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. 

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.

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.

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. 

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 12.18.23

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.)

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. 


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.

Between the Capella and the Urbs: The Roman Liturgical Tradition in Radulphus de Rivo’s De Canonum Observantia

Radulphus of Rivo (d. 1403) was a Dutch jurist, liturgist, historian, and dean of Tongres cathedral chapter whose several works on the liturgy are of primary importance for understanding the development of the Mass and Breviary.

His work De Canonum Observantia examines the sources of liturgical authority–Scripture, tradition, canons, papal decretals, etc.—and describes how the Mass and Office should be celebrated in accordance with them.

In Proposition XXII—which appears here in English for the first time—he harshly criticises the Franciscan breviary compiled by Haymo of Faversham for departing from the traditional Roman order while claiming to be its only true representative. The piece raises interesting questions about the nature of Rome’s liturgical primacy.

St A in Classe Mosaic
St Apollinare in Classe, apse mosaic

Proposition XXII[1]

The Ordo of the Holy Roman Church is to be gathered not from the practices of the Friars Minor but from the canons, the authentic Scriptures, our ancient books, and the general practice of each particular church.

(1) Introduction

So glorious and famous was the Roman Church of old, that living waters gushed up from beneath her feet and from her rose, as from the source of a stream, examples for the doing of all things and sure rules of ecclesiastical government. Hence it is that all the Scriptures enjoin us to follow her authority and hold fast to her order (ordinem). As the most blessed Pope Innocent says to the Bishop Decentius (in his letter to the church of Maguelone, cited above in Proposition VII, dist. xi):

“For there is no man who does not know and acknowledge that what has been handed down to the Roman Church from Peter the Prince of the Apostles and is conserved there faithfully even now is something that must be observed by everyone, and that nothing should be added or introduced that does not have its authority from her or seems to take its example from elsewhere. This is all the more obvious since throughout all of Italy, the Gauls, the Spains, Africa, and Sicily, and the islands lying in between, no church has been founded that was not established by the venerable Apostle Peter or his priestly successors. Let them read, and let them tell me whether they find that another Apostle has been their founder in these provinces. But if they have not read it, because indeed it is nowhere to be found, then they are obliged to obey what the Roman Church has conserved, from whom it is certain that they have taken their beginnings: lest while they lend too eager an ear to foreign ideas, they might forget the instruction of their head.”

Consider also the material under the third proposition above.

But in what pertains to the Divine Office, today there is a widespread belief and opinion that the Friars Minor are the only ones who observe the order of the Holy Roman Church, which (they claim) is contained in none other but in their own Breviaries and books. Why? Because in their Rule B. Francis prescribed that the clergy should perform the Divine Office according to the Roman order wherever they are able to obtain the Breviaries.

During my stay in Rome, I learned that the truth is quite to the contrary. In fact, when the Roman Pontiffs resided at the Lateran, they observed a less complete form of the Roman Office than what was observed in the other collegiate churches of the city. Moreover, the chapel clergy, whether by papal mandate or on their own authority, always abbreviated the Roman Office and often altered it, according as it suited the Lord Pope and the Cardinals to observe it.[2] I also had the opportunity to study an Ordinary of this Office compiled during the time of Innocent III.[3] It is this abbreviated office that the Friars Minor follow. This is the reason why they give their breviaries and office books the sub-title “following the custom of the Roman Curia” (secundum consuetudinem Romanae Curiae), but they have taken no pains to receive and observe the customs of the other churches of the city of Rome. Now if the Chapel Office in question really can be called the ORDO of the Holy Roman Church, then they have done what the rule prescribed. If not, they have not.

