Liber Pontificalis (Book of Pontiffs)
The Liber Pontificalis is a rich source of information about liturgical practices in Rome.
The following excerpt concerning the life of Pope Stephen II (752-757) tells us something about
the celebration of the Night Office during his pontificate. Originally, the Night Office (Vigils or
Matins) was a long service of readings, responses, and psalms celebrated between midnight and
dawn. Clearly, by Pope Stephen's day, those responsible for celebrating this office had developed
the custom of performting the vigil earlier in the evening in order to receive the benefit of a full
night's sleep. Stephen reinstated the Night Office to its proper time and founded another
monastery of monks (the fourth) near St. Peter's Basilica to ensure the correct celebration of this
The lives of the popes found in the Liber Pontificalis through the ninth century have now
been published in an excellent English translation with extensive notes in three volumes by
Raymond Davis. The following is excerpted from the second volume.
Meanwhile the blessed pope [Stephen II], ever reflecting on the things of God, had the nighttime offices, which had become slack for a long time, carried out in the hours of the night, and in the same way he restored the daytime office as it had been of old. To the three monasteries which since ancient times perform this office at St. Peter's he added a fourth, and there he established monks who might thenceforth join together in the office, and he ordained an abbot over them. There he bestowed many gifts, both everything necessary for the monks in the monastery, and real estate outside; he established even to this day that with the other three monasteries they should chant in St. Peter's, prince of the apostles.
[Liber Pontificalis, trans. Raymond Davis, p. 68-69]
Raymond Davis, trans., The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis to AD 715), Translated
Texts for Historians, vol. 6 (Liverpool, 1989).
Raymond Davis, trans., The Lives of the Eighth-Century Popes (Liber Pontificalis),
Translated Texts for Historians, vol. 13 (Liverpool, 1992).
Raymond Davis, trans., The Lives of the Ninth-Century Popes (Liber Pontificalis),
Translated Texts for Historians, vol. 20 (Liverpool, 1995).