Papal Humiliations, Part 2: The Papal Dung Chair

Part 1: The Flax Burning Ceremony
Part 3: The Cock of the Lateran

In a previous article we discussed flax burning during the papal coronation rite. Today we consider a related ceremony, the Possession, i.e. when the pope takes formal possession of the Lateran cathedral and palace. Just as in the coronation rite, here too the ancient ceremony not only gives glory to Christ and the Petrine ministry. It also has him perform solemn public acts of humiliation and repentance to assure that they assume the dignities of their office with the proper spiritual dispositions:

“We must understand that our holy fathers in faith, not only the Supreme Pontiffs but also lesser bishops, have introduced these magnificent displays of horses, garments, and other exterior ornaments, which many people call “pomp,” not to increase their own glory but to exalt Christ and his Church. If they observe them with outward reserve and interior humility, they are not acts of vanity and vice, but virtue and merit.”[1]

According to Cancellieri’s Storia de’ solleni possessi de’ Sommi Pontefici, In the most ancient times, the Possession took place on the Sunday after the election, right after the consecration and coronation.

Coronation 3.jpg
Paul VI accepts the keys to the Lateran

Led from the Vatican Basilica to the Lateran, the pope was first received in the Basilica where his feet were kissed by the Cardinals and bishops. He was then led to a simple, unadorned marble seat placed in the portico of the patriarchal basilica. This seat was called the sedia stercoraria (from stercus = dung), literally the “Dung Chair.” The Ordo Romanus XII, written around the beginning of the 9th century, is the first source to describe the ceremony:

 

“And arising from his seat, the pope is led by the cardinals to a stone seat called the Stercoraria, which is in front of the portico of the Lateran Patriarchal Basilica of the Saviour. The Cardinals themselves place the newly-elected pope thereupon with honour, that it might be truly said, ‘He raiseth up the needy from the dust, and lifteth up the poor from the dunghill, that he may sit with princes, and hold the throne of glory.’ After a moment, the newly-elect stands next to the same seat and receives from the chamberlain’s pouch three fistfuls of denarii, which he throws out saying, ‘Silver and gold are not for my own pleasure, but what I have, to thee I give.’ Then the prior of the Lateran Patriarchal Basilica of the Saviour takes the newly-elect with one of the Cardinals, or one of his brethren. Going though the same portico next to the Basilica of the Saviour, he exclaims, ‘St Peter has chosen the Lord [Celestine].’[2]

Sedia stercoraria 2
The sedia stercoraria, kept today in the Lateran cloister.

Gaetono Moroni explains the meaning of this ceremony:

“The sedia stercoraria takes its name from the warnings sung by the schola while the Pope sat on it, namely the singing of the verse of Psalm 112: Suscitat de pulvere egenum, et de stercore erigit pauperem, ut sedeat cum principibus, et solium gloriae teneat. The verse reminded the pope of the difference between the condition from which he had risen to govern the Church, encouraging him to be humble in the memory of the condition he has left.”[3]

After the pope has been led inside the palace itself to the chapel of St Sylvester, he is brought to two other seats, both made of of porphyry (sedes porphyreticae), where he is girded with the subcingulum and again distributes silver to the chanting of a Psalm verse. The Ordo Romanus XIII:

“Then he is led by the Cardinals through the palace unto the church of St. Sylvester, where there are two porphyry chairs. He first sits on the one on the right, where the Prior of the Basilica of St. Lawrence gives him the ferula, which is a symbol of rule and government, and the keys of the same basilica and of the holy Lateran Palace, by which are signified the power of closing, opening, binding, and loosing. With the ferula and the keys he moves on to a similar seat, on the left, and there the returns the ferula and keys to the same Prior, and begins to sit in that second seat. And after he has sat for a brief moment, the same Prior girds the Lord Pope with a cincture of red silk, from which hangs a purple bag, in which are twelve precious stones with a seal and musk. Then he sits in the same seat, receives the officers of the palace who kiss his foot and lips. And, still sitting there, he receives from the chamberlain’s hand silver denarii of the worth of ten solidi, and throws them towards the people, and does this thrice, saying each time: ‘He hath distributed, he hath given to the poor: his justice remaineth for ever and ever.’”[4]

Then we find this curious note about the pope’s posture while sitting on these chairs:

“The pope should sit in these two chairs in such a way that he appears to be lying down rather than sitting. None of these seats, not even the stercoraria, is covered or decorated in any way, but entirely bare.”[5]

Sedia porphyretica 2
One of the porphyry chairs, taken by Napoleon to the Louvre.

These latter two porphyry chairs were of strange appearance, pierced (pertusae) and with their backs reclined as in the image above. These features would later gave rise to some malicious rumors about the true purpose of the seat, and also caused it to be confused with the sedia stercoraria, since it is similar to Latin words for toilet (sella pertusa, perforata).

Mabillon finds the first mention of these chairs in Pandulfus’ account of the possession of Paschal II (1099).[6]

The meaning of the ceremony with the porphyry chairs is somewhat mysterious. At least, no satisfying explanation seems to have been put forth. Some sources, confusing the sedes stercoraria and the porphyry chairs, have seen in it a rite of humiliation. The first to perpetrate this error was the humanist Platina, who in his 1579 Lives of the Popes writes, “The seat is prepared so that he who has acquired such a great magistracy might know that he is not God, but a man, and subjected to discharging the needs of nature, whence the chair is appropriately dubbed stercoraria.” A rather astonishing mistake for an erudite member of the Roman curia to make.

