The Fight for the Mozarabic Rite Continued: Liturgical Trial by Fire

One of our earlier posts recounted the story told by Roderic, Archbishop of Toledo, about the trial by combat in held in 11th century Spain between the champions of the Roman rite and of the autochthonous Mozarabic rite. The imposition of the Roman rite on Spain was an enterprise pursued by King Alphonse VI, who reconquered Toledo—the ancient capital of the Visigothic kingdom—from the Mohammedans in 1085. As part of his efforts to consolidate his power, he saw fit, like Charlemagne centuries before him, to promote liturgical unity within his kingdom, with the support of Rome and Cluny. The Chronicle of the Cluniac monastery of Sahagún explains:

Alphonse VI, king of Castile, Leon, and Galicia, “Emperor of the Spains”.

After rising to the lofty and magnificent royal estate of his kingdom, in the eleventh year of his reign, he [Alphonse VI], amongst other things he very laudably and piously did, procured that in all Spain the divine office be celebrated according to the use of the Roman Church, seeking the approval of the most honourable lord Gregory the Seventh of the apostolic see. [1]

Alphonse carried out his design of establishing the Roman rite in Spain ruthlessly, despite the setbacks not only of the trial by combat, but also of a trial by fire. The chronicle of Nájera reports:

Thus the aforesaid king Alphonse, after he had taken up the government of the kingdoms, sent emissaries to Rome to Pope Hildebrand, who is called Gregory the Seventh, that he might establish the celebration of the Roman rite in all his kingdom. And so the Pope remembered his cardinal Richard, an abbot from Marseilles, and sent him to Spain. He held a noble and general council in Burgos and ordered that the divine office be done according to the Roman custom in the whole kingdom of the aforesaid king.

In the era 1115, on Palm Sunday [9 April 1077], two knights fought in Burgos, one of king Alphonse for the Roman law and the other a Castilian, namely Lope Martínez de Matanza, for the Toledan law; and the king’s knight was defeated. Moreover, while they were still fighting, a great fire was lit in the middle of the plaza, and two books were thrown therein, one containing the Roman office and the other containing the Toledan office, under this condition: that the office be kept of whichever book might escape the flames unharmed. But since the Toledan [book] made a great leap out of the fire, the king, made wroth, forthwith returned it to the fire with a kick, saying, “The horns of the laws bend before the will of kings”. [2]

We return to Archbishop Roderic’s chronicle, which recalls the trial by fire thus:

Since a great riot broke out after this [the trial by combat] amongst the knights and the people, it was finally resolved that the book of the Toledan office and the book of the Gallican [i.e. Roman] office would be placed in a great bonfire. After the primate, legate, and clergy ordered everyone to fast, and everyone having made a devout prayer, the book of the Gallican office was consumed by the fire; and, while everyone watched and praised God, the book of the Toledan office jumped out of all the flames of fire, remaining altogether unharmed and untouched by the burning of the fire. But since the king was bold and pertinaciously carried out his will, he was not afraid of the miracle, nor was he persuaded to bend to the supplications. Instead, threatening those who resisted with the death penalty and expropriation, he ordered that the Gallican office be observed in all the lands of his kingdom. And then, while everyone wept and was grieved, he coined the proverb, “Laws go whither kings will.”

And thereafter the Gallican office, which had never before been received, was observed in Spain in the psalter as well as in everything else, even though in some monasteries [the Mozarabic use] was kept for some time, and indeed the [Hispanic] translation of the psalter is still to-day recited in many cathedral churches and monasteries.

One cannot help but admire the fortitude and tenacity wherewith against such powerful forces these doughty Castilians defended the liturgy bequeathed to them by their forefathers Sts Isidore and Leander. Would that more of the faithful had shown the same zeal for the liturgy handed down by their forefathers during the calamitous course of the 20th century liturgical “reforms”!

An illustration of the trial by fire found in an edition of the Mozarabic Missal published in 1770 in Mexico (taken from the Liturgical Arts Journal).

[1] El qual, despues que suuio en el alteça e magnifico estado rreal de su rreyno, entre otras cosas muchas que muy loable e rreligiosamente fiço, en el onçeno año de su rreino procuro, suplicando al baron de muy onrrada vida Gregorio setimo en la silla apostolical, que en toda España fuese çelebrado el diuinal ofiçio segun que la iglesia rromana acostumbraba.

