Voyages Liturgiques, Rouen (2): The Major Feasts

Part (1): The Cathedral Chapter of Rouen

Our ancient Ordinal states that Mass was not said before 9 in the morning, nor after 3 in the afternoon. On fast days, it was said at about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, for the fast continued until that time.

From Advent to Christmas, and from Septuagesima to Easter, if a feast fell on Sunday, it was moved to the next day.

On solemn feasts of the year and the first vigil of the night or the first sounding all the bells were rung, like today, and the altar was incensed at each Nocturn, which they do still in Paris, Orléans, and Angers. The altar was incensed also at the Te Deum, as they are still incensed currently on all triple feasts, on which the Magnificat and Benedictus antiphons are tripled and two thuribles are used for the incensations, except at Second Vespers of triples of the second class when only one is used.

The Annunciation in Aleni’s Life of Christ

(The Christmas Cycle)

On Christmas night the first stroke of Matins sounded at 10 in the evening, prima noctis vigilia. The three Gospels of the third nocturn were sung with incense and candles, like at present. The principal priest of the church, major ecclesiae sacerdos, vested in dalmatic and chasuble, solemnly read the Genealogy of Jesus Christ.[1] It is also chanted today on Epiphany, in a very beautiful chant, with a very ancient chasuble that has not been clipped, but without dalmatic; instead there is a subdeacon vested in tunicle.

Immediately after the Te Deum the clergy and people leave to wash themselves at the fountain before beginning the Mass, as we also find in the Customary of Cluny and Fontevrauld.

The three Masses of Christmas were (as in Lyon and among the Carthusians) celebrated by three different priests.

The second Mass used to be sung just before dawn, incipiente diluculo, according to the Ordinal (and this is the case today in the parish churches) but in the cathedral it is sung following Lauds, which were supposed to be sung just before dawn like the second Mass. […]

Once Low Masses were introduced, simple priests thought they had just as much right to say three Masses as the curé did. This is the origin of the three Masses that most particular priests now say.

On solemn feasts the procession was held before the High Mass, and all the clergy stayed in copes for the Mass.

I pass over a number of things in the ancient Ordinal that are neither beautiful nor useful. […]

On Epiphany, there were three Gospels and one Genealogy at Matins, just like at Christmas and with the same ceremonies. The antiphons and responsories of the third nocturn were taken from the Baptism of Jesus Christ.

On Ash Wednesday, the Archbishop neither received ashes nor imposed them upon himself. This was also the case in Vienne and Orléans at one point.

On that day, and throughout all of Lent, Prime was sung once the sun was up. Chapter was held after Terce, and the morning Mass was said thereafter, followed by Sext.[2] This is still observed.

It is clear from the Ordinal that at that time they avoided saying the little Hours one immediately after the other, so that there was a space of time between Sext and None.[3] This is still the case in Lyon, Vienne, and Sens, and the Ritual of Rouen exhorts clerics to keep this practice. There was also a prohibition on anticipating None before the hour at which it ought to be be said: Nona hora sua dicatur, quam Missa diei sequatur. After None, the Mass of the day was said at 3 in the afternoon. After Mass, Vespers of the Dead is said, to which is currently added Vespers of Our Lady, and then Vespers of the day. One sees therefore that they did not eat until 5 or 6 in the evening. This is the proper way of saying Vespers before eating: Vesperae ante comestionem. We have seen many monasteries of both sexes that still strictly observe this today, for they act in simplicity of heart, and have not refined themselves. Everywhere else they have had the ingenuity to anticipate Vespers in order to anticipate the meal, and in most churches they are said at 10 or 11 in the morning. But this custom has not yet arrived here. It must be said, to the praise of the cathedral church of Rouen, that of all the churches in France it is the one that has anticipated Vespers the least, and Vespers sometimes finish at 1 in the afternoon. I have seen this happen many times on semi-double feasts in Lent, and if the three Vespers had not been sung with haste, then surely they would have left choir around 2 p.m.

After Vespers they went to take their repast. Before Compline, at the sounding of a bell all the clergy assembled and sung Matins of the Dead. Then they held a conference where they usually read the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Grand; this was still being down a hundred years ago. Then the bell rang again for Compline.

Although the reading at conference is no longer done (and which, according to the Rule of St. Benedict and the custom of some monasteries of his order, lasted an hour) at least they still ring the bell on ferias before Compline at two moments. I think that one rings more or less at the hour for reading, and the other for Matins of the Dead. If someone does not think this is the case, I would ask that he say why this bell rings: for after it has stopped, another larger bell rings for Compline. Thus God has allowed that the bell continue to be rung, even though the reading is no longer done, perhaps as a sign that someday will serve for its restoration.

After each Hour of the Office, a Gradual Psalm is added for the brethren—pro fratribus—and then the psalm De profundis is said for the departed, together with certain collects, as is still done in Lyon today on ferias, as well as psalm 50, Miserere mei Deus, which was still said less than a hundred years ago in Rouen at all the little Hours as well as Vespers and Lauds.

After Lauds and Vespers in Lent, there was a suffrage for the remission of sins; it was still said less than a hundred years ago.


No feasts were celebrated in Lent. Instead, only at Saturday Vespers and Sunday Lauds and Mass a commemoration was done of those saints whose feasts had fallen during the course of the week.

The ancient Ordinal reads, In Vesperis et Matutinis nulla sanctorum commemoratio fiat, nisi tantum in Vesperis Sabbati et Matutinis vel Missa Dominicae diei, in quibus est sanctorum agenda memoria, quorum festa in praeterita evenerint hebdomada, secundum Laodicensis Concilii decreta, quae cum aliis quamplurimis statuunt aliter in Quadragesima nullius sancti recolere festa.

On Ash Wednesday after None the clergy and people made their confession before the altar. After receiving penance, their prostrated themselves and received the absolution of the archbishop or the principal priest of the church. He imposed ashes on each and sprinkled them with holy water. Then he expelled the public penitents and put them out of the church.

