Unhappily, far too few of our readers will have had the opportunity to hear the entirety of to-day’s sublime Offertory, Sanctificavit Moyses. The Offertory chaunt was originally a responsory, like the Gradual: a respond was followed by one or more verses, whereafter the entirety or part of the respond was repeated. During the course of the Middle Ages, however, the verses fell into obsolescence, and the Tridentine books ratified this situation by keeping only the Offertory respond.
It is curious that the Offertory verses did not see much of a revival in the 20th century, when so many liturgical scholars and reformers set themselves to counteract the results of what they saw as the issue of mediæval liturgical decadence. In fact, both scholars and reformers generally ignored the Offertory chant; as we shall discuss in a future post, this is likely because the Offertory responsory challenged the prevailing liturgical shibboleths of that perfervidly reformist age.
The Offertory Sanctificavit Moyses, sung by Les Chantres du Thoronet.
To-day we shall limit ourselves to reproducing a meditation on the respond and verses of the Offertory Sanctificavit Moyses of the 18th Sunday after Pentecost by the Blessed Lord Ildefonso Cardinal Schuster, Archbishop of Milan:
Sanctificavit Moyses altare Domino, offerens super illud holocausta, et immolans victimas: * fecit sacrificium vespertinum in odorem suavitatis Domino Deo, in conspectu filiorum Israel.
℣. Locutus est Dominus ad Moysen dicens: Ascende ad me in montem Sina et stabis super cacumen eius. Surgens Moyses ascendit in montem, ubi constituit ei Deus, et descendit ad eum Dominus in nube et adstitit ante faciem eius. Videns Moyses procidens adoravit dicens: Obsecro, Domine, dimitte peccata populi tui. Et dixit ad eum Dominus: Faciam secundum verbum tuum.
℟. Tunc Moyses fecit sacrificium vespertinum in odorem suavitatis Domino Deo, in conspectu filiorum Israel.
℣. Oravit Moyses Dominum et dixit: Si inveni gratiam in conspectu tuo, ostende mihi te ipsum manifeste, ut videam te. Et locutus est ad eum Dominus dicens: non enim videbit me homo et vivere potest: sed esto super altitudinem lapidis, et protegam te dextera mea, donec pertranseam: dum pertransiero, auferam manum meam et tunc videbis gloriam meam, facies autem mea non videbitur tibi, quia ego sum Deus ostendens mirabilia in terra.
℟. Tunc Moyses fecit sacrificium vespertinum in odorem suavitatis Domino Deo, in conspectu filiorum Israel.
Moses hallowed an altar to the Lord, offering upon it holocausts, and sacrificing victims: * he made an evening sacrifice to the Lord God for an odour of sweetness, in the sight of the children of Israel.
℣. The Lord spake unto Moses saying, Come up to me in Mount Sinai and thou shalt stand upon the top thereof. Arising, Moses went up into the mount, where God appointed him, and the Lord came down to him in a cloud and stood before his face. Seeing him, Moses falling down adored him, saying: I beseech thee, Lord, forgive the sins of thy people. And the Lord said unto him: I will do according to thy word.
℟. Then Moses made an evening sacrifice to the Lord God for an odour of sweetness, in the sight of the children of Israel.
℣. Moses prayed to the Lord and said: If I have found favour in thy sight, shew me thyself manifestly, that I might see thee. And the Lord spake unto him saying: for man canst not see me and live: but go up to the height of the rock, and I will protect thee with my right hand, till I pass: when I shall have passed, I will take away my hand, and then thou shalt see my glory; but my face shall not be seen by thee, for I am God, shewing wonderful things in the land.
℟. Then Moses made an evening sacrifice to the Lord God for an odour of sweetness, in the sight of the children of Israel.
The Offertory is epitomized from Exodus xxiv, and tells of the solemn sacrifice with which Moses ratified the alliance between Jehovah [sic] and Israel in the blood of the victims. It is to be regretted [the original is stronger: è un danno], however, that in the Roman Missal this splendid Offertory is cut down to a single verse. In the ancient Antiphonaries this Antiphon [sic] rises to the grandeur of a true liturgical drama. The Law-giver, at the command of the majesty of God, intercedes for the apostate people, imploring mercy for them. The Lord answers him: “I will do according to thy word.” Then Moses, taking courage, begs the Lord to reveal him his glory. “No one,” replies Jehovah, “can see my glory and live; but stand upon this rock, and when my glory shall pass, I will set thee in a hole of the rock and protect thee with my right hand till I pass, lest my glory shall blind thee. When I shall have passed I will take away my hand and thou shalt see my back, but my face thou canst not see” (Exod. xxxiii, 13-23).
This narrative, clothed in the splendid melodies of the Gregorian Antiphonary, has a deep significance. The vision of the Godhead is not for those who are still wayfarers in this life, and probably, as the doctors of the Church hold, it has never been granted to any living man, being the privilege of Christ alone. Our mortal nature is unsuited to such a condition, which in itself would imply the actual but inadmissible possession of the highest Good. Faith, however, here comes to our assistance, and acts as a veil before the face of God, in such a manner that the rays of his glory enlighten our path without too greatly dazzling us, and without taking away from us the merit of virtue, which presupposes the liberty of the human will.