[2] Prefatus itaque rex Aldefonsus postquam regnorum suscepit regimina, nuntios Romam misit ad papam Aldebrandum qui cognominatus est Gregorius septimus, ut Romanum ministerium in omni regno suo constitueret celebrandum. Memoratus itaque papa cardinalem suum Ricardum, abbatem Massiliensem in Yspaniam misit; qui apud Burgensem ciuitatem nobile et generale concilium celebrans diuinum officium iuxta Romanam consuetudinem in omni regno predicti regis haberi mandauit.

Era MCXV.a in Dominica de ramis palmarum apud Burgis pugnauerunt duo milites, unus regis Aldefonsi pro lege Romana et alter Castellanus, scilicet Lupus Martinez de Matanza, pro lege Toletana; et uictus est miles regis. Super quo illis adhuc contendentibus, accenso magno igne in platee medio missi sunt in eum duo libri, unus Romanum officium continens alter uero officium continens Toletanum, sub tali conditione: ut cuius modi liber ignem illesus euaderet, eius officium teneretur. Sed cum Toletanus magnum extra ignem saltum dedisset, mox rex iratus illum in ignem pede reiciens dixit: «ad libitum regum fletantur cornua legum». (Until the introduction of the Anno Domini system in the 14th-15th centuries, years were reckoned in Spain as “eras” starting on 38 BC, considered to be the beginning of the Pax Romana in Hispania.)

[3] Cumque super hoc magna sedicio in milicia et populo oriretur, demum placuit ut liber officii Toletani et liber officii Gallicani in magna ignis congerie ponerentur; et indicto omnibus ieiunio a primate, legato et clero et oratione ab omnibus deuote peracta, igne consumitur liber officii Gallicani et prosiliit super omnes flammas incendii, cunctis uidentibus et Deum laudantibus, liber officii Toletani illesus omnino et a combustione incendii alienus. Set cum rex esset magnanimus et sue uoluntatis pertinax executor, nec miraculo territus nec supplicatione suasus uoluit inclinari, set mortis supplicia et direptionem minitans resistentibus precepit ut Gallicanum officium in omnibus regni sui finibus seruaretur. Et tunc cunctis flentibus et dolentibus prouerbium inoleuit: «Quo uolunt reges uadunt leges».

Et ex tunc Gallicanum officium tam in Psalterio quam in aliis, numquam ante susceptum, fuit in Hispaniis obseruatum, licet in aliquibus monasteriis fuerit aliquanto tempore custoditum, et etiam translatio Psalterii in plurimis ecclesiis cathedralibus et monasteriis adhuc hodie recitatur. 

Why Does the Church’s Liturgy Bore the Faithful So Much?

Pourqoui la liturgie de l’Église ennuie-t-elle tant de fidèles ?
Denis Crouan

Question: Why does the Church’s liturgy bore some priests and laymen so much that they feel obliged to make it more attractive by introducing their own gimmicks and commentary?

Response: For many, the liturgy is boring because they no longer know what it is and hence do not see it as much more than a Sunday activity where they must exercise their liberty of expression. This mistake is the root of the entire problem.

The desire for liberty of expression that seems to dominate the liturgy these days shows that the faithful seek a sincere expression of their faith, an expression not limited by pre-established frameworks. Such frameworks would pose an obstacle to a spiritual development that cannot flourish by sticking to a route marked out with rites and practices of another age.

For many, the more the rites demanded by the Church penetrate the most personal sphere of the believer—where he establishes an intimate relationship with God—the more onerous they seem. Few understand that the liturgy given by the Church is actually much more than a sort of “highway regulation” that helps the Sunday assembly avoid, as far as possible, running off road or crashing. The liturgy is concerned with the interior development of the believer, establishing how he must view and shape his liberty. This is why the liturgy first demands discipline and renunciations from each believer—lay or clerical.

Is it not perhaps true that the narrowness of all the rites and ceremonies that structure the liturgy block a route that leads to a much wider horizon? Doesn’t the spiritual freedom of each believer who comes to Mass imply that he should be able to escape the domination of certain liturgical rules that are at times burdensome and abstruse? Doesn’t reinforcing an authentic faith require a flexibility that gives greater liberty to the faithful when they come together to celebrate the Eucharist?