Even modern authors who have managed to distinguish the sedes stercoraria in the portico of the Lateran basilica from the sedes porphytericae in the chapel of St Sylvester have remained partial to Platina’s line of thought, suggesting that the latter were in fact ancient Roman latrine seats, and concluding, “The use of these three seats reminded the new pontiff of his human condition and reminded him that, as he ascended the throne of St Peter, he did so sumptus de stercore.[7]

Domenico Magri’s Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Terms suggests an allegorical interpretation, evoking the figures of Peter and Paul:

“The first seat signified the power of St. Peter as head of the Church; the second denoted the preaching of St. Paul as Doctor of the Church. The twelve precious stones called the sigilla were a symbol of the twelve apostles; the musk recalled St. Paul’s phrase “we are the aroma of Christ,” along with good example and virtuous deeds. Finally, the purse admonished him to be Father of the poor, a provider for widows and orphans, as the distributor of the patrimony of the Crucified One.

It has also been proposed that the new pope’s sitting upon these porphyry seats was an attempted ritual of exaltation rather than a ritual of humiliation, albeit one hampered by mediæval ignorance. Certain 11th century documents actually call these seats “curule chairs” (curules) so that, the theory goes, their use was therefore an attempt by the papacy to appropriate ancient imperial symbolism. By grotesque irony, however, these mediæval papal supremacists unknowingly chose ancient Roman toilet seats instead of actual curule chairs.

Just as fancifully, Cesare d’Onofrio proposed that the seat is actually an ancient obstetric chair, meant to symbolize the idea of the Church as a Mother, Mater Ecclesia.

More soberly, Agostino Paravicini-Bagliani has have suggested that the pope’s “lying” on these chairs, like he will someday lie upon a bier, symbolizes his future death. At the same time as he receives the symbols of power, then, the pope is reminded of his mortal nature: as Innocent III wrote while still a cardinal, “He who recently sat glorious upon the throne, soon lies despised in the earth.” Thus the rite isa sort of “ritual anticipation of the death of the newly elected pope himself. The pope was thus born and died with the apostles.”[8] A similar ritual with funereal connotations is contained in the 14th century ordo for the coronation of a French king, who must sit upon a chair such that he is almost lying down.

Whatever the case, the ritual failed adequately to convey its proper meaning, and gross misinterpretations soon made it an object of ridicule, especially in an era with a penchant for mocking the past as was the Renaissance. Leo X was the last to use all the three chairs; his successors abandoned the porphyry chairs, and Pius IV was the last to use the sedes stercoraria. St Pius V specifically refused to use any of the three chairs, rejectis superstitionibus aliorum pontificum, according to his Master of Ceremonies, Cornelio Firmiano. The chairs were all removed to the Lateran cloister where they were kept until the pontificate of Pius VI, who repolished them and put them in his Museo Pio Clementino. One of them was stolen by Napoleon, who placed it in the Louvre, and the other remains in the Vatican Museum..[9] The sedes stercoraria can today be found in the cloister of the Lateran.

***

The story of the misinterpretation of these three chairs is almost as interesting as the ceremony itself.

Image result for sedes stercoraria

Given the obscurity of the rite’s meaning and the odd shape of the porphyry chairs, the story arose in the late Middle Ages that it was meant to avert any repetition of the fabulous Pope Joan affair by to facilitating inspection of the pope’s genitals to assure his masculine sex. The story was eagerly taken up by humanists and Protestants eager to deride the mediæval Church. Even today, a casual Google search will show that this popular rumor, and the confusion between the dung chair and the porphyry chair, is still alive and well.

Unfortunately for the anti-clericalists, besides confusing the non-perforated sedia stercoraria with the porphyry chairs, the former is attested in the OR XII as part of papal ceremony before the supposed reign of Pope Joan.

A good example of this misinterpretation appears in Roma Triumphans, an account of the coronation of Innocent X written in 1645 by Laurens Banck, a virulently anti-Catholic Swedish Lutheran:

“Afterwards, [the Pope] is taken by [the canons of the basilica] to a marble seat with a hole, which was placed not far from [the portico of the basilica], so that, seating upon it, his genitals might be touched. It is not to be doubted but that the matter is so: indeed, it is most certain that such a marble seat with a hole is kept in the same Lateran Basilica, which we have seen many times. It also most certain that newly-created pontiffs, before they were admitted to take possession of the Lateran Palace, were placed upon that same seat, as is well proven even by Catholic authors, such as […] Pierre Grégoire. (Syntagm. jur. univers. libr. 15, cap. 3, num. 23). The latter’s words are these:

‘After her death (talking about the John VIII [i.e., the supposed Pope Joan]) they introduced this cautionary measure, that thenceforth the Supreme Pontiff should be taken to the pontifical seat and not confirmed before, sitting on that seat with a hole, his genitals should be touched. I should think, though, that the Supreme Pontiff is placed upon this low [humili] seat so that he might be admonished that, as lofty as the episcopal seat is, so much more he should feel humbly about himself, and remember that he is similar to the rest of men, subjected to the same defects of feeble nature, and that he is not God. Thus he is admonished not to become haughty after he is enthroned, as they say, and confirmed in the Apostolic See.’

And, together with him, many others confirm the same thing. After it is proclaimed that the newly-elect ‘has the Pontificals’ (Pontificalia habere), those present utter various cries of joy. After these these are completed, as I have said, he is again placed on the sedia gestatoria.”[10]

Sedia stercoraria.gif

Banck helpfully attaches an engraving of this supposed genital inspection. Although he presents this account in the same tone as that of the ceremonies he personally witnessed, he here doubly betrays his ignorance: first by confusing the porphyry chair kept in the chapel of St Sylvester with the sedes stercoraria kept in the Lateran Basilica, and secondly because by the time of Innocent X the use of the three chairs had been for a long time abandoned.

Image result for anti-clerical cartoonsIn the same vein, one pasquinade issued this calumny against Paul II:

Pontificis Pauli Testes ne Roma requiras;
Filia, quam genuit, sat docet, esse marem.

(Rome, no need to inquire about Pope Paul’s testicles;
The daughter he sired is enough evidence that he is a man.)

To which Pannonius penned an equally savage riposte :

Non poterat quisquam reserantes, aethera Claves
non exploratis sumere Testiculis.
Cur igitur nostro mos hic nunc tempore cessat?
Ante probat, quod se quilibet esse marem.

