Susceptio sanguinis domini
by Åslaug Ommundsen
The Office of the Holy Blood or the feast in susceptione sanguinis domini (“for the reception of the Lord’s blood”) was instituted for the celebration of a relic of the blood of Christ. The relic was presumably brought to the town of Nidaros in a gold ring 12 September 1165. The feast was celebrated in Nidaros proper, and the office is transmitted in only one source, a thirteenth century fragmented antiphoner (Copenhagen, The Royal Library, MS Add 47 fol).
The medieval Latin title of the feast was “in susceptione sanguinis domini” (see GJERLØW 1968, p. 416). In the Church law of Archbishop Jon Raude (1268-82) it was referred to as “fingrgulz messo daghr” (KEYSER and MUNCH 1846-1895, vol. 2, 358-59). For this reason the office has in Norway in modern times gone under the name of “Fingergull-officiet” (“the Fingergold office”, or “Office of the gold ring”). In the latest edition the office is called “The Nidaros Office of the Holy Blood”. If using the incipit or the first antiphon, the title would be “Super precipuos”. If following the tradition of naming an office after its first responsory at matins, the name would be “Dignus es, domine”.
The Office of the Holy blood as transmitted follows the secular (not monastic) use in the number and order of chants. It consists of six antiphons, a responsory and a hymn for vespers and lauds, ten antiphons, nine responsories and a hymn for matins, and one antiphon for Magnificat at the second vespers, a total of 36 chants.
- GJERLØW, L 1979: Antiphonarium Ecclesiae Nidrosiensis, Oslo, pp. 230-242, with plates.
- ATTINGER, G and HAUG, A 2004: The Nidaros Office of the Holy Blood. Liturgical music in Medieval Norway, Skrifter nr. 16, Senter for middelalderstudier, Trondheim, with plates.
Schola Sanctae Sunnivae: Fingergullofficiet. De Susceptione Sanguinis Christi, 1997. (selected parts of the Office of the Holy Blood) Schola Canto Gregoriano Sola: Aquas plenas, 2001. (three chants from the Office of the Holy Blood).
To Norwegian (nynorsk), selected chants: Østtveit, H. (CD-leaflet, Scholae Canto Gregoriano Sola, 2001) To Norwegian (bokmål): Hovland, B. I. (CD-leaflet, Scholae Sanctae Sunnivae, 1997) To English: Littlewood, A. (CD-leaflet, Scholae Sanctae Sunnivae, 1997). Fisher, P. in ATTINGER and HAUG 2004.
Date and place
The office may have been written for the reception of the holy blood to the town of Nidaros 12 September 1165, although the only certain terminus ante quem is the date of the remaining source, namely 1250-75. Since this celebration was local to Nidaros proper, it is reasonable to assume that the office was made there by one or more unknown composers.
Summary of contents
The chant texts all revolve around the same theme: How Christ with his death on the cross redeemed us through the shedding of his own blood for our sins. Composition and style The two first antiphons for matins are versified, while the rest of the chants (apart from hymns) are left in prose. ATTINGER and HAUG opens for the possibility that there may have been more than one compositional stage, or more than one person involved, resulting in the present stylistic inconsistencies (which may also be seen as a typical feature of the period) (2004, p. 16).
Sources and literary models
Sources and models for several of the chant texts in the Office of the holy blood were found in other chants in the Nidaros use, like the Office of St. Benedict and the Dedication. Five antiphons found their models in monastic sources outside the Nidaros ordinal, and some of these antiphons, belonging to the Christmas liturgy, are unknown in German and English sources. Four of them were in the use of St. Denis and in a Clunyac breviary for the Sunday after Christmas (GJERLØW 1979, p. 242).
Medieval reception and transmission
The date of the feast is mentioned in a 13th century Icelandic annal and a few calendars, including that of the printed Missale Nidarosiense from 1519 (cf. ATTINGER and HAUG 2004, p. 13). The reception of the office was probably limited to the see of Nidaros proper, since there is no mention of the feast in the Nidaros ordinal (GJERLØW 1968). The office is transmitted in one source only, namely: Copenhagen, the Royal Library, Add 47 fol. The Office of the holy blood was not included in the printed Breviarium Nidrosiense from 1519.
- ATTINGER, G and HAUG, A 2004: The Nidaros Office of the Holy Blood. Liturgical music in Medieval Norway, Skrifter nr. 16 Senter for middelalderstudier, Trondheim.
- GJERLØW 1968: Ordo Ecclesiae Nidrosiensis, Oslo.
- GJERLØW, L 1979: Antiphonarium Ecclesiae Nidrosiensis, Oslo, pp. 230-242, with Plates.
- KEYSER and MUNCH 1846-1895. Norges gamle love, vol. 2, 358-59