Several nations of the Roman world have their books and office directly from the Roman churches and not from the Papal Chapel. This can be easily inferred from the books and treatises of Amalarius, Walafrid, Micrologus, Gemma Animae, and other writers on the Divine Office.[4]

Having said all of this by way of introduction, let us proceed to examine who is closer in their Divine Office to the order of the Holy Roman Church: whether the Friars in question, who keep a rather singular liturgical use along with their rather singular rule, or the other nations and religious orders. Either truly or falsely, I claim that the use of the Friars Minor is further from the true Roman order when it follows the chapel office in question, as may be deduced in the following way:

(2) Thesis

According to St. Augustine (De Civitate Dei 19, 13), an ordo is the disposition of equal and unequal things each in their proper place; and in De Ordine Rerum, II, he says that ordo is that by which all the things ordained by God are done; and in the second book of the same, Ordo is that by which God moves all things that are; and on the Epistle to the Galatians: confusion is the opposite of order. With regard to the Divine Office, therefore, whenever everything is done just as the Roman Church has ordained, and each thing assigned its place as a right judgment deems proper, then we have the ordo prescribed by the Roman Church. And where the contrary subsists, this is confusion. But the other nations and religious orders observe these things more exactly than the Franciscans. Therefore, etc.

I will speak only briefly about a few things that come to mind, and (God willing) it will be more amply discussed in the writings coming from the City.[5]

Dedication (Cornell).jpg

(3) Argument

(a) General Observations: Sermons, Passions, and Propers

First, with regard to things that are read and things that are sung, the Lateran and the other Roman churches have sermons and homilies, the Passions of the saints, and other such things in very great number. Likewise the ancient Roman antiphonaries contain [proper] chants for Saints Nicholas, Sebastian, and Maurice; and long responsories for Terce, Sext, and None in Lent; the Sunday Psalms divided for the Vigil [i.e Matins] in Easter Week, Easter Vespers ordered by Kyrie eleison[6], and several antiphons for the Sunday Benedicite,[7] and in several places variant antiphons and responsories.

(b) Propers of the Saints

(i) Omission of the Legenda and other ancient customs[8]

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 11.47.10 AMJacobus <de Voragine>: Legenda sanctorum aurea (Source)Likewise in the proper masses of the saints, we find their proper offices listed on their days, and many other things that are observed throughout the whole world in imitation of the Roman churches. But the Friars, for the sake of brevity and in imitation of the Papal chapel, have omitted or altered this custom. In their abbreviated use they usually read the Chronicles of Damasus on the saints, or something from the Pontificale.[9]

(ii) Difficulties caused by the transfer of feasts.[10]

Likewise, the Apostolic See assigns universal feasts of nine lessons,[11] and for local feasts permits the diocese to make additions, as in the proposition XVII above. And hence among all religious congregations and nations, there are few local feasts of nine lessons added beyond the universal ones, and many feasts of three lessons.[13]

But today the friars observe the feast days of all their saints and the major octaves with nine readings, and none with three. As a result of this observance there is continuous disorder in their use and a great confusion caused by the feasts transferred from Sundays and during Octaves.[14] For out of any six places or persons that observe their use, hardly two observe the same nine-reading feast on the same day.[15] Therefore, they rarely say Matins.[16] They rarely observe the Seven [Penitential] Psalms[17] and other ferial practices, they entirely neglect Sacred Scripture in their office,[18] and they often omit the Office of the Dead.[19]

(c) Confusion of the local and universal calendars: Adoption of local Roman feasts outside Rome.