(In former times, no one could take the keys of heaven,
Unless his testicles were first examined.
So why has this custom ceased in our day?
Because they all prove they are men in advance.)

Image result for anti-clerical cartoon


NOTES:

[1] “Hos quippe magnificos apparatus, sive in equis, sive in vestibus, aut aliis exterioribus ornamentis, quos plerique pompas vocant […] Sancti Patres, non solum Summi Pontifices, sed et alii minores episcopi, non ad suam, sed ad Christi et Ecclesiae eius gloriam extollendam introduxisse credendi sunt; quos exterius cum temperantiae moderamine observare, interius tamen servata humilitate, non est vanitatis, ac vitii, sed est virtutis, ac meriti” (Pierre d’Ailly, quoted in Cancellieri, 1).

[2] “Surgensque de sede ducitur a Cardinalibus ad sedem lapideam, quae sedes dicitur Stercoraria, quae est ante porticum basilicae salvatoris patriarchatus Lateranensis, et in ea eumdem electum ipsi Cardinales honorifice ponunt, ut vere dicatur ‘Suscitat de pulvere egenum, et de stercore erigit pauperem, ut sedeat cum principibus, et solium gloriae teneat.’ Post aliquantulum stans iuxta eamdem sedem, Electus accipit de gremio Camerarii tres pugillatus denariorum, et proiicit dicens, “Argentum et aurum non est mihi ad delectationem, quod autem habeo, hoc tibi do.’ Tunc autem accipit ipsum electum Prior Basilicae Salvatoris Patriarchatus Lateranensis, cum uno de Cardinalibus, vel uno de fratribus suis. Venientibus autem per eamdem porticum iuxta ipsam basilicam Salvatoris exclamatur, ‘Dominum [Caelestinum] S. Petrus elegit.’” (MI, 210-211).

[3] (92) “La sedia stercoraria soltanto prese questo nome, dal dirsi dalla scuola de’cautori mentre vi sedeva il Papa, con canto il versetto del salmo 112: Suscitat de pulvere egenum, et de stercore erigit pauperem, ut sedeat cum principibus, et solium gloriae teneat.; affinché egli riconoscesse la differenza dello stato onde saliva al governo di tutta la Chiesa, e si mantenesse umile nel ricordare sempre quello che nella sua esaltazione lasciava.”

[4] Mabillon, Musei Italici, v. II, pp. 230-31: “Postea ducitur ab ipsis cardinalibus per palatium usque ad ecclesiam S. Silvestri, ubi sunt duae sedes porphyreticae, et primo sedet in illa, quae est ad dexteram, ubi Prior Basilicae S. Laurentii dat ei ferulam, quae est signum correctionis et regiminis, et claves ipsius basilicae et sacri Lateranensis Palatii, in quibus designatur potestas claudendi, aperiendi, ligandi, atque solvendi, et cum ipsa ferula, et aliis clavibus accedit ad aliam sedem similem, quae est ad sinistram, et tunc restituit eidem Priori ferulam et claves, et incipit sedere in illa secunda sede. Et postquam aliquantulum sedit, idem Prior cingit eidem D. Papae zonam de serico rubeo, in qua dependet bursa purpurea, in qua sint duodecim lapides pretiosi cum sigillo et musco. Et dum in ipsa sede sedet, recipit officiales palatii ad pedem, et ad osculum. Et sedens ibi recipit de manu camerarii denarios argenteos valentes decem solidos, et proiicit eos super populum, et hoc facit ter, dicendo singulis vicibus: Dispersit, dedit pauperibus, justitia eius manet in saeculum saeculi.”

[5] “Et istis duabus sedibus Papa taliter se habet, ut videatur potius iacens, quam sedere, et nulla istarum sedium, nec etiam stercoraria, est cooperta vel parata, sed nuda.”

[6] MI, v. II, cxxii.

[7] “L’utilization de ces trois chaises venait rappeler au nouveau pontife sa condition d’homme et lui remémorer que s’il montait sur le trône de saint Pierre, il y accédait sumptus de stercore” (Florence Buttay, “La mort du pape entre Renaissance et Contre-Réforme”, Revue Historique, vol. 305, no. 1)

[8] Agostino Paravicini-Bagliani, The Pope’s Body, pp. 48-49.

[9] Cancellieri, pp. 230 – 31, footnote 2.

[10] “Postea, ab iisdem ad Sedem Marmoream perforatam, quæ non procul inde collocata fuit, portatus est, ut super eadem positus, ejus virilia attrectarentur, veluti supra pag. 91 notavi. Nec dubitandum quin res ita sese habeat; etenim certissimum est, sellam illam marmoream et perforatam in eadem Basilica Lateranensi servari, quam multoties nos ipsi vidimus. Certissimum quoque est, noviter creatos pontifices, ante quam ad seculare regimen Lateranense admittantur, super eadem sella reponi et collocari, veluti satis probant inter alios, ipsi quoque Catholici [….] Cujus hæc sunt verba: Post cujus mortem (loquetur de Johanne VIII) dicunt cautum, ut posthac summus Pontifex in Pontificalem proveheretur cathedram, neve confirmaretur, quin prius in sella forata existens, ejus virilia attrectarentur. Quamvis arbitrer, summum Pontificem, in sella humili et sede constitui, ut moneatur, quo altior est sedes episcopalis, eo magis eum humiliter de se sentire debere, atque similem se esse cœteris hominibus recordetur, eisdemque infirmæ naturæ defectibus subjici, et se Deum non esse. Sic enim non superbiendum esse admonetur, cum postea in Sede Apostolica inthronizatur, ut dicunt, et confirmatur. Hæc ille. Et cum eodem plurimi alii idem confirmant; quare ipsi adstantes, postquam illa acclamatio est peracta, et ipsum Pontificalia habere intelligunt, varia lætitiæ signa edere solent. His itaque, uti dixi, peractis, sese in sellam gestatoriam vicissim conjecit” (Laurens Banck, Roma Triumphans, p. 387-8).

