Gemma Animae (82): David’s Battle with the Philistines, and Warrior Priests

Ch. 82
On the Priest’s Arms

Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy a bishop, recognizable by his mitre, riding to battle with other knights at Antioch on 28th June 1098. He is carrying a Holy Lance (Source).

Our team’s man, the priest, before joining battle with the people’s enemy, is steeled with spiritual arms because he is about to fight against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Sandals are his grieves, the amice his helmet, and to cover his body he dons the alb for a cuirass. When he drapes the stole around his neck, he is shaking his spear in defiance. He girds himself with a cincture instead of a bow, and ties on the subcingulum as a quiver. The chasuble protects him like a shield. He uses the maniple like a war club, and the book of the word of God is his sword. He renounces the devil in his confession and thus challenges the enemy to single combat. He fights with all his might when he recites the chant, prayers, and the rest against the devil. When he throws his chasuble over his shoulder to read the Gospel, this is him drawing his sword. Reading the Gospel, he stabs the devil with his sword.

Peter the Hermit leading the First Crusade, as depicted in Abreviamen de las estorias, 14th century.
Peter the Hermit leading the First Crusade, as depicted in Abreviamen de las estorias, 14th century. The British Library (Public Domain)

 

CAP. LXXXII. – De armis sacerdotis.

Sacerdos itaque pugil noster cum hoste populi congressurus, armis munitur spiritualibus, quia pugnaturus est contra spiritualia nequitiae in coelestibus (Ephes. VI, 12). Denique sandaliis se pro ocreis induit, caput humerali pro galea tegit, totum corpus alba pro lorica vestit. Cum stolam collo circumdat, quasi hastam ad resistendum vibrat. Cingulo pro arcu se cingit, sub cingulum pro pharetra sibi appendit. Casula pro clypeo protegitur, manipulo pro pugili clavo utitur. Porro libro, in quo est verbum Dei pro gladio armatur, per confessionem diaboli Domino renuntiatur, sicque hostis ad singulare certamen provocatur, quasi enim totis viribus pugnat, dum cantum et orationes et reliqua contra diabolum recitat. Dum ad Evangelium casulam super humerum proiicit, quasi gladium arripit. Dum legitur Evangelium quasi ense petit diabolum.

Image result for julius II in armor

 

Crusader Feasts in Spain: The Triumph of the Holy Cross

Although in the popular mind to-day the Crusades are mainly conceived as the Christian effort to wrest the Holy Land from the Mohammedan grasp, they were in fact a wide-ranging military enterprise carried out in divers theatres to humble all enemies of Holy Church. The expeditions to the Holy Land proved ultimately to be a noble lost cause, but all was hardly quiet in the western front: the Crusades in holy Spain were an admirable triumph, banishing the spectre of the paynim from the Iberian peninsula for aye—or at least till the advent of modernity.

Taking advantage of the inner turmoil that afflicted the Visigothic kingdom, the Umayyad horde swept into Spain in the 8th century with astonishing celerity. A few Visigothic Christians were able take refuge in the mountains of Cantabria, however, and under the leadership of Don Pelayo struck a memorable victory against the invaders in 722, and began the arduous process of reconquering the peninsula. 

The collapse of the Umayyad Caliphate allowed the Reconquista to enjoy great progress: the old Visigothic capital of Toledo was liberated in 1085 by Alphonse VI, king of Castile and Leon (and the figure principally responsible for imposing the Roman rite on Spain). Alarmed by the Christians’ victories, the petty Muslim chieftains of Iberia called for the aid of the brutal Almoravids, who held a north African kingdom centred on Marrakech. They won an alarming victory over the Christians at Sagrajas in 1086, after which they paraded the heads of the Christian dead around Spain and North Africa. This defeat led several Frankish knights to cross over the Pyrenees to succour their Spanish brethren, and although the Almoravid advance was halted, it was not reversed. Many of these knights would go on to participate in the First Crusade, and indeed the Spanish situation was very probably on the mind of the Blessed Urban II when he delivered that momentous sermon in Clermont, urging Christendom to resist the Muslim infidel.

Although this First Crusade was focused on bringing relief to the Byzantines and recovering the Holy Land, Pope Urban was keenly aware that the Spanish Reconquista was but another front of the same war, and when he learned that a band of Catalan knights was preparing to set off to the Holy Land, he urged to fight the Mohammedans in their own land instead. He specifically directed them to liberate the city of Tarragona, near Barcelona, promising them the same indulgences wherewith he had enriched the military pilgrimage to free Jerusalem, warning that “it is no virtue to rescue Christians from the Saracens in one place, only to expose them to the tyranny and oppression of the Saracens in another”. 