Further, the Apostolic See desires proportion [between local and universal feasts]. Rome observes the [feasts of the] holy Roman Pontiffs and other local feasts of the Holy City; in the same way, others should observe their own local saints in their own local uses. Just as in Rome they are not held to observe our local saints, so neither are we held to observe theirs. But the Friars, contrary to this general custom, which is tacitly approved by this See, have added local Roman saints to their rite, such as Hyginius, Anicetus, Soter, Pius, Cletus, Marcellus, Eleutherius, John, Felix, Silverius, Anacletus, Victor, Innocent, Evaristus, Pontianus, and Melchiades, all Roman pontiffs; the same for Anastasius the martyr on St. Vincent’s day, whose monastery is situated beyond St. Paul’s; Gilbert the Confessor from England, and the Forty Holy Martyrs of Armenia, who have their church near the Colosseum; the Apparition of St. Michael of Apulia; the Martyr Elmo of Gaieta; Rufina and Secunda, virgins and martyrs of the Lateran; Nabor and Felix of Milan; Symphorosa with her seven sons, martyrs from Tivoli; Pastor, priest and confessor, who was a companion of Praxedes and Pudentiana, Roman virgins; Susanna, virgin and martyr, who has a church near the Baths [of Diocletian]; the twelve brothers martyrs on St. Giles’ day, where Urban IV ordered that Giles be celebrated as a nine-lesson feast; Cerbonius, bishop of Populonia; Tryphon and Respicius, martyrs, whose church is held by the Augustinians; the feast of [Our Lady of] the Snows; the dedication of the three major basilicas; and Sabas the Abbot, whose abbey is located beyond the church of St. Alexis. It is remarkable that none of the aforesaid Roman feasts have propers in the Gregorian Office, which may be evidence that generally they were not celebrated.

Besides what we have just mentioned, in various other calendars of the churches of the city, I have seen other Roman Pontiffs and saints celebrated in many places, as feasts of nine or three lessons, whom the Friars have omitted. In the ancient calendars of the city, moreover, though many local saints are assigned feasts of nine lessons, I have seen very many saints assigned only three lessons. In this, the books of the Friars Minor have been deficient from the beginning, for they did not note which saints are assigned nine lessons, so that they could observe all the others under three lessons.[20] Some of their books, which they admittedly do not use today, assign at most four or six saints’ feasts of three lessons, so that all the others are kept as feasts of nine lessons. And in this regard they oppose all other religious congregations and nations. But about this confusion regarding feasts of nine lessons I have written sufficiently in Proposition XVII above.

The Apostolic See has ordered local custom to be observed on feast days of saints, but the Friars observe the contrary in the feasts of the aforementioned saints, as we noted in Proposition XVII.

Further, if the Friars observe the feasts of their own order’s saints with major octaves, such as Francis, Anthony of Padua, and St. Clare, who are not found in the Roman office, when do they not leave the Romans some of their own local saints that the Franciscans are not bound to celebrate?

(d) Invention of a “Common of Saints.”

For the saints who have proper masses, Blessed Gregory wrote down in the Liber Gradualis and the Missal[21] the proper chants, epistles, and gospels to be observed on their days. Whenever these are repeated, he referred users to other pages, as the seculars’ books often do. The Friars’ books, however, contain a sort of mish-mash Common the Saints, composed from scratch by collecting all the introits by themselves, then the other parts by themselves.[22] Further, they have omitted the temporal and ferial Epistles and Gospels that are contained in Roman books.[23] They have also neglected to include genuflexions and many other ancient ceremonies, perhaps because they are not observed in the pope’s chapel.[24]

(f) Imposition of the Franciscan Office in Rome.[25]

Another point to be considered is the fact that Pope Nicholas III, a Roman from the family of the Orsini, who began his reign in the year of our Lord 1277 and constructed a palace at St. Peter’s, ordered the Antiphonaries, Graduals, Missals, and 50 other ancient office books to be removed from the churches of the city, and ordered that henceforth the same churches would use the Books and Breviaries of the Friars Minor, whose rule he also confirmed. This is why all the books in Rome today are new and Franciscan.

(g) Disappearance of the ancient chant notation.

Likewise, the ancient form of chant notation that is used by the Ambrosians and Germans, along with many other ecclesiastical observances, has been banished from the City.[26]

(4) Conclusion

Therefore, with regard to the Divine Office, we will observe the order of the Holy Roman Church if, disregarding the use of the Friars, we follow the sacred canons, authentic Scriptures, and the more universal local customs (consuetudines locorum generales) and, in points of doubt, the more ancient ones. And in other particulars let us follow the proportion mentioned above in the section on local saints.