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After the expulsion of the public penitents there was a procession to a church or chapel. When they had arrived and the antiphons were finished, everyone prostrated themselves on the earth and said the Lord’s Prayer. In this humble posture they said Psalm 50 Miserere mei Deus along with prayers and the Collect. Then two choir boys rose and chanted the litany which they finished on the way back to the choir, where Mass was celebrated. This procession was done (and is still done) on all Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent. It is a vestige of the processions that were formerly done every day to the stational churches where they went to say Mass.

(Holy Week and Easter)

On Wednesday of the fourth week in Lent something peculiar happened. A Prophecy and Gradual were added to the Mass in view of the examination or Scrutiny of the catechumens (which are still done today in Vienne). In the Scrutiny, the catechumens were instructed, interrogated about faith and morals, and were taught the Lord’s Prayer and the Creed, which they were obliged to learn and recite on Holy Saturday before being baptized: Quod in Sabbato sancto debent reddere.

Vespers of Spy Wednesday were sounded with all the bells. On Thursday and the following days at Matins a great candle-stand or hearse with twenty-four candles was put behind the altar. Note that at that time there was no reredos. Since there is one now with a large altarpiece this hearse with twenty-four candles is placed in the center before the altar. One candle is extinguished at each Psalm and at each Lesson.[4] In parishes and monasteries there are only thirteen or fifteen candles, which are extinguished at the end of each Psalm. However, far from extinguishing candles in these parish and monastic churches, and in nearly all the churches of France, on these days when Matins begins at four in the afternoon, on the contrary they should have lighted them toward the evening, since light is more needed at that time than at four in the afternoon. This was not taken into account when people stopped saying this particular office near the end of night. Doubtless certain mystics who are ignorant of the true reasons for the institution of ceremonies will find some mysteries in these three days: as if they really thought that people acted differently on these three days than they did on every other day. Once when I was at Matins in the famous church of St. Jean in Lyon, I saw them extinguish many candles during the last psalms of Lauds, and this was on the day of the Blessed Sacrament. I saw no mystery in this except that because as the day grew brighter there was less need of light. In the end, our cathedral church of Rouen does nothing against sound reason when it extinguishes candles one by one in these three days: since it has the honor of never having ceased to say this office at night during those three days. On Good Friday it takes place at 4 in the morning and on Thursday and Saturday at 5. Daughters should imitate the model of their mothers.[5]

Like today, they did not chant the Gloria Patri on these three days, because originally in the church the Responsories and Psalms were sung without the Gloria Patri,[6] and because it is no more fitting to add it during these three days than to the Office of the Dead.

At the end of Lauds they extinguished even the last candle, because it was then day and they had no more need of it. But since they needed to light candles for the office of the Mass, they lit them from new blessed fire,[7] and this is still done on these three days in the cathedral church, no longer in the porch but in the parish church of St. Etienne, the large church close to the western portal on the right side. All the parishes do this on Holy Saturday, quite nonsensically in my opinion, since they could find a lit candle in a chapel or a lamp hanging before the Blessed Sacrament. But the ceremony has become necessary due to the edifying use the mystics have put it to.

On Holy Thursday the people assembled at midday. All the clergy went to the porch and there blessed the new fire. The bishop convoked the public penitents there and finally let them into the church and reconciled them by giving absolution. (This is still done today in Rouen, and later I will describe the ceremony.)

Finally the bishop consecrated the chrism and oil of the catechumens at the Mass, during which the Gloria in excelsis was said if the bishop was present. The Mass was sung as a semi-double and the deacon and subdeacon wore dalmatic and tunicle. The peace was not given.

When the celebrant held the chalice to receive the Blood of Jesus Christ, he sang the Antiphon Calicem salutaris as the antiphon for the psalms of Vespers. Then all the bells were rung, after which they no longer rang until the Gloria in excelsis of Holy Saturday. Still today in the Cathedral the bells for Vespers are rung at the Agnus Dei of the Mass, but in parishes bells are not rung after the Gloria in excelsis. During the two remaining days, instead of bells they use certain tablets which the common people call Tartevelles. It must be noted here that although the bells for Vespers in the Cathedral church are usually rung on that day before noon [during the Mass], the great bell still strikes twelve at noon like on other days of the year. This is doubtlessly a sign that this church has never lost sight of the fact that Vespers always belongs to the afternoon, and so it is thought that the ringing at noon ought to precede them. The altar is incensed at the Magnificat and Vespers concludes with the Postcommunion.

The clergy and people communicated with the hosts that were consecrated, half of which were reserved on an altar in carefully enclosed corporals for communion on Good Friday: for not only was communion permitted on Good Friday to both the clergy and the people, but it seems it was even some sort of obligation for the clergy.

This stopped less than a hundred years ago, as one can see in all the ancient missals of Rouen and other churches of France.

A candle burned before these sacred Hosts until the end of Lauds, when it was extinguished.

On Good Friday, the Mass and communion were ex praesanctificatis, as on all Fridays of Lent in Milan.

The Ordinal states that the Sacrifice of the Eucharist was not done on Good Friday and Holy Saturday: Isto biduo non celebratur sacrificium. This is even clearer in the rubrics for Maundy Thursday: Ab ipsa die ad Missam noctis Dominicae non fit Sacramentorum consecratio.

After Vespers on Maundy Thursday, they went to eat. After the meal, they assembled in church and stripped the altars while singing a responsory. The altars were cleaned with wine and holy water, and the walls and floor of the church were washed with water only. Then they went into a large room to do the Mandatum, that is to say, the Archbishop and the most senior canons washed and wiped the feet of the poor and then those of the canons and other clerics. During this ceremony, the proper antiphons were sung, and at the end the deacon, vested in an alb and dalmatic as at Mass, with the lit candles and incense, sang the Gospel Ante diem festum Paschae in the lesson tone. Thereafter, they went as if in procession to the refectory, where the deacon continued to read the Gospel from the point where he had stopped until the Passion. The archbishop or dean presented a glass or cup of wine to each of the clergy; this, as we will see, is still in use in the other churches of Rouen. Unicuique fratrum vel episcopus vel decanus phialam vini exhibeat. Then the archbishop, the deacon, and the others who had served as ministers sit down, and Compline was said in silence. 