Successive popes continued to encourage expeditions to free parts of Spain, and, in 1123, when Pope Calixtus II proclaimed the Second Crusade during the First Lateran Council, he specifically declared that knights could fulfil their Crusader vows in Spain as well as in the Holy Land. At a council held in Santiago de Compostela, Archbishop Diego Gelmírez declared,

Just as the knights of Christ and the faithful sons of Holy Church opened the way to Jerusalem with much labour and spilling of blood, so we should become knights of Crust and, after defeating his wicked enemies the Muslims, open the way to the Sepulchre of the Lord through Spain, which is shorter and much less laborious.

The Reconquista was not merely a political or military excercise, but an integral element of Spanish religious life. In a letter to King Ferdinand the Catholic, Diego de Valera captures this significance when he declares that “the Queen fights [the Muslims] no less with her many alms and devout prayers than you, my Lord, armed with the lance”. As such, it should not be surprising that certain decisive military victories became fixed in the liturgical kalendars of the various dioceses of Iberia. 

The first victory to be commemorated liturgically was the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. As the chronicle of Don Rodrigo, Archbishop of Toledo—which was the source of the the Second Nocturn lessons in Mattins of the feast—relates:

Alphonse, king of Castille, called the Good, yearned to repair the losses inflicted upon the Christians by the Moors, who held Andalusia and the entire expanse of southern Spain and had once defeated him. He therefore raised a great host, called upon neighbouring kings and princes, and besought the Supreme Pontiff Innocent III to grant that those who should fall in this holy war might not be restrained by any capital offenses from soaring up to heaven forthwith 1.

Alphonse’s armies won a decisive victory on 16 July 1212, and thenceforth the Christians would permanently hold the upper hand in the effort to free the Iberian peninsula.

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The earliest source for the feast of the Triumph of the Cross, from a 13th-century Cistercian lectionary found in the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas.

This victory was commemorated by the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross in Las Navas de Tolosa (in festo Triumphi Sanctae Crucis apud Navas Tolosae). The name might have been inspired by the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which commemorated Emperor Heraclius’s defeat of the Persians, but the Mattins readings also recall miracles that occured during the battle:

And miracles occurred in this battle. First the paucity of Christian fatalities. A Cross, moreover, was seen in the sky by Alphonse and many others in the midst of the confrontation, when our side seemed most imperilled. Further, the Cross which was by custom carried before the Archbishop of Toledo, was twice carried into the enemy array, with the crucifer, Domingo Pascual, a canon of the church of Toledo, coming to no harm. And finally, a great multitude of Moors was crushed in the presence of an image of Our Lady, which was depicted on the royal standards. Wherefore, and because the Cross was the Christian ensign and emblem, this splendid victory was dubbed the Triumph of the Holy Cross 2.

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From a Missal according to the Use of Plasencia (1554)

This feast was a holy day of obligation in many Spanish dioceses during the Middle Ages, and it was one of the select feasts celebrated with a High Mass, Vespers, and sermon in the Royal Chapel of Castile. Some early liturgical books indicate that the propers of the feast were the same as those of the Exaltation except for the lessons at Mattins and the collect:

Collect: God, who by thy Cross willed to grant to the people who believe in thee victory against thine enemies: grant, that by thy mercy thou mightest ever secure victory and honour to those who adore thy Cross. Who livest and reignest, &c. (Deus, qui per crucem tuam populo in te credenti triumphum contra inimicos concedere voluisti: quæsumus, ut tua pietate adorantibus crucem: victoriam semper tribuas et honorem. Qui vivis et regnas, &c.)

Secret (borrowed from the feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross): Mercifully regard, O Lord, the sacrifice which we offer unto thee: that it might set us free from all the miseries of war; and by the banner of the holy Cross of thy Son, may establish us in the security of thy protection, so that we might overcome all the wiles of the enemy. Through the same Lord, &c. (Sacrificium, Domine, quod tibi immolamus, placatus intende: ut ab omni nos eruat bellorum nequitia; et per vexillum sanctæ Crucis Filii tui, ad conterendas adversariorum insidias, nos in tuæ protectionis securitate constituat. Per eundem Dominum, &c.)

Postcommunion (borrowed from a prayer said at the beginning of Mass in the Mozarabic rite): Hear us, O God, our Salvation, and by the triumph of the holy Cross, defend us from all dangers. Through our Lord, &c. (Exaudi nos Deus salutaris noster: et per triumphum sanctæ Crucis, a cunctis nos defende periculis. Per Dominum, &c.)