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 achieves 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.”
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].’
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.”
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.’”
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.”
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).
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.“
“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.” 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.. 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.
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.”
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.
In 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.)
 “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).
 “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).
 (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.”
 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.”
 “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.”
 “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)
 Agostino Paravicini-Bagliani, The Pope’s Body, pp. 48-49.
 “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).
It is still little understood why the jubés in French churches were so quickly and methodically replaced in the 17th and 18th centuries, but one of the reasons the “ambonoclasts” of the time gave to justify removing screens was that they were “regarded as useless ornaments, irregular protrusions, and inconvenient obstacles which rob the faithful of a view of the holy altars and prevent them from contemplating the most august Mysteries at their leisure.”
In other words, an aesthetic complaint–they obstructed a clear view of the interior and its main lines–combined with a “pastoral concern”–that they excluded the laity. Fr. Thiers takes on the first of these objections in this chapter.
Destroying the jubés mutilates our churches
One of the principal reasons that ought to arrest the immoderate and benighted zeal of the jubés declared enemies is that they cannot remove them from churches without rendering them imperfect, and I daresay, mutilated. For a thing is imperfect and mutilated when it lacks one of the parts that it should have and of which it ought to be composed. Now it is certain that, generally speaking, the jubés are an integral part of churches, especially of great and ancient churches.
For this reason St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, explaining the main parts of the church in his Meditation on Church Matters, includes the jubé. Symeon of Thessalonica, in his book Interpretation of the Christian Temple and its Rituals, published in Fr. Goar’s Euchologe, also places it among the parts of a church. William Durandus, speaking of the church and its parts at the beginning of his Rationale, mentions the jubé explicitly. The Ceremoniale Episcoporum numbers the jubé among the things necessary for Solemn Masses: Ambones ubi epistola et evangelia decantari solent. Hospinien and Fr. Boulanger, in their treatises on temples, did not neglect the jubés. Neither did M. Allatio in his second letter to Fr. Morin, Des Temples des Grecs d’aujourd’hui. Fr. Goar and M. de Schelstrate gave them a place in the plans they made of eastern churches. Fr. Morin gives them ample treatment in his book De antiquis Christianorum Ecclesiis, and mentions them elsewhere. Finally, Fr. Cabassout very explicitly affirms, in his Diatribe de la situation, des parties, et de la forme des anciennes Eglises, that the jubé is the third part of the church: Tertia ecclesiae pars ambon dicebatur.
I am well aware that there are a number of churches without jubés, of which, therefore, jubés are not an integral part. But I also know that this does not justify the conduct of the ambonoclasts. For these churches are either cathedral churches, parish churches, collegiate churches, churches belonging to regulars, or private chapels. I maintain that of those churches that do not now have jubés, some either had them formerly, or if they never had them, that there is a reason for it. Let me explain.
a) Cathedral Churches
I know of no great, ancient cathedral that does not have a jubé. But if there are some that lack a jubé, it is because they have been destroyed by fire, damaged during war, or demolished by the heretics. The new cathedrals that do not have jubés are:
1) Those that have all been built, repaired, for renovated recently by architects who do not know the rules of the Church, or did not want to be bound by them and thought the jubés completely useless. So there is no jubé in the new Cathedral of Besançon, though there was a very beautiful one in the ancient cathedral, which was demolished in our time.
2) Those that were formerly Huguenot churches, as that of La Rochelle;
3) Those that were erected over what used to be monastic churches, where there was no jubé originally. Jubés could very well have been built in such cathedrals after they changed their state and character, but the prelates and canons who governed them either were not willing or generous enough to make the expense, or did not find the space suitable for one, or had some other reason for not building a jubé.
Whatever the case may be, we must grant this in justice to the cathedrals, that they are incomparably more attached to ancient practice than other churches are, that they are less prone to make innovations, and that they preserve their jubés more religiously.
b) Parish Churches
The great, ancient parish churches too formerly had their own jubés, and there are many today where jubés may be found. The parishes of Rome, which later become the cardinals’ titular churches, are a good example. St. Sylvester had one built in the church of San Lorenzo; Sixtus III beautified the jubé of the church of St. Mary Major with porphyry; and Sergius I built the jubé of the church of Ss. Cosmas and Damian.
Since there were formerly stational masses in the parish churches of Rome, there must have been jubés in these churches because the Ordo Romanus, which explains the ceremonies that were observed in these Solemn Masses, notes expressly that the Gospel is chanted in the jubé.
In Sens there are jubés in the parish churches of Saint-Hilaire, Sainte-Colombe-la-Petite, Saint-Pierre-le-Rond, and Saint-Maurice. In Rouen there are jubés in the churches of Saint-Maclou and Saint-Vivien. Finally, there are jubés in innumerable other parish churches of various dioceses and cities where the piety of the people, the zeal and enlightenment of pastors and bishops have devotedly preserved them.
