A Sequence for St Charlemagne

During the Age of Faith, a number of churches in France and Germany kept the feast of the Most Serene and August Emperor Charles on 28 January, but his cultus always enjoyed its greatest popularity in his beloved city of Aachen. The city has long reciprocated Charlemagne’s unaccountable love for their fœtid hot water springs, and, with the approbation of the Holy See, has for centuries sung this admirable sequence at Mass in honour of its Cæsarian patron.

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The students of the University of Paris toast their patron St Charlemagne on his feast day.

The stanzas in italics are present in the earliest attested copy of this sequence (Aachen MS. G13), but not in the 1931 supplement to the Missal for the diocese of Aachen.

Urbs Aquensis, urbs regalis,
regni sedes principalis,
prima regum curia.
Regi regum pange laudes,
quae de magni regis gaudes
Karoli præsentia.
City of Aachen! Royal city!
Foremost seat of the foremost kingdom!
Chief court of kings!
Sing praises to the king of kings,
thou who rejoicest in the presence
of the great king Charles.
Iste cœtus psallat laetus,
psallat chorus hic sonorus
vocali concordia.
At dum manus operatur
bonum, quod cor meditatur,
dulcis est psalmodia.
Let this glad assembly sing!
Let this melodious quire sing
with harmonious voices!
But when the hand effects
the good that the heart doth meditate,
sweet is the psalmody!
Hac in die, die festa,
magni regis magna gesta
recolat Ecclesia.
Reges terrae, et omnes populi,
omnes simul plaudant
et singuli celebri lætitia.
On this day, this festive day,
the great deeds of a great king
let the Church recall.
Let the kings of the earth and all the people,
each and all applaud
with a joyful celebration.
Hic est Christi miles fortis,
hic invictae dux cohortis,
ducum sternit milia.
Terram purgat lolio,
atque metit gladio
ex messe zizania.
He is the mighty knight of Christ,
he the commander of an army unvanquished:
he casteth down a thousand chieftains.
He weedeth the earth of its tares,
and with his sword cutteth away
the cockle from the harvest.
Hic est magnus imperator,
boni fructus bonus sator
et prudens agricola.
Infideles hic convertit,
fana,[1] deos hic evertit
et confringit idola.
He is the great emperor,
the good sower of good fruit,
and a wise husbandman.
He converteth the heathen,
he overturneth their temples and gods,
and shattereth their idols.
Hic superbos domat reges,
hic regnare sacras leges
facit cum justitia,
quam tuetur eo fine,
ut et justus sed nec sine
sit misericordia.
He subdueth haughty kings,
he upholdeth hallowed laws
with justice,
which he protecteth in order
that he mayest be just,
but not without mercy.
Oleo laetitiae
unctus dono gratiae
ceteris prae regibus.
Cum corona gloriae,
majestatis regiae
insignitur fascibus.
With the oil of gladness
he is anointed, and with the gift of grace,
afore all other kings.
With the crown of glory
he is bedecked, and with the
fasces of kingly majesty.
O rex, mundi triumphator,
Jesu Christi conregnator,
sis pro nobis exorator,
sancte pater Karole,
emundati a peccatis,
ut in regno claritatis,
nos, plebs tua, cum beatis
cæli simus incolæ.
O king! Conqueror of the world!
Who reignest together with Jesus Christ!
Be for us a suppliant,
O holy father Charles!
That cleansed from our sins,
in the heavenly kingdom,
we, thy people, might with the blessed
be dwellers of heaven.
Stella maris, o Maria,
mundi salus, vitae via,
vacillantum rege gressus
et ad regem des accessus
in perenni gloria.
Star of the sea! O Mary!
Salvation of the world! Way of life!
Guide our faltering steps
and grant us audience with the king
in glory everlasting.
Christe, splendor Dei Patris,
incorruptae fili matris,
per hunc sanctum, cujus festa
celebramus, nobis praesta
sempiterna gaudia. Amen.
Christ, splendour of God the Father,
Son of an inviolate mother,
by this saint, whose feast
we celebrate, vouchsafe to us
eternal joy. Amen.
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Charles IV reading the seventh Lesson at Christmas Matins, Cambrai, 1377 (BN MS 2813, fol 467v)



[1] Phanos in MS. G13

The Destruction of the Ancient Cistercian Rite

Although in promulgating the Tridentine books St Pius V made it clear proper liturgical uses of proven antiquity were to survive,[1] a centralizing Spirit of the Council of Trent nevertheless did lead to the suffocation of many such venerable uses. The Cistercian use is one example, and Archdale King here tells the turbulent story of its vicissitudes in the wake of the Pian reform.

An excerpt from Liturgies of the Religious Orders by Archdale A. King, The Bruce Publishing Co., 1955.

The beginning of the Canon, from a Missal used at Rievaulx (BL MS Add. 46203, f. 49).

