The Ordines Romani and the Carolingian Choreography of a Liturgical Route to Rome


  • Arthur Westwell Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, University of Toronto



pontificals, topography, Ordines, manuscripts, Carolingians.


This article examines a number of Carolingian liturgical manuscripts (Wolfenbuttel Herzog August Bibliothek Wissenbourg 91, Cologne Dombibliothek MS 138, Vienna Österreichische Nationalbibliothek cod.ser.n. 2762 and Paris Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal 227) each containing texts now known as the ordines romani. These texts are "stage directions" for the liturgy, distinguished by their reference to the practices of the church of Rome. While the ordines romani certainly give precious information about Roman liturgical practice, the Frankish contribution to shaping and displaying these texts inline with their own priorities and usages must be acknowledged too. For example, these manuscripts all combine ordines romani with texts about Roman history and topography. For these readers, the desired imitation of Roman liturgical practice was not about copying any particular text or practice by rote, but a deeper form of participation that involved the construction of an image of Rome across a whole manuscript. The given image of Rome responded to the institutional or personal needs animating the manuscript. These manuscripts compel us to imagine diverse practices of reading within and without liturgical performance.

On cover:
Monks singing the Office and decorated initial A[sperges me.]. Gradual Olivetan Master (Use of the Olivetan Benedictines), illuminated manuscript on parchment ca. 1430-1439. Italy, Monastero di Santa Maria di Baggio near Milan, Ca 1400-1775.
Beinecke Ms1184: The olivetan Gradual. Gradual. General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.




How to Cite

Westwell, A. (2019) “The Ordines Romani and the Carolingian Choreography of a Liturgical Route to Rome”, Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia, 31(n.s.17), pp. 63–79. doi: 10.5617/acta.7800.