The daily observances that all monks followed, when adhering to the Benedictine rule, would have applied to Ramsey. The normal round of monastic life was built on the seven formal services, but by the mid-tenth century the larger Benedictine houses on the Continent extended this to ten:

[table id=4 /]

The Office in English Benedictine Houses

(modified at Easter and on some Feast Days)

Winter Horarium

Summer Horarium

1.30 am

Rise Trina oratio.Gradual Psalms


2 am

Nocturns(see Ramsey Psalter)Psalms ,etc for the Royal House short interval.

2.30 am

The office shown above was repeated with little change day by day. You can see the emphasis on psalms for the Royal House, this was because, devotion to the King as God’s representative on earth was an early feature of the Continental reform. Throughout Western Christendom, there was a common stock of saints’ days, which mostly commemorated the early fathers of the church, these were celebrated in the mass and litany. But each house had its own Calendar, in which a set of local saints’ days and specific observances were recorded.

Ramsey’s great Calendar, was one of the most detailed of its kind. For something approaching half the days of the year-on Sundays and the saints’ days with their octaves, together with feasts such as Epiphany and the Accension – the long office of 12 lessons were prescribed. It took possibly, several years or more from the foundation of a house before a full liturgy could be established.

Germanus we are told, was influential in developing a distinctive liturgy at Ramsey. We know from the writings of Byrhtferth and from the Chronicle of Ramsey that the services became immensely rich with an elaborate ritual and sophisticated choir and organ for feast days such as ? other abbeys in the country possessed. The endowment of the house would have been such, that well before the death of Archbishop Oswald and Earldorman Ailwyn in 992, it would have been capable of supporting a community of at least 40 monks.

Liturgical requirements dictated the architectural plan of the monastic church and outbuildings, which followed the current Frankish Benedictine taste. The church would have been richly decorated with wall-paintings, lit up with many candles on feast days, and hung with tapestries.

The Ramsey Chronicle tells us that King Edgar gave two bells costing 20 pounds, and Earldorman Ailwyn furnished the high altar in silver. The crypt altar was dedicated to St Gregory. Oswald also gave many relics, housed in two crosses made from 120 mancuses of gold, and a set of service books. Ailwyn translated to Ramsey the relics of the two martyred Kentish princes Ethelred and Ethelberht from his church in Wakering in Essex. While his wife Wulfgifu gave Brancaster in Norfolk to Ramsey, to help pay costs of the vestments for the monks.

Ramsey church also possessed an Organ, possibly the first to be installed in England, it was a gift from Earldorman Ailwyn at a cost of 30 pounds. The blown air appears to have been channelled through a series of pipes made of copper, which at that time was a precious commodity, covered by stops worked from the keyboard. The earliest keyboard would have consisted of wooden planks, requiring considerable force to depress them. It would have only covered a single octave, without half tones, and the bellows would have been worked by a small army of peasants. The sound which it produced, would have consisted of loud pulsating notes resounding ‘like thunder’ throughout the church.

These primitive arrangements meant that each note had to be held for a considerable period until the next could be brought into play, allowing only the simplest variations in the Gregorian chant. Because of these difficulties the organ was used only on feast days! for the rest of the liturgy, unaccompanied plainsong sufficed.

Some of the early Ramsey liturgy has been preserved in a Psalter of the Gallican rite, written at Ramsey and illustrated there by the greatest English artist of the last quarter of the tenth century. This was intended for use in the nocturns (night offices). The litany invokes St Benedict three times, it includes group of saints from the fenland, and three archbishops of York.

(Ref 6)