The continued existence of the traditional rite of the Order was never threatened by the reforming activities of St Pius V (1566-1572). The bull Quo primum tempore (1570) expressly approved the use of liturgies which would show a continuous usage of at least two hundred years, and that of the Cistercians had been in existence for four hundred. It was not, therefore, a privilege that the Pope granted when he confirmed the Cistercian use, but rather a right that he respected.[2] The constitution Ex innumeris curis (1570), which was addressed to the Cistercians, affirmed that the Order should preserve its liturgy intact both for Mass and Office. It desired “the whole Order to celebrate the holy Sacrifice of the Mass and all the offices of the day and night according to the rite proper to the Order.”[3] Two years previously, the same holy Pontiff had informed the Congregation of Castile in the bull Intra cordis (25 October 1568) that his liturgical reform concerned only those churches and religious houses in which the Office should be, or had been, celebrated according to the rite of the Roman Church. Pius IX (1846-1878), recalling his saintly predecessor, said that it was altogether lawful (jure inde ac merito) for the illustrious Cistercian family to maintain intact its liturgical tradition:[4] an opinion confirmed by the Congregation of Rites on 8 March 1913.

Such indeed may be Rome’s views on the question, but there had been, three centuries before, a general abandonment of Cistercian liturgical formulas at the behest of religious who desired “novelty” rather than tradition.[5]

A depiction of the celebration of Mass in the Opusculum of Jacobus Anglicus, a 14th-century Cistercian at Oxford (BL MS Royal 6E VI, f.246b).

As early as 1573 Wettingen and Marienstadt had already adopted the Roman rite as exemplified in the books of the Pian reform, although in that very year we find the abbot of Cîteaux, Nicholas I Boucherat, visiting houses in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and Luxemburg, in all of which he impressed upon the religious their duty to maintain the rite proper to the Order.[6] His successor, Edme de la Croix, was invited by the general chapter of 1601 to write a treatise on the Cistercian liturgy, but the “landslide” could not be averted. Several houses had already discontinued the O Salutaris after the consecration and the psalm Laetatus sum after the Pater noster in the Mass. The chapter of 1601 had made it clear that the old rite was to be maintained,[7] but love of novelty proved too strong, and the “reforming” work was accelerated.

The reading of the Gospel at the traditional Cistercian Mass celebrated in Hauterive.

Two abbots of Cîteaux stand out in respect to the so-called “reform”: Nicholas II Boucherat (1604-1625), under whom the axe was laid at the root of the traditional rite, and Claude Vaussin (1643-1670), who gathered up the fragments that remained in the liturgical books at present in use.

The general chapter of 1605 passed a number of disquieting measures which legalized various Roman practices. Nicholas II seems to have been authorized to draw up a statement on the traditional rite, but the statutes that were passed showed clearly the trend of events, and we find by way of a preface: Ut Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae, quoad fieri potest, conformetur, deinceps… The concessions included the suppression of the Alleluia in the time of Septuagesima, use of the Roman martyrology until a new Cistercian edition is forthcoming, suppression of the daily Mass for the dead on Sundays and feasts of sermon and of the Apostles, the adoption of all the Roman feasts in the calendar, and permission for those in Poland and Prussia, who say Mass outside the enclosure, to follow the Roman ordo missae.[8]

A first move in the alteration of the liturgical texts appears to have come from the Congregation of Lombardy and Tuscany, which produced a Romanized breviary at Venice in 1608, in which the three last days of Holy Week were simply and solely the Roman office. The book received the approbation, not only of the general chapter of the Congregation, but also of the abbot of Cîteaux. Changes became well-nigh universal in the Order, and the general chapter of 1609 is forced to admit that the uniformity of rite prescribed in the Charter of Charity exists no longer, save in a few houses: quod tamen paucis in monasteriis observatur.

A final attempt was made to save the traditional liturgy, and restore the broken unity: intermissam unitatem restituere cupiens. The general chapter ordered a revision of the liber usuum,[9] with John Martienne, abbot of Cherlieu, as editor, and also the insertion of the ordinarium missae at the beginning of the missal, together with a repeal of the permission to celebrate Mass according to the Roman ordo missae.[10] Ancient Cistercian missals did not have a ritus servandus in celebratione missarum,[11] and it was prescribed for the first time in 1609: Ritus missarum juxta Ordinis consuetudinuem celebrandarum excure et accurate descriptus ac initio Missalium de caetero praeponendus. The decree was never put into force, save later in the Congregation of Castile, and the ordo missae in the missal of 1617 was taken from the Roman rite.[12]

The forces of the liturgical “modernists” were too strong for the traditionalists, and the Romanizing of the liturgy proceeded without serious interruption.

In 1611, religious of the Order were permitted to say private Masses according to the Roman rubrics, and in the same year the general chapter of the Italian Feuillants (Congregation of St Bernard), held at Pignerol in Piedmont, decided to “reform” their breviary. Other members of the Order wished to adopt the monastic breviary, which had been authorized by Pope Paul V in 1612.

Permission was given by the general chapter and the abbot of Cîteaux for Mass to be celebrated juxta ritum romanum, and in 1617 a breviary and a missal appeared for the use of the whole Order. It was the last time that a liturgical book was to have so wide a circulation. The breviary was largely the same as the Lombard breviary of 1608, with the Roman office for the Triduum sacrum in place of the Cistercian office. The traditional rite was, in the main, preserved, but the book lacked harmony and unity. As for the missal,[13] the Roman rubrics were amplified, prayers before and after Mass were added, and the ritus celebrandi inserted: Ritus celebrandi Missam secundum usum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae in gratiam illorum religiosorum Ordinis nostri Cisterciensis, hic inserti, quibus eorundem utendorum a RR. D. nostro Generali Cisterciensi aut Capitulo ejusdem Ordinis generali facta fuerit potestas.

