Pessimas Lutheri Fraudes: A Carthusian Sequence against Luther

Less than a century after hosting the seventeenth œcumenical council, the city of Basle on the banks of the Rhine had been swallowed in the maws of heresy. By 1520 a number of printed Lutheran tracts had begun to circulate around the city, finding an eager audience in the humanist circle that had formed around the incorrigible Erasmus. Despite that Dutchman’s half-hearted efforts to arrest the spread of error, certain parish priests and religious soon began to spew false doctrine in their sermons, and an evangelical party formed around Johannes Heussgen, who haughtily styled himself Johannes Œcolampadius. 

These wayward clergymen began to eat meat ostentatiously during Lent, spurn the veneration of relics, celebrate the liturgy in German, and legitimize their carnal lusts through wedlock. Thus they deceived the commonfolk, happy for an excuse to stop paying their tithes. The city council, for its part, attempted to chart a middle path—as the bourgeois are wont to do—between the heretics and the defenders of the old faith, all the while seizing the opportunity to declare independence from the long-absentee prince-bishop and to take over Church lands. Things finally turned to violence in 1528, when hordes of iconoclasts began to destroy images in churches throughout the city. After an attack on the cathedral, the craven council gave up any effort to stop the wave of Protestantism, and proceeded to establish a “Reformed” church. 

The last church images were burned in a bonfire on Ash Wednesday 1529, and religious were obligated to abandon their vows. Most, including the cathedral canons, departed rather than forswear themselves. The Carthusians, however, were suffered to remain, so long as they did not accept novices or celebrate public masses. When their prior died in 1536 they were forbidden to elect a new one, and the last monk, Thomas Kreß, passed to his reward in 1564.

The Charterhouse of St. Margaret in Basle, as depicted in Matthäus Merian’s Vogelschauplan der Stadt Basel von Norden (1615).

During the turbulent times that led to the loss of Basle, between 1517 and 1525, that same Thomas Kreß penned a Cancionale, or collection of songs, now preserved in the Basle University library, An II 26. The prolix title explains that Kreß collected pious canticles from the usages of various churches in order to foment devotion and relieve the accedie that afflicts those saddened by worldly temptations. The sequences, hymns, antiphons, and responsories he included had no place in the austere Carthusian liturgy, the title grants, but many of the brethren might have heard them when still living in the world. Lest they grieve at their loss, and for the sake of spiritual recreation, Kreß gathered them into this book.[1] Perhaps the rampant destruction of liturgical life outside the Charterhouse was a further reason Kreß felt compelled to record these devout chants. 

One chant in this Cancionale, however, is clearly non-liturgical, and must have been of Kreß’s own invention, or one of his brethren’s. It was the last piece to be written down, hastily in a page that had been left blank, with no effort at calligraphic elegance. Nor was it provided with any musical notation, although a note explains it is to be sung to the tune of the Easter sequence Victimae paschali laudes. Its subject was that which must have been sorely troubling Kreß and his community: the heretical infestation of their hometown, and specifically the heresiarch who had spawned it, Martin Luther. 

The heresiarch Luther represented as the devil’s instrument. Print by Erhard Schön, c. 1530.

The text cleverly adapts the Easter sequence to portray Luther as a veritable Antichrist. Whereas the resurrected Christ had redeemed the sheep (redemit oves), Luther scatters them (dispergit oves). Christ is the lord of life who had died but now lives and reigns (dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus), but Luther is the lord of death who deceives the living (dux mortis Martinus fallit vivos). He seeks to take away the glory of the Resurrected one, falsely interpreting the angelic witnesses (angelicos testes) who, in the original sequence, had announced the good news to Mary Magdalene. The original sequence, in a verse oddly absent from the Tridentine missal, protested its faith in Mary and its rejection of the Jews’ lies (Credendum est magis soli Mariae veraci quam Judaeorum turbae fallaci): Christ did truly rise again from the dead (Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere). Likewise, Kreß and his Carthusians firmly protest their certainty that the novelties preached by the avant-garde parsons in the town outside their monastery were lies leading to perdition (Credendum est tuam tam perversam doctrinam tibi et tuis esse ruinam), and aver their conviction that the pope is Christ’s true vicar (Scimus papam esse Christi vicarium vere). 

The Sequence Pessimas Lutheri fraudes in Kreß’s Cancionale, Universitätsbibliothek Basel, AN II 46, fol. 16v.

No other source has survived containing this pastiche, and it is unknown whether it ever trespassed the monastery walls to the agitated streets of Basle. More likely the Carthusians sang it to strengthen their own faith in such tempestuous times. Perhaps Kreß sang it until his last days, when he remained “alone with Christ, desolate else, left by mankind.”