[1] Translation from the edition printed in Magna Bibliotheca Veterum Patrum, vol. 10, 1149A–1151D (Paris, 1654).

[2] For example, the last significant abridgment of the Roman Office had been ordered by Gregory VII, as Guéranger explains in his Liturgical Institutions. This section also offers a historical overview of the period in question:

“Les grandes affaires qui assiégeaient un Pape, au XI° siècle, les détails infinis d’administration dans lesquels il lui fallait entrer, ne permettaient plus de concilier avec les devoirs d’une si vaste sollicitude l’assistance exacte aux longs offices en usage dans les siècles précédents. Saint Grégoire VII abrégea l’ordre des prières et simplifia la Liturgie pour l’usage de la cour romaine. Il serait difficile aujourd’hui d’assigner d’une manière tout à fait précise la forme complète de l’office avant cette réduction; mais depuis lors, il est resté, à peu de chose près, ce qu’il   était à la fin du XI° siècle” (Institutions Liturgigues, 281;

“La réduction de l’office divin, accomplie par saint Grégoire VII, n’était destinée, dans le principe, qu’à la seule chapelle du Pape : par le fait, elle ne tarda pas à s’établir dans les diverses églises de Rome” (284).

[3] According to Leo Cunibert Mohlberg, “Der Liber De Canonum Observantia,” in Radulph de Rivo: Der letzte Vertreter der altrömischen Liturgie (Louvain, 1911), 66–86, perhaps an Ordinarius a tempore Innocentii III recollectus, containing the office of the papal chapel.

[4] Radulphus’s claim, here and throughout, is that the nations of Europe have received the Roman liturgical tradition directly through the books of the Ordines Romani, which represent the ancient local liturgy of the Roman church. Amalarius, the Micrologus, and others, he argues, are conscious of this reception. Further, a close study of the customs current in the Roman basilicas reveals that they retain many features in common with other European uses, while the papal rite has removed or abbreviated them.

Throughout the De canonum observantia, he appeals to the OR along with papal decretals as a definitive authority on the Roman liturgical tradition. See, e.g., Proposition XXIII, which is a critical commentary on the Order of Mass as found in the OR, comparing it with other European uses.

[5] He is referring to the collection of notes or longer works he compiled while resident in the city of Rome, from which he is composing this preliminary treatise. Unfortunately for us, the materials in question either never arrived, or have been lost. See Mohlberg, 78-86.

[6] Around the 13th century, the old “glorious office” of Easter Vespers in Rome (as Amalarius dubs it) died out. It used to begin with an entrance procession to the singing of the Kyrie eleison.

[7] Radulphus may mean that the Use he is describing has more than one antiphon for the Benedicite (i.e. the Tres pueri), changing from time to time within the season per annum.

For instance, at Liege they sang seven Alleluias over the whole Psalmody of Sunday Lauds from after Trinity to September. In October, they switched to three with just the first 3 psalms, then: “Tres in fornace ignis deambulabant et collaudabant Dñm Regem, canentes ex uno ore hymnum dicebant: Benedictus es Deus, alleluia.” In November: Nov. Tres video viros ambulantes per medium ignis, et aspectus quarti, similtudo est filii Dei, alleluia. The Roman Use only has one “Tres pueri jussu regis.”

[8] Radulphus scolds the Franciscans for abbreviating the proper feasts of the saints in “many” ways,” in particular by (1) editorial changes and (2) omitting the ancient legenda. (1) Haymo seems to have rearranged the breviary so that the propers for saints’ feasts are found in a newly-created Common of Saints containing all the propers in list form. (2) The breviary’s liturgical readings are no longer taken from the legenda, the ancient accounts of saints’ Acta. These legenda varied by region and were often very florid. The Franciscans substituted the Liber Pontificalis, a more sober book that gives short profiles of popes’ lives.

[9] The Liber Pontificalis was attributed to St. Damasus. He may be giving two names for the same thing.