Later books, however, contain a proper Mass and Office, albeit compiled from preëxisting propers. Notably, they tended to come from Paschal masses, like the propers of the feast of the Liberation of Jerusalem.

Introit: Venite benedicti Patris mei, percipite regnum, quod vobis paratum est ab origine mundi, alleluia, alleluia. Ps. Cantate Dominum canticum novum: cantate Domino omnis terra. (From Easter Wednesday.)

Gradual: Haec dies quam fecit Dominus: exultemus et lætemur in ea. ℣. Dextera Domine fecit virtutem: dextera Domini exaltavit me. (From Easter Wednesday.)

Alleluia: Alleluia, alleluia. ℣. O quam gloriosum est regnum, in quo cum Christo gaudent omnes sancti; amicti stolis albis, sequuntur Agnum quocumque ierit. Alleluia. (From All Saints’ Day in certain uses.)

Offertory: Dextera Domine fecit virtutem: dextera Domini exaltavit me: dextera Domini fecit virtutem: non moriar, sed vivam, et narrabo opera Domini. (From the Second Sunday of Advent.)

Communion: Benedicimus Deum cæli et coram omnibus viventibus confitebimur ei: quia fecit nobiscum misericordiam suam. (From Trinity Sunday.)

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From the Spanish supplement to the Roman Missal (1753)

There is some variation in the various mediæval versions of this feast, but as fixed in the post-Tridentine books, the Epistle pericope is the conclusion of St Paul’s letter to the Galatians (6, 14-18), where the Apostle exclaims, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world!”

The Gospel extract—Our Lord’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world (Luke 21, 9-19)—might seem odd at first: it appears to be a vision of apocalyptic terror rather than of triumph. Yet it reveals that the Spanish crusaders, like their counterparts in the Holy Land, saw their victories anagogically: despite the horrors of war or the end-times, the Christians will emerge victorious—capillus de capite vestro non peribit—and inherit not merely the kingdom of Spain, but the kingdom of heaven it represents. In fact, the introit is taken from the equivalent account of the apocalypse in the Gospel according to St Matthew: after much tribulation, the sheep shall be separated from the goats, and the everlasting king shall cry, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

The liturgical books of Seville included a sequence for this feast:

Let Spain recall
The new joys of the cross
With happy jubilation.
Remember the new grace,
And the new victory,
Under the patronage of the Cross.

He wished to renew
All the ancient miracles
He had accomplished.

And the incredulous peoples
Who spurned the Cross
Fell smitten before the Cross.

The enemy of the Cross,
The impious king, son of hell,
In madness of mind,

Goes forth against Christ,
And utters blasphemous words
Against the Cross.

In his pride he presses against the stars,
He sets his words against the heavens,
Contemning the holy Cross,
Rejecting the Crucified.

While he ponders haughtily,
He stirs the madness of the barbarians
Into a rage
To their own ruin.

For our patron,
Our goodly Jesus,
Hears the prayers,
Of his faithful
And heeds them.

When he sees
That needs must,
He protects his own,
And rules them,
Providing succour.

Behold, the lovers of the Cross
The followers of Christ the king,
Receive the Spirit,

Stirred by Christ the king,
And marked by the holy Cross,
They boldly fight.

For such a victory,
Glory be to Christ. 

Nova crucis gaudia
Recolat Hispania
Laeto cum tripudio
Novae memor gratiae
Novaeque victoriae
Crucis patrocinio.Cuncta qui disposuit,
Renovare voluit
Antiqua miracula,

Et qui crucem sperneret,
Ante crucem caderet
Caesa gens incredula.

Crucis hostis impius
Rex, gehennae filius,
Spiritu vesaniae

Contra Christum nititur
Et in crucem loquitur
Sermones blasphemiae.

Fasta premit sidera
Ponit os in aethera
Crucem sanctam improbans,
Crucifixum reprobans;

Dum superbe cogitat
In furorem excitat
Barbarorum rabiem
Ad suam perniciem.

Nam patronus,
Iesus bonus,
Preces audit
Et exaudit
Suorum fidelium;

Cum necesse
Videt esse
Suos tegit
Atque regit
Conferens auxilium.

Ecce, crucis amatores,
Christo duce sectatores
Spiritum concipiunt,

Excitati Christo duce
Et signati sancta cruce
Alacres efficiunt.

Pro tali victoria
Detur Christo gloria.