The repudiation of the traditional rite was consummated in the following year (1618), and the general chapter formally adopted the Roman ritus celebrandi:

Henceforth it is ordered that both conventual and private Mass will be celebrated according to the Roman rite and ceremonies by all abbots and monks without exception. Wherefore, let the psalm Judica me, Deus, the Confiteor, and other things be said as described in the Roman rite. The Missal and Office of the Order, however, shall be retained, except that the psalm Laetatus sum and the collects associated thereto shall be omitted.[14]

The same general chapter ordered, also, the text of the lectionary to conform to that of the Roman breviary.

Hard and unjust things were said about the ancient liturgy, and in 1622 St. Francis de Sales, when acting as president at the general chapter of the Feuillants, openly advocated the adoption of the reformed Roman breviary. He said that the “offensive, childish, and obscure” parts of the old Cistercian texts were incompatible with the dignity of the Church.[15]    In 1623, the general chapter of Cîteaux discussed the question of the correction of the breviary, but it was decided that no substantial changes were to be made: ita tamen ut essentialia remaneant.[16] In 1626 the traditional psalter was replaced by a form of the Sexto-Clementine Vulgate.[17] Liturgical unrest was in the air, and editions of the breviary appeared in 1627, 1641, 1646, and 1648: precision, order, and harmony were sadly lacking. A new edition of the missal, sponsored by Cardinal Richelieu, commendatory abbot of Cîteaux, was printed in 1643. Feelings ran high, and the authority of the general chapter was considerably weakened by the existence of independent Congregations.

The constant liturgical changes in the time of Nicholas II had produced the greatest confusion, and it was left to Claude Vaussin, who was elected in 1645, to produce liturgical books that would be definitive and permanent. The general chapter of 1651 accepted the principle of a new reform, and appointed a commission for the purpose.[18] The Romeward trend had gone too far to admit of a return to the status quo ante, and the Congregation of Rites had encouraged houses to adopt the Pian books which were considerably shorter than those of the Order. In the first place, Dom Claude was faced with the problem, how was it possible to harmonize the Cistercian consuetudines with the Roman rubrics? The result would necessarily be a hybrid, which has been well described by a Cistercian abbot of our own times: What was carried out was not a reform but a deformation of the traditional liturgy that transformed it into a hybrid that came to be called the Cistercian-Roman Rite, the modern Cistercian rite, or the reformed rite.”[19] It would, however, be unjust to the memory of Claude Vaussin to lay the responsibility for the actual hybrid liturgy at his door, and it was thanks to him that the Order has preserved a vestige of the traditional rite.[20]

Vaussin, Claude
The Lord Claude Vaussin, Abbot of Cîteaux and defender of Cistercian custom.

The liturgical commission presented its conclusions to the general chapter of 1654,[21] and two years later (1656) the breviary was published: Breviarium cisterciense juxta Romanum. The monitum at the beginning of the book expresses the intentions of Dom Claude to maintain the Benedictine ordo of the Office and to safeguard the groundwork of the ancient Cistercian rite.[22] The missal appeared in the following year (1657): Missale cisterciense juxta novissimam Romani recognitum correctionem.[23] The ordo Missae Romanus was introduced, together with the ritus celebrandi of the Roman missal, the general rubrics (verbatim) and a new classification of feasts, while retaining the old vocabulary. A certain amount of confusion and difficulty was caused, as the ritus celebrandi was not always in agreement with the Cistercian consuetudines, and it became evident that a ceremonial of ritual was a vital necessity.

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The first edition of Vaussin’s missal.

Such was the Vaussin compromise, but, notwithstanding its tacit approval by Rome, it was in jeopardy at the hands of those whom nothing short of the actual Pian rite would satisfy. The Congregations of Lombardy and of the Feuillants bitterly attacked the new books. Hilarion Rancati, abbot of S. Croce in Gerusalemme (Rome) and John Bona, abbot of S. Bernardo (Rome), had prepared “reformed” books for the use of the Order, and it was particularly galling that they should have been forestalled by the abbot of Cîteaux. Rancati, who was a consultor to the Congregation of Rites, demanded an examination of the breviary of 1656 on the ground that its compilers had acted without the approval of the Holy See. In January 1660 the Congregation submitted the breviary to Cardinal Franciotto, but it was agreed not to give a decision till the procurator of the abbot Cîteaux had arrived. Notwithstanding this, however, a new decree suspended the breviary of Vaussin (24 July), and directed Cardinals Franciotto and d’Este to produce another edition. Rancati had won the first round, and there was the possibility that his breviary would be approved for the Order.  John Bona, who wanted neither the breviary of Vaussin nor that of Rancati, seeing that there was little hope of his own book being accepted, thereupon proposed the adoption of the monastic breviary of Paul V.

