A breviary (Latin: breviarium) is a liturgical book used in Christianity for praying the canonical hours, usually recited at seven fixed prayer times.
Historically, different breviaries were used in the various parts of Christendom, such as Aberdeen Breviary, Belleville Breviary, Stowe Breviary and Isabella Breviary, although eventually the Roman Breviary became the standard within the Roman Catholic Church; in other Christian denominations such as the Lutheran Churches, different breviaries continue to be used, such as The Brotherhood Prayer Book.
In the Catholic Church, Pope Nicholas III approved a Franciscan breviary, for use in that religious order, and this was the first text that bore the title of breviary. However, the "contents of the breviary, in their essential parts, are derived from the early ages of Christianity", consisting of psalms, Scripture lessons, writings of the Church Fathers, as well as hymns and prayers.
The ancient breviary of the Bridgettines had been in use for more than 125 years before the Council of Trent and so was exempt from the Constitution of Pope Pius V which abolished the use of breviaries differing from that of Rome.
In 2015, The Syon Breviary of the Bridgettines was published for the first time in English (from Latin). This was done in celebration of the 600th anniversary of Syon Abbey, founded in 1415 by King Henry V. Following the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Communion, in 1916, the Anglican Breviary was published by the Frank Gavin Liturgical Foundation.
In Lutheranism, the Diakonie Neuendettelsau religious institute uses a breviary unique to the order; For All the Saints: A Prayer Book for and by the Church, among many other breviaries such as The Daily Office: Matins and Vespers, Based on Traditional Liturgical Patterns, with Scripture Readings, Hymns, Canticles, Litanies, Collects, and the Psalter, Designed for Private Devotion or Group Worship, are popular in Lutheran usage as well.
In Oriental Orthodox Christianity, the canonical hours of the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Indian Orthodox Church are contained within the Shehimo breviary; the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria has the Agpeya breviary and the Armenian Apostolic Church has the Sharagnots or Zhamagirk (cf. Octoechos (liturgy)#Armenian Šaraknoc').
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Divine Office is found in the Horologion.
It is the Franciscan breviary deriving from the second rule of the order approved by Innocent III in 1223 that for the first time expressly bears the name breviarium: Clerici facient divinum offocoum secundum ordinem sanctae Romanae Ecclesia excepto Psalterio, ex quo habere poterunt breviaria ["The clerics will celebrate the Office according to the ordo of the holy Roman Church, except for the psalter which they may use in shortened forms"].
The Goths of Spain had their Breviary; the French Church had its Breviary; England—"the Breviary of Salisbury"—and Scotland, "the Breviary of Aberdeen"—all which, along with many more evidences of the independence of national churches, Rome has laboured to obliterate by commanding the exclusive use of the Roman Breviary, and thus extinguishing every appearance of a divided worship, and of independent national and self-regulated churches.
The contents of the breviary, in their essential parts, are derived from the early ages of Christianity. They consist of psalms, lessons taken from the Scriptures, and from the writings of the Fathers, versicles and pious sentences thrown into the shape of the antiphons, responses, or other analogous forms, hymns and prayers.
The Reverend Frank Gavin had himself suggested such a work as early as 1916.