The sequence has been recorded by Dr. Luca Ricossa, professor of Gregorian chant at the Haute école de musique in Geneva, to whom we owe our awareness of this remarkable piece: 

Pessimas Lutheri fraudes
fugiant Christiani.
Luther’s most wicked deceits 
let Christians flee.
Luther dispergit oues
quas xps congregarat.
Lutheriani omnes
Luther scattereth the sheep 
which Christ had gathered. 
Lutherans are all 
Falsos viri libellos
combussere Thomani.
Dux mortis Martinus 
fallit viuos. 
The man’s false books
Thomists did burn.
Martin, lord of death,
deceiveth the living.
Dic nobis Luthere
quid deuastas tam crebre 
ouile xpi viuentis
et gloriam tollis resurgentis?
Tell us, Luther,
wherefore doth thou lay waste time and again
the flock of the living Christ,
and take away the glory of the Resurrected one?
Angelicos testes,
Paulum, ewangelistas,
tu false interpretaris,
seducens multos ex xpi charis.
The angelic witnesses,
Paul, the evangelists,
thou falsely interpretst, 
beguiling many dear to Christ.
Credendum est tuam 
tam peruersam doctrinam
tibi et tuis
esse ruinam.
It is to be believed
that thy doctrine so perverse
shall be the ruin
of thee and thine.
Scimus papam esse xpi
Vicarium vere.
Tu nobis illum
Deus tuere. 

We know the pope to be Christ’s
vicar in sooth. 
For our sake, 
keep him, O God. 

Sequencia contra Lutherum et canitur sicut Victime pascali laudes ymolent Christiani.A sequence against Luther, and it is sung like Victimae paschali laudes immolent Christiani.

[1] Liber Cartusiensium Vallis beate Margarethe Basilee minoris scriptus manu confratris nostri Thomas Kreß, collectusque undecumque ex diuersarum ecclesiarum deuotissimis canticis (unde haud merito Cancionale appelatur) in fomentum subministrande deuocionis et tedij releuandi quod nonnumquam hijs qui in tentacione secularum tristicie (que mortem operatur) pulsantur, accidere solet. Tum quia in ordine nostro talismodi canciones id est apocriphe, licet deuote, non habeantur in usu, et forte quispiam illis dum adhuc in seculo viueret delectatus, ne prorsus intra incitamentis talibus se perpetuo cariturum doloret. Ideo eidem fratri placuit eatenus talia corradere, ut ne dum sibi, sed et plerisque fratribus ad hec inclinatis pro spirituale recreamine foret accomoda Maria.

Aurora: Praises of the Virgin

More from the Aurora today, this time on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Praises of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Wrought in the Language of Scripture

She was the Ark,[1] Noe’s dove,[2] Moses’ bush,[3] Aaron’s staff,[4]

Jacob’s ladder,[5] Joseph’s seven sheaths of grain,[6]

The cloud raining Manna,[7] the rock gushing an abundant Stream,[8]

The Serpent’s healing pole,[9]

David’s sling bearing the Stone that struck the enemy,[10]

 Bethlehem’s spring, for whose water David thirsted,[11]

Solomon’s throne made of flashing white ivory,[12]

The scallop shell wet with Dew by Gedeon’s work,[13]

The amber vessel which the prophet saw in the fire,[14]

The ever-closed door in the Lord’s house,[15]

The lamp that gleams brighter than the seven other lights

Which Zacharias saw,[16] a blooming olive,[17]

One of the two staves, which is called Beauty,[18]

The earth spawning the worm which killed Jonas’s shade,[19]

The woman clothed with the sun’s brightness, her head adorned

By a gleaming crown of twelve stars.[20]

Let us go over each of the sentences I have just now gathered about the Virgin

In order; our errant speech seeks a plain path.

May the Golden Virgin gild this writer’s pen,

So that elegant order might grace our speech.

Mary was the Ark, wherein seed was saved;

She rules, saves, and covers her own.

She was a dove: like a dove’s eyes,

Simple, meek, with no gall of evil.[1] 

She is Moses’ burning bush: the fire does not harm the bush,

No lust touched the Virgin’s beauty.

The Virgin is the staff: without a bud that staff bore

Flowers, and without a man she bore God.

She is Jacob’s ladder, whose prayer, intercession,

And example lead you up to the stars of heaven.

She was at once Joseph’s seven sheaves and his store-house, who

Conceived by the Holy Ghost, as mother of the Sacred Bread.

This cloud gives manna, this rock water, when she bears Him

Who was heavenly Food and the Fount of everlasting water.

The Virgin was the pole that raised that Serpent

That saved us, harboring no venom.