[10] Dom Guéranger argues that Radulphus’ argument in this section, viz. that the Franciscans increased the number of nine-lesson feasts, is factually incorrect: “In the collection of liturgical documents edited by Blessed Giuseppe Maria Tommasi, there is a full antiphonary used in St Peter’s Basilica during the pontificate of Alexander III, which began in 1159. This antiphonary, which contains St Gregory VII’s reduced office, is almost entirely identical to the current Roman breviary [pre-1911 reforms], which is both an abridgment of the Gregorian Antiphonary and the breviary of the Friars Minor. If, therefore, there are differences between the Roman books as they were in Amalarius’s day and the breviary of the Franciscans, they must be mainly attributed to the reductions made by St Gregory VII, and one must also keep in mind that the Metz Antiphonary contains many elements that are not of Roman origin.” (Institutions liturgiques, Vol. II)

[11] “Feast of nine lessons” refers to a classification of feasts that does not correspond to the current system. These feasts of nine lessons were the old duplex & semiduplex feasts, now reduced to a single lesson. Feasts of three lessons were simplex feasts, now reduced to mere commemorations with no lessons.

[13] Perhaps Radulphus cites this as a token of prudence, since the addition of nine-lesson feasts, which must be transferred, causes confusion in the calendar.

[14] Apparently, according to the rubrics used by the Franciscans here, when a (nine lesson) feast falls on a Sunday or an Octave, it had to be transferred to the next free day (feria). This makes things confusing when there are many feast days having to be transferred. This problem persisted all the way up to 1910 with the reform of St Pius X. In 1908, for example, in most English dioceses St Mark’s had to be transferred from 25 April to 15 June because it it fell in the Easter octave, and there was no feria till June (Cavendish, Paul. “An Introduction to the Reform of the Roman Breviary, 1911-13. Usus Antiquior. Vol. 2, no. 1, Jan. 2011, 32-60).”

But the Tridentine rubrics must have been a bit different from the Franciscan use explained here, because in Tridentine rubrics if a nine-lesson feast falls on a Sunday it would be celebrated and the Sunday merely commemorated (with a few exception for major Sundays). And likewise if a feast fell on most octaves the feast would be celebrated & the day within the octave commemorated, except for the privileged octaves (Easter, Pentecost, Epiphany, & Corpus Christi).

[15] He means that because so many feasts had to be transferred, it became confusing to know when they would end up being celebrated; hence the “great confusion” mentioned above. The pre-Pius X Roman breviary suffered from the same difficulty.

[16] This is probably hyperbolic. Nevertheless, it is true that Matins is the hour most affected by feasts: all the lessons depend on what feast it is; given the confusion caused by transferring feasts, Radulphus says that the Franciscans tend to skip Matins altogether.

[17] The Seven Penitential Psalms, said in choir after Lauds on ferial Fridays. Since the Friars seem to have had few ferias, they would seldom have said these psalms.

[18] On feasts of nine lessons, all nine Matins lessons are of the feast (except in Lent), taking the place of the ferial and Sunday cycle of readings. Thus, on each of these days they miss out on the 3 ferial Matins lessons. Of course, the first nocturn (the first three lessons) in Matins of a feast of nine lessons is from the Bible: an epistle or Acts or Apocalypse, but one misses out on the ferial & Sunday Scripture reading cycle if one has too many feasts.

[19] The Office of the Dead was said in addition to the day’s office on ferial Mondays.

[20] The editors aren’t sure what is being argued here. Guéranger says that Radulphus argues that the Franciscans increased the number of double feasts (i.e. feasts of nine lessons), but Guéranger himself believes that Radulphus is wrong in blaming the Franciscans for this.

[21] Gregory the Great, who wrote the Gradual.

[22] He may be referring to something similar to the situation in the Graduale of the Novus Ordo Missae, where the Common lists a batch of introits, then a batch of graduals, etc., each to be chosen ad libitum.

