Sermo synodalis

  • Latin
  • prose

A Latin religious tract which a bishop could use to address priests at a diocesan synod. It was written on the continent, possibly in the 10th century, and enjoyed wide dissemination across western Europe. In some versions, it is falsely attributed to Pope Leo IV (fl. 9th c.). A version of it is also extant in the 15th-century Irish manuscript known as the Leabhar Breac, where it is prefixed to a homily on the Lord’s Prayer.

Sermo synodalis

Also known as the Admonitio synodalis.

multiple versions
The text survives in at least 140 manuscripts, the earliest of which are datable to the 10th and 11th centuries. See West (2023).
pp. 247b.inf–248a.inf
rubric: ‘Est enuntiandus / sermo sinodalis in / singulis sinodis parr/ochianis prespeteris’
beg. ‘Fratres prespeteri et sacerdotes Domini, cohopera/atores nostri ordinis estis’

No studies are currently known that examine the LB copy in relationship to the wider transmission of the text. Malone suggested that the copy must go back to a 12th-century version. Tom ter Horst (2017) observed additions in the text that suggest connections to the Legenda aurea. If the Irish version derives from an English exemplar, see some of those listed by Charles West online, e.g. Cambridge, St John's College, MS 42 (Worcester?).

  • Latin
prose (primary)



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.

[crit. ed.] Amiet, Robert, “Une Admonitio synodalis de l’époque carolingienne: étude critique et édition”, Mediaeval Studies 25 (1964): 12–82.
[ed.] West, Charles, “The earliest form and function of the Admonitio synodalis”, Frühmittelalterliche Studien 57 (2023): 347–380.  

This article examines a text known as the ‘Admonitio synodalis’ as evidence for episcopal expectations of local priests in the tenth and eleventh centuries. The ‘Admonitio’ is generally considered a stable text that represented and fostered continuity within the Church, but this article highlights instead its early development. It begins by identifying a previously unedited version of the text found in some tenth-century manuscripts, arguing that this long recension is the closest to the original form. It then turns to how the text was adapted in the tenth century, notably by Bishop Rather of Verona. It finally examines the changes made to the text when it was incorporated into the liturgy of synodal ordines in the early eleventh century. A transcription of the tenth-century recension, based on a Brussels manuscript, is provided as an appendix.

Incl. an edition of the text in Brussels MS 495-505, with varia in footnotes.

[ed.] [tr.] Anonymous, “The bishop of Argyll on the early Celtic church”, The Irish Ecclesiastical Record 4 (July 1868, 1868): 469–483.
477–480 Text from the Leabhar Breac.
[ed.] Malone, Sylvester, Church history of Ireland: from the Anglo-Norman invasion to the reformation, with succession of bishops down to the present day, 2 vols, vol. 2, 3rd ed., Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, 1880.
Internet Archive: <link>
267–268 [‘Appendix G’]
[tr.] Malone, Sylvester, Church history of Ireland: from the Anglo-Norman invasion to the reformation, with succession of bishops down to the present day, 2 vols, vol. 1, 3rd ed., Dublin: M. H. Gill & Son, 1880.
Internet Archive: <link>

English translation based on the text in IER 4, with occasional emendations in the footnotes.

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>
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
July 2023, last updated: January 2024