Irish tract on the Mass

  • Old Irish
  • prose
  • Irish religious texts

An Old Irish treatise on the Mass.

First words (verse)
“The altar is the figure of the persecution which is inflicted”
First words (prose)
  • Ind altoir, fiugor ind ingrimme immaberr
ff. 65v–67r
beg. ‘Indaltoir fiugor ind ingrimme immaberr’
p. 251.1–251b.37
rubric: ‘De figuris ⁊ spiritualibus sensibus oblationis sacrificii ordinis’
beg. ‘Figuir tra in chollaighthi Crist’
A different version.
  • Old Irish
  • Secondary language(s): Latin language
prose (primary)


Irish religious textsIrish religious texts


Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[dipl. ed.] [ed.] [tr.] Nooij, Lars B., “A new history of the Stowe Missal: towards an edition of the Stowe John and the Irish tract on the Mass”, PhD thesis, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, 2021.  

The Stowe Missal is one of the earliest surviving documents of the Early Irish church and is a key witness to the Early Irish liturgy, as well as one of the few manuscripts dating back to the Old Irish period to contain a number of continuous texts in the Irish language. This thesis investigates the origins and history of the Stowe Missal by means of a close study of the manuscript and its scribes. Chapter 1 sets out the manuscript’s contents and the makeup of its quires, and offers a detailed discussion of the Stowe Missal’s scribes. The relative order of their activities is of particular concern and it is shown that the manuscript’s Irish language texts were added to the Stowe Missal by (one of) its original scribe(s). The original purpose for which the manuscript was made is also considered. Chapter 2 examines the available evidence for the Stowe Missal’s dating and its place of origin, before considering the manuscript’s early travels. It is argued that the manuscript’s traditional dating must be reconsidered and that there are strong signs that the manuscript did not long remain where it was made. In Chapter 3, the circumstances of the Stowe Missal’s early nineteenth century rediscovery are explored by reviewing both the contemporary evidence and the more recent hypotheses for the manuscript’s history in the centuries leading up to its rediscovery. Basic editions consisting of a diplomatic transcription and normalised text of the Stowe Missal’s incomplete copy of the Gospel of John, as well as the manuscript’s Irish Tract on the Mass are presented in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2, respectively. For the latter, a new translation and full vocabulary are also included. A third appendix contains an overview of the abbreviations found in these texts.

 : <link>
239–241 (Stowe), 242–245 (Stowe), 246–249 (tr.), 267–270 (LB) Diplomatic and critical edition of the Stowe Missal tract, with English translation, as well as a diplomatic edition of the tract in LB.
[ed.] [tr.] Stokes, Whitley, and John Strachan [eds.], Thesaurus palaeohibernicus: a collection of Old-Irish glosses, scholia, prose, and verse, 3 vols, vol. 2: Non-Biblical glosses and scholia; Old-Irish prose; names of persons and places; inscriptions; verse; indexes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903.  
comments: Reprinted by DIAS in 1987, together with Stokes' supplementary volume.
Internet Archive: <link> Internet Archive – originally from Google Books: <link> Wikisource: <link>
252–255 ‘The tract on the Mass in the Stowe Missal’, edition with translation. direct link
[ed.] [tr.] OʼCurry, Eugene [ed.?], and Brian OʼLooney [tr.], “Ancient Irish tract on the Mass”, The Irish Ecclesiastical Record 2 (1866): 170–179.  

Edition and translation of the Irish tract on the Mass in the Leabhar Breac. The introduction by the editors of the journal state that Eugene O’Curry, who had previously printed an extract from the tract in his Lectures, set out to produce a full text and translation. “With this view he made a fac simile copy of the tract, and was in communication with the late Rev. Prof. Matthew Kelly, of Maynooth, upon the subject”. The translation published is that by Bryan O’Looney, who also expanded the contractions, presumably from O’Curry’s facsimile, or perhaps from the facsimile of the Leabhar Breac, to which both O’Curry and O’Looney had contributed but which was not yet published at the time.

Internet Archive: <link>
The tract in LB.
[ed.] OʼCurry, Eugene, Lectures on the manuscript materials of ancient Irish history, delivered at the Catholic University of Ireland during the sessions of 1855 and 1856, Dublin, 1861.
Internet Archive: <link>, <link> Internet Archive – Originally from Google Books: <link>, <link>, <link> Internet Archive – multiple copies: <link>
376 (translation); 613–614 (ccoresponding text in App. CXIX) Extract only.

Secondary sources (select)

Horst, Tom ter, “Codeswitching in the Irish-Latin Leabhar Breac: mediæval homiletic culture”, PhD dissertation, LOT, 2017.  
An Leabhar Breac ('The Speckled Book'; c.1410) is a manuscript containing a collection of mostly religious material in both Latin and Irish, now housed in Dublin at the Royal Irish Academy. The present publication explores the make-up of the manuscript, focusing on the question which languages are used where and for which texts, and singling out individual texts which use a combination of languages within the same speech act, a process called codeswitching. Special attention is paid to the genre of the homily, a moral commentary on religious themes. The use of Latin and Irish in such texts can shed light on the intellectual culture of Ireland, an important centre of learning in mediaeval Europe. The Leabhar Breac manuscript is a composite piece of various sources, most of which date to about 1100, though some may be dated as late as 1350. By studying the languages of these texts, one can hypothesise about the languages and dates of their sources, and thus about the availability and level of Latin learning in Irish intellectual society through time. For this purpose it is important to study not only individual texts but also the quires in which they occur. The hierarchy and juxtaposition of texts and languages is an indication of their intended manner of composition, while the level of compositional ability on the part of the author or scribe is a reflection of bilingual education. Such a bilingual education can then be compared to similar circumstances such as Latin-English sermons in England.
LOT – PDF: <link>
84 A description of the bilingual nature of the tract in LB.
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
January 2011, last updated: January 2024