On Good Friday, besides Matins which was sung, all the Hours were said in silence, and Vespers and Compline in private. After Matins of Good Friday, the entire clergy went to the cloister to say the psalter. After saying it, they went back to the church, where they sat and prayed in silence until None, when they blessed the new fire at the door of the church like yesterday. (This is still done on these three days in the Cathedral of Rouen as well as that of Reims.) After that they went back into choir and began the Office of the Mass with a lesson taken from Exodus and then one from Hosea, with two tracts. Then the Passion according to St. John was read in the lesson tone, except the proper words of Our Savior, which were sung in the Gospel tone. Then, the main priest of the church said the prayers and the rest as is still done today.

Popule meus and Ecce lignum crucis were sung. As soon as the priest uncovered the Cross, all the clergy prostrated themselves. Then the priest and his ministers went to adore the Crucifix, followed by the entire clergy and the people, laying flat on the ground, which according to St. Augustin is the state of the greatest adoration. Adoratio omnium ita fiat, says the Ordinal, ut uniuscujusque venter in terra haereat: dum enim (juxta Augustinum in Psalmo XLIII) genuflectitur, adhuc restat quod humilietur: qui autem sic humiliatur, ut totus in terra haereat, nihil in eo amplius humilitatis restat.

I have seen this still practiced in Rouen by well-instructed people. The two canons who sang the Popule meus lie prostrate during the adoration of the Cross, as the Carthusians do before celebrating Mass. After this ceremony, the Crucifix was washed with water and wine, which the clergy and the people drank after communion.

The two priests in chasuble who bore the Cross go to get the sacred Hosts that were reserved the preceding day. They bring them to the high altar, where the Celebrant incenses them and sings only Praeceptis salutaribus moniti until Sed libera nos a malo. Then all receive communion from the eldest to the youngest: postea a majore ad minorem omnes communicentur. We will see elsewhere that it was not permitted to forgo communion, unless with the permission of the Superior.

Then the tablets were sounded, and each said Vespers in silence by themselves. Thereafter, they went to the refectory to take their meal of bread and water: ad refectionem panis et aquae pergant. Thus did the canons go through Good Friday six hundred years ago. (And we shall we that more than two hundred years later the same practices continued, or that at most they added raw herbs.)

They went back to the church to say Compline in silence by themselves.

On Holy Saturday they sung Matins and said the little Hours in silence as on the preceding day.

It was not permitted at that time for the Mass of Holy Saturday to begin before the afternoon, as seen in a council held in Rouen held on 1072, because this Mass is proper to the night of the Resurrection of Our Lord: ad noctem enim Dominicae Resurrectionis respicit. And indeed the blessing of the Paschal Candle and the Preface of the Mass show and presuppose that it is nighttime. I have said already in page 137 the reasons for this. A canon from the aforementioned council states that “he who eats during Lent earlier than three or four in the afternoon does not fast at all.”

On Holy Saturday, then, at 3 in the afternoon, at the sound of the tablet the people assembled in the church. The clergy went in procession to the door of the church to light and bless the new fire. This fire was taken to the homes of the Christians, whose hearth-fire had been previously extinguished. Even today, at 10 in the morning, this is practiced in the Cathedral church and the better-run parishes, where the fire is given to people who have been properly instructed. From this new fire, they lit a candle in the church placed on top a long stick, at the top of which was the image of a serpent.[8] The archbishop or officiant held it at the bottom and the deacon at the middle, and they went back to the choir singing the Psalm Dominus illuminatio mea. All of this is still practiced in Rouen both in the Cathedral church as well as the other well-run churches, except that there is no longer a serpent at the top of the stick.

It is truly unfortunate that one or two pages are missing here in the manuscript of the ancient Ordinal, which might have taught us beautiful things about the blessing of the candle, the prophecies, tracts, prayers, the three litanies, the blessing of the fonts, and the baptism of the catechumens and children. It picks up again to say that the neophytes were clad in albs or white habits, and each of them was given a candle to hold with their hand, and that they wore these white habits during eight days, and took them off on the Saturday called in albis depositis, which was elsewhere dubbed La Desauberie.

The entire Mass and Vespers of Holy Saturday was celebrated in Rouen as it is today, and as everywhere else, except that the altar was incensed at the Gloria in excelsis, that the clergy and people received communion (communicato clero et populo), and that the altar was incensed at the Magnificat.

After the meal they went back to say Compline.

At 10 at night they rang all the bells and said Matins. After the third responsory they said the Office of the Sepulchre,[9] more or less how it is said today at Angers. (Representations like this have been wisely abolished, for they are not to the taste of our century.)

Already in that time the antiphon of the Benedictus was repeated thrice, as well as that of the Magnificat, as is still done today on all triple feasts.

After a procession held after None on Easter day and the five days thereafter in the nave before the Crucifix, they had, as they still do, a procession to the fonts after Vespers.

The last day of the Octave of Easter was celebrated solemnly like the first day, as did the Jews following the command God had given them. (Cf. Leviticus 23:35-36.)


[1] Cf.

[2] So as to sing Vespers before breaking the fast with lunch, as was obligatory in the Roman rite too until 1960.

[3] Since Vespers used to be said early, before breaking the fast with lunch, the custom arose of saying all or some of the Little Hours one after in the morning.