The bitterness that some feel towards the Church’s liturgy also has another origin. In a world ruled by inexorable limitations, many come to Church thinking that Sunday Mass should be a small oasis of freedom to which anyone can retire to express his faith freely in a welcoming atmosphere. The liturgy must therefore be the place and moment where, even for an instant, the dream of a better world can come true. By participating in Mass, one wishes to savor in it the taste of freedom, the feeling of being free, of being outside the cave St. Gregory talked about, referring to Plato.

But since the Church’s liturgy does not exactly give us the well-being we dream about, we seek to make it what we want it to be: the place where all freedoms can be expressed, the place where all our limits are torn down and where we can express our dream of a better Church: a fully human Church, with a sense of fraternity and generous creativity, a Church that is the home of reconciliation of everything and for everyone, a Church where the Word is lived. Thinking such thoughts, many priests and bishops say, “Let us always begin by proposing something new… Let us dare to do it!” And, often, this “let us dare” is said with all the naïve presumption of the soul that thinks itself enlightened and is persuaded that previous generations failed properly to grasp the problem. Or that they were too timorous and ill-advised. We, on the other hand, we finally have the courage and the intelligence. Well then, whatever the resistance that “rigid spirits” might pose to the noble enterprise of creating more “authentic” and “liberating” celebrations, we will implement, somehow or other, our ideas about the liturgy.

The followers of this new way of treating the liturgy—and there are many of them these days!—criticize the Church for not knowing how to integrate the right to liberty extolled by the Age of Enlightenment and later recognized as a fundamental right. Thus, is seems appropriate to begin by showing the way leading toward this fundamental right to liberty.

This path must lead away from a reassuring ritualized liturgy towards living and variegated celebrations thought up by communities where no one will any longer be satisfied with receiving passively the things that make one a “responsible and adult Christian.” Each one will have to become an active player in his Christian life and that of others. The liturgy will no longer come from above, oh no! The local community, which “forms Church” during its Sunday assembly, will think up “its” ways of celebrating, ways that will always be new, changing from Sunday to Sunday, from parish to parish, in an “evolutionary” fashion.

Only thus will the Church’s ossified liturgy be progressively replaced by “our” original ways of celebrating through which the faithful will, at last, be able to feel they are active and responsible actors.

The passive will therefore have to give way to the active. One clearly sees that today in most parishes the liturgy is formed by debates, agreements, and decisions. During these “team discussions”, it is agreed to keep the minimum ritual that is still required, a minimum that is still recognized today by all as belonging to the faith and being a useful guideline. But as for the community, it must also express itself. Nevertheless, on this path to self-realization, Scripture sometimes shows itself to be an obstacle. In that case, since it is impossible to do away with it, one takes advantage of the great variety of translations and interpretations.

But this “liturgical re-creation”, where at the very heart of the Church democratic-style self-governance replaces authority, soon gives rise to certain questions: who has the right to make the decisions? On what grounds? With regards to the liturgy itself, there is an even greater problem: if everything is transitory, what men do today runs the risk of being undone by men tomorrow. Whatever a majority decides can be abrogated by another majority. And all that arises from human taste might easily be displeasing to certain people. And so, a liturgy created by group decisions, by a “team,” is a purely human liturgy: the celebration is reduced to the level of what is feasible and reasonable, of everything that arises from personal actions, intuitions, and opinions. Opinion thus comes to replace faith. Indeed, in these spontaneous expressions of faith found in so many religious songs enjoying ephemeral success, the expression “I believe” never means anything beyond “we think” or even “our liturgical team thinks”.

Liturgies that we make up inevitably end up savouring of a “we ourselves” that, quickly revealing its own narrowness, is never agreeable to other “we ourselves.” These celebrations restrict themselves to the realm of the empirical, and the ideal they thought they represented quickly becomes blurred like a mirage.

At that point, the liturgical question splits the faithful up into “activists” who constitute the “faction” opposed to that of the “admirers”: the “activists” restrict the celebration to the dimensions of their own reason and thus entirely lose sight of the dimension of the mystery being celebrated, the very dimension sought by the “admirers”.

In the liturgy, the more the “activist” enlarges the realm of things he himself has decided and put into practice, the more he makes the celebrations stifling and impoverishing for all. He has simply forgotten an essential thing: the grandeur and ability to liberate that a liturgical celebration has does not come from what we are able to do ourselves, but from that which is given unto us, by what does not come from our own will and creativity, but on the contrary, from that which is “bigger than our own heart”, from what precedes us and comes to us to lead us much further than we could ever imagine.