A Medieval Cure for Baldness

A monk drinking wine (from the British Library)
A tonsured monk sneaking a drink of wine (from the British Library)

St Foy (Sancta Fides, Saint Faith) was a virgin martyr from Agen killed in the persecution of Diocletian. In the 9th century her relics were stolen by a monk of the Abbey of Conques, who took them to his own monastery. Fame of the miracles wrought by St Foy there soon spread, and it became a popular place of pilgrimage. A compilation of stories about these miracles was written in the 11th century under the title Liber miraculorum sancte Fidis. The following story, which raises interesting questions about lay participation in monastic masses, is taken therefrom:

A warrior from the Auvergne named Bernard, who was melancholy after losing all his hair, received a night vision from Foy, who told him:

“Do not delay to go confidently to the monastery at Conques. When you have arrived, make known to Abbot Girbert in my name that in my memory he should celebrate the divine mystery before the shrine of my body, while you stand on his left until the reading of the holy Gospel has been completed. After the offertory, when the abbot has washed his hands, collect that water. He should moisten your head, and after that you must go over to the right side of the altar” (3.7).

When Abbot Girbert is told about the vision “point by point,” he,

“as is usually the case with spiritually advanced persons, immediately protested that he was not worthy of being involved in such a business. His resistance was finally overcome by their urgent pleas and he devoutly carried out everything he had been directed to do. The following night while Bernard was keeping vigil in holy prayers before the holy virgin’s mortal remains, his scalp seemed to swell with little hairs, like the head of a newborn boy” (3.7).

(Translation from “Liturgy as Social Performance” by C. Clifford Flanigan, Kathleen Ashley, and Pamela Sheingorn, in The Liturgy of the Medieval Church, ed. by Thomas J. Heffernan and E. Ann Matter, p. 644.)

????? (Source)

 

 

Mysterium Mysteriorum: How the Ambrosian Rite Survived Charlemagne

ambrogio
The frontispiece for an edition of the Ambrosian Missal published in 1640.

We have previously seen how hardily if unsuccessfully the Castilians of Burgos defended their traditional Mozarabic rite against the efforts of King Alphonse VI, backed by Pope St Gregory VII, to impose the Roman rite. It is particularly interesting that the chronicles report that God’s judgement on the Mozarabic and Roman missals was invoked by subjecting them to a trial by fire, from which the former emerged unscathed whilst the latter burned. As we saw a fortnight ago in M. Henri de Villiers’ article on the Ambrosian rite, a similar event took place in 9th-century Milan, as recounted by Landulf in his Historia Mediolanensis.

Continuing the policy begun by his father Pippin, the Blessed Charlemagne attempted to establish liturgical unity in his kingdoms by imposing the Roman rite throughout, to the detriment of the Gallican and Ambrosian rites. The Gallican rite was indeed suppressed (although several of its elements merged into the Roman rite), but the people of Milan successfully defended their indigenous rite, and it has survived till the present day.

Landulf asserts that the survival of the Ambrosian rite was due to a test the conflicting missals were made to undergo, whence the Ambrosian book emerged with divine approbation. Later writers, such as Durandus, repeat his account.

Landulf’s history was written around 1080, when Milan was racked by the often violent conflict between the reformist pataria, backed by the papacy, and its opponents, who saw themselves as the defenders of the traditions bequeathed to Milan by St Ambrose. Landulf himself was a married priest who claimed clerical marriage was one of these ancient Milanese customs. In terms of the liturgy, the reformist popes who backed the pataria, such as Nicholas II, were also those who most forcefully attempted to impose the Roman rite on all the West, and the anti-patarini obviously became the great advocates of the Ambrosian rite. Since Landulf’s objective in writing his Historia is largely to defend what he considered to be Ambrosian traditions against Roman claims, some have cast doubt upon the veracity of his account of the events described here. Ludovico Antonio Muratori, in his Antiquitates italicæ, accuses Landulf of being prone to writing fables (pronus in fabulas) and specifically questions the story about how the Ambrosian rite survived Charlemagne’s persecution, although he grants it must have some grounds in truth, given Charlemagne’s known efforts to create liturgical uniformity in the Empire. Anton Baumstark suggests the story was circulated by Landulf in response to the efforts by Nicholas II to impose the Roman rite on Milan in 1060.

Nevertheless, as M. de Villiers points out in his article, the fact remains that no records of the Ambrosian rite before the age of Charlemagne survive (except for the remains of a 7th century Ambrosian libellus missarum preserved in a palimpsest from the monastery of St Gall), and Landulf’s account furnishes an explanation thereof which, although dramatic in expression, is not lacking in overall verisimilitude:

 



ecc81ginhard_vita_caroli_magni_imperatoris-lettrine_v_historiecc81e_charlemagne_assisDURING the first years of Charles’s reign, when he was in Rome surrounded by magnificent and innumerable army of knights of the Empire, and Hadrian sat as pope, an immense synod was held with many bishops from all parts of the globe. During it, when they had discussed many and sundry matters, they unwisely set themselves against the holy rite (
mysterium) of God and the blessed doctor and confessor Ambrose, scarcely or not at all recalling with what reverence and what love the blessed Gregory was once united by affection to the Ambrosian church. And so, as if blinded and demented, and bereft of any judgement, they sought to mar, as it were, and to darken, and, what’s more, to altogether destroy what was illustrious and for a long time stable and hallowed.

