwegian initiative

The first two books printed on Norwegian initiative were the Nidaros missal and the Nidaros breviary, both appearing in 1519.For an introduction to these two early printed books, see Gjerløw (1986a and 1986b). Skovgaard-Petersen (forthcoming 2019) discusses them in connection with Walkendorf’s other literary activities (in Danish). An English article concerning the Nidaros missal and its content is currently under preparation by the authors of this introduction. A missal provided instructions and texts necessary to celebrate mass throughout the year, while a breviary offered the same for the divine office or the canonical hours. Both books were in Latin. Together, the two types of books for mass and divine office constituted the official public prayer of the Catholic church in a certain area. The Nidaros missal and breviary take up a special position in the history of the book in Norway, not only because they were the first two books to be printed on Norwegian initiative, but also because they were intended to be used in the entire province of Nidaros, which in the early sixteenth century comprised Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Archbishop Erik Walkendorf initiated the publication of both the missal and the breviary.For Walkendorf’s life and career, see Hamre (1943, in particular pp. 54–67).

The missal was printed in Copenhagen by Poul Reff (or Ræff; modern Norwegian: Rev, meaning ‘fox’; † c. 1533).For his life and works, see Adams, (2013, 122–124). Reff published fourteen works, of which the Nidaros missal is the most impressive. The text of the missal was compiled and edited by the dean Olav Engelbrektsson and the cantor Peter Sigurdsson in Trondheim before printing. The work appears to have commenced in 1516 (Gjerløw 1986a, 70), and the printing was completed on 25 May 1519, a few weeks before the breviary was completed in Paris (on 4 July 1519). According to Lauritz Nielsen, an authority on early printing in Denmark, the missal is the most important printed work in Denmark alongside the Copenhagen Missal (Missale Haffniense, Copenhagen 1510: Matthæus Brandis) prior to the Bible of Christian III from 1550 (Nielsen 1919, xxxi).It is no. 182 in Nielsen’s (1919) catalogue of books printed in Denmark or commissioned from Denmark. As it was printed by the first printer born in Denmark, the book belongs to both Norwegian and Danish book history. It is likely that Poul Reff was commissioned to print the missal because his brother, Hans Reff (born before 1490, † 1545), was the Archbishop’s secretary. Hans Reff was also central in the printing of the Nidaros breviary (Gjerløw 1986a, 55–56).

As Lilli Gjerløw put it, ‘the Nidaros Missal and Breviary are the unique summa of centuries of religious culture’ (1986a, 77). They represent a further development of the Nidaros liturgy from the Nidaros ordo of the early thirteenth century, the sources of which are studied by Gjerløw (1968, 85–128). The text material in this large printed volume is typical of a medieval missal.

The Nidaros missal and its content

The Nidaros missal has 303 leaves (= 606 pages) and is a folio volume measuring 33 x 23.5 cm a page. The copies were bound in oak panels covered with goat-skin (Gjerløw 1986, 72–73). The missal is likely to have been bound in Trondheim (Schjoldager 1927, 54–55), as large numbers of copies usually had to be transported unbound in barrels.

Missals gave instructions and texts necessary to celebrate mass throughout the year.For an introduction to the content and organisation of the late medieval missal, see Hughes (1995, 143–159); Harper (1991, 65–66 and 109–126). For an introduction to the Nidaros liturgy, see Fæhn (1955). Gjerløw (1986) discusses the two books from a book historical perspective, in addition to commenting on the content. However, like other early printed missals, the Nidaros missal does not provide all texts for all the specific rites and benedictions connected with the masses throughout the year, such as the blessing of the palms (or local branches) and procession on Palm Sunday found in the Nidaros ordo (Ordo Nidrosiensis ecclesiae; Gjerløw 1968, 219–221). The principal content of the Nidaros missal is, as was common in early printed missals, organised with the Ordinary of the Mass (Ordo missae) placed in the middle of the book, containing the (more or less) unchanging parts of mass (entrance rite, Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Canon, communion rite and so on) easily accessible for the user of the book. On each side of this central section, we find the two main cycles of the liturgical year, the temporale and the sanctorale (further described below), with the changing parts of mass (Officium/Introitus, Collecta, Epistola, Graduale, Alleluia, Secreta, Offertorium, Communio, Complenda/Postcommunio etc.).For an overview of the Latin mass as described in Old Norse explanations of the mass from the Nidaros church, see Hareide (2016, 350–352). Scandinavian readers may in Norwegian language find a similar overview of the mass in Hareide (2014, 26–27) and a guide to these Latin terms in Schumacher (2015).