The synod of Toledo held in 1536 under Cardinal Juan Pardo de Tavera confirmed this feast’s status as a day of obligation. After the Tridentine reforms, all the Spanish dioceses conformed their liturgical books to the Roman ones, but, at the request of King Philip II, on 30 December 1573 Pope Gregory XIII issued the bull Pastoralis officii permitting the lands subject to the Spanish crown to retain several local traditional feasts, including that of the Triumph of the Holy Cross; during this time the feast is also found in liturgical books from Portugal and the New World. In the course of the centuries, however, it was overshadowed by the increasing popularity of the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, also on 16 July, which was fixed onto the universal kalendar in 1726, although the Triumph continued to be celebrated in some dioceses of Spain until the liturgical reforms wrought in the aftermath of Vatican II.

The events of the Reconquista, then, like the rest of the Crusades, were of such religious import as to be worthy of being incorporated into the liturgical life of the dioceses of Spain, and thereby take their proper place in the history of salvation, themselves harbingers of greater victories to come.

Notes

1. Alfonsus Castellæ Rex, cognomento Bonus, cupiens damna Christianis a Mauris (Bæticam, totamque illam Australem Hispaniæ plagam possidentibus) illata resarcire (semel enim ab eis fuerat superatus) magnum conflavit exercitum: reges finitimos ac Dynastas solicitavit; condonationes a Summo Pontifice Innocentio Tertio impetravit, ut in eo pio bello qui caderent, nullis capitalibus commissis præpedirentur, quo minus ad cælos statim evolarent.

2. Miraque in hoc prælio contigerunt. Numerus primum occisorum in tanta paucitate Christianorum. Crux item in medio conflictu, cum nostri maxime laborare viderentur, Alfonso, quam plurimisque aliis visa est in aëre. Præterea Crux, quæ præsulem ante Toletanum de more gestabatur, bis (incolumi signifero Dominico Paschasio Toletanæ Ecclesiæ Canonico) aciem hostium sublata penetravit. Denique ad præsentiam imaginis beatæ virginis Mariæ, quæ in vexilla regiis depicta erat, ingens Maurorum multitudo corruit. Quare, et quod Christianis symbolum ac insigne Crux erat, Triumphus sanctæ Crucis hæc præclara victoria appellata est.

Two Sequences for the Liberation of Jerusalem

As we mentioned in our previous post on the feast of the Liberation of Jerusalem, it featured a magnificent sequence, Manu plaudant. This was the only new musical proper specifically developed for this Mass: the rest of the propers were lifted from the existing Gregorian repertory (unhappily, none of the surviving manuscripts contain the actual musical notation for this sequence). 

Sequences are closely related to tropes—and indeed first arose as tropes on the Alleluia—and are likewise best understood as exegetical commentaries on the mysteries being celebrated. Manu plaudant is thus a sort of musical version of the sermons and writings of Fulcher of Chartres, Ekkehard of Aura, and William of Tyre, all of whom, as we have seen, interpreted the triumphal entry of the Crusaders into Jerusalem as at once the literal fulfilment of the prophecies of Isaias and the anagogical foreshadowing of our ultimate entry into the heavenly Jerusalem. 

Manu plaudant omnes gentes ad nova miracula
Vicit lupos truculentos agnus sine macula.
Paganorum nunc est facta humilis superbia,
Quam reflexit virtus Dei ad nostra servicia,
O nova milicia!

Paucis multa milia sunt devicta.
Venit hec victoria a Christi potencia benedicta.
Ecce signum est levatum ab antiqua presignatum profecia
Quisque portat signum crucis dum requirit summi ducis loca pia.

Redde Sancta Civitas laudes Deo debitas
Ecce tui filii et filie de longinquo veniunt cotidie
Ad te porta gloriae pro culparum veniam
Ecce honor debitus est pro sepulcro redditus.
Quod profecia presciens sic loquitur et sepulcrum eius honorabitur.

Nunc munus persolvitur
Atque laudum ostia
Crucifixum adoremus
Per quem demonum videmus
Destructa imperia.
Adoremus resurgentem iter nobis facientem ad regna celestia
O imperator unice quod incoasti perfice
Ut sub tua custodia pax crescat et victoria
Fac Christianos crescere et impios tabescere
Ut regna subdat omnia tu omnipotentia. Amen.

Clap your hands, o ye nations, in praise of new miracles:
The lamb without stain hath vanquished fell wolves,
Humbled is now the pride of the paynim
Which God’s puissance hath handed over to our host,
O new knighthood!

Many thousands by few were defeated:
From Christ’s blessed power this victory hath come.
Lo! the ensign is raised aloft, foretold by ancient prophecy,
Each bears the ensign of the Cross, seeking the hollowed places of the most noble prince.