[4] Gemma animae, 3.87: On the extinction of candles and on their number

During these three days we celebrate the burial of the Lord. We calculate that three days and nights make up 72 hours, and so we extinguish that same number of candles [lumina], since during these days we mourn that the true light [lumen] has been extinguished. We also express the grief of the 72 disciples which they experienced at the setting of the everlasting day and the Sun of justice, for they were the hours of that setting. During three hours, namely from the sixth hour to the ninth, there was darkness when Christ hung upon the cross. We represent these three hours by the three nights which we darken by extinguishing the candles. The day, lit up by the Sun, represents Christ; the night, lit up by the moon, represent the present Church; the twelve hours of the day or night represent the twelve apostles, who follow Christ the day and the Church the night. Since the day and night comprise 24 hours, and in festal nights the Gloria Patri is sung 24 times, therefore these nights are lit up with 24 lights. They are extinguished after each canticle, since, following the Apostles, we waste away with sadness on account of the setting of the true Sun. Since the crown of our head has fallen, our singing turns into lamentation.

The Gloria Patri is sung first at the verse Deus, in adiutorium, then at the psalm Venite, third at the hymn, nine times during the psalms, three times for the responsories, and once at the Te Deum laudamus. Then again at the verse Deus, in adiutorium, then five times during the psalms, once again in the hymn and the Benedictus. These twenty-four are considered to be twenty-four hours, and in place of this hymn of gladness we weep for the extinction of the Sun of Justice.

[5] De Moléon is arguing that the practice of extinguishing candles during the service of Tenebrae is a senseless holdover from when the office was held in the morning. The candles were extinguished gradually during Matins as the light grew brighter. The current practice of extinguishing them during the afternoon service of Tenebrae makes no sense, since the darkness is growing deeper and there is more need of light.

[6] De Moléon’s note: Amalarius, ch. 1 de ord. Antiph.

[7] Apparently there was a blessing of fire just like on the Easter Vigil on all the three days of the Triduum.

[8] See a post on these at the Liturgical Arts Journal.

[9] A liturgical drama recreating the exchange between the angels and the three Marys visiting Our Lord’s sepulcher. Arising in the 10th century and initially limited to a short dialogue, this Office, said after Easter Matins, became increasingly elaborate in the course of the Middle Ages.

Interrogatio. Quem quaeritis in sepulchro, o Christicolae?

Responsio. Jesum Nazarenum crucifixum, o caelicolae.

Angeli. Non est hic; surrexit, sicut praedixerat. Ite, nuntiate quia surrexit de sepulchro


Voyages Liturgiques: The Cathedral Chapter of Rouen (1)

Following the chapter on Vienne, we continue with the Voyages Liturgiquess account of Rouen, the longest and richest in the work, it being the hometown of the author.

Rouen, the capital city of the Second Lyonnaise, also known as the Province of Neustria, called Normandy ever since the Normans made themselves its masters, is situated on the bank of the River Seine (ad Sequanam). It is one of the most beautiful cities of the Realm. In Latin it is called Rotomagus and sometimes the ancients called it Rotomus and Rodomus.

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The Cathedral Church of Notre-Dame

In the city and its outskirts there are thirty-six parish churches and about fifty religious houses of both sexes, and in the diocese twenty-six abbeys, a number of priories, chapels, and sick-houses; ten collegiate churches of canons, and 1,388 parishes or curacies distributed among six archdeacons and twenty-seven rural deans all under the dean of the curates of the city and suburbs, who is called the Dean of Christendom (Doyen de la Chrétienté), in Latin Decanus Christianitatis. He is named by the archbishop and must be a curate of the city intra muros and not from the outskirts. He does not have a seat in choir among the canons of the cathedral, but he has the right to wear the habit of a canon.

The church of Rouen has always been highly distinguished. From the 4th century onward it flourished in piety, according to the testimony of St. Paulinus in his letter to St. Victrix,[1] where he speaks very highly of the people of Rouen. In the 12th century it was the most famous of all the churches, not only in Normandy but even of England and Aquitaine, according to Richard II, King of England and Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine. It was called holy, sancta Rotomagensis Ecclesia by the kings of France and England and many prelates. One more sign it was so impressive for its piety in the 12th century is that St. Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, recommended himself to the prayers, fastings, and other good works of this church and of the whole people of Rouen.

The nave of the cathedral church is quite large and stately, with galleries that run all the way across under stained glass above. In total it is four hundred eight feet long: the nave two hundred ten feet, the choir one hundred ten, and the Chapel of the Virgin 88 feet. The crossing is 164 feet long. The whole is very well proportioned and paved with large liais stones. There is one aisle on each side of the choir and nave, and beside it another which is entirely occupied by chapels on each side. They are very beautiful and well-kept, and were decorated and furnished thirty or forty years ago through the generosity of many canons who also took pains to make the church much more clear than it had been.[2] Currently, the chapels are used for Low Masses. Since Low Masses were never said in the time when this church was built, these places were probably once used for those who wanted to pray and meditate alone, outside the time of the divine offices, as well as to bury persons who were important for their piety or rank, as we see in the 32nd letter of St. Paulinus who had several churches built in Nola which bear a very close resemblance to our own. There we see that the high altar was under a large conque or cupola, and that on each side there were two smaller cupolas, one serving as a sacristy, as it still does in the cathedral church of Rouen, and the other for keeping the holy books and writings of the Fathers.


Only major canons can serve as subdeacon and deacon, and say Mass at the high altar; not even the King’s Almoner could say a Low Mass there in the presence of His Majesty, unless he were a bishop that the chapter had invited.

The chapter is composed of ten dignitaries and fifty one canons counting the archbishop who is also a canon, and in this capacity has a voice in the chapter, where he holds the first place and presides. All the canonries and all the dignitaries of the cathedral church are his to nominate, except the High-Dean who is elected by the chapter.

In addition there are eight minor canons who receive fifteen marks and fifteen pounds, have no voice in chapter, and sit in the second row of stalls with the chaplains, cantors, and musicians.

