Christianity in 10 objects
This highly decorated manuscript is in fact an instruction book. The Liber Regalis, or Royal Book, is designed to help people organise and run a coronation, a special ceremony where a new king or queen is crowned. Although this manuscript was created in 1382, coronations have been taking place at Westminster Abbey since 1066, when William the Conqueror was crowned. Details of coronations have changed over the years, but the basic running order of this Christian ceremony remains the same, as explained in the Liber Regalis.
While we don’t know exactly who the Liber Regalis was made for, we know it was created before the coronation of King Richard II and Queen Anne of Bohemia. The illustrated pages, or illuminations, show a king alone, a queen alone and a king and queen together.
A coronation service is made up of different sections. The monarch is presented to the people (the Recognition), makes promises to their subjects and God (the Oath), are blessed with holy oil (the Anointing), and receive the royal regalia including a sword and an orb (the Investing) before finally being crowned.
Whilst the crowning of a new monarch may be the best-known highlight, a coronation service is actually a religious ceremony which takes place during Holy Communion. The most important and most holy part of the ceremony is the Anointing. This is where the Archbishop of Canterbury makes a cross with holy oil on the royal forehead, and elsewhere on the body, to show that the monarch has been chosen by God. The Liber Regalis shows us a Christian order of service that has been used for many hundreds of years.
Visit the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries to see the Liber Regalis, and many more objects, in real life. High above the Abbey floor, come face to face with the Abbey’s greatest treasures covering over 1,000 years of faith and history. Along with worship, examine objects that teach us about the building of Westminster Abbey, its role in national memory and its relationship with royalty.
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It’s very hard not to be enthusiastic working at the Abbey. If this place doesn’t make you smile I don’t know what will.