The Jubé (3): On the Danger of Abandoning Liturgical Tradition

What is a Jubé (Rood Screen)?
Chapter 1
Chapter 2

The first two chapters have served to introduce Fr. Thiers’ purpose. Charlotte Donnay’s article gave an excellent historical overview of the use of jubés covers Thiers’ middle chapters. We turn now to the final chapters of Fr. Thiers’ work to see his arguments in favor of liturgical tradition against innovation.

In this chapter of his Dissertation, Fr Thiers inveighs against the “ambonoclasts” who would destroy these ancient structures, noting that they thereby reveal their contempt for the ancient ceremonies of the church, wherein the jubé played an important part. He also mentions several other ancient customs he thinks ought to be revived.

The arguments are uncannily applicable, mutatis mutandis, to our post-conciliar iconoclasm.

Chap. XXVI

That the Destruction of Jubés Betrays Contempt for the Ancient Ceremonies of the Church

The jubé of St Étienne-du-Mont is the only one that remains standing in Paris.

One can hardly have too much respect for the ancient ceremonies of the Church. Their reasons are profound and well-established; they encompass the greatest mysteries; they are admirably suited—when one knows their content and spirit—to elevate our thoughts toward God, to incite in us lofty reflexions about our holy religion, to bolster our piety, and to reinforce our faith.

The Council of Trent did well in declaring anathema upon him who “saith, that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, wont to be used in the solemn administration of the sacraments, may be contemned, or without sin be omitted at pleasure by the ministers, or be changed, by every pastor of the churches, into new ones.”[1]

Yet, notably, the Ambonoclasts have failed to reflect upon this. Had they considered that jubés have always been present in the Church; that they exist for holy purposes, especially the public reading of the Gospel; that this reading is an integral part of Solemn Mass; that the ceremonies that precede, accompany, and follow it are received and approved by the Catholic Church, and authorized by tradition and the consent of all the centuries; if, I say, they had considered all these things, they would not have made such a considerable break with the ancient custom of the Church as the one made by destroying the jubés. They would not have believed, as one suspects them of believing, that one can skip and omit the ceremonies practiced thereupon, and introduce novel ones in their place. Verily, they would not have exposed themselves to incurring the excommunication whereof the Council of Trent speaks!

But none of this has stopped them. They imagine that churches are incomparably lighter, more beautiful, and more magnificent without jubés. And architects, who make up in hunger what they lack in employment, are resolutely convinced of this illusion.

The jubé of Saint-Ursmer in Binche survived only by being moved to the reverse of the façade and transformed into a choir loft.

The Ambonoclasts would doubtless have acted entirely differently if they had consulted experts of sacred history and ecclesiastical discipline rather than architects who are much more competent in the five orders of architecture—the Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite—than in the order of the Church. And though it is by this latter order that the structure of the temples of the living God ought to be regulated, it is precisely this that has been ignored by destroying jubés. Our forefathers, on the other hand, followed this order, as is evinced by the jubés they either newly built or restored in a multitude of churches, without heeding the petty reasons the architects of their day might have invoked against them.

They also had quite a different perspective on the ancient practices of the Church than these architects. Our forefathers regarded these practices as invented by the Spirit of God, and, following this thought, they reckoned it their pious duty to observe them with exactitude. Divine Providence has, from time to time, brought forth great men who have guarded ancient practices against the torrent of evil customs, or revived them in the midst of the relaxations of discipline the Church has been obliged to tolerate during certain centuries. It is difficult to go astray in imitating the conduct of these great men, which is the conduct of the Church herself.

Thus, for example, since the intention of the Church has ever been that the faithful communicate at Mass before the Postcommunion, one must, insofar as it is possible, avoid administering the Holy Eucharist at any other time. Indeed, Walafrid Strabo[2] and Durandus,[3] bishop of Mende, assert that that is the true time of communion: hence, as Radulph of Rivo[4] also observes, the orations called the Post-communionare said only for those who communicated during the Mass. As the Lord Cardinal Bona indicates,[5] to communicate before or after Mass is a manifest contravention of the sacred ceremonies of the Church. It is to break the unity of the feast of Jesus Christ, who is but one for both the priest and for the people, and make it into two separate feasts—one for the priest alone at Mass, and the other for the people before or after Mass—for ultimately the custom of communicating after Mass is so new that Fr Morin says[6] that it was first introduced by the mendicant orders into the Church.[7]

Likewise, since entry into church choirs is prohibited to laymen, one must keep this prohibition—as far as prudence allows—for it is in conformity with the Canon Sacerdotum[8]; the Council of Laodicea[9]; the Second Council of Tours[10]; St Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, in 567[11]; the Capitularies of Charlemagne and Louis the Fair[12]; the Roman Council under Eugene II in 828[13]; the Capitularies of Herardus, Archbishop of Tours[14]; the Council of Cognac around 1255[15]; the Acts of the Church of Milan[16]; the Provincial Council of Toledo in 1566[17]; Pope St Pius V[18]; Giovanni Battista Costanzo, bishop of Cosenza[19]; the Provincial Council of Rouen in 1581[20]; that of Rheims in 1583[21]; that of Aix in 1585[22]; that of Mexico in the same year[23]; to the Ceremonial of Bishops[24]; the Ceremonial of Paris[25]; the Synods of Alet from 1640 to 1674[26]; the Ritual of Alet[27]; and the conduct of the great St Charles Borromeo[28].