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Los Monaguillos, José Alcázar Tejedor

There are also four colleges of chaplains and cantors. One of them, called Alban, was founded by Pierre de Colmieu, Cardinal of Albano (and formerly archbishop of Rouen) for ten cantors, of which four are priests, three deacons, and three subdeacons, all of whom must live together in the same house or under the same roof and live in community. Only fifty years ago they were still living this way and doing table readings.[3]

The statutes forbid them to frequent taverns, jeux de paume,[4] boules,[5] and other public places, or to play brelans or berlans;[6] to bring dogs into the church under pain of monetary fine; to rent their rooms in the college; to carry Breviaries or other books to choir,[7] nor to read during the Office; or to begin a verse until the other side had entirely finished singing its own.[8]

They are obliged to know the Psalter and chant by heart, for the chanting is done from memory in this illustrious church, as in Lyon. There is only one book for the Lessons, and another for the Short Chapters and Collects. The major canons, even those who chant four or five Responsories on semi-double and greater feasts, and who wear copes on double and triple feasts, are obliged to know by heart everything they chant, and the musicians as well, unless they are chanting a Mass sur le livre.[9]

In the church of Rouen, Second Vespers are always less solemn than First Vespers, no matter the feast. Apparently, this is because immediately after Second Vespers the solemnity of the feast ended, and afterward it was permitted to do servile labor again. This was the practice already at the end of the 11th century, as I gather from the Benedictine scholar Dom Godin, in his Notes on a Council of Rouen[10] held in 1072, from the councils of Compiègne and Lyon, from the Capitularies of Charles the Bald and Louis the Fair, which made it obligatory to stop manual labor beginning with First Vespers in imitation of God’s command to the Jews: A vespera ad vesperam celebrabitis Sabbata vestra (Lev. 23:32). Though this policy with regard to ceasing from manual labor has changed, and is now only observed from midnight to midnight, nevertheless this church has always retained its ancient practice in the celebration of Sundays and feasts, beginning to celebrate them with First Vespers.[11] I do not know precisely when this practiced changed as a public expression in Normandy. It could not have been very long ago, because the very old women in the Norman countryside still refrain from spinning on Saturday afternoon. Moreover, in Rouen even the artisans of most trades do not dare to work on the evenings of solemn Vespers after the first sounding of First Vespers, according to their statutes. If they are found working by the guards or judges of their trade, who purposely make their visits on those days, they are charged a fine. I have observed this many times in Rouen. On the principal feats the city gates are closed except for a little gate.

Here are some customs and ceremonies taken from the ancient Ordinal and Ceremonial of Rouen, which is nearly six hundred fifty years old.[12]

The canons of Rouen lived in community, at least around the year 1000 and were called Brothers (Frères). From the epitaph of Guillaume Bonne-ame (d. 1110), we can see that they had a cloister:

Fratribus hanc aedem cum claustro composuisti.

They said Vespers at the beginning of night, imminente nocte, as formerly in the church of Paris. Hence this office is called Lucernarum or Lucernalis Hora, because in fact they made use of light to chant the prayers. (See “Bourges” and “Lyon.”). For the same reason they bring candlesticks, lighted candles or bougies. This office is when they light their candles.

The altar was incensed during the versicle before the Magnificat. The versicle Dirigatur oratio mea sicut incensum is apparently the literal reason for this. Furthermore, this versicle is not said on ferial days when there is no incensation. Outside of Sundays and feasts, after the Magnificat antiphon, they always said the preces before the collect, as the Carthusians still do and the famous Church of Lyon. After Vespers they still busied themselves with manual labor.

Before Compline they had a reading from the Conferences of Cassian or the Dialogues of St. Gregory, or other works containing examples of the saints suitable to encourage one to good actions. In Completorii hora nos contra noctis insidias munientes…quam lectio praecedit de exemplis Sanctorum Patrum excitandas in in bono animas fratrum.

They rose at midnight (as they still do in Paris) to say the Vigils or Nocturns, later called Matins. This lasted in Rouen until 1325, when they began to be said later on account of certain night terrors which troubled them at that time, according to the Chronicle of St. Lô. In other manuscript memoirs, however, one finds that in 1324 there was a statute made in the church of Rouen decreeing that Matins would no longer be said at midnight because one canon had been killed by a thief on his way to Matins.

They began with Domine labia mea aperies, according to the ancient Ordinal of Rouen: Quia somno dominante hucusque conticuimus, Dominum deprecamur, ut labia nostra ad laudem suam pronuntiandam aperire dignetur. I also read in Amalarius: Congrue juxta consuetudinem Romanae Ecclesiae, a somno surgentes dicimus primo, Domine labia mea aperies. Elsewhere this verse is called Versus apertionis, because it is with this verse that they first opened their mouths immediately after rising to sing God’s praises. Properly speaking, the Domine labia mea aperies is a preparation for saying the Office. What certain devout people think should be said before this is nothing but a preparation for the preparation, which is against the axiom of philosophy, non datur dispositio dispositionis.[13] Lauds have the same ritual as Vespers.

Every time they chanted the Gloria Patri the canons and other ecclesiastics turned toward the altar and bowed, as the canons of Lyon and the choir boys in all cathedral churches still do.

The antiphon of Prime was taken from one of the psalms, like that of Compline, no matter what feast day it might be. This was changed only one hundred years ago.

After Prime during the year, and after Terce in Lent, the canons went to chapter where they held the reading of the Martyrology (they still do this currently outside of solemn feasts) then the Necrology or Obituary, and finally the Rule of Canons.[14] Inde recitetur lectio Regulae Canonicalis. Deiinde culpae examinentur, examinatio canonicaliter exerceatur. They held an examination of faults and punished them as they deserved, as we still find in a 450-year-old Ordinal, where it is written: Post haec solent recitari marantiae[15] et offensae diei et horarum praecedentium, et ibi puniri.

