From the Office of the Feast of Corpus Christi

From the Office of the Feast of Corpus Christi

The text of the Regiment Animarum, written in 1343, contains the Office of the Feast of Corpus Christi, as well as teachings, exhortations, and sacraments for the Catholic Church. This manuscript was acquired by Brigham Young University’s HBLL Special Collections Department in 1968, Call Number Manuscript 091 R263 1343 (Mathiesen, 1983).

The text of the Regimen Animarum is not a truly original work, but is instead based on the compilation of several Latin manuals.  As one of the authors of the manuscript states at the beginning, roughly translated from Latin, “For this little work compiled from certain books…the sum of the sums…the sum of the theology” (Bibliographic Record).  While this codex may not be a perfect or original record, filled with missing pieces and marginalia, it is still an essential and fascinating look into a controversial period of Catholic and British history.


Historical Context

This is a singular work in that it is, possibly, “…the earliest notated manuscript of English provenance for this Feast” (Mathiesen, 1983).  The manuscript, written in 1343, comes from a time when the feast was first being accepted throughout England.  This codex was produced for the Archbishop of Canterbury, and provides the inquiring researcher a clearer view into the development of the complex history of the Feast as its popularity spread through the Catholic world.

To truly understand the importance of the text, it is first important to understand the history behind the feast of Corpus Christi.  The feast had its beginnings with Pope Urban IV, leader of the church from 1261 – 1264, who ordered the feast to be observed on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.  The Pope also requested St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the Office, or song of worship, which many believed to be the most beautiful in the Roman Breviary.  The feast became popular and spread fairly quickly, finally being introduced to England from Belgium between 1320 and 1325 (Mershman, 1908).

Not official acknowledged by any English bishops until 1320; it was held in Ipswich, Rochester, and Winchester.  However, it was not noted in the edicts of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Augustine, the list of feasts and processions, or the declaration of Archbishop Simon in 1332, which formed forty-one official feast days (Mathiesen, 1983).  Thus, since this manuscript was created in 1343, it is especially important because of the information it can provide about the very earliest celebration of the Feast in this region: “Apart from considerations of its primacy, the codex also preserves distinct versions of many of the chants and a distinct version of the Office” (Mathiesen, 1983).

Additionally, 1343 was the year a truce was established, indicating the end of the first phase of the 100 Years’ War. Edward III, who had just returned from his exploits in France, vowed to correct the many ecclesiastical abuses that were happening throughout the Church in England.    Many of these grievances were specifically discussed in the Regimen Animarum.  In September of the same year, King Edward and Parliament addressed the Pope in Avignon with a letter, calling for sweeping changes to be made in order to tackle the many ecclesiastical abuses. These issues are clear in the codex, as there is a general resistance to the Pope, as well as a detailed list of abuses.  Mathiesen concludes, “…the Regimen Animarum clearly anticipate[s] the Reformation and make[s] the treatise an important historical source, transcending its original purpose” (1983).




The creator of this codex was a Frenchman known only as “Beche.”  He would best be known as the compiler of the work and not just the scribe because his name appears within two of the three books combined into one.  The fact that a French scribe and author created an English clerical manual in 1343, as Mathiesen notes, “for this was a period in which Edward III and the English bishops were much involved with France and the university at Paris” (1983).  Beyond this, there appears to be no further knowledge on “Beche,” within the record or in outside historical information.



First Page in the Regiment Animarum

The BYU Bibliographic Record provides the title Regiment Animarum for this manuscript.  However, it should be noted that this does not include the first five folios, which make up the Office of the Feast of Corpus Christi.


2There are several different incipits located throughout the manuscript.  The first incipit, found in the first folio, reads (again in poorly translated Latin):

“Begins the task of the new body of our solemnity of Jesus Christ, the Lord has appointed Pope Urban IV, to be celebrated each year with their eighth early Thursday after the Octave of Pentecost” (“Bibliographic Record”).

The rest are similar to the first, with additional dates being added to the writing.





There are two explicits, located at the end of the Office of the Feast of Corpus Chrisit and at the end of the manuscript.  The final explicit, located in folio 206 roughly translated, says: “Ends the book, called the government, composed of the year Lord one thousand three hundred and forty-third thanks to God Becher name that French writer full of love, Amen” (“Bibliographic Record”).


The colophon of this particular manuscript contains only the supposed name of the compiler, and possible scribe for a part of it, of the different books.  The date for the manuscript’s creation is provided in the incipit, located at the beginning of the Regiment Animarum.  The certification provided at the end of the book, and written in hand A, states that the manuscript was commissioned by Johann Peckham, the then current Archbishop of Canterbury (Mathiesen, 1983).