The liturgy necessary for our time, therefore, is not one that we can indefinitely remodel according to “our” way of celebrating the Eucharist, reinventing it at will and without end. We must take down our own constructions and leave room for the liturgy of the Church, which is the reflection of the eternal celestial liturgy and fills our souls with pure liberty. This is what an “admirer” is able to grasp, be it intuitively or because he has taken up the habit of only frequenting the liturgy as it is given by the Church.

To better grasp the principle that allows us to taste and love the liturgy received by the Tradition of the Church, we pick up the metaphor of the sculptor proposed by Cardinal Ratzinger.

“With an artist’s eye,” wrote Cardinal Ratzinger, “Michelangelo already saw within the block of stone he had before him the masterpiece secretly waiting to come to light and be freed. According to him, the task of the artist was only to remove that which still covered the image. Michelangelo understood that the true artistic act was to bring something to light and freedom, not to produce something. The same idea, applied to the human realm, is already found in St Bonaventure, who, basing himself upon the metaphor of the sculptor, explains the way by which man becomes authentically himself. The sculptor does not do anything, says the great Franciscan theologian. His work is rather an ablatio: it consists in eliminating and removing what is inauthentic. Thus, through an ablatio emerges the nobilis forma, the precious form. Likewise man, in order that the image of God may shine in him, must above all and first of all receive that purification by which the sculptor—i.e. God—frees him from all the dross that obscures the true appearance of his being and makes him seem like a crude block of stone, while in reality the divine form dwells within him.”

This image allows us better to appreciate how the liturgy must be understood and treated in order to be loved and no longer be boring. We must not “do”; we must “eliminate”. We must remove everything from our celebrations that comes only from our own creativity, so that the nobilis forma of the liturgy might come into view, with its specific style that makes it a reflection of the heavenly liturgy. This ablatio, this “negative liturgy” is the only way that leads to an absolute positive: only by taking this path will the Divine in Whose name the assembly is constituted penetrate within us, through the liturgy. In this parish community, no “I” will be opposed to another “I”, no “self” to another “self”, and the ability to give oneself up in full confidence—that which is proper to love—allows for the welcoming all that is Beautiful, Good, and True.

Only the people in such an assembly will truly appreciate that admirable statement of the “prodigal” Father reminding his jealous eldest son of the basis of all liberty and of all dreams come true: “All which is mine is yours…” (Lk 15, 31; cf. Jn 17, 10).

An authentic liturgy consequently arises from an ablatio that becomes the basis of the congregatio and the source of the ecclesia.

Let us try to better grasp this idea. Above we have suggested an opposition between the “admirer” and the “activist” and we have expressed our preference for the former. But what is the meaning of such an opposition and such a choice?

In the liturgy, the “activist”, he who always wants to “do”, places his own activity above everything. He thereby limits his horizon to the realm of the feasible, of that which can become the object of “his” action. Strictly speaking, in the liturgy he only sees objects, gestures, words, and rites. He is unable to perceive that which is greater than himself, since such a horizon would limit his own activity. Thus, he restricts the liturgy to what can be experienced, and in the end this transforms liturgical celebrations into prisons against which, in turn, he himself will protest vociferously.

The “admirer” on the other hand stands firmly athwart anything that might limit the liturgy to the empirical realm. The “admirer” is awe-struck, and his awe disposes him to an act of faith which opens up for him a great horizon towards the Eternal and the Infinite. The “admirer” realizes that only the unlimited—and not the empirical—is sufficiently grand for human nature, because only the unlimited suits the vocation of each of the faithful. When this unlimited horizon disappears, any liberations one might propose through “festive” and “convivial” celebrations seem an ever insufficient and insipid substitute.

This ablatio, an ever-new act of faith, is what allows us to love and understand the sense of the liturgy received from the Church. It makes us realize that the liturgy, with its rites, can lead us far: to a “spacious place” as the psalms say. If we refuse this ablatio, then we condemn ourselves to a liturgical pragmatism that leads us away from God and withers up our souls. A merely pragmatic liturgy that responds, for instance, to a pastoral project can certainly allow us to reach many things; nonetheless, we will ultimately be stuck because the frontier imposed by the quantitative and the feasible will never be breached.

The fundamental liberation the Church’s liturgy can give us when it is celebrated as it should be is to place us before the horizon of the Eternal and allow us to escape from the limitations of our knowledge and our power.

