From the Latin breviarium, "an abridgement." Historically, a book of convenience containing but a seasonal part of the Divine Office that emerged during the Middle Ages. As a condensed tome it could appear only after the contents and form of this liturgical prayer were more or less fixed and widely used, and after the obligation of daily recitation was regarded as resting upon individual persons rather than upon a religious community or local church.
In general, by the 7th century the Roman Divine Office was more or less fixed in form and content; Carolingian Europe, with its liturgical imports from Rome and its own traditions, had its Office firmly molded by the 10th century. Fixed in content, this Office rendered by community, monastic or diocesan, was solemn in form and required many books and several ministers; the congregation participated without books by reciting Psalms and responses from memory or responding to the Psalms with refrains.
The first Breviaries were choir books that gathered the Office material from many books into one. These began to appear as early as the 11th century. Portable Breviaries did not develop until the obligation devolved from the community to the individual. The first real need for the portable Breviary arose with the appearance of the mendicant orders, groups of religious who in their apostolate did not reside in a community yet desired to remain united in prayer. The need became acute with the rapid expansion of the Franciscan Order in the 13th century.
Innocent III had already approved a shortened version of the Office for the members of his curia. It was this convenient book that the Franciscans adopted. Further revised by Haymo of Faversham, general of the order in 1240, the Breviary was spread throughout Europe by his friars. And the printing press later made it easily available on a large scale, whereas the printing on a small scale of local Offices, non-Roman Breviaries, had become prohibitive.
Before the reforms of Trent this same Breviary grew cumbersome with new saints' feasts; these feast days vied with one another for prominence, obscuring the centrality of the mysteries of Christ. Pius V in 1568, in accord with the reform of the Council of Trent, imposed this Breviary universally, ruling out any Office not 200 years old. Piecemeal revisions since Trent were insufficient to address its deficiencies, making apparent the need for a thorough reform at Vatican II.
Bibliography: p. salmon, The Breviary through the Centuries, tr. d. mary (Collegeville, Minn. 1962). j. a. jungmann, Pastoral Liturgy (New York 1962); Public Worship: A Survey, tr. c. howell (Collegeville, Minn. 1957). p. parsch, The Breviary Explained, tr. w. nayden and c. hoegerl (St. Louis 1952). s. campbell, From Breviary to Liturgy of the Hours: The Structural Reform of the Roman Office, 1964–1971 (Collegeville 1995). g. guiver, Company of Voices: Daily Prayer and the People of God (New York 1988). r. taft, The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West: The Origins of the Divine Office and its Meaning for Today 2nd rev. ed. (Collegeville 1993).
[r. t. callahan/eds.]