Charles, therefore, having informed by a number of bishops, set out throughout the whole Latin land to entirely destroy whatever he might come upon that was different from the Roman use in chant or the divine ministry, and bring it to unity with the Roman rite (mysterium). And so it was done: the Emperor went to Milan and laid waste to Pavia, which he loathed with unquenchable wrath on account of his enemy the Emperor Desiderius, whom the knights of Pavia had manfully defended against Charles with arms and wit. Then all the books marked with the Ambrosian label which he could grab ahold of by purchase or gift or force he either burned or took with him across the mountains as if into exile. But pious men, seeing so many such books, piously preserved them. Yet God, who sees and knows all things, and foreknows to investigate the hidden things of men’s hearts and open up souls and foresees the intentions of all, did not suffer what He had recognized as ordained by the Holy Ghost and drawn up by the bishop Saint Ambrose to the praise and honour of His name to be violated and torn apart by evil men.

pope_adrian_i_illustrationHowever, Eugenius of glorious memory, a bishop over the mountains, a lover and as it were the father of the Ambrosian rite [mysterium] as well as its protector, and Charles’s spiritual father, set out to Rome, and found that the Apostolic Lord Hadrian, who was the first to give the rings and staves to Charles for episcopal investiture, had already been holding council for three days. He investigated all that had been done diligently and in order, for he was a sensible man, judicious in prudence and wisdom, mild of soul, serene of countenance, affable in teaching and words; and, as his dignity demanded, kinder than all, what seemed to him worthy of praise, he duly ratified. In the end, he wrenched out of them as if by force in what way or manner the synod had adjuged the Ambrosian rite (mysterium). When Eugenius heard their account, much frightened and grieved, calling himself a wretch with a tearful voice, with tears flowing from his eyes like water, he said:

“O woe is me, what will I do? The world and its judge have died: the all the world’s teaching, all that hinders the vanities of this life has passed away! The beauty of the entire Church, Latin as well as Greek, is darkened! The good, the just, and the holy are cast away! The column of the Church, the foundation of the faith, the champion of justice, the lover of the word of God is brought low! A brilliant doctor, renowned for his experience in all the arts, has been crushed! A most excellent rite [mysterium mysteriorum] has perished, on which Gregory, as the Lord and Most Reverend Pope, never dared to lay a finger, and from which Gregory, as teacher and doctor, devotedly drew so many wonderful and brilliant flowers and added them to the Roman rite [mysterio], where they remain to this very day.” 

He recovered his spirit and energy, and then, backed by a papal order and the wishes of the majority of the Roman nobility and people, he recalled all the bishops, archbishops, abbots, religious, laymen and clergy who had been at the council to the court of the Supreme Pontiff, though they had departed Rome already three days before. When they had been assembled, the holy bishop Eugenius advocated at length in favor of the Ambrosian rite [mysterio], to which they had given such short shrift. Having heard him out, the foreign clergy recognized that he was an upright man and lover of justice, and began to wonder and feel ashamed. Need I say more? The Apostolic Lord, all the bishops, the whole clergy and the entire Roman people clamoured and insisted that both the Ambrosian book and the book of blessed Gregory should be placed upon the altar of blessed Peter by the religious, clearly sealed with the apostolic signet. Then all the doors of the Church should also be firmly sealed, and a three-day fast proclaimed, during which all from the youngest to the oldest should fast with fervent devotion. Then whichever book they should find open and unsealed by God’s grace they would hold fast to with unshaken devotion; and whichever they found unmoved and sealed they would burn, having been given the clearest possible permission.

And so it was done: after all the bishops and the entire clergy and people of Rome had observed the fast, on the third day, on Tuesday of that week on which the Ambrosians devoutly sing Misericordia Domini plena est terra [The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord] even to this day1, when all had come together for the unseen and unheard of miracle, in the presence of the Apostolic Lord the doors of the church were unsealed and opened of their own accord. When everyone had entered, they found both books as they had left them, sealed and altogether intact. Having seen this, whilst everyone marvelled and was astounded and groaned exceedingly, the books, breaking their ties by themselves, gave forth a great and frightful noise in the hearing of all, and opening themselves up by God’s finger, they were both opened so that one could not find a further page in one part more than the other.

Immediately everyone felt a great joy and burst out in tears. Meanwhile, having seen how both books appeared opened, all cried out as if with one voice, saying: “Let the Gregorian and Ambrosian rites [mysterium] be praised by the universal Church, confirmed and preserved entirely.” For they said, “It is determined that the will of almighty God and blessed Peter the Apostle is that these rites [mysteria] may be praised and steadfastly maintained by all the bishops of the globe.” Although to some these words seemed to be good, to others however they were difficult and very hard. Finally, it was highly commended by the Lord Pope and the other wise and discerning men that the Ambrosian see remain content with that rite [mysterio] alone by which she was ordered and exalted by blessed Ambrose, and that the rest of the globe that resounds with the Latin tongue should strive to keep the Gregorian rite diligently and carefully, to the exclusion of any other.

After all these things were over and done, Eugenius, exulting with great joy, reached Milan as if going to see his own children. In that city, a few days earlier, the Emperor, by order of the council that took place in Rome, wishing to wipe out the Ambrosian rite entirely from the face of the earth, had butchered many clerics in minor and major orders and eliminated all the Ambrosian books, which had been established according to Ambrose with respect to passages of the New and Old Testament as well as to the musical arts. Nothing indeed remained except for a missal, which a certain good and faithful priest had hidden and faithfully preserved for six weeks in the caverns of the mountains. Afterwards, however, with the aid of the most faithful bishop Eugenius, those wise priests and clerics who remembered much of the rite came together and, with God’s help, handed over to posterity what they had once come upon entire.

steugenio
According to Milanese tradition, the Gaulish bishop St Eugenius (his see is unknown) tarried in Milan after ensuring the survival of the Ambrosian rite and died there. His body was eventually transferred to the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, where it remains to-day. His feast is commemorated in the Ambrosian rite on 30 December. This mediæval statue, now in the basilica’s museum, was originally next to the altar where his remains rest. An 18th century inscription referring to this statue calls St Eugenius rituum Ecclesiæ Mediolanensis mirificus propugnator.