The canons did not venture to leave the choir without the Dean’s permission, nor the other ecclesiastics without the permission of the cantor.


At that time in Rouen the Mass was said almost exactly as at Lyon. On ferial days there was only one candle-bearer as at Tours, Orléans, etc. On feasts there were two. The celebrant with his ministers left the sacristy at the Gloria Patri of the Introit as in Lyon. After the Confiteor the celebrant kissed the deacon and subdeacon. After a collect the celebrant bowed to the deacon, the deacon to the subdeacon, and the subdeacon to the choir, with reciprocal inclinations. Then the celebrant went up to the altar and the deacon as well who, after kissing the two corners of the altar, presented the Gospel Book to the celebrant to be kissed. The celebrant also kissed the middle of the altar. Then the priest went to the right side of the altar followed by the deacon who stood who remained standing until the priest gave the sign to sit. They sat when the Kyrie eleison began. Note that the celebrant did not read the Introit or Kyrie at the altar.

The candle-bearers, placed at the southern corner,held their candles up toward the north. At the beginning of the Kyrie they put them down in the same place. They held them up in the same place while the priest chanted the collects, and very probably faced that direction to give light to the celebrant.

Sometimes they added a third candle, apparently on double feasts. On major feasts there were seven candle-bearers. After the collect they placed them from East to West.

When the deacon is not performing a function at the altar he was in the choir, as in the church of Lyon.

At the Gloria in excelsis the celebrant incesed the altar. Currently he does it during the Kyrie (while the acolyte incenses the clergy during the Gloria in excelsis and Credo).

When the subdeacon began the Epistle, the celebrant sat and made the sign to the deacon to sit as well. Incipiente subdiacono Epistolam, sacerdos iuxta altare sedeat, et diacono in loco suo sedere innuat. From this we can tell that the priest did not read it at the altar (nor elsewhere, since there is no mention of it). The Epistle and Gospel were chanted from the jubé on feast days, as well as the Gradual and Alleluia, which were chanted per rotulos as in Lyon, on ivory tablets.[16] This may be what the ancient Ordinal calls tabulas osseas quas tenent in manibus.

When the deacon and subdeacon use folded chasubles, i.e. on Ember Saturdays and during all of Advent and Lent (except feast days), the subdeacon took off his chasuble before reading the epistle and put it on again after reading. Immediately before reading the Gospel the deacon wrapped his chasuble around over his left shoulder, tying it under his right arm. He wore it this way until the Communion, when he put it back on as at the beginning of Mass. (This is also the practice observed currently.)

When it was time to go to the jubé, the celebrant put incense in the thurible and incensed the altar (he no longer incenses at this moment, but when he has ascended to the altar during the Kyrie). Then the deacon, having asked and received the priest’s blessing, went to the jubé carrying the Gospel book resting on his left shoulder, preceded by a subdeacon who held a pillow, by candle-bearers and a thurifer. (It is the same today, except that the subdeacon does not carry a pillow.) The deacon, standing in the highest part of the jubé between two candles, chanted the Gospel toward the North, after having incensed it. They come back from the jubé in the same order they went to it.

After the Gospel they extinguished the candles.

The celebrant was incensed after the subdeacon had presented the Gospel Book for him to kiss. The deacon kissed it thereafter, and on Sundays and feasts the subdeacon would then take it to be kissed by the clergy. This is still done today, except that the deacon does not kiss it. I do not see the reason for this: he used to kiss it before. The subdeacon kissed it last of all.

The Offertory antiphon always had verses, as at Lyon, and they are still preserved in some Sunday Masses, and especially in Masses of the Dead. A more modern Ordinal of the church of Rouen forbade their omission under pain of anathema, unless the priest was ready to say the Preface. Statutum est in ecclesia Rotomagensi per totum annum versus Offerendarum secundum suum ordinem cantare, et sub anathemate jussum ne dimittantur propter cleri negligentiam, nisi presbyter fuerit promptus ad Per omnia. And so some [viz. the longer ones] were omitted.. When this happens in Lyon, the verses are not omitted. Instead the last verses are sung more quickly, as I have seen done on the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, when there were four verses to the Offertory with the repetition of the antiphon or first verse only after the asterisk, as they do for the Offertory of the Mass for the Dead.[17]

The subdeacon gave the bread and wine to the deacon, and the deacon to the priest, like today. On major feasts the cantor gave the water, covered with a towel, to the deacon, who poured it into the chalice, as the cantor still does in Angers on the most solemn feasts, which they call jours de Fêtage.[18] On other days it was the acolyte who gave the water, as he still does at present.

The chalice was not placed in the middle of the corporal as today, but to the right of the host and on the same line. The same arrangement is found in the Ordo Romanus, Amalarius, the Micrologus, and Radulphus of Rivo. The chalice was covered not by a pall but by the corporal, just as they do today in Lyon and among the Carthusians, who have not innovated in this matter.

Next the priest incensed the offerings and gave the thurible to the deacon, who after incensing around the altar incensed the celebrant, then gave the thurible to the acolyte who proceeded to incense the clergy and the people.

The deacon took the paten from the altar and gave it to the subdeacon, and the subdeacon gave it, wrapped in a veil, to an acolyte if there was one,[19] as in Paris and Tours. Otherwise he held it himself, as is done in Rouen today.

I have said that it was the deacon who took it from the altar, because the subdeacon was not allowed to take anything sacred from the altar. Non licet enim, says the ancient Ordinal, quidquam sacri ab altari auferre alicui nisi Diacono vel Sacerdoti. This is still diligently observed in the Cathedral church, where the subdeacon even brings the chalice with both his hands covered by a veil, and takes it back to the sacristy during the last collects of the Mass in the same way, after the deacon has purified it and helped him place it in the large veil. Thus, the subdeacon never touches it at all, which he was prohibited from doing by Canon 21 of the Council of Laodicea.