But it is not surprising that most small parish churches have never had jubés. For there would have been no use for them, since they were served by only one priest and it would not have been quite convenient for him to leave the the altar to go sing the the Epistle and Gospel on the jubé. Additionally, High Masses were often not sung in these churches for lack of cantors. When they were sung on certain solemn days, the priest could chant the Epistle and Gospel in a loud voice and be understood by the people, who were not numerous nor far removed from him. Centuries have passed and the situation is no longer so: there are scarcely any little parishes today where the Mass is not chanted at least on Sundays and solemn feasts.
As the number of faithful has increased, vicars and priests have been added to many parishes, and if they have not had jubés built it is not because they are not necessary to perform the divine offices well, but either because the arrangement of the space does not permit it or because neither the priests nor the people have had the means.
Nevertheless, there are still a large number of jubés to be seen in the churches of large towns and villages that fire, war, and heresy have spared, and which have not been exposed to the reckless and irregular renovation of the new ambonoclast architects.
c) Collegiate Churches
We can make the same judgment about collegiate churches as about the cathedrals. All the great ancient collegiate churches have their jubés, with the exceptions however that we made when speaking about cathedrals.
There are jubés in the collegiate churches of Saint-Étienne and Saint-Just in Lyon, and there was once one in St. Nizier before the Huguenots demolished it in 1585. There are jubés in the collegiate church of Saint-Martin de Tours, Saint-Symphorien, and Sainte-Balsamie of Reims, of Saint-Pierre in Mâcon, Saint-André in Chartres, in Monbrison, in Saint-Quentin in Vermandois, etc.
d) Churches of the Regular Orders
With respect to the churches of the Regular Orders, we must make distinctions with respect to time periods and the different institutes in order to know whether they once had jubés, and if they had them, where they are today.
In the West it seems that religious went a long time without building jubés, as much because their churches were small in the beginning—nothing more than oratories as St. Benedict calls them several times in the rule—as because it was long forbidden to celebrate public masses in them, i.e., mass at which seculars were permitted to assist, and seculars were for a long time not at liberty to enter.
Nevertheless, it is not impossible that the monks of St Benedict, among others, had jubés in their churches before that time [the mid-12th century, before which religious were not permitted to administer the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist to the faithful, to hold public assemblies, or to say public Masses in the churches of their monasteries]. There were jubés in the Abbey of St Gall in Switzerland in the 9th century, in the Abbey of St Medard in Soissons in the 10th century, and in the Abbey of St Josse in Picardy in the 11th century, as we have already seen.
Pope Victor III, after the middle of the 11th century, while still Abbot of Monte Cassino, made a jubé to be built which in truth was made of nothing more than wood, but embellished with sculptures and gilding. Cardinal Leo, bishop of Ostia, who reports it, states that the lessons of Matins and the Epistle and the Gospel at Mass where read thereupon on the main feasts of the year.
There were also jubés in the churches of nuns of the Order of St Benedict from the 8th century. Chrodegang, bishop of Metz, ordered a very beautiful one to be built in Metz in the church of Saint-Pierre-le-Vieil, also called de Haut-moutier, or de Marmoutier, where there were once three hundred nuns, according to the observations of M. de Sainte-Marthe.
Finally, there are still jubés in the Abbatial Churches of Saint-Denys in France, of Saint-Cornille in Compiégne, of Saint-Rémi and Saint-Nicaise in Reims, of Saint-Pére in Chartres, of Saint-Faron in Meaux, of Saint-Ouen in Rouen, of Saint-Taurin in Evreux, in Fécan, etc.
1) The monks of Cluny, who appeared in 910, have jubés in their churches, but in very few of them, because there were few Cluniac monasteries where public masses were said, given the fervor of their institution.
For the same reason, many other religious congregations that came thereafter and also fight under the Rule of St Benedict have no or almost no jubés in their churches.
2) The Cistercians have jubés, at least in their great churches, and they chant the Lessons of Matins there, as we have shown in the words of Paris, Abbot de Foucarmont.
3) The Canons Regular, such as those later known as the Canons Regular of St Augustine, also had jubés in their churches, for very ancient ones still exist at present at St. Denis of Reims and Toussaints in Châlon sur-Marne, etc.
4) The Carthusians do not have jubés in their churches because they belong only to themselves. The strict solitude they profess does not allow them to invite laymen in.
5) The Premonstratensians also have them. The jubé of St. Sebastian in Vicogne [destroyed in the Revolution] is one of the most magnificent in all Christendom, and there are a number of others in churches belonging to this order.
6) The Missal of the Mercedarians presupposes that the churches of this Order have jubés.
7) If we took the time, it would be easy to show how the Carmelites, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians once had and still do have jubés in their churches. They exist in most of their ancient churches, and where they do not, one can find some vestiges of them where indifference for the ancient ceremonies of the Church or some other bad reason has led to their destruction.