A decree was obtained from the Congregation of Rites to the effect that, while the use of the ancient breviary was forbidden, the various 17th-century reforms were also ultra vires. The Order, says the decree, was committed to the monastic breviary, with the addition of the offices of our Lady and of the dead. The procurator of the abbot of Cîteaux attempted to intervene, but a second decree, issues on 23 July of the same year (1661), merely repeated the injunction of 2 July. A year’s grace was permitted before the monastic breviary became obligatory, but the Feuillants and the Congregation of Lombardy and Tuscany adopted it immediately, and also the missal of Pius V; while the rest of the Order continued with the books of Claude Vaussin. The abbot of Cîteaux was profoundly attached to the Cistercian rite, and he applied through his procurator for an extension of the reprieve. On 3 June 1662 the Congregation of Rites directed that he could keep his liturgical books usque ad Capitulum generale in quo possit deliberari super provisione novorum codicum. The Pope disapproved of this concession,[24] but the abbot of Cîteaux was determined to continue the struggle and, in order to facilitate the retention of the books, he resolved to make the liturgical reform part of the general reform of the Order.

A brief of January 1662 declared the reforming activities of Cardinal de la Rouchefoucauld and the other commissaries who had been authorized by the Holy See to be null and void, and an assembly for the general reform of Cîteaux was summoned to the supreme tribunal of Rome. The judges were to be no longer members of the Congregation of Rites, but a commission of cardinals. The supplica presented by the Cistercian procurator was astutely worded, with the question of the liturgical books made part of the general reform. The ruse succeeded, and the Pope (Alexander VII) ordered a supersederi to the immediate execution of the decree prescribing the adoption of the breviary of Paul V and the missal of Pius V.

On 19 April 1666 the famous constitution for the reform of the Cistercian Order, In Suprema, was issued. One of the articles gave pontifical approbation to the ensemble of the Cistercian rite: prout hactenus consuevit Ecclesia cisterciensis. The liturgical reforms of Claude Vaussin were saved. “The Order of Cîteaux, thanks to the clever diplomacy of Claude Vaussin, preserved its own rite, if not in integrity, at least in a measure which still gave a richness to the Order.”[25]

The brief, among other things, directed:

  1. All should follow strictly the form established by St Benedict, which has always been observed in the Cistercian Order.
  2. Only those Roman usages should be adopted which the Order of Cîteaux has been accustomed to use.
  3. The Order is to practice the uniformity which is required by the Charter of Charity and the constitutions of Blessed Eugenius III and St Pius V, in conformity with the traditions of Cîteaux, Mother of all the churches of the Order.[26]

Papal approbation was accorded to the reformed books of Claude Vaussin because they contained the liturgical customs in use at Cîteaux: it was not the Cistercian rite as found in any particular book.[27]

In Suprema heralded an era of stabilization after a long period of confusion, agitation, and struggle. There was, however, a certain liturgical codification still to be achieved, as the Order had retained its traditional liber usuum or consuetudines. The general chapter of 1667 deliberated on the practical application of the points made in the decree of reform, and decided not to make any further alterations in the breviary, which was to be followed by all professed monks of the Order.[28] The brief Ecclesiae catholicae of Clement IX (26 January 1669) renewed the approval of Alexander VII (In Suprema), and confirmed the previous decisions of the general chapter.[29] A century later, we find Clement XIII, who wished to encourage a reform, of which the abbey of Salem in Swabia was the centre, repeating word for word the brief of Alexander VII.[30] Again in 1871 (7 February), Pius IX, in the brief Quae a sanctissimis, used almost identical terms.

We have seen how much of the traditional Cistercian rite was sacrificed on the altar of “novelty”, but as Fr Colomban Bock says, “When one sees with what levity a Cistercian of the stamp of Cardinal Bona has encouraged the suppression of the Cistercian rite and clung without regret to this line of action, one is filled with a profound gratitude for the work realized by Claude Vaussin, who was and will ever remain one of the shining glories of the Order of Cîteaux.”[31]


As we have seen, the reformed books of Claude Vaussin were adopted by the houses more or less directly under the jurisdiction of the abbot of Cîteaux, while a different breviary was used by the French Feuillants, and the Roman missal and monastic breviary of Paul V by the Feuillants of Italy. Some of the houses of the Common Observance in Italy have also the monastic breviary, and when their chapter wished to adopt the reformed Cistercian book, the Congregation of Rites (31 May 1907) refused to permit a change.

One Cistercian Congregation, the Congregation of Regular Observance of Castile,[32] maintained the traditional rite for both Mass and Office until the 19th century, although love of “novelty” had introduced certain Roman features. […] A missal had been issued for the Congregation in 1589 (Missale Sacri Ordinis Cisterciensis), 1606, and again in 1762. In the last-named edition, printed in Antwerp, the following note occurs under the paragraph Ritus servandus:

Since this our Order has always had a special book of ceremonies, vulgarly called Libro de los Usos, which sets out with the greatest clarity the general and particular rubrics necessary to the celebration of the mass, we have therefore deemed that nothing should be inserted here.[33]

An edition of the old missal appeared for the Congregation of Portugal in 1738.[34]

The religious orders were suppressed in Portugal in 1834, and in Spain the following year. Many of the dispossessed religious took refuge in France, and it said that the last Cistercian monk of the Spanish congregation, a monk of Valdigna in the diocese of Valencia, died in 1877 or 1878, and that the old mass died with him, although the Office lingered on in some of the Bernardite convents. This has been the commonly accepted opinion, but a recent history of the abbey of Veruela says that a former monk of that house by the name of Antonio José Viñes returned on a visit in 1877, after its occupation by the Jesuits, and that he was present also at the ceremony of the crowning of Our Lady of Veruela in 1881.[35] A former abbot of Sainte Marie du Désert, speaking of the retention of the old Office by the Spanish convents, says: “The traditional Cistercian rite still, therefore, exists on a corner of the earth, like a spark covered with ash. Will God allow it to be relit?”[36]