Everything else until the Canon has nothing particular.

During the canon the deacon, thurifer, and candle-bearers stood bowing behind the celebrant, but the subdeacon was bowed in front of the priest, facing him as at Lyon. Note that at that time there was no retable or altarpiece above the altar, which was a simple table entirely unattached to anything else, without a retable, like the arrangement today in the cathedral churches of Lyon, Chalon-sur-Saône and Blois, and the morning Mass altar in Bourges and Mâcon. On solemn feasts with seven subdeacons, they stood in a line behind the altar facing the priest; the seven deacons stood also in a line behind the priest.

Neither in the ancient Ordinal of Rouen, nor in the Ordo Romanus, nor in any of the ancient authors or interpreters of the divine offices is there any mention of the elevation of the host and chalice separately, but only of one elevation immediately before the Pater or during the Pater.

It is marked in the 1516 Missal of Rouen that at the prayer Supplices te rogamus, the priest bowed profoundly before the altar, his hands not joined like today but crossed (right over left) until ex hac altaris participatione. The same is found in the three missals of England and Scotland before their separation from the Catholic Church, in the missals of Orléans (1504), Vienne (1519), Lyon (1530), and (I believe) in all the missals of France until the time of Pius V who made this change in his missal that has been followed almost everywhere.

At Per quem haec omnia, Domine, the deacon approached the altar and took the corporal from the chalice, which he uncovered with the priest.

There is a note that the priest touched the four sides of the chalice with the host: Oblata quatuor partes calicis tangat. This is also found in the ancient Ordo Romanus and in Ivo of Chartres, Letter 233. (The new rubricists make it a matter of great scruple for the priest, and insist that he must take care that the host does not touch the chalice while he says sanctitas, and the rest. This is certainly because they do not know the real reason for this practice.)

After breaking the Host in three parts, the priest put the smallest particle in the chalice and the two others on the paten, as today. He, the deacon, and the subdeacon took communion from the larger of the two particles, while the other was reserved for the viaticum of the dying, tertia, viaticum morientis. […]

The priests and ministers of the altar received communion under the two species separately. The priest received as priests do today. The deacon and subdeacon received the priest’s kiss, they they kissed his hand when he presented them a particle of the Sacred Host. Then the priest took a bit of the Precious Blood with a small particle of the Host and gave the rest to the deacon and subdeacon to drink, as they do today at Cluny and Saint-Denys in France.[20] […]

After communion the priest did not do an ablution. Rather, while the ministers took communion from the chalice, an acolyte brought another vessel to wash the priest’s hands, as observed today in Lyon, Chartres, and among the Carthusians, and as they did in Rouen until a century ago. The purpose of this form of ablution is so that the priest is not obliged to drink what is rinsed from his fingers

The subdeacon helped the deacon purify the chalice and paten. (Only the deacon does this today in the cathedral church of Rouen and in Lyon, while the subdeacon carries the book to the other side of the altar.) An acolyte received the chalice and paten wrapped in a large veil.

It is not said that the priest read the Communion antiphon, but only the [Postcommunion] prayer preceded and followed by Dominus vobiscum and then the Ite, missa est or Benedicamus Domino chanted by the deacon. Clero respondente Deo gratias, officium finiat. The Mass and all the divine offices finished in this way. What has been added on later [i.e. the Last Gospel] is very modern, from a century or century and a half ago, as we can see in the old books. The people of Rouen are not even accustomed to it yet. When the priest has given the blessing, everyone leaves. Finally, if Sext is to be said, the choir begins the Deus in adjutorium immediately without any regard for the priest, if he is reciting the Last Gospel. We have already seen that the celebrant does not recite it at High Masses in most churches of France.


[1] Letter 18. Des Marettes edited a collection of St. Paulinus’ writings.

[2] Perhaps referring to the removal of altars and other elements in the nave, which accelerated in the late 17th century. The appeal to “clarity” was often used to justify clearing away objects, such as rood screens, that impeded a clear view of the choir and nave. See Fr. Thiers’ work on the history of jubés in France.

[3] By the High Middle Ages, most cathedral chapters no longer observed the full community life. Canons lived in their own houses in town (with other clerics and choir students) or within the cathedral compound, attending offices but not dining or reading in common. Their vicars and the chaplains of the cathedral, however, often organized into chapters to live the community life that the canons themselves were failing to uphold. To observe that the Alban chapter was “doing table readings” is to say that they were not only eating together but keeping the ancient monastic rule of silence during meals.

[4] A ball-and-court game, precursor of tennis.

[5] Any of a number of games, like bocce, that involve throwing balls at small targets.

[6] Three-person card games

[7] Perhaps because they were to have the office memorized.

[8] Another sign of careful observance: as less-than-enthusiastic communities would have sped through the required psalms.

[9] Abbé Jean Prim, “Chant sur le Livre” in French Churches in the 18th Century,” Journal of the American Musicological Society, vol. 14, No. 1 (Spring, 1961), pp. 37-49; Jean-Paul Montagnier, “Le Chant sur le Livre au XVIIIe siècle: les Traités de Louis-Joseph Marchand et Henry Madin,” Revue de Musicologie, T. 81, No. 1 (1995), pp. 37-63.

[10] Recueil des décrets des Conciles et des Synodes de l’église de Rouen; actually published by Dom Pommeraye.

[11] Under canon law liturgical days began to be considered to take place from midnight to midnight, so it was licit to continue working after first Vespers. Similarly, pre-Vatican II fasts were midnight-to-midnight

[12] Several liturgical books from the period survive from this period. See the Usuarium database.

[13] He is criticizing the prayer “Aperi, Domine, os meum…” which was never obligatory but extremely common until John XXIII removed it from the editio typica of the breviary and suppressed the indulgences attached to its recitation.

[14] I.e the rule of St. Augustine.