Holy city, render unto God His due praise!
Behold! thy sons and daughters come daily from afar
Unto thee, gateway of glory, for the remission of sins.
Behold! due homage is given to the sepulchre
For the foreseeing prophecy speaks thus: and his sepulchre shall be honoured.

Now discharged is the vow
And the offering of praises:
Let us adore the Crucified one
Through Whom we see destroyed
The empires of demons.
Let us adore the Risen one, Who makes a path for us unto the heavenly kindgom,
O Thou only Emperor, finish what Thou hast began,
That under Thy guard peace and victory might grow;
Make Christians flourish and the infidel pine away,
That Thine almighty power might all kingdoms subdue. Amen. 

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The sequence Exultent agmina (Laon BN, MS 263)

Another sequence composed in commemoration of the liberation of Jerusalem, Exultent agmina, is found in a collection of liturgical and para-liturgical music belonging to cathedral of Notre-Dame de Laon. A feast de captione Iherusalem on 15 July was clearly celebrated in Laon at some point, for texts related thereto are found bestrewn in sundry liturgical books, although no single source contains the entirety of the Mass or Office. The celebration of this feast was doubtlessly motivated by the fact that many Crusaders came from this region; indeed, Guibert of Nogent, who penned an important history of the First Crusade, Dei gesta per Francos, lived in a nearby abbey, and himself composed a hymn in memory of the Crusader victory.

Exultent agmina
fidelium cuncta
laudes Deo canentia.Cuius sunt opera
Semper mirifica
Per ampla mundi spatia.Voce celsa,
mente simul defecata,
recolamus gaudia,
que nobis anni orbita
reducit celeberrima.

Cum civitas
Iherusalem gloriosa
effecta est libera
que Sarracenis fuerat
tamdiu tributaria.

Hinc Francorum
pangamus gesta fortia,
quorum probitate
sic est libertate
sub Domini potentia.

Letetur ergo
Christianis reddita,
quibus congaudet,
residens sede sua
iam imperat domina.

Cui tota Francia,
iam flectit genua
nec non Italia.

Iamiamque Grecia
fert ei munera
nec non Arabia.

Mesopotamia,
Egyptus, Affrica
regnaque cetera
transeunt sub ea.

Damascus, Ascalon,
Iope cum Acaron,
Tirus atque Sidon
mittunt ei dona.

Cuius agentes festa
Iherusalem in superna
perfruamur gloria.

Let all the bands
of the faithful rejoice
singing praises to God.Whose works
are ever marvellous
throughout the vast breadth of the world.With lofty voice
and shriven mind
let us recall the joys
which the most renowned course of the year
brings back to us.

For the glorious
city of Jerusalem
was made free,
which had been so long
subjected to the Sarracens.

And so let us record
the valiant deeds of the Franks
by whose prowess
she was thus freed
under the power of the Lord.

Hence let her rejoice,
returned to the Christians,
for whom she rejoices,
sitting on her seat,
now ruling as mistress.

To whom all France
now bends the knee,
and Italy withal.

Now Greece too,
offers her gifts,
and Arabia withal.

Mesopotamia,
Egypt, Africa,
and the rest of the kingdoms
cross under her.

Damascus, Ascalon,
Joppa and Acre,
Tyre and Sidon
send her gifts.

Celebrating her feast,
let us enjoy Jerusalem
in her heavenly glory. 

One of the other liturgical books of Laon containing material for the feast of the Liberation is a 12th-century missal that includes the collect Omnipotens Deus qui virtute used for the feast in Jerusalem itself. In a fascinating footnote to the story of Crusader feasts, after King St Louis’s conquest of Damietta on 6 June 1249, on an empty folio in this missal facing the collect, someone wrote down an adaptation thereof to commemorate the saintly king’s victory. Given the unhappy fortunes that followed, however, the feast of the Liberation of Damietta proved abortive.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui virtute tua mirabili Damietam civitatem fortissimam ac insanciam Christinissimi regis nostri Ludovici de manu paganorum liberasti et Christianis secondo reddidisti, adesto, quesumus, nobis propitius, et concede ut qui hanc liberationem pia devotione recolimus, ad superne felicitatis gaudia pervenire mereamur. Per Dominum. Almighty everlasting God, who by thy marvellous strength hast torn the most mighty city Damietta by the enterprise of our most Christian king Louis from the hands of the paynims and given it for a second time to the Christians, help us in thy mercy, we beseech thee, and grant that we who with pious devotion celebrate this liberation may deserve to attain the joys of the heavenly happiness. Through our Lord, &c.