God has heard his prayer, and the “spark” has become a steady flame. In the abbey of Boquen in the diocese of St. Brieuc, a house of the Common Observance which was restored in 1936, the Divine Office is recited according to the old Spanish breviary,[37] and the Mass is celebrated with the rite of 1608, collated with that of the 12th century.[38] An indult was received from Rome for the restoration of the traditional rite, although it may be argued that this was unnecessary as it had never been formally suppressed. The monastery of Hauterive in Switzerland, which was restored to the Order in 1938, has been permitted to use the old rite at the conventual Mass on Sundays ad experimentum. Poblet, also, in Catalonia, recovered by the White monks in 1940, is working towards a revival of traditional usages.

Midnight Mass on Christmas Day at Hauterive, 1965. See a short video hereof here.


[1] Dioceses with their own venerable use could only switch to the Roman with the unanimous acquiescence of the bishop and all the chapter canons).

[2] André Malet, La Liturgie cistercienne (Westmalle, 1921), part III, art. III, p. 46.

[3] Ap. Louis Meschet, Privilèges de l’Ordre de Cisteaux (Paris, 1713), p. 167.

[4] Jure inde ac merito inclyta cisterciensis familia… suos retinuit liturgicos libros. Pii IX P. M. Acta, vol. VI, part I (Rome, 1873), p. 383.

[5] Certain esprits, amateurs de nouveautés, et sans estime pour la tradition, poussaient à l’abandon des formules liturgiques cisterciennes pour adopter la nouvelle réforme romaine. André Malet, op. cit., part 2, art. IV, p. 18.

[6] Schneider, L’Ancienne Messe Cistercienne, part 2, XVIII, p. 242.

[7] Cap. Gen. 1601, VI; Canivez, Stat., t. VII, p. 204.

[8] Abbatibus et monachis Poloniae et Prussiae in itinere et extra monasteria Ordinis constitutis, more romano missa celebrare conceditur. Cap. Gen. 1605, LXXXIV; Canivez, op. cit., t. VII, p. 263.

[9] [An account of the customs of the Abbey of Cîteaux including liturgical uses, compiled very early on in the existence of that monastery, according to some by St Stephen Harding, to others by St Bernard. It was kept in its integrity until its last edition in 1643.

[10] Concessio nonnullis abbatibus et monachis praecedenti Capitulo facta ut extra Ordinis monasteria constituti romano ritu celebrare possint revocatur ne per eam solvatur Ordinis uniformitas.

[11] The rubrics for the Mass were in the liber usuum, and only general rubrics as to the nature of the Masses were inserted at the end of the missal.

[12] An ordo missae was produced by Wolfgang Aprilis, a monk of Hohenfurt, in 1576: Canon minor et major secundum usum Sacri Ordinis Cisterciensis.

[13] Missale ad usum S. O. Crist. juxta decreta Capituli generalis dicta Ordinis, Romano conformius redditum primo accentibus ornatum et auctum. Paris, chez Sebastian Cramoisy, 1617.

[14] Ordinatur ut deinceps missa tam conventualis quam privata ritu et ceremoniis romanis ab omnibus tam abbatibus quam monachis, absque ulla exceptione celebretur, quare psalmus Judica me Deus, Confiteor, et caetera alia dicentur, prout in ipso ritu romano descripta sunt. Retinebitur tamen in reliqua missale et officium Ordinis, excepto quod psalmus Laetatus sum et annexae collectae omittentur. Cap. Gen. 1618, XIV; Canivez, Stat., t. VII, pp. 332-333.

[15] Louis Lekai, The White Monks, XIV, pp. 182-183.

[16] Cap. Gen. 1623, XLIV; ibid., t. VII, p. 353.

[17] The most recent edition was printed at Westmalle in 1925.

[18] Ad reparandum in officio divino sacri Ordinis uniformitate statuit Capitulum generale ut libri Ordinis corrigantur et imprimantur, ad quod correctionis et impressionis munus deputat…dans eis plenariam potestatem addendi, tollendi et mutandi quae additione, sublatione et mutatione digna judicaverint. Cap. Gen. 1651, XXII; Canivez, op. cit., t. VII, p. 405.

[19] Ce n’était pas une réforme que l’on opérait, mais une déformation de la liturgie traditionelle pour la tranformer en un mélange qui a pris le nom de Rit Cistercien-Romain, rit Cistercien moderne, rit réformé. André Malet, op. Cit., part II, art. IV, p. 20

[20] Ibid., p. 21.

[21] Cap. Gen. 1654, VII; Canivez, Stat., t. VII, p. 418.

[22] Some members of the Order were advocating the adoption of the Roman breviary tout simple.

[23] The missal was reprinted in 1669.

[24] Decree, 8 July 1662

[25] Malet, op. cit., p. 22.

[26] In Suprema, cap. IV, circa cap. VIII usque ad cap. XIX Reg. Bened., De forma officii; Séjalon, Nomast. Cist., p. 596; Canivez, op. cit., t. VII, p. 429.