Karuli primi tempore, cum idem apud Romam imperii magnifice et inenarrabili militum exercitu stipatus frueretur, et papa resideret Adrianus, synodus inmensa multis diversarum terrarum episcopis congregatis celebrata est, in qua cum de multis atque diversis tractassent negotiis, indiscrete erga mysterium Dei et beati doctoris et confessoris Ambrosii sese intulerunt, parum aut nichil quantae reverentiae quantique amoris beatus Gregorius olim ecclesiae Ambrosianae per affectum contulisset, reminiscentes; propterea quasi caecati et ementati, et absque ullo iudicio, quod inclytum et per multa tempora firmum atque sancitum, quodammodo decolorare et obnubilare, et plus dicam, omnino delere aggressi sunt.

Edoctus itaque Karolus imperator a quampluribus episcopis, ut per totam linguam proficisceretur Latinam, et quicquid diversum in cantu et ministerio divino inveniret a Romano, totum deleret, et ad unitatem mysterii Romani uniret. Unde factum est, veniens imperator Mediolanum, devastata Papia quam ipse ira inextinguibili ob imperatorem Desiderium suum haemulum oderat, quem milites Papiae contra Carlonis imperium viriliter armis et ingenio tutaverant, omnes libros Ambrosiano titulo sigillatos, quos vel pretio vel dono vel vi habere potuit, alios comburens, alios trans montes quasi in exilio secum detulit. Sed religiosi viri tales et tantos libros videntes, religiose tenuerunt. At Deus qui omnia videt cunctaque cognoscit, et cordium occulta investigare et aperire praenovit animos et intentionem cunctorum praevidens, quod ad laudem et honorem nominis sui per Spiritum sanctum sancto Ambrosio episcopo dictante ordinatum noverat, violari aut a malis dilacerari non passus est.

Proficiscens autem gloriosae memoriae Eugenius transmontanus episcopus, amator et quasi pater Ambrosiani mysterii nec non et protector, pater spiritualis Karlonis, causa concilii Romam, invenit apostolicum Adrianum, qui primus annulos et virgas ad investiendum episcopatus Karloni donavit, iam per tres dies celebrasse concilium. Qui studiose omnia, ut gesta erant, per ordinem inquirens, prout erat vir discretus, conscilio ac sapientia providus, animo placidus, vultu serenus, doctrina et verbis affabilis, atque ut eius dignitas exposcebat, ultra omnes benignus, quod dignum laude esse sibi videbatur, competenter affirmabat: tandem qualiter aut quomodo super mysterium Ambrosianum sese synodus habuisset, quasi vi ab illis extorsit. Quod ubi Eugenius audivit, plurimum expavescens condoluit, et voce lacrimabili miserum se vocans, lacrimis velut aqua ab oculis decurrentibus inquit:

« O miser, quid agam? mundus et eius iudex periit; orbis doctrina, cuncta huius vitae quae vanitates sunt obfuscans, elabitur. Decus totius ecclesiae tam Latinae quam Graecae obnubilatur, bonum, iustum, sanctum eliminatur. Columpna ecclesiae, fundamentum fidei, assertor iusticiae, verbi Dei amator deprimitur. Doctor egregius omnium artium peritia imbutus disternitur, mysterium perit mysteriorum, de quo domnus et reverentissimus papa Gregorius aliquid sinistrum proferre timuit, de quo quanta et quam magna quasi lucidissimos flores beatus magister et doctor Gregorius curiose attrahens Romanoque mysterio interserens usque hodie adiunxit. »

Spiritu demum animoque resumpto, iussu papae et magna nobilium parte Romanorum cum plebis simul voluntate laudante, omnes episcopos, archiepiscopos, abbates, quoscunque religiosos, laicos et clericos, quos concilio interfuisse cognovit, quamvis per tres dies recessissent a Roma, ad curiam summi pontificis revocavit. Quibus congregatis beatus Eugenius episcopus de mysterio Ambrosiano voce benigna, unde incomposite tractaverant, multum conquestus est. Quo audito, extranei clerici cognoscentes virum valde probum iustitiaeque amatorem, partim satis mirari ac verecundari coeperunt. Quid multa? Ab apostolico et universis episcopis et a toto clero ab universoque populo Romano conclamatum et conlaudatum est ut librum Ambrosianum et beati Gregorii librum ambos super beati Petri altare optime sigillatos, videlicet evidentissime apostolico sigillo signatos, viri religiosi supponerent; quin etiam omnibus hostiis ecclesiae apertissime sigillatis, indito ieiunio per tres dies cuncti a minimo usque ad maximum devote ieiunarent; et sic Deo propitio, quemcunque apertum et reseratum invenirent, illum summa cum devotione et indubitanter tenerent; et quemcunque immotum ac sigillatum reperissent, illum evidentissima dispensatione comburerent.

Quod factum est, ieiunio ab episcopis omnibus et universo clero et populo Romano celebrato, in tertia die tertiae feriae illius hebdomadae, in qua Ambrosiani « Misericordia Domini plena est terra » usque hodie devote cantant, in unum universis convenientibus ad invisum et inauditum miraculum, ecclesiae ianuae stante apostolico reseratae et ultro apertae sunt. Quibus introgressis, ambos libros ut dimiserant sigillatos et omnino intactos invenerunt. Quo viso cunctis mirantibus valdeque obstupescentibus nimiumque congemescentibus, libri ligaturas per se rumpentes, sonum magnum atque terribilem audientibus universis, dederunt, et sese digito Dei aperientes, ita ambo aperti sunt, ut aliquis unam illorum foliam non inveniret plus in unam partem quam in alteram.