The sling David bore, which bore the Stone that bore into the enemy’s brow:

The Virgin bore God, who killed the evil enemy.

She is Bethlehem’s spring, which the king thirsted for, because

In the House of Bread[21] she gave birth to the Bread of Heaven.

When the scallop shell brims with Dew removed from the sodden fleece,

Judea rejoices; the Virgin brims with God.

She is Solomon’s ivory throne, the seat of chastity,

Made God’s chair, white as ivory.

She is the vessel of amber, gleaming with silver, beaming with gold,

When she gives birth to him who is God and man.

The door stays closed because no man could cross

Its threshold: the Virgin conceived without a man.

She is the lamp which seven lights surrounded,

Shining and full of Christ’s seven-fold gift;

She is also the blooming olive because she is light, food, remedy—

Light to the blind, food to the poor, remedy to sinners;

She is also the beautiful staff because the Virgin exceeds the sun’s light

And all heaven’s candles in her beauty.

Earth creates the worm, withering the ivy, because the Virgin

Bore Christ, who cast down the teary Synagogue.

As for the woman bright like the sun and crowned with twelve stars:

I think the stars were the twelve disciples.

Such a beloved Virgin, so noble, was born into the world,

At her rising, light dawned upon our sinful race.

[1] Genesis 6:14–22.

[2] Genesis 7:8–12.

[3] Exodus 3:2.

[4] Numbers 17.

[5] Genesis 28:11–16.

[6] Genesis 37:7.

[7] Exodus 16.

[8] Exodus 17:5–6 ?

[9] Numbers 21:8–9.

[10] 1 Kings 17:19.

[11] 2 Kings 23:15–17.

[12] 3 Kings 10:18–20.

[13] Judges 6:36–38.

[14] Ezechiel 1.

[15] Ezechiel 44:1–3.

[16] Zacharias 4.

[17] Ecclesiasticus 24:19.

[18] Zacharias 11:7.

[19] Jonas 4:7.

[20] Apocalypse 12:1.

[21] The meaning of “Bethlehem.”

Petrus Riga’s Aurora

The Aurora is a verse paraphrase and commentary on the Latin Bible that became a popular school textbook throughout the later Middle Ages. Its moral and allegorical interpretations were valued as a form of popular theology, devotional reading, moral instruction, and even entertainment.

Prologue to the Four Gospels

After expounding the Old Law, catch your breath a while, Peter.
The New Law dawns; for its newness, make new verses!
No need for art’s trappings; let rich meaning be your gold;
True worth is better than specious appearance.
May the Gospel’s light guide my song; from it I shall weave
The fabric of my song and work.

I see the four rivers of Paradise; and Christ’s
Chariot I see moving on four wheels.
What the harnesses, what the wheels be, I shall relate, what the bridles and the axle,
Who the man, the calf, the lion, and the bird:
Each law is an axle, the bridle judgment, Christ
Is the driver, the harnesses are thy commands, O God.
The work of pulling the wheels is shared out—the first wheel turns, the second
Hurries, the third whirls speedily, and the fourth flies.
The man signifies Matthew, the bull Luke, the lion Mark,
The bird the disciple who was without stain.
A man’s form is given to Matthew because in his book
And its title, he shows that God lived as a man.
The sacrificial bull signifies Luke, who took
Thy Cross, O Christ, as his special theme.
The lion represents Mark, who describes in plain speech
How mightily thy flesh rose, O Christ.
The aquiline figure signifies the chaste disciple,
Who soars above the stars uttering celestial words.
Matthew’s page is redolent with the Hebrew tongue;
The other three wrote in Greek.
Matthew’s page is milk, Luke’s letter blood,
Mark’s writ is wine, John’s work honey.
Study the Scriptures: Matthew’s pen is iron, Luke’s copper,
Mark’s silver, John’s golden.
One has the taste of earth, another like that of myrrh,
One transpires a flowery scent, the other a spicy.
Matthew shows us Christ’s birth, Luke his death,
Mark his rising, John his journey to the stars.
Now all of these things can be referred to Christ
To Whom, I pray, our quill might fly.
Christ is the man, Christ the calf, Christ the lion, Christ
The bird; you can see all in the person of Christ:
He is a man in life, an ox in death, a lion when
He rises from the dead, a bird when he goes up to heaven.
The same qualities pertain to the lives of just men;
The just man can be each of these things.
When reason triumphs, he is a man; an ox when he worships the flesh;
A lion when he conquers evil; a bird when he seeks the things above.
Man excels in deeds, the ox lords over beasts of burden;
The lion and eagle are kings: note these four.

With these lines as prologue, my quill turns back
And lets the history spin its tale.

