Authored by Cynthia Turner Camp and Madison Hogan

In most Books of Hours, the Hours of the Virgin are the central text. The Hours are an eight-part “office” or sequence of hymns, psalms, lessons, and responses; each part is meant to be said at one of the eight canonical hours of the day (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline) as a simplification of the services said daily by monks and nuns. The Hargrett Hours, on the other hand, contains the Long Hours of the Passion as its defining office; the Hours of the Virgin are absent (although that may be due to the loss of leaves between the Calendar and the Hours of the Passion). This possible substitution of the Hours of the Passion for the Hours of the Virgin is unusual but not unprecedented, contributing to the Hargrett Hours’ intense focus on Christ’s passion throughout its central sections.

The Long Hours of the Passion is a meditation on the Passion of Christ in office form; for the most part, each Hour is dedicated to a different moment in the sequence of events through the Crucifixion and death of Jesus. There are several short offices (the Hours of the Cross, the Short Hours of the Passion) dedicated to the Passion that appear regularly in Books of Hours alongside the Hours of the Virgin (Wieck 89-93); however, the Long Hours of the Passion is not a common text. In an extensive survey of digitized manuscripts undertaken in 2017-18, Madison Hogan found the Long Office of the Passion to appear in less than 15% of Books of Hours.

Unlike the Hours of the Virgin, which are standardized according to regional custom or Use, the Long Hours of the Passion show minimal uniformity. Tackling the question of standardization, Madison Hogan compared the hymns and psalms that appeared in different versions of the Hours of the Passion. She discovered that there is a standard set of hymns that define the Long Hours of the Passion, but that the psalms chosen to accompany each Hour vary widely. There is, nevertheless, a common or preferred set of psalms that frequently but not invariably appear as a set.

Hour Hargrett Hours Hymn Hargrett Hours Psalm*
Matins [Matins is missing] [Matins is missing]
Lauds Christum ducem qui per crucem 58 [incomplete]
Prime Tu qui velatus 2 [incomplete]
Terce Qui hora ductus tertia 108, “Deus laudem meam”
Sext Crucem pro nobis subiit 21, “Deus deus respice quare”
None Beata christi passio sit 68, “Salvum me fac deus”
Vespers Qu pressura mortis 56, “Misere mei deus”
Compline 34, “Iudica me domine”

*Vulgate numbering is given

The Hargrett Hours’ Long Office of the Passion contains the standard set of hymns and the common set of psalms (with the exception of Compline), suggesting that it falls in the mainstream textual tradition.

Although the Long Hours of the Passion have been said to be “a longer version of the Hours of the Cross” (Wieck 89), their origins have also been associated with St. Bonaventure and Sainte-Chapelle. According to convention, the Long Hours of the Passion were created by St. Bonaventure (1221-1274), a Franciscan friar and meditative writer whose writings greatly influenced the character of late medieval Passion devotion. The standard hymns (but not the common psalms) appear in versions that are directly attributed to him (Sticca 146, 158-59). Also according to convention, Bonaventure composed the Long Hours of the Passion at the request of the King Louis IX (r. 1226-1270) (Sticca 146), the holy King of France who also commissioned Sainte-Chapelle to be built as the royal chapel and treasury for the Passion relics that he had collected. Although there is currently no reason to see the Long Hours of the Passion as a distinctively Sainte-Chapelle custom — its textual distribution was widespread beyond Paris — its presence in the Hargrett Hours is one more element that may link this manuscript with the royal chapel.

Future student work will finalize an edition of the Long Office of the Passion for this website, confirm Madison Hogan’s 2017-18 discoveries, and extend research into its connections to Bonavenure and Sainte-Chapelle.



Sticca, Sandro. “‘Officium Passionis Domini’: An Unpublished Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century.” Franciscan Studies 34 (1973): 144-99.

Wieck, Roger. Time Sanctified, George Brazillier, 1988.