Likewise, according to the discipline of the first centuries, which is known through the author of the Apostolic Constitutions[29], St Cyril of Jerusalem[30], St Ambrose[31], St Augustine[32], the Incomplete Commentary on St Matthew[33], and many other ecclesiastical writers[34], men were separated from women in church, either men being on the epistle side and women on the gospel side[35], or men being towards the front of the nave and the women towards the back of the nave[36]. Everything would be better if this discipline were to be brought back—as St Charles Borromeo himself did in the main churches of Milan, according to the reports of Francesco Bernardino Ferrari[37]—for it would remedy a plethora of disorders committed in the house of God.

Likewise, since women should never enter into church choirs, not even to make their offerings therein—for of yore laymen only entered into them for that purpose[38]—priests would act in complete accordance with the spirit of the holy canons if, when they have offerings to make at the Altar, they should go to the front of the nave to receive them, under the Crucifix, as is observed in many well-ordered churches, especially in Milan, where the Lord Cardinal Bona attests[39]that still today the old men of the school of St. Ambrose present their offerings to the celebrant at the door of the sanctuary, whereas the women present them to him at the entrance of the lower choir.

The Ambonoclasts have taken an opposite path, suppressing the ancient practice and ancient ceremonies of singing the Gospel on the jubés. It is nevertheless clear that, speaking generally, one could not do better than to attach oneself religiously to the ancient customs of the Church, especially when they are of this nature, that is, when they are marked by these two characteristics: that they are founded on authority and reason, and they have not been abrogated by any law, or by any contrary custom.

The old jubé and choir of Notre-Dame de Paris. The jubé, built in the 12th century, was replaced by a new jubé in the 17th century, which was itself destroyed in the 18th. Note the two lecterns and the veils surrounding the high altar.


[1]Sess. 7, On the Sacraments in General, Canon XIII.
[2]Liber de rebus ecclesiasticis, Chapter 2.
[3]Rationale, bk. 4, ch., 54, n. 1.
[4]L. de Canon. Observant. propos. 23.
[5]Rer. Liturg., bk. 2ch. 20, n. 2
[6]De pœnit. bk. 8, ch. 9 § 14, n.2
[7]Ed. note: The mendicant order have been accused of introducing novelties elsewhere.
[8]De Consecratione, dist. 2.
[9]Can. 19
[10]Can. 4
[11]Theor. rerum. ecclesiast.
[12]Bk. 6, art. 203.
[13]Ch. 33.
[14]Ch. 82
[15]Ch. 23
[16]Bk. 3, tit. 23, de Celebr. Miss.
[17]Art. 3, ch. 15
[18]Ep. 10, book 2
[19]3. Part. des Avertiss. aux Curez. tit. 3. c. 9.
[20]Tit. de Cultu Divin. c. 100 de Eucharistia
[21]de Eucharistia
[22]Tit. de Choro
[23]Book 3, tit. 15, § 4.
[24]Bk. 1, ch. 13
[25]I. part. 3
[26]Tit. 3, n. 12 and 13
[27] Instruction 7
[28]M. Godeau, in his Life, bk. 1, ch. 14.
[29]Book 2, ch. 61
[30]Præfat. ad Cateches.
[31]L. ad Virgin. laps., ch. 6
[32]De Civit. book 2, ch. 28, and book 22. ch. 8
[33]Homil. 74
[34]See them in Duranti, De. Rit. Eccles. 1, ch. 18, no. 2; Francesco Bernardino Ferrari, De Sacris Concio., book 2, ch. 20, M. de Laubespine De L’Ancienne Police &c., book 2, ch. 9; Scorza, De Sacros. Miss. Sacrif. book 2, ch. 13, no. 13; Ferrari De Sacris Cerem., book 2, ch. 20; Bona, Rer. Liturg., book 1, ch. 20, no. 6; Allatio Epist. 1 ad Johan. Morin. de recentior Græcor. templiis, p. 152 & 153.
[35]Ord. Rom. de Offic. Miss.; Amalarius, De Eccles. Offic.,book 3, ch. 2; Micrologusch. 9; Radulphus de Rivo, De Canon. Observ. propos. 23; Durandus, Ration., book 1, ch. 2, n. 46
[36]Durandus, ibid, book 4., ch. 2, n. 46 mentions both
[37]Loc. cit.
[38]See Cardinal Bona, Rer. Lit. book 2, c. 9., n. 1
[39]Ibid., book 1, ch. 10, n. 3

4 thoughts on “The Jubé (3): On the Danger of Abandoning Liturgical Tradition

  1. “Thus, for example, since the intention of the Church has ever been that the faithful communicate at Mass before the Postcommunion, one must, insofar as it is possible, avoid administering the Holy Eucharist at any other time.”

    Most interesting that this practice of the faithful communicating outside the Mass should have gone on for so many centuries.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s