8) Since the Barnabites, Theatines, Jesuits, Fathers of the Oratory, and some other new Institutes never, or almost never say High or Solemn Masses in their churches, jubés would be quite useless for them. Thus they ordinarily do not have them. Yet their churches and chapels are not imperfect or mutilated, because they were not built to have jubés, and nothing is imperfect or mutilated unless it lacks one of its essential parts.
Du premier esprit de l’ordre de Cisteaux, ch. 1, sect. 2.
 This is wrong, or perhaps things changed later, because in fact Carthusians did have lay or converse brothers who would stay outside the rood-screen, whereas the fully professed where within. In the Charterhouse in Fréjus-Toulon the rood screen is still standing.
As we have seen before, the Spanish Reconquista was as much a military enterprise as a religious one; as Diego de Valera told King Ferdinand the Catholic, “the Queen fights [the Muslims] no less with her many alms and devout prayers than you, my Lord, armed with the lance”. This is especially true of the final chapter in that long saga: the liberation of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella on 2 January of that portentous year for Spain, 1492.
The battle of Las Navas de Tolosa on 1212, liturgically remembered as the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross, was a decisive Christian victory from which the Mohammedans were never able to recover. Within a few decades, their hold on the Iberian peninsula was limited to the rump kingdom of Granada, a vassal of the kingdom of Castile. In a final bid to undo Christian advances, in 1340 the Sultan of Granada called upon his counterpart of Morocco (whom the Spaniards called the king of Benamarín) for succour, and the latter obliged with a massive host. In the ensuing battle of Río Salado, despite being outnumbered by more than three to one, the combined forces of Castile and Portugal struck a splendid victory which proved the harbinger of the end of Muslim Iberia. The triumph was duly commemorated liturgically on 30 October as the feast of the Victory of Christians (Victoriæ Christianorum) in Portugal and Victory or Triumph against Benamarín in Spain (in some manuscripts, confusingly, it is called the Triumph of the Holy Cross, like the feast of Las Navas de Tolosa).
The beleaguered Mohammedan kingdom of Granada still ambled on for over a century, though wracked by civil wars and at the perpetual mercy of Castile’s benevolence. In response to Granadan raids and internecine struggles for power within the sultanate, Ferdinand and Isabella made war upon it with the approbation of the Lord Pope Sixtus IV, who granted a Bull of Crusade in 1479. The Pope gifted the Monarchs a great silver crucifix, which was borne by the soldiers during the entire campaign; after the surrender of each city, the soldiers adored the crucifix and sung the Te Deum. The papacy also provided much financial aid for the campaign, and this was administered by the Hieronymite friar Hernando de Talavera, bishop of Ávila and confessor of Queen Isabella.
Talavera accompanied the Catholic Monarchs to Granada when its last sultan, Boabdil, finally surrendered in 1492, and, at the suggestion of the Monarchs, was appointed the first archbishop of Grenada by the Lord Pope Alexander VI. He set upon the task of organizing his new diocese and converting its Moorish population with zeal. He commissioned his Hieronymite confrère Pedro de Alcalá to write an Arabic grammar and Spanish-Arabic dictionary to help his priests evangelize the region, and he himself tried to learn the Moorish language. He owned a copy of the Koran and took counsel with the local alfaquíes, and encouraged the zambras—Moorish musical ensembles—to participate not only in processions such as that of Corpus Christi, but even in Mass itself, where he also made use of his knowledge of Arabic, as recounted by his one-time page Francisco Núñez Muley, a Moorish convert:
When His Lordship said Mass in person, the zambra was in the choir with the clerics. At the moments when the organ was to be played, since there was none, the zambra responded with its instruments. He said some words in Arabic during Mass, especially that instead of saying Dominus bobyspon [sic!] he said Y barafiqun. I remember this as if it were yesterday, in the year five hundred and two.1
In these pre-Tridentine days, Talavera had full freedom to dispose the liturgy of Granada, and he decreed that “the Divine Office be prayed in accordance with the Roman, and the chant be as that of the Church of Toledo”. When setting up the kalendar, Talavera was keenly aware of the power of the liturgy to cement the Christian conquest and convert the local population, and became a prolific composer of new Offices for these very purposes. The Archbishop, whohad become a choirboy in the collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor in Talavera de la Reina at the age of five, was renowned for his musical talent, being described as “as learned in chant as he was in theology”, and put these abilities into use when writing the musical propers of these Offices.