Crusader Liturgy: The Feast of the Liberation of Jerusalem

Jerusalem 1
Taking of Jerusalem 1099. In the background the Passio Christi (Source)

When, on the Ides of July of the year of the most fructiferous Incarnation of Our Lord 1099, after nearly four years of bellicose pilgrimage and a month-long exhausting siege, the Crusaders finally broke through the inner ramparts of Jerusalem and poured into the holy city, freeing it from centuries-long occupation by the Mohammedan horde, their surpassing joy could only find liturgical expression in the office of Easter Day, which was celebrated, however out of season, in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Hæc dies quam fecit Dominus, exsultemus et lætemur in ea—the words of the Gradual resounded in that venerable basilica, as Raymond of Aguilers, chaplain of the Lord Raymond of Saint-Gilles, Count of Toulouse and later Count of Tripoli, recounts in his Historia Francorum qui ceperunt Iherusalem. The mediæval mind easily understood the deliverance of Jerusalem from the infidels as a type of the deliverance of mankind in Our Lord’s glorious Resurrection; a new day, demanding a canticum novum. Raymond’s fond memories of the event wax exuberant in his chronicle:

A new day, a new joy, and new and perpetual delight! The fulfilment of labour and devotion: new words, new songs were sounded forth by all. This day, I say, which shall be celebrated for centuries to come, transformed our pains and travails into joy and exultation. This day, I say, was the harrowing of all heathendom, the consolation of Christendom, the renewal of our faith. “This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us be glad and rejoice therein”, for therein the Lord illumined and blessed His people. […] This day, the Ides of July, shall be celebrated to the praise and glory of God’s name […] In this day we sang the office of the Resurrection, for on this day, He Who arose from the dead by His power, uplifted us by His grace. 1  

In the ensuing octave, the triumphant knights roamed around the holy places of the city, venerating the relics, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, and they solemnly celebrated the Octave Day on 22 July, choosing the worthy Godfrey of Bouillon as their ruler. They thenceforth established 15 July as a liturgical feast day to commemorate the liberation of the holy city, as the chroniclers attest, among them William of Tyre, e.g.:

In order that the memory of this great deed might be better preserved, a general decree was issued which met with the approval and sanction of all. It was ordained that this day be held sacred and set apart from all others as the time when, for the glory and praise of the Christian name, there should be recounted all that had been foretold by the prophets concerning this event. On this day intercession should always be made to the Lord for the souls of those by whose commendable and successful labours the city beloved of God had been restored to the ancient freedom of the Christian faith. 2  

Early in Godfrey’s reign, a canonical chapter was established in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and a proper liturgical use slowly developed, especially after that body was reformed and placed under the Augustinian rule in 1114. The use of the Holy Sepulchre was based, as one would expect given the origin of its immigrant churchmen, mostly on northern French uses, especially those of Chartres, Bayeux, Évreux, and Séez. This use would in turn form the basis of those of the religious orders that emanated from the Holy Land, including the Carmelites and the Knights Templar and Hospitaller. 

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The liturgical sources variously dub the feast of 15 July the Festivitas sancte hierusalem, or Festivitas hierusalem quando capta fuit a Christianis (or a Francis), or In liberatione sancte civitatis Ierusalem (de manibus turchorum). The admirable victory of the First Crusade was thus fixed into the framework of the history of salvation, being both the fulfilment of prophecies, as William of Tyre states in the aforesaid excerpt, and the anagogical harbinger of the ultimate victory: the Christians’ entry into the heavenly Jerusalem. 

Jerusalem 2
John of Patmos watches the descent of New Jerusalem from God in a 14th century tapestry (Source)

The Mass opens with the famous introit borrowed from the Fourth Sunday of Lent: Letare Iherusalem et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam, gaudete cum leticia, qui in tristicia fuistis, ut exultetis, et saciemini ab uberibus consolacionis vestre, with the verse from the eminently apposite psalm 121. Preaching on this feast day shortly after the reconquest, Fulcher of Chartres repeated these verses from Isaias, and gave the continuation of the prophecy, concluding with the declaration that the Crusader triumph was its fulfilment: Hec omnia oculis nostris vidimus. Ekkehard of Aura agreed that the prophecy applied to the epic of the Crusaders, writing (rather abstrusely):

These, and a thousand other prognostics of the sort, albeit that they refer through anagogy to what is above—our mother Jerusalem—encourage the weaker members, who have drunk from the breasts of the consolation of those things written and to be written, to undergo dangers even historically by an actual journey because of such a contemplation or partaking in joy3.

William of Tyre, too, claimed the reconquest of Jerusalem was the literal fulfilment of Isaias’ oracle: ita ut illud prophete impletum ad litteram videretur oraculum «letamini cum Ierusalem et exultate in ea omnes qui diligitis eam».