The liturgy has no need to be reformed, improved, and adapted in order to be “interesting” and “captivating”: we are the ones that need to be corrected, repaired, and transformed. How? By agreeing to enter into the celebration not of our feelings but of the faith of the Church in all its glory. That is what the liturgy needs in order to become passionate, entrancing, and enriching! Celebrating the liturgy is in no way an “ecclesiastical therapy” consisting in embracing one’s ailment in a vain attempt to make the Sunday Eucharist more interesting.

We do not need a liturgy adapted to our capacities, but a liturgy that is more divine. Only then will our celebrations be truly human.

Within the Church, the atmosphere becomes alarming and suffocating when ministers forget that the sacrament did not emanate from their own powers, but rather comes from their self-renunciation in favour of Him in Whose name they speak and act. When an ever more important responsibility—that of the minister of the altar—corresponds to an ever greater personal self-renunciation, then no one will be enslaved to anyone: then the Lord Himself will preside and then will St Paul’s principle apply: “Now the Lord is a Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

The more we make up Masses intended to please us, however modern they might be, the less space there will be for the Spirit and the Lord, and so the less freedom there will be for the faithful within the celebration. In fact, the point of the liturgy is not to interest us like any old earthly activity, it is rather to give each of the faithful access to eternal life. The liturgy is not just the product of little teams of activists that get together to make up new ways of celebrating. Neither is the liturgy the product of those who get together on Sundays to celebrate the Eucharist. The liturgy is only the product of men of all times and places whose hearts, full of hope and love, turn towards Christ, Who is “the author and finisher of faith”, as the epistle to the Hebrews reminds us (12:2). From them do we receive the liturgy in its full extent and it will speak to us and interest us from the moment we approach it not by seeking to do something but by entering into this process of ablatio—renunciation of self—by which God removes all the dross that obscures His image as much as our own.

Denis Crouan has a Ph.D in theology and teaches literature and history in Colmar. He is also an organist and choir-master. Since 1988, he has been president of Pro Liturgia, an international association that promotes the correct celebration of the post-Conciliar liturgy.


Gemma Animae (23): De signis et salutatione diaconi

Ch. 23

On the Deacon’s Signs and Greeting


The deacon, when he goes up to the pulpit, first greets the people with the Dominus vobiscum, for the apostles, what house soever they entered in order to preach, first greeted their listeners with the Pax huic domui. When he says Sequentia sancti Evangelii, he makes the sign of the holy cross upon his forehead, in which is the seat of shame: he thereby shows that he is not ashamed of God’s words, for the Son in the judgement before the Father and the angels will be ashamed of him who is ashamed of the words of God (Luke IX). Verily, the cross and the Gospel were scandals of great shame for the incredulous.

Then he signs his lips, for he proclaims that he confesses the words of God with his lips, since with the lips confession is made unto salvation (Rom. X). Thence he signs his heart in order to banish the spirit of pride from himself, and that what he confesses with his lips might be known for justice. Therefore, by the signing of the heart, faith of the word is meant; by the signing of the lips, confession of Christ is understood; by the signing of the forehead, the working of the Gospel is expressed.

Then the clergy and people sign themselves. Gloria tibi Domine, they cry, for they proclaim by their words that they adore and obey Christ crucified. Thus, while the apostles preached the words of God, the people praised the Lord.


De signis et salutatione diaconi
[Note the poetic quality of the original Latin.]

Diaconus, cum ascenderit in analogium,
primum salutat populum per Dominus vobiscum,

quia apostoli, quamcunque domum praedicaturi intraverunt,
primum per pax huic domui auditores salutaverunt.

Cum sequentia sancti Evangelii dicit,
signum sanctae crucis fronti suae, in qua sedes est verecundiae imprimit:
per hoc se de verbis Domini non erubescere innuit.

Qui enim sermones Domini erubuerit, hunc Filius coram Patre et angelis in iudicio erubescet. Crux quippe et Evangelium apud incredulos magnae confusionis fuit opprobrium.

Deinde os signat, quia verba Dei se ore confiteri pronuntiat,
cum ore confessio ad salutem fiat. Exinde cor signat,
ut spiritum elationis a se excludat,
et ea quae ore confitetur ad iustitiam innotescat.