He established 2 January as the feast of the Surrender of the Most Renowned City of Granada (In festo deditionis nominatissime urbis Granate) and composed its Mass and Office, which were effusively praised by the German traveller Hieronymus Münzer: “Oh! I can scarcely describe how noble and elegant is the Office he composed about the [surrender of the] kingdom of Granada by the mercy of God and the victory of the King”2. Like other Crusader feasts, the Office contains many echoes of the Easter liturgies: the first lesson of Mattins, for instance, is a beautiful panegyric of the Day of victory, which brought an end to the Night of Mohammedanism, reminiscent of the Exultet:
A solemn and illustrious day has come to us, most beloved brethren, a day of gladness and rejoicing, a day of joy and jubilation, a day of good tidings, in which it would be criminal to keep silent. A venerable day, a holy day of the Lord, a most renowned day, a day to us more renowned and holy than all others, for it is the day of God’s mercy. A day for which our forefathers yearned and waited, but saw not. But blessed are our eyes, for they are merited to see it. A day which is almost double, and one day better than a thousand. A day the Lord hath made that we might rejoice and be glad thereon. A day on which the city of Granada is made subject to the Catholic faith and acquired by the Christian religion and restored to the empire of the Spanish. A most powerful city, with secure bridges and surrounded by walls. A most mighty city, a city of refuge and excellent dwelling, a city full of delights, a glorious city, deservedly renowned throughout the whole globe, the mistress of the gentiles and prince of the provinces, a city of perfect beauty, the gladness and pride of the Sarracens, the head and summit of the Mohammedan madness in the lands of the Spanish.3
The Mattins responsories, too, connect the day of victory over the Mohammedans to Christ’s day of victory over Death:
To-day true peace has come down to us from heaven. To-day has shone down upon us the day of our redemption, of renewal of the old, of desired happiness.4
Mattins of the feast of the Surrender of Granada, composed by the Lord Hernando de Talavera, sung by Schola Antiqua.
The Paschal theme continues in Mass, where the Gradual is Haec dies, and the Alleluia Dies sanctificatus, though taken from Christmas Day Mass, follows the same idea. The Gospel pericope is from Luke 10, 21-24, which is by the line “Blessed are the eyes that see the things which you see” tied into the Mattins lesson. The Epistle, from Isaias 54, 1-5, appropriately represents Granada as the city of Jerusalem awaiting her salvation. But the liberation of Granada is not only a type of the day of Resurrection, but the antitype of Old Testament figures and events: in the Mattins lessons, King Ferdinand is called an alter Iosue and Queen Isabella an altera sapientissima Delbora (sic, Debbora) and altera venustissima, religiosissima ac honestissima Iudich (sic, Judith). The antiphons are expertly written to link the psalm to the victory at Grenada; e.g., in First Vespers:
Ant. Let us celebrate the solemn day in which God the Father almighty placed the gable of the enemies of His Son as His footstool. Psalm 109. Aña. Solemnem agamus diem in qua Deus Pater omnipotens fastigium inimicorum Filii sui posuit scabellum pedum eius.
Ant. Let us praise the Lord, and magnify His works, Who on this holy day hath given his people the inheritance of the gentiles, and redeemed many captives. Psalm 110. Aña. Confiteamur Domino, et magnificemus opera eius qui hac sacra die dedit populo suo hereditatem gentium, et fecit redemptionem plurimorum captivorum.
Ant. King Ferdinand with Queen Isabella shall enjoy eternal memory, for by his works and toil to-day the Lord hath given to the Christian people the glory and riches of the Saracens. Psalm 111. Aña. In memoria eterna erit Fernandus rex cum regina Helisabeth, quia sua opera et labore dedit hodie Dominus populo Christinano gloriam et diuicias Agarenorum.
Ant. From the rising of the sun unto its going down let the name of the Lord be praised, who by the works of faith made barren Granada a joyful mother of many churches. Psalm 112. Aña. A solis ortu usque ad occasum laudetur nomen Domini, qui Granatam fidei operibus sterilem matrem fecit multarum ecclesiarum letantem.
Ant. All the peoples of the Spains praise the Lord, who to-day hath confirmed his mercy upon you, putting an end to the ancient sin. Psalm 116. Aña. Omnes populi Ispaniarum laudate Dominum, quia confirmauit hodie super uos misericordiam suam, finem imponens antiquo peccato.
Thus does Talavera deftly weave the liberation of Granada into the history of Salvation.
The feast of the Exaltation of the Faith, i.e. the feast of Granada, in a Breviary of Santiago de Compostela from 1569.
This feast does not show up in later propers for the archdiocese of Granada, but it might have survived in certain monasteries, such as the Abbey of Sacromonte, where copies of this office have been found dating as late as the 18th century. A much longer future was enjoyed by another Office and Mass for the liberation of Granada, under the name of the feast of the Exaltation of the Faith (Exaltationis fidei), composed for the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela by the Mercedarian friar Diego de Muros, bishop of Ciudad Rodrigo, on the orders of the Catholic Monarchs, who wanted the feast inserted into the kalendar of that important archdiocese. In remained there until the 18th century, and some of the propers were put into polyphonic settings. A third Office and Mass in memory of the liberation was written by the humanist Juan Maldonado for the diocese of Burgos at the request of its bishop, Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca. It was expunged from the kalendar of Burgos by Rodriguez de Fonseca’s successor’s Antonio de Rojas, who went on to succeed Talavera in the see of Granada, and therefore might be responsible for the suppression of the feast there as well.