But by fulfilling the ancient prophecy, the victory of 15 July itself became the type of a more lasting kind of victory. The very use of an Advent introit points to the Second Coming, and the collect, secret, and postcommunion emphasize this eschatological theme:

Collect: Almighty God, who by thy marvellous strength hast torn thy city Jerusalem from the hands of the paynims and restored it to the Christians, help us in thy mercy, we beseech thee, and grant that we who with yearly devotion celebrate this solemnity may deserve to attain the joys of the heavenly Jerusalem. Through our Lord, &c. (Omnipotens Deus, qui virtute tua mirabili Ierusalem civitatem tuam de manu paganorum eruisti et Christianis reddidisti, adesto, quesumus, nobis propitius, et concede ut qui hanc sollennitatem annua recolimus devotione, ad superne Ierusalem gaudia pervenire mereamur. Per Dominum.)

Secret: Mercifully accept, O Lord, we beseech thee, this host which we humbly offer thee, and make us worthy of its mystery, that we who celebrate this day when the city of Jerusalem was freed from the hands of the paynim may at last deserve to become fellow-citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. Through our Lord, &c. (Hanc, Domine, quesumus, hostiam quam tibi supplices offerimus dignanter suscipe, et eius misterio nos dignos effice, ut qui de Ierusalem civitate de manu paganorum eruta hunc diem agimus celebrem, celestis Ierusalem concives fieri tandem mereamur. Per Dominum.)

Postcommunion: May the sacrifice we have received, O Lord, profit to the salvation of our body and soul, so that we who rejoice in the liberty of thy city Jerusalem may deserve to be counted heirs of the heavenly Jerusalem. Through our Lord, &c. (Quod sumpsimus, Domine, sacrificium ad corporis et anime nobis proficiat salutem, ut qui de civitatis tue Ierusalem libertate gaudemus, in celesti Ierusalem hereditari mereamur. Per Dominum.)

orationes
The orations for the “Missa de Jerusalem” in a sacramentary of the Holy Sepulchre written in the second quarter of the 12th century.

The Epistle pericope is Isaias 60, 1-6 (“Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” &c.), the first line whereof forms the verse of the Gradual, Omnes de Saba, taken from the feast of the Epiphany. Ekkehard mentions this passage together with that of the introit as one of prophecies that the Crusaders’ feat had made “visible history”4. The Alleluia responsory, which seems to have fluctuated between Te decet hymnus and Qui confidunt, both lifted from Sundays after Pentecost, are taken from psalm verses germane to the liberation of Jerusalem. This was followed by a brash sequence, Manu plaudant, which will have to be discussed in a future post.

The Gospel lesson comes from Matthew 21, 1-9: Our Lord’s glorious entry into Jerusalem before His Passion, acclaimed as the Son of David by the Hebrew children. The pugnacious Offertory of the Third Sunday after Epiphany, Dextera Domini fecit virtutem, was chaunted thereafter and, during communion, the antiphon from the Second Sunday in Advent: “Arise, O Jerusalem, and stand on high: and behold the joy that cometh to thee from God.”

As the church of the Holy Sepulchre grew too small for the needs of the new Crusader Kingdom, and as it merited embellishment in any case, a considerable rebuilding was undertaken which concluded with the re-dedication of the church on 15 July 1149, the quinquagenary of the liberation, by the Lord Fulcher of Angoulême, Patriarch of Jerusalem. This prelate seems to have undertaken some revision of the Latin Jerusalemite liturgy, which especially affected the 15 July, now the bicephalous celebration of both the liberation and the dedication of the church of the Holy Sepulchre—Liberatio sancti civitatis Iherusalem de manibus Turchorum et Dedicatio ecclesie domnici sepulcri—with two Masses and Offices. In the basilica itself, the Dedication seems to have been celebrated exclusively, except for the morrow-mass, which was that of the Liberation. The collect of the Liberation, however was changed: “Almighty and everlasting God, builder and guardian of the heavenly city of Jerusalem, protect from on high this place with its inhabitants, that it might be in itself an abode of safety and peace”4; this was borrowed from a preëxisting collect. The change of focus of this new collect is also evinced by the introduction of antiphons into the Office borrowed from the office of the Dedication that tended to refer to the dignity of the church of the Holy Sepulchre rather than the glorious liberation of the city.