Itaque ingens gaudium omnes abruptis lacrimis illico invasit. Interea libris ambobus visis, qualiter aperti apparuerunt, omnes quasi una voce proclamabant dicentes: « Gregorianum et Ambrosianum misterium ab universa ecclesia laudetur confirmetur simulque ex toto teneatur. » Dicebant enim: « Ut haec mysteria laudentur firmiterque ab universis totius orbis episcopis teneantur, Dei omnipotentis et beati Petri apostoli cernitur esse voluntas. » At quibusdam hoc verbum videbatur fore bonum, quibusdam vero difficile atque durissimum. Tandem domini papae et aliorum sapientium atque discretorum virorum collaudatum est ut sedes Ambrosiana, in quo mysterio ordinata et a beato Ambrosio exaltata est, illo solo contenta permaneat, nec non cetera pars orbis, quae linguae Latinae vocibus resonare videtur, omnibus aliis praetermissis, Gregorianum studiose et curiose tenere studeat.

His omnibus rebus factis, finitis et terminatis, Eugenius gaudio magno tripudians, quasi ad proprios filios tendens Mediolanum pervenit. De qua urbe paucis antea transactis diebus imperator iussu concilii quo Romae interfuit, omne mysterium Ambrosianum desuper faciem terrae omnino delere desiderans, trucidatis multis clericis minorum et maiorum ordinum, omnes Ambrosianos libros, tam in sententiis novi quam veteris testamenti quam in musica arte secundum Ambrosium descriptos, abrasit. Nichil enim praeter missale remansit, quod quidam bonus atque fidelis sacerdos absconsus in cavernis montium per sex ebdomadas fideliter reservavit. Manualem autem postea astante Eugenio episcop[o] fidelissim[o], sapientes tam sacerdotum quam clericorum, qui multa memoriter tenebant, convenientes in unum, Deo opitulante, ut antea integer fuit invenientes, in posteris tradiderunt.

Notes

1. I.e. on the Tuesday following the Second Sunday after Easter.

Margaret Deansely: The Bishop’s Familia and the Ecclesial Cursus Honorum

ordrminr
In his commentary on the seven holy orders, Honorius prefers to trace each order to a precedent in the Old Law, so that the hierarchy of the Church is a sort of mirror of the Temple ministry instituted by David and Solomon.

But the orders are also bound up with the distinctively Roman culture of the Latin Church, as we can see in the following extracts from Margaret Deanesly, A History of the Medieval Church, page 28:

“In the time of Gregory I the conception of the clergy as the ‘clerical militia’ was already long developed. The imperial civil service had provided a ladder of offices, by which a candidate, beginning at the bottom, might proceed through the ‘cursus honorum’ to the highest civil or military rank. The parallel between this ladder and the various grades of the Christian minister had not been unnoticed by Christian bishops, and by 600 the commonest collective description of the clergy was the ‘clerical militia,’ or the ‘celestial’ in opposition to the ‘secular’ militia. The celestial militia consisted of seven orders, its sevenfold nature denoting the perfection of the divine service: ostiarius, lector, acolyte, subdeacon, deacon, presbyter, or sacerdos [….]

About the year 600 the first three minor orders were usually conferred together; boys were ordained lectors at about seven years of age, and received the other grades at intervals of several years, till they were ordained to the presbyterate at the age of forty-five [….]

This was due to the system of education in the bishop’s familia. After the destruction of the rhetorical schools in the barbarian invasions, the bishop’s house became the only place where the clergy might reasonably hope for an education [….]

Gregory of Tours relates how, at the death of a Gallic bishop, the bishops summoned for his funeral encountered a claim from one Cato, a presbyter of his clergy, to be ordained bishop almost as of right, from his due canonical reception of the various grades. ‘For,’ he said, ‘I have been allotted these grades of clerkship with canonical institution. I was a lector ten years, I ministered in the office of subdeacon for five years, fifteen years was I bound for the diaconate, and now for twenty years I have enjoyed the honour of the presbyterate. What now remains for me but to receive…the episcopate?'”

Non Est Authenticum: The Micrologus against the Feast of the Holy Trinity

The feast of the Holy Trinity was a rather peculiar addition to the Roman liturgical kalendar inasmuch as it does not commemorate a specific saint or event in the history of salvation, but rather a theological idea. It was in fact an observance that emanated without Rome: the Mass in honour of the Holy Trinity was composed by Stephen, bishop of Liège, around 910, and the feast itself arose about a century later. By 1030, Cluny was celebrating it on the first Sunday after Pentecost and, thanks in great part to its reticulate influence, the feast diffused throughout Christendom.

220px-pope_alexander_iiIt encountered redoutable resistance in Rome, however. In 1061, Pope Alexander II, replying to the archbishop of Tortona’s question about the use of the pallium on Trinity Sunday, noted the absurdity of honouring the Holy Trinity with a special feast day, since the Trinity is daily honoured by the Minor Doxology and other praises in the liturgy. “And so, my brother archbishop,” the Pope rather tartly concludes, “I can scarcely give you a proper answer about the use of the pallium on the day when the feast of the Holy Trinity is celebrated.”1

A century thereafter, Pope Alexander III pointed out that a feast of the Holy Trinity makes as much sense as a feast of the Holy Unity: both are superfluous, since these mysteries are celebrated in the quotidian liturgy. Writing around 1150, Abbot Potho of Prüm listed the feast of the Holy Trinity together with those of the Transfiguration and Conception of Our Lady as novæ celebritates, disapprovingly asking Quæ ratio festa hæc celebranda induxit? 

But resistance was doomed to failure. The sons of St Bernard of Clairvaux, whose view of novel feasts was much that of his contemporary Potho’s, adopted the feast of the Holy Trinity in 1271, and finally, in 1334, Pope John XXII, residing in Avignon, introduced it into the Roman kalendar, thereby relegating the First Sunday after Pentecost to a mere commemoration, which the next Pope John entirely suppressed in 1960. (Of course, the Mass of the First Sunday after Pentecost can be said on any feria in the week following). Other “idea feasts” eventually made their way into the Roman kalendar as well, including Corpus Christi (which also originated in Liège, interestingly enough), the Sacred Heart, and Christ the King. 