Many initials,For the different initials used in the missal, see Gjerløw (1986, 70–72). as well as all rubrics (ruber, ‘red’) with instructions and all running titles on the top of the pages are printed in red. With the exception of the title page, the calendar and the canon miss(a)e, the text is set in two columns. The Ordinary of the mass contains musical notation (handwritten) on three up to four red lines (printed) for certain texts. The handwritten notation is lacking in some copies. In the content list below, we use brackets for common terminology not found in the Nidaros missal:The pagination in Arabic numerals used in the present introduction is the one used by Gjerløw, the first page being the so-called title page with the incipit Missale pro usu etc. (cf. Gjerløw 1979, 11). This pagination is added in the margin of the e-book.

Title page with the coat-of-arms of Erik Walkendorf, a rose surrounded by three wings of swans (p. 1).

Brief foreword by the printer, Poul Reff (p. 2)

[Kalendarium, pp. 3–15]
The calendar, printed in red and black, is organised by month and provides a list of all solemnities, feasts and memorial days observed on specific dates throughout the year, i.e., both the days from the temporale with the feasts of the Lord (like the Nativity of the Lord) and the days from the sanctorale with the celebrations of specific saints. The calendar is followed by Notata omnia mensium (‘Notes on all months’, p. 15) printed in red, providing liturgical notes on specific feasts and festal seasons during the year, identical to those added at the end of the pages of the months in the calendar of the breviary (Gjerløw 1986, 69).

Oratio ante missam dicenda/post missam dicenda (‘Prayers to be said before and after mass’, p. 16)
Private prayers to be used by the priest in his preparation for mass and thanksgiving after mass

[Temporale (Proprium de tempore, pp. 17–352)]
The temporale consists of the liturgical texts for the annual recollection of the Life of Christ with dated feasts like Christmas and moveable feasts like Easter (Harper 1991, 49–51). It begins with the first Sunday in Advent and ends with the last Sunday before the beginning of Advent.

[Ordo missae, pp. 353–384]
The Ordinary of the mass (see explanation above) is in the Nidaros missal divided into the two main parts Preparamenta ad missam and Canon miss(a)e, ending with a short section of ‘Prayers for reading after mass’ after the Canon misse:
Preparamenta ad missam (‘Preparations for mass’), pp. 353–365) supply invariable parts and instructions for the first part of mass up to the Prefaces (Prefationes), the first part of the Eucharistic Prayer, introducing the Sanctus.
Canon misse (‘The Canon of the mass’, pp. 366–382), contains both the Canon in the strict sense, i.e., the part of the mass (the second part of the Eucharistic Prayer) in which the priest consecrates the bread and the wine for the Eucharist, and also the communion rite with the communion of the priest, until the dismissal (Ite missa est) and the blessing of the people at the end of mass.
Orationes post missam legende (‘Prayers for reading after mass’) (p. 383–384)
The prayers for reading after mass start with the ‘Last Gospel’ (John 1:1–14), followed by different prayers, and ending with musical notation on four red lines for the Ite missa est for different occasions.

[Sanctorale (Proprium de sanctis, pp. 385–492)]
The Ordo missae is followed by de sanctis per totius anni circulum, the sanctorale ‘for the cycle of the whole year’, i.e., the liturgy for the fixed feasts and memorial days of the saints celebrated on the same date every year. It begins with the Vigil of St. Andrew (Vigilia beati Andree) on the 29th of November and ends with St. Catherine (Sancte Katherine virginis et martyris) on the 25th of November almost a year later, thus corresponding to the cycle of the temporale. Included in the sanctorale is a list of days on which the Nicene creed is sung (Quibus diebus Credo cantandum sit, pp. 490–491), as well as notes on how the office of the Virgin Mary should be celebrated at Marian altars (Notandum, quod ad altare beate Marie uirginis in omnibus festiuitatibus eiusdem plenum officio de festo peragatur, pp. 491–492).

Commune sanctorum (pp. 493–562)
The Commune sanctorum (‘Common of saints’) consists of texts common to an entire category of saints, such as apostles or martyrs. The following parts also belong naturally to the Commune sanctorum section:
In dedicatione ecclesie (‘For the dedication of the church’, pp. 539–540).
In dedicatione altaris (‘For the dedication of the altar’, pp. 541–542).
In commemoratione sancte crucis (‘In commemoration of the Holy Cross’, pp. 542–543).
In commemoratione beate Marie uirginis (‘In commemoration of the blessed Virgin Mary’, pp. 544–548) with different commemorations of the Virgin during the liturgical year.
Ordo collectarum tempore quadragesimali (‘Order of collects through Lent’, pp. 548–555) .
Ordo collectarum specialium per totum annum (‘Order of special collects through the year’, pp. 555–562).