Talavera himself also set his sights upon the old Office for the feast of the battle of Río Salado. Disappointed with the quality of the Mattins lessons of that feast, he rewrote them, as he explained to Queen Isabella herself:
Since Your Highness is so fond of the writings that I present or communicate, and shews them with, perhaps, not much prudence and too much charity, when they are things that ought not be shewn; because of that and because it is in Latin, I am sending it to Doctor [Rodrigo Maldonado] de Talavera5. so that, if he approves it, he might present it to Your Serenity: the most excellent victory, worthy of immortal memory, which Our Lord gave to the Lord King Alphonse XI, your four-times grandfather, near the river they call the Salado against the King of Morocco and Bellamarín, etc., which I put into Latin accompanied by some phrases from Holy Scripture so that we might read them as lessons on Mattins of that feast, which we began to celebrate some time ago with much solemnity, as is reasonable, because the lessons I saw in the Breviary of Toledo seemed to me brief and not such as I should like, and so Your Highness shall see some of the occupations that fill up my time.6
Talavera also wrote an office for the feast of the Guardian Angel, which was celebrated in Toledo and Aragon on 1 March in thanksgiving for King Ferdinand’s victory over King Alphonse V of Portugal in the battle of Toro in 1476. By establishing this feast in Granada, he may have been trying to exploit Mohammedan belief in the angels. Indeed, he also wrote the propers for the feast of the Archangel Gabriel, who is mentioned in the Koran.
Knowing that Our Lady was highly regarded by the Muslims, and seeing this as an opportunity for their conversion, he established and wrote two Marian Offices. One was for the feast of the Expectation of Our Lady, or Our Lady of the O, the celebration whereof was already widespread in Spain on 18 December. In it, Talavera emphasizes the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Our Lady, since it was an idea widely accepted amongst Muslims. The other was for the feast of the Transfixion of Our Lady.
Finally, Talavera composed an office for the feast of St Joseph, to whom he had a particular personal devotion. One of the first churches he set up Granada, taking over a former mosque, was dedicated to him.
Any perusal of such compositions should suffice to demonstrate Talavera’s deep piety and firm orthodoxy, but unfortunately, his benignity towards the local population of Granada, which revered him as el santo alfaquí, earned him the distrust of churchmen eager to pursue a tougher policy with respect to the Moors. The Inquisition especially resented his refusal to allow it to operate in Granada, and in 1505, after the death of his protectress Queen Isabella, Diego Rodríguez de Lucero, the Inquisitor of Córdoba, ordered the arrest of Talavera’s friends and family on suspicion of heresy, and tried to gather, or rather, fabricate evidence arraign the Archbishop himself on charges of heresy and apostasy. He was firmly defended by the Lord Pope Julius II, but died, before the matter was entirely settled, on 14 May 1507, having fallen ill after walking barefoot during a procession whilst it was raining. After his death, the scandal caused by Lucero’s witch-hunt against Talavera, and his numerous other excesses, led to the General Congregation of the Spanish Inquisition to investigate Lucero, and he was finally removed from his post, whereafter he died.
We finish with the excellent hymn Talavera wrote for Vespers of the feast of the Surrender of Granada, inspired by St Venantius Fortunatus’ well-known panegyric on the triumph of the Holy Cross:
Pange, lingua, voce alta triumphi preconium. Laudes Deo semper canta, conditori omnium qui, edomita Granata, bellis dedit somnium.
Dedit quippe pacem plenam populis Ispaniae; dedit autem malam cenam Mahumeti insanie qui illusit Sarracenam gentem et Arabie.
Personarum Trinitatem diffitetur impius, et sumpsisse humanitatem Deum negat inscius; tollit fidei pietatem multis aliis nescius.
Deum Patrem nos laudemus atque Sanctum Spiritum; verbum quoque adoremus vere carni insitum; et uterum honoremus quo fuit nobis editum. Amen.
Sing, my tongue, with lofty voice,
the praise of victory.
Sing praises to God for aye,
to the author of all,
who, with the conquest of Granada,
hath put war to sleep.
Lo! he hath given full peace
to the peoples of Spain,
but hath given a bad banquet
to the madness of Mohammed,
who cozened the Saracen people
and the Arabians.
That blasphemer rejects
the Trinity of Persons,
and, benighted, denies that God
took up humanity;
this fool destroys the piety of faith
in sundry other ways.
Let us praise the Father
and the Holy Ghost;
let us also adore the Word
who truly became flesh;
and let us honour the womb
whence he was begotten for us. Amen.
The Mass and parts of the Office of the feast of the Surrender of Granada, composed by the Lord Archbishop de Talavera.
1. Y quando su señoría dezia la misa en persona, estaua la zanbra en el coro con los clerigos, y en los tienpos que avian de taner los organos porque no los avia rrespondia la zanbra y estrumentos della, y dezia en la misa en algunas palablas en arabigo, en espeçial quando dezia «dominus bobyspon», dezia «y barafiqun». Esto me acuerdo dello como si fuese ayer, en el año de quinientos y dos.