Paschal Sale on the Traditional Roman Compline Booklet

We are happy to announce that for the duration of Eastertide we are offering our Traditional Roman Compline booklet for the discounted price of US$8. It contains musical notation and accompanying English translation for the Office of Compline as codified by the Tridentine Breviary of 1568, including the special offices for the Holy Triduum and Octave of Easter. Moreover, it features a ceremonial guide to the celebration of Compline in choir, as well as a meditation on the mystical significance of this Office from a 15th-century prayer book.

The Traditional Roman Compline booklet is available through the US, UK, Canadian, Australian, Spanish, French, and Italian Amazon stores.

We also offer a Latin/Spanish edition of the same book which can be purchased through Amazon as well.

Statement from the Benedictines of the Immaculate

“The Congregation for Divine Worship is not all-powerful”

La Congrégation pour le culte divin n’a pas tout pouvoir

Regarding the motu proprio Traditionis Custodes of July 16, 2021 and the response to the dubia by the Congregation for Divine Worship promulgated on December 18:

We, the Benedictine monks of the Immaculate, of the Monastery of St. Catherine of Siena in Taggia, founded on August 1, 2008, by Bishop Mario Oliveri, erected as an Institute of Consecrated Life of diocesan right on March 21, 2017, and transferred to the Diocese of Ventimiglia-Sanremo on November 18, 2020, by decree of the Bishop of the diocese, Monsignor Antonio Suetta, have promised to be faithful to our Constitutions, which have been approved by the Holy See and under which we have taken the sacred vows of religion. In particular, as stated in the Prologue of said Constitutions, we have committed ourselves before God and the Church to always keep “as [our] proper rite, both outside and inside the monastery, the liturgy of the Mass celebrated according to the more than one thousand year old form of the Holy Roman Church, which was ‘never abrogated’ (motu proprio Summorum Pontificum), with its Latin language and Gregorian chant.”

This solemn commitment includes the use of the ancient Roman ritual and pontifical, as evidenced by the ordination ceremonies performed since our foundation. We do all this out of fidelity to “the ‘canons’ of the rite definitively fixed at [the Council of Trent, which] provided an insurmountable barrier to any heresy directed against the integrity of the Mystery [of the Mass].”[1] As Archbishop Antonio Suetta publicly stated on television on August 24, 2021, we are “the guardians and witnesses of the most ancient Tradition of the Church.” It is thus and not otherwise that we will remain faithful, whatever the cost.

Through the intercession of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin Mary, may the Supreme Pontiff be enlightened in his function as Vicar of Christ, so that the Catholic faith in its purity and the traditional liturgy that guarantees it may once again shine, before the eyes of the world and for the salvation of souls, and that all the assaults of error and corruption against the Holy Church may be defeated.

21st December 2021
St. Thomas the Apostle

The prior, Father Jean de Belleville was interviewed in Présent. Extract :

[…] We must not delude ourselves, both the motu proprio and the response to the dubia show a desire to suppress the use of the old rite in the more or less near future. The position of the traditional communities will not be weakened so much by Rome’s violent dispositions as by a lack of firmness in the faith that is as expressed in the Church’s traditional doctrine and worship. This firmness may require one to reject gravely unjust orders from members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, because the faith is first and fundamental.

By your statutes, to whom do you owe obedience—within the Church militant—in the area of the liturgy?

Competence belongs to the Congregation for Divine Worship, but it is not all-powerful, as Benedict XVI demonstrates in his own words: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”[2]

What was the reaction of the bishop of your diocese?

All our friends say that our bishop is the best of the Italian bishops, because of his spirit of faith and his gentleness. After the motu proprio, he publicly recognized our right to use the traditional rite of the Mass.

When you say in your December 21 message that you will remain faithful to the traditional liturgy “whatever it takes,” what do you envision happening?

If, God forbid, Rome forces us to go against our Constitutions, what shall we choose: to be obedient to Rome and therefore become renegades, or to be faithful to our vows and consequently be condemned as “disobedient”? The answer is clear!

About the Benedictines of the Immaculate

Our Benedictine community of strict observance, founded by two monks from the Abbey of Le Barroux (France), was founded on July 2, 2008, in Villatalla in Liguria, in the diocese of Bishop Oliveri of Albenga-Imperia. It later moved to the former Capuchin convent of Taggia, even closer to the French border, where it was officially welcomed by Bishop Antonio Suetta of Ventimiglia-Sanremo on August 24, 2019.

We practice the traditional liturgy both inside and outside the monastery.

Article source: Le Salon Beige
Link to original text of the statement

[1] Letter of Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci to Paul VI (Source)

[2] Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the bishops on the occasion of the publication of the apostolic letter “motu proprio data” Summorum Pontificum on the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the reform of 1970 (Source)