Missa pro defunctis (pp. 562–568)
The ‘Masses for the dead’ section includes Ordo collectarum pro defunctis (‘Order of collects for the dead’, pp. 564–568).

In festo visitationis Marie virginis (pp. 569–570)
Texts for the ‘feast of the visitation of the Virgin Mary’ (the 2nd of June) are probably placed here rather than in the sanctorale above, where the other dated Marian feasts are found, because this feast was quite new and in the process of reaching universal observance (confirmed by the council of Basel in 1441) (Holweck 1892).

[Miss(a)e votiv(a)e, pp. 570–579]
The votive masses, i.e., masses for a votum (‘according to a wish or promise’) includes the following: Missa de sancto spiritu (‘Mass for the Holy Spirit’); Missa pro paganis et Turcis (‘Mass for pagans and Turcs’); Missa pro pestilentia (‘Mass for pestilence’); In commemoratione omnium sanctorum (‘In commemoration of All Saints’); Missa de angelis (‘Mass for the angels’); Missa de tribus magis de peregrinantibus (‘Mass of the three Magi for pilgrims’).

Exorcismus salis et aque (‘Exorcism of salt and water’, pp. 579–581)
This ritual, involving the exorcism and blessing of salt and water and the sprinkling of the priest and the people with holy water, preceded Mass every Sunday.

Sequentie (pp. 582–605)
A sequence (sequentia, ‘that which follows’, from the verb sequi, ‘to follow’) is the liturgical, non-biblical hymn for mass, sung after the Alleluia and before the Gospel on certain holy days and feasts. The forty-two sequences in the Nidaros missal form part of the rich heritage of sequences from the province of Nidaros.The Nidaros repertory of sequences from the Nidaros ordo to the Nidaros missal is the topic of a book edited by Kruckenberg & Haug (2006). The Nidaros ordinary, with additions, presented 118 sequences and is particularly rich (Kruckenberg 2006, 7).

Accidentia circa missam (pp. 605–606)
The last pages of the missal contain instructions about accidents during mass and how to handle them when they occur.

On the final page (606), the colophon indicates, as customary, the title of the book (Missale secundum vsum ecclesie Nidrosiensis), the name of the printer, the place of printing (Copenhagen), and the day the printing was completed (25 May, 1519)

On the edition

The frequent abbreviations of the original print, common also in medieval manuscripts, are expanded without further notice. The orthography in this edition follows closely the print of 1519. Notable deviations from standard classical Latin orthography are the following. Majuscle U is used for U and V, which is the tendency in the original. Minuscle v is used for u and v initially (e.g., vnde), whereas minuscule u is used for both letters in other positions. The classical diphthongs ae and oe are spelled e in the original and in the transcription, as could be exspected. The conventional ligature UD (= Uere dignum), printed in red (see illustration) and occurring frequently in the prefaces,


is rendered in the following manner:


Moreover, all proper names are spelled with initial capitals, while deus and dominus are spelled with lower case initials, as in the original.

In order to facilitate reading, we have used what may be referred to as a syntactic punctuation.The principle basically follows the model of Sten Eklund in his editions of the Opera minora of St. Bridget (Eklund 1972, 1975, and 1991). Subordinate clauses (noun clauses and adverbial clauses) are separated by commas. Moreover, commas are inserted between asyndeta and before appositions. Commas are used in connection with addresses in the vocative case. For the punctuation of the printed book of 1519, we refer to the digitised versions available on the websites of libraries holding copies of it and to the facsimile edition (Børsum 1959).

The pagination in Arabic numerals applied by Lilli Gjerløw, which is also used in this introduction, as well as the signatures of the quires in the original book, are added in the margins of the e-book. The original has no foliation or pagination.

Conventional signs
‹ › surrounds additions made by the editor.
† † surrounds unintelligible words or passages.


Adams, Jonathan. 2013. Lessons in Contempt. Poul Ræff’s translation and publication in 1516 of Johannes Pfefferkorn’s The Confession of the Jews. Odense: Syddansk Universitetsforlag.

Eklund, Sten. (ed.). 1972. Sancta Birgitta: Opera minora II: Sermo angelicus. Samlingar utgivna av Svenska fornskriftsällskapet, Ser. 2, Latinska skrifter. Lund: Almqvist & Wiksell.

—. Opera minora I: Regula Salvatoris. Samlingar utgivna av Svenska fornskriftsällskapet, Ser. 2, Latinska skrifter. Lund: Almqvist & Wiksell.

—. 1991. Sancta Birgitta: Opera minora III: Quattuor orationes. Samlingar utgivna av Svenska fornskriftsällskapet, Ser. 2, Latinska skrifter. Lund: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Fæhn, Helge. 1955. ‘Gudstjenestelivet i Nidaros domkirke i middelalderen’. In Arne Fjellbu et al., Nidaros erkebispestol og bispesete 1153–1953, 599–631. Oslo: Forlaget Land og kirke.