The ordinals indicate that in the basilica a festive procession took place after the morrow-mass of the Liberation; whether this was introduced with the 1149 revisions or was a continuation of an earlier practice is unknown. The procession set out from the church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Temple, and upon arriving at its entrance they sang prayers taken from the office of the Dedication. They then set forth to the “place where the city was captured”, i.e. the place where the wall was breached on 15 July 1099, and held another station, a sermon was preached, and a blessing given; perhaps the sermon by Fulcher of Chartres mentioned above was delivered in these circumstances. Thus the procession connected the Old Testament (the Temple) with the New (the Holy Sepulchre) and with the Crusader victory (the city wall). Finally the canons and the faithful returned to the Holy Sepulchre for Tierce. The rest of the office in the basilica was composed mainly from elements taken from the office of the Dedication according to the use of Chartres. One presumes, however, that in the other churches of the diocese of Jerusalem the Mass and Office of the Liberation were celebrated instead.

Jerusalem 3
The Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem. Fresco by St. Theophan of Crete. Meteora, Church of St. Nicholas (Source)

Alas, Christian rule of Jerusalem did not last the century. In 1187, the city fell to Saladin, and, although the liturgical use of the Holy Sepulchre survived in the remainder of the Crusader states and within certain religious orders, the celebration of the feasts of the Liberation of Jerusalem and the Dedication of the Holy Sepulchre seem to have been mostly abandoned. It only reappears in one manuscript after 1187, which dates from the odd episode when Jerusalem briefly returned to Christian hands thanks to the machinations of the excommunicate Emperor Frederick II. In this manuscript, the Mass is entitled Missa pro libertate ierusalem de manu paganorum, and the Gospel pericope from Matthew 21 has been replaced with the verses in Luke 19 wherein Our Lord weeps for Jerusalem. It has therefore been argued, with undeniable verisimilitude, that the old Liberation Mass was transformed into a Mass to ask for the recapture of Jerusalem. But in any case, even this proved short-lived.

Jerusalem 4.jpg

Although notices marking the liberation of Jerusalem on 15 July appear in the kalendars of several Western liturgical books, few Western churches adopted the feast as it was celebrated in Jerusalem. It does appear in a 14th century missal from the Hospitaller priory in Autun, under the title In festo deliberacionis Iherusalem. Liturgical books from Tours, Nantes, and the Abbeys of St Mesmin (near Orléans) and Beaulieu (near Loches) feature a feast of the Holy Sepulchre on 15 July, although it does not make explicit reference to the Liberation, and its propers antedated the First Crusade. A feast for the Liberatio Iherusalem appears with a Mass and Office in liturgical books from the cathedral of St Étienne of Bourges dating from the 13th to the 15th centuries. Its propers are composed of elements from office of the Dedication and also from the Easter liturgy: a fascinating reminder of the Paschal joy that seized the Crusaders on those happy Ides of July 1099.

Our hearty acknowledgements to the reader who provided us with some of the necessary bibliographic material for this post. 

Notes

1. Nova dies, novum gaudium, nova et perpetua leticia; laboris atque devotionis consummatio, nova verba nova cantica, ab universis exigebat. Hęc, inquam, dies celebris in omni seculo venturo, omnes dolores atque labores gaudium et exultationem fecit. Dies hęc, inquam, tocius paganitatis exinanicio, christianitatis confirmatio, et fidei nostrae renovatio. Hęc dies quam fecit Dominus, exultemus et letemur in ea, quia in hac illuxit et benedixit Dominus populo suo […] Hęc dies celebratur Idus Iulii, ad laudem et gloriam nominis Christi. […] In hac die cantavimus officium de resurrectione, quia in hac die ille qui sua virtute a mortuis resurrexit, per gratiam suam nos resuscitavit. 

2. Ad maiorem autem tanti facti memoriam ex communi decreto sancitum omnium voto susceptum et approbatum est, ut hic dies apud omnes solemnis et inter celebres celebrior perpetuo haberetur, in qua, ad laudem et gloriam nominis christiani, quicquid in prophetis de hoc facto quasi vaticinium predictum fuerat, referatur: et pro eorum animabus fiat ad Dominum intercessio, quorum labore commendabili et favorabili apud omnes predicta Deo amabilis civitas et fidei christiane et pristine restituta est libertati. 

3. Hec et huiusmodi mille pesagia licet per anagogen ad illam quę sursum est matrem nostram Hierusalem referantur, tamen infirmioribus membris ab uberibus consolationis prescriptę vel scribende potatis pro tanti contemplatione vel participatione gaudii periculis se tradere etiam hystorialiter practica discursione cohortantur. 

4. Versis in hystorias visibiles eatenus mysticis prophetiis.

5. Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, edificator et custos Iherusalem civitatis superne, custodi locum istum cum habitatoribus suis: ut sit in eo domicilium incolumitatis et pacis. Per Dominum.