[23] Perhaps to the proper gospels and epistles assigned for ferial Wednesdays and Fridays, which appear in the oldest lectionaries but were not included in the missal of the Roman curia.

[24] See chapter XXIII for particulars.

[25] Haymo of Faversham (d. 1243), 4th General of the Franciscan Order, issued a revision of liturgical books, which Nicholas III imposed on the city of Rome.

[26] “The Roman basilicas, perhaps as a result of Guido’s audience with John XIX, adopted the staff system (red F- and yellow c-line, letter-clefs and custos) and combined it with neumes perhaps best described as simplified Beneventan (for the literary text, however, Caroline not Beneventan script was employed). Compared to the classical forms of Beneventan notation, most of the special neumes and the variant forms of the basic signs are absent. This is the notation used to record the Old Roman chant repertory. It was not, however, restricted to Rome but also used in many churches in Lazio and Umbria (e.g. I-CT 12: facs. in PalMus, 1st ser., ii, 1891, pl.33; MGG1, iv, Tafel 34, pp.835–6) and was subsequently adopted for the earliest Franciscan chant books” (

The “Inauthentic” Feast of the Holy Trinity

Over at New Liturgical Movement, Gregory DiPippo has published some thoughts prompted by Notkerus’s Saturday article on the Feast of the Holy Trinityand we re-publish it here with permission.

Our friends at Canticum Salomonis have published a translation of a part of an important liturgical treatise of the later 11th century, the Micrologus de Ecclesiasticis Observantiis, which contains a well-known anecdote about the feast of the Holy Trinity. The author, one Bernold of Constance, reports that when Pope Alexander II (1061-73) was asked a question about the feast of the Holy Trinity, then being celebrated in certain parts of Europe, he said that he saw no more need for it than for a feast of the Unity. For this reason Bernold considers the feast to be “not authentic.”

What Pope Alexander and Bernold of Constance say in this regard needs to be read in light of the great reform movement going on in the Church at the time, and the role of Rome and the Papacy in that reform.

Rome has usually been a late-comer to the great movements of reform and renewal in the Church. St Nicholas I, who traditionally shares the epithet “the Great” with Ss Leo I and Gregory I, and is famous inter alia for his defense of the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, died in 867 after a reign of nine years. From him, it was a distance of but thirty years and eight Popes to Stephen VI, whose reign of roughly sixteen months is summed up as follows in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

“Whether induced by evil passion or perhaps, more probably, compelled by the Emperor Lambert and his mother Ageltruda, he caused the body of (his predecessor) Formosus to be exhumed, and … placed before an unwilling synod of the Roman clergy. (Note: this is often referred to as ‘the Cadaver Synod’.) A deacon was appointed to answer for the deceased pontiff, who was condemned for performing the functions of a bishop when he had been deposed and for passing from the See of Porto to that of Rome. The corpse was then stripped of its sacred vestments, deprived of two fingers of its right hand, clad in the garb of a layman, and ultimately thrown into the Tiber. Fortunately it was not granted to Stephen to have time to do much else besides this atrocious deed. Before he was put to death by strangulation, he forced several of those who had been ordained by Formosus to resign their offices …”

Pope Formosus and Stephen VI – The Cadaver Synod, by Jean-Paul Laurens, 1870 (Public domain image from Wikipedia.)

After this infamous event, which has provided endless grist for the mills of anti-Catholic controversialists, the Papacy remained essentially quiescent as simony, lay investiture (the de facto control of ecclesiastical appointments by lay civil rulers) and clerical incontinence became nearly omnipresent in the Church. What made Cluny so important, especially in the 10th and 11th centuries, was the fact that the duke who founded it in 910, William of Aquitaine, renounced all control over it, in an age when monasteries were essentially the private property of the nobility, who appointed whomever they wished as abbots and officials. Given the tenor of the times, such appointments were very often made solely for the sake of providing an important connection with a salary, and with no reference to whether the man so appointed had any intention of living as a monk. Much the same applied to clerical offices of all ranks.