[27] Trilhe, Mémoires pour le cérémonial cistercien, p. 21.

[28] Cap. Gen. 1667, XXIII; Canivez, op. cit., t. VII, p. 447.

[29] Nomast. Cist, p. 608.

[30] Brief Impositi nobis, 8 August 1760.

[31] La Réforme du Droit Liturgique dans l’Οrdre de Cîteaux, Collect. Ord. Cist. Ref. (January 1952), p. 23.

[32] In 1425 a bull of Martin V excluded the Congregation from the jurisdiction of the general chapter at Cîteaux.

[33] Cum in nostro hoc Ordine semper fuerit peculiaris liber ceremoniarum qui vulgo Usus vocari solet, in quo Rubricas generales et particulares necessariae ad missarum celebrationem maxima cum claritate habentur, idcirco nihil hic inserendum duximus.

[34] Missale Cisterciense ad usum sacrae Congregationis Divi Bernardi in Lusitania et Algarbiorum Regnis, Antwerpiae et Architypographia Plantiniana.

[35] Pedro Blanco Trias, El Real Monasterio de Santa María de Veruela, XI, pp. 284, 290. Palma de Mallorca, 1949.

[36] Le rit Cistercien traditionnel est donc encore sur un coin de terre comme une étincelle couverte de cendre. Dieu permettra-t-il qu’il soit rallumé ? André Malet, op. cit., part II, art. IV, pp. 25-26. Missals may still be seen in some of the convents, says the abbot, but here are no priests to use them.

[37] Breviarium operis Dei ad usum sacri almi Ordinis Cisterciensis per Hispaniam, Madrid, 1826.

[38] Dijon, Bibl. municip., MS. 114 (82). Written between 1179 and 1191.

A New Years’ Apéritif with the Canons of Sens (6)

After the cursus of the liturgical offices of the Feast of the Circumcision, the Lord Archbishop Peter of Corbeil added some additional musical material, including this charming carol sung ad poculum, i.e. when the Canons gathered to enjoy an apéritif before a festive luncheon.

The surviving account books of the Cathedral show that ample provision was made to ensure a proper supply of wine for the celebrations.


Note how each stanza begins with the word that ended the preceding stanza, or a variation thereof.

Listen to Notker’s recording of the carol here:

Kalendas ianuarias
sollempnes, Xpiste, facias
et nos ad tuas nuptias
uocatos, rex, suscipias.
Make solemn, O Christ,
the Kalends of January,
and, O King, gather
the invited to Thy wedding.
Suscipe tuum populum
ad nuptiarum epulum,
Qui multiplex es ferculum,
cuius sanguis est poculum.
Bring Thy people
to Thy marriage feast,
Thou who art a rich carriage,[1]
whose blood is a drinking cup.
Poculum tui sanguinis
sumptique carnem hominis,
ad laudem tui nominis,
da nobis, proles Uirginis.
Give us the cup of Thy blood
and the flesh of man Thou didst take up,
to the praise of Thy name,
O Son of the Virgin.
Uirginis quidem proprius
et creator et filius
extra quem non est alius,
et quid hoc mirabilius?
Verily the Virgin’s own
both maker and son
without whom there is none other,
and what more marvelous than this?
Miranda res per secula,
quod sine uiri copula
Te concepit iuuencula,
in virginali clausula.
A wonderful thing for aye,
that a young maid unknown to man
did conceive thee
in the cloister of her virginal womb.
Clausa mater concipiens
clausa fuit et pariens,
et Tu, Deus ingrediens,
ingressus et egrediens.
Inviolate did thy mother conceive thee,
inviolate she was too in bearing thee,
and Thou, O God, went in,
and once gone in went out.
Egressus autem, ardua
mortis fregisti cornua;
quin ipsa mors est mortua,
occisa uite ianua.
And having gone out,
Thou brakest the forces of death;
nay, e’en death itself died,
when the gate of life was slain.
Ianua uite congrua,
immo uita perpetua,
nos, Xpiste, per hec omnia,[2]
duc ad festa continua;
Fitting gate of life,
nay, eternal life itself,
by all these things, O Christ,
lead us to the feasts everlasting,
Continua festa Syon,
quo repertum topazion
tulisti homo in Syon[3]
Patri presentans Elyon.[4]
Everlasting feasts of Sion,
whither thou bore the recovered topaz,[5]
O man in Sion,
proferring it to the Father Most High.
Ely Patri sit gloria,
Tibi, Xpiste, uictoria,
Neupmati sint equalia
per seculorum secula.
Glory be to Eli the Father,
victory to Thee, O Christ,
and the same to the Ghost,
unto the ages of ages.


See the other posts in this series:

1. A Feast of Fools?: First Vespers
2. Compline
3. Mattins, Lauds, and the Little Hours
4. Mass and Second Vespers
5. Why the Office of Peter of Corbeil was Suppressed


[1] Multiplex ferculum may be a pun on the double meaning of ferculum, meaning both Solomon’s rich litter (Canticle of Canticles 3, 9) and a course in a meal. Solomon’s carriage, by which he was carried to a feast, was interpreted allegorically to refer to Christ or the Apostles, who carry the believer to the eternal feast.

[2] Omnia is written by a much later hand. In his edition of this conductus in the Analecta Hymnica Medii Aevi, Fr Guido Maria Dreves suggests amending it to annua: “by these yearly feasts, O Christ, lead us to feasts everlasting.”

