Conventuals and Conventions

The Barefoot Abbess and her nuns present the Missa Tridentina in the trappings of a conventual mass, which explains the lavish treatment of the opening prayer Exaudi nos... which seems so odd when heard after aspersions in a parish context, but which is so beautifully appropriate in a conventual context. In addition to the ordinary prayers of the Mass, the proper prefaces are also presented as the nuns appear on the scene carrying seasonal frontals for the altar.

Rubrics, Crossings, Percussions, and Genuflexions

Because this is primarily a work of kalligraphy, it must be acknowledged that decorative considerations have been given priority over rubrics, whose extent is more or less determined by whatever space is left for them. The large crosses are intended to mark the places where an ordinary worshipper might make the sign of the cross if following the most liberal rules for doing so. In practice this would generally coincide with the 'Any Imply'd Benediction' rule typical of Saurum usage. The small crosses directly above certain words represent places where the celibrant himself makes the sign of the cross either upon himself or over a holy vessel but is not to be follow'd in doing so by anyone else. This distinction applies only within the prayers of Mass itself, and does not carry over into the CANTICA HORARUM wherein a much freer usage is follow'd -- a freedom seen also in the poses of relative relaxation taken by the sisters who decorate these later pages. The miniscule abbreviation 'pc' (for percutit) is superscripted in orange over words whereupon it is customary to strike the breast. Miniature representations of nuns are used to indicate the postures appropriate at various places within the Mass. When a miniature nun is represented with only one bare foot shewing, she indicates a genuflexion.


Almost all Latin manuscripts are replete with abbreviations, some so widespread as to be virtually ubiquitous and arguably 'standard', others local and obscure. Mediæval scribes used them to save time as well as parchment. Barefoot Abbess confines herself to a bare handfull of the most common and well known abbreviations, and employs them primarily to justify lines, in a tradition closer to that of early printed books.

The use of a mark roughly resembling our numeral '7' as an ampersand predates the Gothic period by many centuries. Known as the Tironian ampersand because it is credited to Cicero's devoted stenographer Tiro, it is seen in Carolingian and Insular Scripts as well, and was not replaced by the '&' ampersand until the development of 'Roman' type faces. Latin's other way of expressing 'and', the enclitic '-que', also has a very standard abbreviation. A number of modifications to the letter 'p' have historically been used to represent the several Latin prefixes that begin with that letter. The crossing of the tail of a 'p' with a horizontal line to stand for the prefix and preposition 'per', is the most standard and best known. This is the only abbreviation whose use is extended from the ordinary Gothic 'minuscule' form to the 'uncial' form used for capitals.

Description: conjunctions and prepositions

The use of a full weight superbar (known in Latin as a 'vinculum', and not to be confused with the thin 'macron' sometimes used to mark a long vowel) to indicate a wide variety of abbreviations, but particularly forms which, if spelt out, would have ended in 'm' or 'n' is very common in some Gothic manuscripts. Barefoot Abbess uses the superbar in this way in the most miniscule for of the text as employ’d for rubrics, but in the main text uses it only over 'c' to stand for the conjunction 'cum', or for the related prefix which would spell out as either 'com' or con', preferring in all other situations to reduce a final 'm' to a miniature 'm' suspended over the previous character. Other final letters are likewise to be found suspended in miniature when a saving of space is needed.

The crossing of the tail of an 'R' to form an abbreviation is ancient and widespread. Barefoot Abbess does this to the full, 'uppercase' form of 'R' to form the rubric indicating that a line is to be spoken by the servers and/or congregation as a response. The fact that the form of 'R', known as 'rotunda', which resembles our numeral '2' and in all proper Gothic scripts follows 'b','d','o','p', and itself when doubled, retains the tail allows for a similar crossing, and this, by ancient and well known convention, is used to abbreviate the very common genitive plural masculine ending '-orum'. The type of 'r' which normally follows 'a' is this style, however, does not retain the tail, and so cannnot facilitate any similar abbreviation of the corresponding feminine suffix. In some scribal traditions, however, this was got round by allowing the crossed variant of 'r rotunda' to be counted as a separate glyph with separate rules which permitted it to follow (perhaps with modifications) letters which the normal 'r rotunda' would never normally follow. This special glyph appears twice in the Te Deum, but has been avoided elsewhere.