This state of things continued until the reign of another particularly unworthy successor of St Peter, Benedict IX, whom St Robert Bellarmine described as “the nadir” of the Papacy, and over whose career we draw a veil, as the sons of Noah drew a veil over their father. After his deposition, however, and the 24-day reign of Pope Damasus II, the papal throne was occupied by Leo IX, an active and enthusiastic reformer, now canonized as a Saint. From this point on, the reform party within the Church was in the ascendant, and would go from strength to strength, with the Popes very much at its fore; the clerical vices which were universal in the mid-11th century were almost entirely gone by the end of the 12th.

Alexander II, however, was elected in 1061, only 13 years after Benedict’s deposition; the like-minded Popes who preceded him were all fairly short-lived. Moreover, the ascendancy of the reform party was only made possible by the direct intervention of the German Emperor Henry III, for it was he who effectively deposed Benedict and then appointed to the Papacy a series of German bishops, all of whom owed their episcopal see to him; the short-lived Damasus II, his own kinsman St Leo IX, and then Victor II.

In these circumstances, it was perhaps only natural that once the reform party had taken control of Rome, it should begin to insist that the specifically Roman form of the Roman Rite also be followed, as a sign of unity with the Papacy and the worthy cause it had only very recently embraced. This was also the period when the Mozarabic liturgy was to a large degree forcibly suppressed, despite coming out the victor in a trial by fire; a similar attempt was made on the Ambrosian Rite, endorsed by St Peter Damian, and only stopped because Alexander II was himself Milanese.

The trial by fire of the Mozarabic liturgy.

Bernold of Constance was an enthusiastic supporter of the reform party; he lists a number of liturgical provisions enacted by Alexander’s successor, St Gregory VII, who was so much the embodiment of the reform that it is sometimes called “Gregorian” after him. The Micrologus, a treatise of roughly 16,500 words, refers more than 70 times to “the Roman order”, “the authority of Rome”, etc.

Richard Krautheimer, one of the great historians of the Christian art and architecture of Rome, writes à propos of the end of the 13th century, when the Papacy was about to pass into another of its less edifying phases, of “a problem recurrent in the history of Rome. Basically she was conservative. Her past, Christian and pagan, was her pride; but it weighed her down. The mistress of the world, see of the successors of St Peter, did not take easily to new ideas. Not by chance did she never house a medieval university. Bologna, not Rome, developed Roman law; Paris developed scholasticism. Similarly, for long periods patrons and artists remained untouched by new concepts of art evolved elsewhere in Europe. … the upsurge of a new art was (at various points) linked to a political revival; and it was interwoven with a rediscovery of the Roman past, Christian and pagan, rejuvenated. The alien ideas only took root when wedded to the living tradition. But a plainly conservative undercurrent lazily moved along beneath the recurrent upsweeps.” (Rome: Profile of a City; 2000 edition, p. 211. He could have added references to Gothic architecture and medieval music theory at this point.) This is very much the attitude embodied by Pope Alexander’s remark, and Bernold’s characterization of the feast of the Holy Trinity as “inauthentic.”

But even for all this, Pope Alexander’s critique of the feast evinces an astonishing lack of historical perspicacity.

The unicity of God was taught by the Jews and the pagan philosophers long before the coming of Christ, and inherited from them by the Church without question. This is why St Paul was able to preach to the Athenians that the “unknown god” to whom they had dedicated an altar had in fact finally revealed Himself, and come to seek the salvation of man, citing in support of his teaching the Greek poet who said “For we are also his offspring,” which is to say, of one God, not of many. (Acts 17, 22-31) This is also why it was a commonplace among the early Church Fathers that Plato had learned many of his ideas from Moses; already before the end of the 2nd century, St Clement of Alexandria calls him “the philosopher who learned from the Hebrews.”

It hardly needs to be said that the doctrine of the Trinity, on the other hand, the central mystery of the Christian Faith, was the subject of considerable discussion, which required seven ecumenical councils, innumerable local councils, and a vast body of theological writing for its defense.