[3] This line might be corrupt; Dreves amends homo in Syon to homousion, which does not seem much of an improvement.

[4] Eli is the Aramaic for “my God,” taken from Psalm 21.

[5] The topaz was thought to contain all colors, and so was often seen by mystical writers as a symbol of Christ (who contains all virtues) or, as here, of all the saints.

New Years’ with the Canons of Sens (5): Why the Office of Peter of Corbeil was Suppressed

Pour juger du passé, il faudrait le mieux connaître, et pour le condamner, il faudrait ne rien lui devoir.

The Lord Count of Montalembert.

Recall from our introduction that, in preparing his MS. for the Office of the Circumcision, the Most Reverend Lord Peter of Corbeil sought to codify the variegated uses that had arisen on the feast, with the twin aims of creating a beautiful and attractive liturgy for the day and safeguarding it from the more unsavoury customs attached to the kalends of January. The result was the felicitous liturgical spectacle we have been describing. How, then, did it come to pass that is was amputated by the venerable Chapter of Sens?

The surviving account-books of the Chapter from the 13th to the 15th centuries indicate that the Circumcision continued to be celebrated according to Peter’s ordinances during this time, since they provide for the expenses incurred in the day’s celebrations, including stipends for the precentor and the master of the boys’ choir, wine for the vicars and clerics, and Christmas gifts (usually more wine) for various dignitaries, including the boy bishop who presided over the celebrations of Childermas!

One can imagine how the wars and pestilences that ravaged France during the waning of the Middle Ages impacted the ability of the Chapter to finance these festivities, and in the 15th century the register attest that prebends ceased to be assigned for the celebrations of Childermas and the Circumcision, and indeed the Chapter ceased to provide funds for the former entirely.

This sad century, engulfed in a miasma of bloodshed, plague, and schism, begot a dour race of soi-disant reformist and humanistic churchmen who looked askance at the childlike joys of the preceding age. In 1435, many of them came together in the half-œcumenical Council of Basel, where they condemned boy-bishop ceremonies and the “feast of fools” on 1 January before making a Gadarene rush into heresy and schism. Three years later, the Most Christian Lord King Charles VII made the decrees of Basel into ecclesiastical law in France when he promulgated the infamous Pragmatic Sanction, and so prohibited the customary festivities of Childermas and the Circumcision at the same time as he usurped papal prerogatives over the Church of France.

Condemned by the Council (a boy bishop in Burgos, Spain, 2009).

Yet the celebrations proved enduringly popular, and on 10 March 1444, the Faculty of Theology of Paris saw fit to send a circular letter to the bishops and chapters of France attacking certain gross abuses which continued to occur during the “feast of fools.” On 4 December, the Chapter of Sens met and responded by insisting that the “service of the Lord’s Circumcision” be celebrated “devoutly and reverently as it is set out in the books for the same service,”[1] i.e. in Peter’s Office.[2]

In Sens’s suffragan diocese of Troyes, however, the Lord Bishop Jean Leguisé responded by trying to suppress the celebrations altogether. The collegiate church of St Stephen rebelled and, appealing to the authority of the metropolitan see of Sens, they defiantly performed their usual celebrations, culminating on 3 January 1445 with a play where the bishop and his two closest advisers were represented under the names of Hypocrisie, Faintise, and Faux-semblant and duly mocked.

Incensed, the Lord Jean wrote to the Archbishop of Sens, the Lord Louis de Melun, as well as to the King and the Faculty of Theology in Paris. Charles VII was only too happy to meddle, and ordered that the city authorities prevent any repetition these incidents.[3] The Lord Louis, meanwhile, was discomfited by the whole affair, and on 24 November 1445, he ordered the suppression of the feast of fools, dubbing it a “shameful clot” (flagitiosum coagulum) and ordering that all references thereto be effaced in the liturgical books. The Chapter obliged their bishop by cutting off, for the moment, all funds for the celebrations, and storing Peter’s MS. away in their treasury.

Charles VII venerates Our Lord’s birth with all due sobriety. His men are watching to make sure you do too.

But among the clergy and the faithful of Sens the sense remained that the legitimate celebrations of their forefathers were not to be classed together with the base excesses justly condemned by so many authorities, and in 1460 a provincial council found it necessary to crack down on these celebrations anew. Another council was held in 1485 and again repeated the injunction. Yet the very next year, the Chapter’s account-books provide for an expenditure of 50 sous “to keep the feast of New Years’ Day” (pour faire la feste du premier jour de l’an).

In 1511, the Chapter again reminded clerics that they were not to participate in the festum quod dicitur stultorum, including its plays, under pain of excommunication and privation of benefices, but at the same time it expressly permitted them “to perform and sing the divine service in the feast of the Lord’s Circumcision, as it has been celebrated of old in this church.”[4] The view had prevailed that the various condemnations of the feast of fools did not apply to Peter’s Office, which remained part of Sens’s liturgical tradition.