2. O quam nobile et elegans officium de regno Granate, misericordia Dei et victoria Regis scripsit, non possum scribere.
3. Adest nobis, dilectissimi fratres, dies solemnis et preclara; dies gaudii et exsultationis; dies leticie et iubilationis, dies boni nuntii, in quo, si tacuerimus, sceleris arguemur. Dies uenerabilis, dies sanctus Domini, dies celeberrimus, dies nobis celebrior et sancior uniuersis, quia dies miserationis Domini; dies quam optauerunt et expectauerunt patres nostri, nec uiderunt. Nostri autem beati oculi, qui eam videre meruerunt. Dies que facta est quasi duo. Et dies una: melior super millia; Dies quam fecit Dominus ut exultemus et letemur in ea. Dies uidelicet in qua fidei catholice subiicitur; in qua Christiane religioni acquiritur; et in qua Ispaniarum imperio restituitur, ciuitas Granata. Ciuitas fortissima, firma pontibus et muris circumsepta. Ciuitas potentissima. Ciuitas refugii et optime habitationis. Ciuitas plena deliciis. Ciuitas feracissima. Ciuitas inclita. Ciuitas gloriosa. In toto terrarum orbe merito nominatissima. Domina gentium, et princeps prouinciarum. Urbs perfecti decoris. Gaudium et superbia Agarenorum. Caput et fastigium Mahumetice insanie in partibus Ispanorum.
4. Hodie nobis de caelo pax vera descendit. Hodie illuxit nobis dies redemptionis nostre, reparationis antique, felicitatis optatae.
5. Rector of the University of Salamanca and counsellor of the Catholic Monarchs.
6. Porque vuestra alteza es avarienta de las escripturas que le presento o comunico, y no las muestra quizá con mucha prudentia y no menos caridad, sino son tales que se deban mostar, por esso y porque va en latín, envío al doctor de Talavera para que si le pareciere bien, la presente a vuestra serenidad, la muy excelente victoria y digna de inmortal memoria que nuestro Señor dió al Rey D. Alonso XI, vuestro cuarto abuelo, cerca del rio que dicen del Salado contra el Rei de Marruecos y de Bellamarín etc.: la cual puse en latín acompañada de algunas sentencias de la santa escritura para que la leyésemos por lecciones a los maitines de aquella fiesta, porque unas lecciones que ví en un breviario toledano me parecieron breves y no tales como yo quisiera, y así verá vuestra alteza alguna de las ocupaciones que estragan mi tiempo.
That it is Doubly Temerarious to Demolish Jubés in Churches
And so, given that jubés in churches are an ancient institution, that they are the fruits of the piety of our forefathers, that they are the work of their hands, is it not temerarious to cast them onto the ground? In the end, what right, what authority, or what attribute do these Ambonoclasts have to attack the ancients on a matter of which the entire Church approves and which the entirety of Tradition supports? The Wise Man warns us in the book of Proverbs against transgressing the bounds our forefathers set down: Non transgrediaris terminos quos posuerunt Patres tui; yet the Ambonoclasts are certain to have transgressed them. Are they wiser, cleverer, more pious, or more zealous than our forefathers, that they dare thus criticize their ways?
St. Bernard reflected upon a similar principle in his letter to the canons of Lyons, who had decided to celebrate in their Church the feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin. This holy abbot, who disliked novel devotions, unless they were solidly established, told them that they were making a grave mistake in celebrating a feast that was not authorized by the customs of the Church, nor by right reason, nor by ancient tradition: Novum inducendo celebritatem quam ritus Ecclesiæ nescit, non probat ratio, non commendat antiqua traditio. And, in order to persuade them, he said to them, inter alia, that they were not wiser, nor more devout than their forefathers, and it was with dangerous presumption that they accepted a feast their forefathers had wisely rejected: Numquid Patribus doctiores aut devotiores sumus? Periculose præsumimus quidquid ipsorum in talibus prudentia præterivit.
This great saint might have formulated this line of reasoning based on what St Augustine wrote to Cafulanus, that when it comes to the things about which Holy Scripture has not decided anything, the customs of the people of God and the practices of the ancients must have force of law: In his rebus, de quibus nihil certi statuit Scriptura divina, mos populi Dei, et instituta majorum pro lege tenenda sunt.
In Cassian, Abba Theonas states the same thought when he says that one must have recourse to the authority of the ancients, and receive with respect the practices that they have handed down to us, without even examining the reasons they had in handing them down to us. Oportet nos (these are his own words) auctoritati Patrum, consuetudinique majorum, usque ad nostrum tempus per tantam annorum seriem protelatæ, etiam non percepta ratione cedere, eamque, ut antiquitus tradita est, jugi observantia ac reverentia custodire.
This is also the sentiment expressed by Emperor Justinian, for he declares that customs are like laws: Diuturni mores, consensu utentium approbati, legem imitantur. He adds that ancient customs must be preserved and one must not stray from the reasons whereupon they are based, and that the presidents or governors of the provinces must ensure that nothing is done contrary thereto: Consuetudo præcedens (he says) et ratio quæ consuetudinem suasit, custodienda est; et ne quid contra longam consuetudinem fiat, ad solicitudinem suam revocabit Præses provinciæ.