Igitur per cordis signationem, fides verbi accipitur;
per oris signationem, confessio Christi intelligitur;
per frontis signationem, operatio Evangelii exprimitur.

Deinde clerus et populus se signat.
Gloria tibi, Domine, conclamat,
quia Christum crucifixum se adorare, suis verbis obedire se pronuntiat.

Ita, dum apostoli verba Dei praedicaverunt,
populi Dominum laudaverunt.

Gemma Animae (22): Quid designet, quod Evangelium in ambone legitur

Ch. 22

What is Symbolized by Reading the Gospel at the Ambo.

The Gospel ambo in the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome, which faces north

The Gospel is read at a lofty place because we are told that Christ preached on a mountain. Therefore, too, it is read at a high place [in sublimi], for the evangelical precepts, by which one scales the heights of the heavens, are sublime. A light burns before the Gospel, because the evangelical doctrine enlightens the Church, and because the word of God offers us life-giving light.

The deacon, according to rule, turns towards the south while he reads the Gospel, because the men to whom spiritual things must be preached usually stand in this part. Men, of course, signify the spiritual, and the south represents the Holy Ghost. Now, however, according to the usual custom he turns towards the north where the women stand; they represent the carnal, for the Gospel calls the carnal toward spiritual things. The north also represents the devil, who is fought through the Gospel. Indeed, the north denotes the heathen people, to whom the Gospel is preached that they might be converted to Christ.

Interior Bisi_Luigi,_Interno_del_Duomo_di_Milano 1840
Bisi Luigi, Interno del Duomo di Milano (1840). Note the two ambos, the enormous veil shrouding the far end of the choir, and several articles of furniture!
Rood Screen Venice
The Rood Screen of the Chiesa dei Frari in Venice, with ambos at each corner. Readings were read from the lofts of rood screens.


The Ambo at the north side of the iconoastasis at the Basilica San Marco in Venice. Notice how from ground level the reader appears to stand on the same level as the Apostles and Evangelists that line the top of the screen.


Quid designet, quod Evangelium in ambone legitur.

Evangelium in alto loco legitur, quia Christus in monte praedicasse perhibetur. Ideo et in sublimi legitur, quia sublimia sunt evangelica praecepta per quae altitudo coelorum scanditur. Ante Evangelium lumen ardet, eo quod evangelica doctrina Ecclesiam illuminet, et quia verbum Dei lumen nobis ad vitam praebet. Diaconus secundum ordinem se vertit ad austrum dum legit Evangelium, quia in hac parte viri stare solent quibus spiritalia praedicari debent. Per viros quippe spirituales significantur, et per austrum Spiritus sanctus designatur. Nunc autem secundum solitum morem se ad aquilonem vertit ubi feminae stant, quae carnales significant, quia Evangelium carnales ad spiritualia vocat. Per aquilonem quoque diabolus designatur, qui per Evangelium impugnatur. Per aquilonem enim infidelis populus denotatur, cui Evangelium praedicatur, ut ad Christum convertatur.

Lay Hand-Missals: “Damnata, reprobata et interdicta”

Paul de Gondi, Cardinal de Retz

In 1660, Joseph de Voisin, a priest and doctor in Theology of the Sorbonne, published the first missal destined for use by the laity with a full translation of the Mass into the vernacular. The five-volume work had the approbation of Cardinal de Retz, archbishop of Paris, and his vicars general, but its appearance met with immediate controversy. The Faculty of Theology of the Sorbonne disavowed the work, noting that they had already refused to countenance a French translation of the Roman Breviary in 1655 and a translation of the New Testament in 1649, and recalling their 1527 censure of a series of propositions of Erasmus, amongst which was a call for vernacular versions of the Scriptures.

Pope Alexander VII

When the Assembly of the Clergy of the Kingdom of France met on 7 December 1660, they too condemned this bilingual Missal, and Pope Alexander VII ratified their sentence on 12 January 1661, in the bull below. The bull was, however, widely ignored, and the Council of State eventually appealed to the king to search for and destroy all remaining copies of the book. Yet Cardinal de Retz continued to defend it, even after both the Assembly of the Clergy and the Holy See renewed their condemnations. But these were quickly forgotten, for after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, many converts from Protestantism were deliberately given translations of the missal by the authorities, “for their instruction,” as Bishop Bossuet noted in a letter.

