Obituary: Christopher Hohler

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The Independent Online
One important area of Christopher Hohler's work which Alan Borg's otherwise excellent obituary [19 February] did not adequately reflect is his contribution to liturgical scholarship, writes David Chadd.

The majority of Hohler's published papers, and many of his most perceptive reviews, were within this field. This was an area to which he devoted himself throughout his life and in which he made himself an unrivalled master. It was as if medieval liturgical history, with its formidable technical difficulties and its vast array of sources, potentially touching upon every part of intellectual and imaginative life, offered both the sort of challenge which he needed and the promise of the richest insights.

Each of his articles contained enough allusive reference to source material to provide the meat for four or five papers by lesser scholars. Some of his lasting contribution to the subject was more real than apparent, being chiefly in the encouragement of others' work.

In 1952 he was elected to membership of the Henry Bradshaw Society, which has existed since 1890 to publish editions of rare liturgical texts, and from 1954 until his death he served on its Council. In a number of the society's volumes he was effectively a collaborating editor, and one at least would not have appeared had he not, with typical self-effacement, dropped what he was doing and mastered its own material with sufficient thoroughness to put it into shape. His own proposed magnum opus for the society - a new critical edition of the Sarum Ordinal - foundered (he claimed) when he finally realised that he would never get to see the most geographically far-flung of its 200 or so manuscript sources.

But that piece of perfectionist diffidence, when lightly scratched, revealed an astonishingly extensive and detailed knowledge which could only have been acquired though thousands of patient hours spent in making transcriptions and notes (his archive is legendary) which were then pieced together into a series of breathtakingly imaginative and intricate patterns, each to be tested against his larger view of the medieval mind.