The provincial council of Sens held in Paris in 1528 explains Abba Theonas’ maxim to show that one must always keep ancient customs and enter entirely into their spirit.
The monk Gratian repeats in his Decretals what we have just learned from Justinian, that ancient customs are like laws. He also reports what we have just cited from St Augustine, but he adds one thing which would not be unworthy of the utmost consideration by the Ambonoclasts, viz. that those that violate divine laws and those who despise the customs of the Churches must both be equally punished: Sicut prævaricatores divinarum legum, ita contemptores Ecclesiarum consuetudinum coercendi sunt.
But the temerity of the Ambonoclasts is again in evidence in that, by bringing down jubés to the ground, they significantly alter the shape of churches. Where have they found that individuals were ever allowed to do such a thing, or that such a thing was ever left to their discretion?
Indeed, when God ordered Moses to build the Tabernacle, which was as it were the portable temple of the Jews, He did not grant him the liberty of doing so as he pleased. He Himself prescribed its shape, with an express prohibition of building it otherwise than according to the model which He gave upon the mount. Holy Scripture marks this fact in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old with these words: “And they shall make me a sanctuary, according to all the likeness of the tabernacle which I will shew thee” &c. “Look and make it according to the pattern, that was shewn thee in the mount.” “And thou shalt make the tabernacle in this manner.” In the New Testament, when it says, “The tabernacle of the testimony, as God ordained speaking to Moses, that he should make it according to the form which he had seen,” &c. “See that thou make all things according to the pattern which was shewn thee on the mount”. Josephus did not forget these circumstances in his Antiquities of the Jews, writing thus: Mensuram et formam Tabernaculi sibi præmonstratam dixit Moyses, nihilque superesse nisi ut ad ejus fabricam se quam primum accingerent Filii Israel, &c. Ita Structuram Tabernaculi agrediuntur Architecti Moyse et mensuram et magnitudinem designante, sicut in monte ex Dei colloquio didicerat, &c.
It was also God Himself Who have David the plan of the Temple of Jerusalem, and which this Prophet-King gave in turn to his son Solomon, enjoining him to follow it point by point. “All these things,” said David to Solomon, “came to me written by the hand of the Lord, that I might understand all the works of the pattern.”
Now, if God did not leave the structure both of the Tabernacle of the Law and of the Temple of Jerusalem to the discretion of Moses, David, and Solomon, who could persuade himself that two or three individuals, enlightened apparently above Moses, David, and Solomon, can dispose according to their whim the shape of our churches, which are much more excellent and perfect than the Tabernacle of the Law and the Temple of Jerusalem, so that they might even be allowed to destroy the jubés, which are not the least ornaments or parts of the church?
All the Ambonoclasts’ tact comes down to saying that jubés make the churches’ choirs difficult to see, and prevent those in the nave from seeing what is being done at the altar and choir. But, again, are they wiser and more devout than our forefathers who built the jubés and left them in the state we see them in today? Do the Ambonoclasts have greater competence than a multitude of bishops, parish priests, canons, abbots, priors, religious, and churchwardens, who, far from destroying them, considered them illustrious monuments of sacred antiquity?
It is true that those jubés that cross the entire front of the choir choir make the choir difficult to see, and prevent those in the nave from seeing what is being done at the altar and choir. But is it therefore such a great inconvenience that church choirs be obscured? On the contrary, does this obscurity not foster more respect for the sacred mysteries and the divine offices that are celebrated in the church choirs? And, finally, what need is there for the faithful in the nave to see what is done at the altar and church choir? Does it not suffice that they see them with the eyes of faith? And, if they are truly faithful, do they not see them in that way, across even the largest jubés, without needing to see them with the eyes of the body?
Almost all the jubés of the Eastern churches are placed in the nave, facing the only or the main gate of the sanctuary, so that it is clear from what we have said before about St Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople; Paul the Silentiary; Simeon, Archbishop of Thessalonica; Arcudius; Fr Goar; M. du Cange; and M. de Schelstrate, that they obstruct the view of the sanctuary and altar of nearly all the faithful who are in the church’s nave. And yet, who has ever found this worthwhile to write about, or to have them demolished on account of that?
The jubé of the church of St Jean in Lyons was destroyed by the Huguenots in 1562. It was rebuilt in 1585 by the Canons-Count of Lyons, as is attested by the inscription we wrote about in Chapter 25. Less than thirty years have passed since the jubé of the Cathedral of Soissons was rebuilt, and that of the Cathedral of Beauvais is even more recent. Yet these three jubés are built exactly like those against which all fury has been unleashed in our days, to the point where they are brought down to the ground, leaving no trace. These three jubés all cross the front of the choir, making it a bit difficult to see, and prevent what is done in the altar or choir from being seen from the nave. These three reasons, however, have made no impression on the spirits of those who have erected these three jubés or on those who erected all the other jubés of the same structure which we have preserved even today in most of our great and our ancient churches.