—. 1994. Gudstjenestelivet i Den norske kirke. 2. utgave. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.

Gjerløw, Lilli, ed. 1968. Ordo Nidrosiensis Ecclesiae. Libri liturgici provinciae Nidrosiensis medii aevi II. Oslo: Norsk Historisk Kjeldeskrift-Institutt.

—, ed. 1979. Antiphonarium Nidrosiensis Ecclesiae. Libri liturgici provinciae Nidrosiensis medii aevi III. Oslo: Norsk Historisk Kjeldeskrift-Institutt.

—. 1986a. ‘The Breviarium and the Missale Nidrosiense (1519)’. In From Script to Book: A Symposium, eds. Hans Bekker-Nielsen, Marianne Børch & Hans Algot Sørensen, 50–77. Odense: Odense University Press.

—. 1986b. ‘The Missale Nidrosiense 1519: an appendix’. In From Script to Book: A Symposium, eds. Hans Bekker-Nielsen, Marianne Børch & Hans Algot Sørensen, 50–77. Odense: Odense University Press.

Hamre, Lars. 1943. Erik Valkendorf. Trekk av hans liv og virke. Bergen: John Griegs Forlag.

Hareide, Sigurd. 2014. ‘Meningsfull messe. Om messen i middelalderen og de allegoriske messeforklaringene’. In Kristin Norseth, Elise Kleivane & Sigurd Hareide, Messuskýringar. Norrøne messeforklaringer i norsk oversettelse’. Festskrift til førsteamanuensis Jan H. Schumacher, pp. 9–53. Oslo: St. Olav forlag.

—. 2016. ‘Messuskýringar: Old Norse Expositions of the Latin Mass and the Ritual Participation of the People’. In Stefka Georgieva Eriksen (ed.): Intellctual Culture in Medieval Scandinavia, c. 1100–1350, pp. 337–371. Turnhout: Brepols.

Harper, John. 1991. The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy from the Tenth to the Eighteenth Century. A Historical Introduction and Guide for Students and Musicians. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Holweck, Fasti Mariani. 1912. ‘Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary’. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved May 6, 2019 from New Adventhttp://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15480a.htm

Hughes, Andrew. 1995. Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office. A guide to their organization and terminology. Corrected reprint. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Kruckenberg, Lori & Andreas Haug. 2006. The Sequences of Nidaros : a Nordic Repertory & Its European Context. Senter for middelalderstudier: Skrifter nr. 20. Trondheim: Tapir.

—. 2006. ‘Making a Sequence Repertory: The Tradition of the Ordo Nidrosiensis Ecclesiae. In Kruckenberg & Haug 2006, 5–44.

Missale Nidrosiense. Faksimileutgave 1959. Oslo: Børsums forlag og antikvariat.

Nielsen, Lauritz. 1919. Dansk Bibliografi 1482–1550 med særligt Hensyn til Dansk Bogtrykkerkunsts Historie. København & Kristiania: Gyldendalske Boghandel.

Schjoldager, Astrid. 1927. Bokbind og bokbindere i Norge inntil 1850. Oslo: Aschehoug.

Schumacher, Jan Henrik. 2015. Kirkehistorisk latinleksikon. Begreper fra middelalderens kirke- og klosterliv. 2. utgave. Oslo: Spartacus.

Skovgaard-Petersen, Karen. (forthcoming) 2019. ‘Bogtryk og opdagelsesrejser i kirkens tjeneste – Ærkebiskop Erik Valkendorf som forfatter og bogudgiver’. In Ruth Hemstad, Anne Birgitte Rønning & Aasta Marie Bjorvand Bjørkøy, Litterære verdensborgere: Norsk bokhistorie i transnasjonalt perspektiv, 1519–1850. Nota bene. Oslo: Nasjonalbiblioteket.

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Om Missale Nidrosiense

Breviarium Nidrosiense and Missale Nidrosiense appeared in print in 1519 and were the first books to be printed for Norwegian use. The books were printed on the initiative of Archbishop Erik Valkendorf in Nidaros, and were meant to provide a standardised liturgy for the Catholic province of Nidaros – which at that time comprised Norway, Iceland, and the Faroes – and to replace the old, handwritten books which were difficult to read and whose content had become obsolete. The content of the two books reflects 500 years of liturgical development in Norway.

The missal was meant to be used in all churches of the province, whereas the breviary was intended for the clergy and their daily celebration of the divine office on the eight canonical hours. The two books supplemented each other and covered the central parts of the liturgy.

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