In this extract from chapter LX of the Micrologus de ecclesiasticis observationibus, Bernold of Constance discusses the feast of the Holy Trinity. He evinces a pervading concern that liturgical feasts be authentica, i.e. part of the tradition of the church of Rome, and the feast of the Holy Trinity’s failure in this count consigns it to Bernold’s disapprobation. 

Some celebrate the service of the Holy Trinity on the Octave Day of Pentecost, although without added alleluias, and think that it ought to be observed throughout the entire week following, but this is not authentic. It is said that this office as well as the history of the Invention of St Stephen were composed by Stephen of Liège; both of these are rejected by the Apostolic See.

When Pope Alexander [III], of pious memory, was asked about this matter, he replied that, following the Roman order, the solemnity of the Holy Trinity should not be assigned to any particular day, just as no solemnity of the Holy Unity is assigned to any particular day. This is precisely because the commemoration of both is celebrated every Sunday, nay, rather, every day.

One should know that Charlemagne’s teacher Alcuin [Albinus Flaccus], at the request of the Archbishop St Boniface, as they say, composed Mass orations of the Holy Trinity, and of Wisdom for Monday, the Holy Ghost for Tuesday, Charity for Wednesday, the Angels for Thursday, the Cross on Friday, and Our Lady on Saturday. This was so that the priests of that time, who were recently converted to the faith and were not yet instructed in the ecclesiastical offices nor provided with the necessary books, might have something with which they could carry out their duty on whatever day. As a result, even to-day some insist on saying these same orations daily, even when they have access to the proper offices. Moreover, nearly everywhere the service of the Cross is observed on Fridays and of Our Lady on Saturdays, on the basis not so much of authority as of devotion.

In the same way, therefore, that these sorts of observations do not pertain more to one week than to another, neither does that of the Holy Trinity. Hence it seems incongruous to celebrate one Sunday of the Holy Trinity with the Alcuin’s orations and Stephen’s chants when all Sundays are endowed with authentic offices which relay to us the honour of the Holy Trinity no less.

Note that we take up the practice of singing the preface of the Holy Trinity on Sundays based on the authority of Rome, not of Alcuin; it is one of the nine things which Pope Pelagius [II], Gregory [the Great]’s predecessor, ordered to be observed. Nevertheless, the work Alcuin performed for the Holy Church is not to be contemned, for it is said that he collected the Gregorian orations into the books of the sacraments, adding a few which he nonetheless decided to mark with an obelus. He then collected other prayers or prefaces which, even if not of Gregorian origin, are nevertheless appropriate for ecclesiastical celebrations, as is stated in the prologue which he placed after the Gregorian prayers in the middle of the same book. 

Quidam autem officium de sancta Trinitate in octava Pentecostes instituunt, licet non sit alleluiatum, quod et per totam subsequentem hebdomadam observandum putant, sed non est authenticum. Nam quidam Leodicensis Stephanus idem officium, sicut et historiam de inventione sancti Stephani, composuisse asseritur; quae utraque ab apostolica sede respuuntur. Unde piae memoriae Alexander papa de hac re inquisitus, respondit iuxta Romanum Ordinem nullum diem specialiter ascribi debere solemnitati Sanctae Trinitatis, sicut nec sanctae unitatis, praecipue cum in omni Dominica, imo quotidie, utriusque memoria celebretur. Sciendum autem quemdam Albinum magistrum Caroli imp. rogatu sancti Bonifacii archiepiscopi, ut aiunt, missales orationes de Sancta Trinitate composuisse, et in secunda feria de sapientia, in tertia de Spiritu sancto, in quarta de charitate, in quinta de angelis, in sexta de cruce, in Sabbato de sancta Maria. Et hoc ideo ut presbyteri illius temporis nuper ad fidem conversi, nondum ecclesiasticis officiis instructi, nondum etiam librorum copia praediti, vel aliquid haberent cum quo officium suum qualibet die possent explere. Unde et adhuc quidam easdem orationes quotidie, etiam cum propria abundent officia, nolunt praetermittere. In singulis quoque hebdomadibus, sexta feria de cruce, et Sabbato de sancta Maria pene usquequaque servatur, non tam ex auctoritate quam ex devotione. Sicut igitur huiusmodi observationes nulli magis hebdomadae quam alii ascribuntur, ita nihilominus et illa de sancta Trinitate. Incongruum ergo videtur unam Dominicam cum orationibus Albini, et cantu Stephani de sancta Trinitate celebrari, cum omnes Dominicae authenticis abundent officiis, quae non minus nobis intimant honorem sanctae Trinitatis. Praefationem autem de sancta Trinitate, quam in diebus Dominicis frequentamus, non ex Albino, sed ex Romana auctoritate suscepimus. Nam haec est una ex illis novem quas solas Pelagius papa, antecessor Gregorii, constituit observari. Fecit tamen idem Albinus in sancta Ecclesia non contemnendum opus, nam Gregorianas orationes in libris Sacramentorum collegisse asseritur, paucis aliis adiectis, quas tamen sub obelo notandas esse indicavit. Deinde alias orationes sive praefationes, etsi non Gregorianas, ecclesiasticae tamen celebritati idoneas collegit, sicut prologus testatur quem post Gregorianas orationes in medio eiusdem libri collocavit.

Notes

1. Præterea festivitas sanctæ Trinitatis secundum diversarum consuetudines regionum a quibusdam in octavis Pentecostes ab aliis in dominica prima ante Adventum Domini celebrari consuevit: ecclesia siquidem Romana in usu non habet, ut in aliquo tempore hujusmodi celebret specialiter festivitatem cum singulis diebus Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto, et cætera consimilia dicantur ad laudem pertientia Trinitatis; quare tibi, frater archiepiscope, de usu pallii eo die quo sanctæ Trinitatis festivitas celebratur certum nequaquam potuimus dare responsum. (De feriis, lib. 2, tit. 5, cap. Quoniam).