Pope Alexander VII
for future memory

To our immense sorrow it has come to our ears that in the Kingdom of France certain sons of perdition, eager for novelties unto the ruin of souls and despising ecclesiastical sanctions and practice, have recently come upon this madness: they dared to translate the Roman Missal, written in the Latin language by long and approved use for so many centuries, into the vulgar French tongue, and thus rendered to divulge it by publishing it through the press, and to impart it to persons of any station or sex whatsoever, and thus overthrow and crush the majesty of the most holy rite contained in the Latin tongue. And by this temerarious enterprise they have tried to expose the dignity of the holy mysteries to the vulgar.

§1. To us, however unworthy, was entrusted the care of the vine of the Lord of Hosts planted by Christ our Saviour, and watered by his precious blood, in order that we might counter the growth of thorns of this sort, which might bury the vine, and cut them down to their roots, as much as we are able by God’s help, insofar as we abhor and detest this novelty, which mars the perpetual beauty of the Church, and easily produces disobedience, temerity, effrontery, sedition, schism, and many other evils.

§2. Therefore, of our own accord, and with certain knowledge and our mature deliberation, we perpetually condemn, reject, and prohibit the aforesaid Missal from being published by anyone, or at some future time from bring published and distributed in any way, and we wish to hold it as condemned, rejected, and prohibited, and we perpetually forbid its printing, reading, and possession by each and every Christian faithful of either sex, of whatever position, state, condition, dignity, honour, or preëminence, notwithstanding any special or individual pleading that shall be made in their favour, under the pain of excommunication latae sententiae to be incurred by vigour of the law itself.

§3. We order that whosoever has a copy thereof, or whensoever in the future they might have one, should forthwith truly and with effect present it and bring it to the Ordinaries of places or to the inquisitors, who, broaching no delay, should burn those exemplars with fire and make them be burnt. Valid, notwithstanding anything thereunto contrary.

Given at Rome, at St Mary Major, under the ring of the Fisherman, 12 January 1661, the sixth year of our pontificate.

Alexander Papa VII,
ad futuram rei memoriam.

Ad aures nostras ingenti cum animi moerore pervenit, quod in Regno Galliae quidam perditionis filii in perniciem animarum novitatibus studentes, et ecclesiasticas sanctiones ac praxim contemnentes, ad eam nuper vesaniam pervenerint, ut missale romanum, latino idiomate longo tot saeculorum usu in Ecclesia probato conscriptum, ad gallicam vulgarem linguam convertere, sicque conversum typis evulgare, et ad cujusvis ordinis et sexus personas transmittere ausi fuerint, et ita sacrosancti ritus majestatem latinis vocibus comprehensam dejicere et proterere, ac sacrorum mysteriorum dignitatem vulgo exponere, temerario conatu tentaverint.

§1. Nos, quibus, licet immeritis, vineae Domini Sabaoth a Christo Salvatore nostro plantatae , ejusque pretioso sanguine irrigatae, cura demandata est, ut spinarum hujusmodi, quibus illa obrueretur, obviemus incremento, earumque quantum in Deo possumus, radices succidamus, quemadmodum novitatem istam perpetui Ecclesiae decoris deformatricem, inobedientiae, temeritatis, audaciae, seditionis, schismatis aliorumque plurium malorum facile productricem abhorremus et detestamur,

§2. ita missale praedictum gallico idiomate a quocumque conscriptum, vel in posterum alias quomodolibet conscribendum et evulgandum, motu proprio, et ex certa scientia ac matura deliberatione nostris, perpetuo damnamus, reprobamus, et interdicimus, ac pro damnato, reprobato et interdicto haberi volumus, ejusque impressionem, lectionem et retentionem universis et singulis utriusque sexus christifidelibus cujuscumque gradus, ordinis, conditionis, dignitatis, honoris et praemminentiae, licet de illis specialis et individua mentio habenda foret, existant, sub poena excommunicationis latae sententiae ipso jure incurrendae, perpetuo prohibemus,

§3. mandantes quod statim quicumque illud habuerint, vel in futurum quomodocumque habebunt, realiter et cum effectu exhibeant, et tradant locorum Ordinariis vel inquisitoribus, qui, nulla interposita mora, exemplaria igne comburant, et comburi faciant, in contrarium facientibus non obstantibus quibuscumque.

Datum Romae, apud S. Mariam Majorem, sub annulo Piscatoris, die XII januarii MDCLXI, pontificatus nostri anno VI.