The Chapter repeated this permission in 1514, 1516, and 1517, but in 1521 it was again banned, and this was repeated in 1522, with the war against Spain adduced as an excuse. The next year the clerics’ complaints succeeded in obtaining permission to celebrate Peter’s Office again, so long as it was done honeste ac devote. The tide turned again in 1524, when “the faculty of celebrating the feast of the Circumcision as instituted by the late de Corbeil” was again rescinded.[5] And so things continued to go back and forth until a final prohibition in 1547 proved definitive. By now these sort of revelries were the object of fierce attack by the heretics tearing Christendom apart, and they never again recovered: in 1608, Jacques Taveau, historian of Sens, wrote of Peter’s Office as a practice “entirely fallen into disuse.”[6]

Hélas, sir Asne, hélas !

See the other posts in this series:

1. A Feast of Fools?: First Vespers
2. Compline
3. Mattins, Lauds, and the Little Hours
4. Mass and Second Vespers
6. A New Years’ Apéritif with the Canons of Sens


[1] Prout jacet in libro ipsius servitii devote et cum reverentia.

[2] Although it confirmed the practice that had arisen of drenching the precentor with water at Vespers; no more than three buckets were to be used, however (nec projiciatur aqua in vesperis super praecentorem stultorem ultra quantitatem trium sitularum ad plus). Outside the Church, the Chapter suffered the stulti to perform “other ceremonies” so long as they did not “hurt or injure anyone.”

[3] The chapter of St Stephen, although it never again resorted to such open defiance, continued electing a boy bishop on Candlemas until 1595, and droits continued to be paid for the feast of the Circumcision until the Revolution.

[4] Permissum est vicariis et habituatis ecclesiae celebrare et facere servitium divinum in festo Circumcisionis Domini, prout et quemadmodum antiquitus in eadem ecclesia fieri et decantari consuerit.

[5] Ad requestum vicariorum requirentium facultatem celebrandi festum Circumcisionis a defuncto Corbolio institutum, quod vulgariter dicitur festum stultorum, pro hoc anno rationibus quibusdam moventibus, non consenserunt Domini.

[6] Officium digessisse fertur Petrus de Corbolio quo aliquando die Circumcisionis Christi Senonensis usa est ecclesia, quod fatuorum festum vulgo dictum est, non ob ea quae cantabantur, sed ob multa incondita et stultitiam sapientia, quae fieri tum solebant, et penitus obsolverunt.

New Years’ with the Canons of Sens (4): Mass and Second Vespers

We have been examining the riches of the Feast of the Circumcision as celebrated by the illustrious cathedral chapter of Sens, based on a MS. written under the auspices of the Lord Archbishop Peter of Corbeil. See the previous posts in this series: Introduction and First Vespers; Compline; Mattins, Lauds, & the Little Hours. This post will describe interesting elements in the Mass and Second Vespers of the feast.

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After Terce, the canons prepared for Mass, singing a carol while the celebrant readied himself. This jocund conductus ad presbyterum is a bit of a grammar lesson, for each stanza begins begins with the word dies in a different case: dies (nominative), diei (genitive), diei (dative), diem (accusative), dies (vocative), die (accusative). 


At Mass, as one might expect, each part of the Ordinary (Kyrie Clemens rector, Gloria II, Sanctus IV, Agnus Dei IV) was farced, even the Credo, whereof this is the sole attested example. The Gloria and Credo are troped in the style of the Pater noster and Apostles’ Creed at Compline and Prime, i.e. the text and music of each trope-line is a quotation, textual and musical from another liturgical piece. 

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With respect to the musical propers, however, only the Gradual includes a short trope in the form of a prose; the Sequence Laetabundus follows the Alleluia. 

While the subdeacon prepares to read the epistle, the rest of the canons sang the famous carol Lux optata, and the epistle itself, sung to a special melody, alternates with a trope, most probably intoned by another cleric. The tropes are, like those of the the Gloria and Credo, textually and musically centonized.

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While the deacon readies himself to sing the gospel, the canons again sing a conductus, and although the gospel is not farced, it is sung to special tone:

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 Second Vespers

The canons were surely quite exhausted when time came for second Vespers, and so, after the solemn Deus, in adjutorium sung to the same melody as in First Vespers, they sang the hymn (curiously placed at the beginning), antiphons, and psalms without any tropes. Gaude Maria Virgo was the responsory sung after chapter, and here they did sing all the verses of this particularly prolix piece, concluding with the Marian prose Inviolata, which was extremely popular in the Middle Ages. A short sequence replaced the versicle, as at the other hours.

For the Magnificat, withal, the canons exerted one last effort, for it is set to four different antiphons! O beata infantia, they began, and followed with the first verse of Our Lady’s canticle. Then they sang the antiphon O gratissimi, followed by the second verse; then the antiphon O felices panni, followed by the third first; and then O presepe, with a long melisma of the O, and the fourth verse. They repeated each of these four antiphons after each verse until the Sicut erat, after which they rejoiced with a melismatic Alleluia.

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The MS. then provides three additional conductus, one to be sung while the bacularius (the head cantor, so-called because he held a staff, baculus) prepared himself for an office; one to be sung at an apéritif; and one for lunch. 

At the end of the MS. is an appendix containing special troped melodies for the epistles of the Masses of St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents, all of them centonized. 

See the other posts in this series:

1. A Feast of Fools?: First Vespers
2. Compline
3. Mattins, Lauds, and the Little Hours
5. Why the Office of Peter of Corbeil was Suppressed
6. A New Years’ Apéritif with the Canons of Sens