The First Council of Nicea, depicted in a 14th-century fresco within the monastery complex of Panagia Sumela, in modern Turkey. The Emperor St Constantine, as he is called in the Byzantine churches, presides over the Council; in the lower left corner, St Nicholas is shown slapping Arius in the face for his impiety. (The monastery has been abandoned since 1923, and the frescos are sadly much damaged by vandalism.)

The most important heresies of the pre-Constantinian era, those which drove Arius and others to the opposite extreme, the denial of Christ’s divinity, all turned around the idea that because God is one, Christ must be in some way the same as the Father. This doctrine is usually known as Sabellianism, after a Roman priest named Sabellius who was excommunicated for teaching it by Pope St Callixtus I in 220 AD. However, it is also known as “Patripassianism”, the heresy that it was God the Father who suffered on the Cross. The Church Fathers, therefore, had to assert that the Incarnation did not compromise the essential doctrine of the unicity of God; the doctrine of the Trinity is the elaboration of this teaching. Among the modern writers, perhaps no one has expressed the import of this better than GK Chesterton did in The Everlasting Man.

“If there is one question which the enlightened and liberal have the habit of deriding and holding up as a dreadful example of barren dogma and senseless sectarian strife, it is this Athanasian question of the Co-Eternity of the Divine Son. On the other hand, if there is one thing that the same liberals always offer us as a piece of pure and simple Christianity, untroubled by doctrinal disputes, it is the single sentence, ‘God is Love.’ (1 John 4, 16) Yet the two statements are almost identical; at least one is very nearly nonsense without the other. The barren dogma is only the logical way of stating the beautiful sentiment. For if there be a being without beginning, existing before all things, was He loving when there was nothing to be loved? If through that unthinkable eternity He is lonely, what is the meaning of saying He is love? The only justification of such a mystery is the mystical conception that in His own nature there was something analogous to self-expression; something of what begets and beholds what it has begotten. Without some such idea, it is really illogical to complicate the ultimate essence of deity with an idea like love. If the moderns really want a simple religion of love, they must look for it in the Athanasian Creed.”

The Trinity first appeared at the Baptism of Christ, as the Byzantine Rite states in the tropar for January 6th: “When you were being baptized in the Jordan, o Lord, the worship of the Trinity was made manifest.” But the Western Church did not place the feast of the Holy Trinity on a Sunday after Epiphany. (Neither for that matter did the East, which keeps Pentecost itself as its feast of the Trinity.) The salvation of man was accomplished and revealed at the Resurrection, but the Church did not place the feast of the Holy Trinity on a Sunday after Easter. On the first weekly commemoration of the Resurrection after Pentecost, the Church pauses to contemplate not only what was done for us in the Passion and Resurrection, and the sending of the Holy Spirit, but also to contemplate Who exactly did these things, and now sends Her forth to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

I think it unlikely to be mere coincidence that once the Gregorian reform had largely achieved its purpose, the blanket rejection of new feasts and devotions as “inauthentic” seems mostly to have faded away. There was a similar controversy over the feast of the Immaculate Conception in the days of St Bernard, who was opposed to it. But in the 13th century, it was the Pope himself, Urban IV, who commissioned St Thomas Aquinas to write the great masterpieces which are the Office and Mass of Corpus Christi. It is yet another oddity of liturgical history that Pope Urban’s initiative was not received even in the Papal court itself until the time of John XXII (1316-34), perhaps another example of the undercurrent of Roman laziness described by Krautheimer. It was the same Pope who canonized St Thomas, and extended the feast of the Trinity to the universal Church.

The Holy Trinity, from the Grandes Heures d’Anne de Bretagne (The Great Hours of Anne of Brittany), made by Jean Bourdichon, 1503-8, for Anne, Duchess of Brittany and Queen of France (1477-1514), and considered to be one of the finest illuminated Books of Hour ever made. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits Latin 9474.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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