Description: abbreviated forms of the relative and interrogative pronouns

The crosierlike back spiral which appears above in the abbreviations for 'cujus' and 'quibus' has a history of use not only to stand for all cases of final '-us', but often for final '-os' as well, and in some manuscripts is also join'd to 'p' to represent 'post'. Barefoot Abbess, however, employs it only for a final '-us', and then only when the 'u' is short; using it frequently and readily as in the above examples with 'b' to indicate '-bus' in the dative/instrumental/ablative/locative plurals of 3rd, 4th, and 5th declension nouns, or with 'm' to indicate '-mus' in the first person plural active forms of verbs; using it more reluctantly to stand for a nominative singular '-us'; but never using it in any of the 4th declension endings wherein the 'u' has been lengthen'd -- effectively doubled -- through doing duty not only for the case suffix but for the stem vowel as well. A mark derived from the uppermost part of an ordinary 'r', but with the final upstroke exagerated into a curl, can be placed over a final 't' or 'm' to indicate the '-tur', '-mur', and '-ntur' endings of mediopassive verbs.

Description: abbreviated mediopassive forms

Accents and other minor marks:

An acute accent in bright purple is used to mark the vowel carrying the primary stress accent in words of three or more syllables. These represent the proper stress accents, according to the penultimate rule, when the words are simply spoken, but do not necessarily apply when the same words are chanted in various modes. The dot over an 'i' is imposed over any accent mark so as to leave only part of the underlying accent shewing. See example of enlarged text below.

A grave accent in bright orange is used to observe the Mediæval practice (which is continued and to an extent standardised in the Breviarium Romanum)of marking 'à' when it stands alone as a reduced form of the preposition 'ab' and the final vowels of certain adverbs and of conjunctions or prepositions being used as adverbs. This mark is reduced to only the lower half of a grave accent when the vowel is in fact short. An orange variant of the tiny ghost δ described below as marking the ablative singular of a noun or pronoun appears when such a form is traditionally given an adverbial mark.

A macron appears in bright yellow over any vowel that would have been long in Classical Latin poetry, but this macron is augmented in bright green when appearing over the final vowels of the case suffixes '-as', '-es', '-is', '-os', and '-us' wherever those vowels are long. This augmentation takes the form of a low rising apex on the left side of the macron in the case of the nominative plurals of third, fourth, and fith declension nouns. The similar appearing accusative plurals have instead an augmentation on the right side of the macron that resembles a small tilde (˜) indicating that the stem vowel has been lengthen'd though the absorption of an accusative marking 'm' or 'n' believed to have originally preceded the pluralising 's' in the Proto Aryan parent language. Other variations of the bright green augmentation appear in the long '-is' ending which absorbs, and thus apparently replaces the stem vowel in the plural oblique cases of first and second declension nouns; in the genitive singulars of fourth declension nouns; and in the rare cases (most notably the nominative and accusative plurals of the personal pronouns) where final '-os' is actually radical and not really a case ending at all. This serves primarily to distinguish plural forms from singulars that might otherwise appear similar. As with the acute accent, the dot over an 'i' is imposed atop such a macron so that only a part of it shews.

A mark suggestive of a miniaturized δ in bright green is used over a final vowel that has been left long after the disappearance of the final 'd' that originally distinguished the ablative singular in most declensions. Third declension nouns do not exhibit this because they have no stem vowels and thus could never form true ablatives on the regular Latin model, and thus had to employ an unrelated form to cover the instrumental, ablative, and locative cases of the singular. As to the few 'i' stem ablatives which present a long 'i': These may indeed be true ablatives contracted from an original '-id', but the tiny ghost δ could not combine acceptably with the dot over the 'i', and would therefore be omitted or displaced regardless of any linguistic argument. Those with an interest in such matters should consult L.R.Palmer, THE LATIN LANGUAGE, London, 1954. There are a few other instances of tiny ghost letters appearing in the text, most notably a miniaturized representation of the '-ui-' which regulararly marks the perfect forms of week verbs but in some instances, especially before the '-sti' of the second singular perfect, is frequently lost through contraction. Alternate spellings, such as temptationem/tentationem, are also noted in this way. A separate page on this site contains a very full discussion of the development of the Latin alphabet and its relationship to Latin phonology, spelling, and pronunciation.

Description: accents &c

A related set of marks is intended to indicate the transliteration of Greek vowels into Latin.

Description: Greek vowel equivalents

The examples given here for the long vowels shew them as they would appear in the text when carrying the primary stress accent according to the Penultimate Rule. In unaccented positions the marking colour would be bright teal rather than the bright purple used for accent marks. It will be noted that when a long Greek vowel has an iota subscripta it is normally a dative case ending. The corresponding Latin dative is generally similar, being likewise ultimately derived from a primordial '-ei' termination combining in various ways with the stem vowel. For this reason all dative singulars, whether of Greek or native Latin origin are similarly indicated by a bright green line crossing the the middle of the final vowel.