[15] Du Cange; MARANCIA, Dolor, qui concipitur ex aliquo damno, vox a Marrire, et Marritio deducta : unde postmodum traducta ad ipsas mulctas aut pœnas, quæ præ levioribus delictis, vel pro defectibus seu absentia irrogatur : nostris vulgo Marance.

[16] See the post on Vienne.

[17] The issue is long Offertories that lasted longer than the Offertory ritual. In Rouen, the verses are dropped if the priest was ready. In Lyons, they just sang the verses more quickly, and repeated part of the response (after the asterisk) rather than the whole response. There were always varied customs about what response to sing: all of it or part of it, and which part. Different MSS say different things, or do not mark it at all.

[18] This is an ancient aspect of the Roman rite, as seen in the Ordo Romanus I. See also Gemma animae 1.38.

[19] In the Ordo Romanus I, the acolyte holds the paten.

[20] On the Greek Mass of St. Denis.

St. Maurice of Vienne (4): Easter and Post-Easter Feasts

Part (1), (2), (3)

Image result for exultet rolls
Facsimile of the Barberini Exsultet Roll showing the section of the Exsultet in praise of the bees.  (Image credit: DO/Conversations)

On Easter day (at the end of Matins) they two candle bearers were sent to fetch the archbishop who came to the Sepulcher vested in a white cope and there said the Confiteor. After saying this prayer, he kissed the Sepulcher and the altars. Then, preceded by the two candles he went to kiss the Dean, and entered the choir, and standing with the chanters said “Resurrexit Dominus; the chanter responded “Et apparuit Petro.” Then the archbishop gave the kiss of peace to the two chanters. All the other ecclesiastics did the same thing. (This kiss of peace during the Resurrexit Dominus on the day of Easter is still practiced not only in Vienne, but also in the famous collegial church of the canons of St. Vulfran of Abbeville. It is found in the ancient Ordo Romanus, in the chapter In vigila sancti Paschae in nocte. Less than one hundred years ago it was still done in Rouen. Today in the Eastern Church the only way that both the clergy and the people greet one another from Easter to Ascension is by saying Χριστός ἀνέστη, Christ is risen.)

On Easter the whole office was done, and is still done, with the same number of assistant priests, ministers, and candle-bearers as on Christmas day, and they also chanted neumes at every antiphon. There are only three or four peculiarities which I will describe.

After Lauds the archbishop or the deacon, dressed in priestly vestments, blessed water and sprinkled the altars and the people, while the subdeacon carried the bucket. Then they returned to the vesting room and went to sing a high mass a the altar of the Sepulcher.

After Terce the archbishop vested in his pontifical garb for the mass before the Sepulcher, and his six assistant priests, seven deacons, seven subdeacons, and seven candle-bearers did so behind the altar or in the vesting room. Then they went to fetch the bishop in procession to the Chapel of the Sepulcher in the same order as on Christmas day. Then the Dean, having been blessed by the archbishop, goes with the other canons through the middle of the choir behind the altar, and they chant O mors, which is repeated after the verse. Then they returned to the Sepulcher. There the candle-bearers say the antiphon Ite, nuntiate, etc. in a loud voice When this is finished, all turn toward the Sepulcher. Then the chanters, backs to the Sepulcher, begin the Quem quaeritis? Two canons respond Jesum Nazarenum. The chanters: Non est hic, surrexit. The two canons chant Alleluia, Resurrexit Dominus as they return to the choir where, when the procession has arrived, the chanters immediately begin the Introit Resurrexit in a softer voice, as in Lyon. This in indicated in the ancient Ordinal by the words voce submissa. While they chant the Gloria Patri in full voices, the archbishop enters in full pomp with all the ministers, and says the mass with all the same ceremonies as Christmas, with Lauds and the Venite populi after the communion. The Mass ends with Ite, missa est, alleluia.

Throughout the whole day, except during mass, the archbishop is vested in a cope over an alb with his stole and maniple, and at all the minor hours as well as after mass he was conducted by two candle-bearers back to his residence, with his mitre on his head and his cross in hand. He even dined that day vested in his pontifical vestments.

At the last strike the bells for Vespers the archbishop, so vested, came from his residence into the cloister (this is still done today on major feasts) preceded by two candle-bearers. These immediately went to the choir to fetch the deacon-crucifer, who was vested in cope and came with the candle-bearers and all the clergy and chanters in copes, with mitres atop their heads and batons in hand, to lead the archbishop processionally into to the church.

Vespers are done very much as in Rouen: they chanted the psalm Laudate pueri while going to the fonts, and the psalm In exitu on their return. The two Benedicamus of Vespers and the procession were sung with) two alleluia, after which the archbishop gave the blessing, saying Sit nomen Domini benedictum, etc.

On Easter Monday they held the station at Saint-Pierre. The archbishop chanted the mass with five deacons and five subdeacons. Between the Prose[1] Victimae and the Gospel there was a sermon for the people, then the archbishop gave the indulgence. When the bells first rang for Vespers the clergy assembled in the house of the archbishop where tables dressed with honey and other things were laid out, along with wine. At the last strike everyone returned to the Chapel of Notre-Dame, then they went to the church as on the day previous.

On Saturday and Sunday in albis they continued the procession to the baptismal fonts, but instead of the psalms as on the other days they chanted a Responsory with an oration.

On the three days of Rogations, the clergy and the whole people assembled at the cathedral church after Terce: the clergy of St. Severe, the religious of Sainte Colombe, the religious of S. Andre-le-haut, the monks of S. Andre-le-bas, and of St. Pierre all attended. When they entered the church of St. Maurice, all the bells were rung.

The archbishop standing in the dean’s place, or the dean if he was a priest, or else the Hebdomadary sprinkled the whole clergy, religious, and sisters when they exited the choir two by two. A deacon carried the banner, two canons of the minor choir carried two crosses, the subdeacon hebdomadary carried a third cross, the deacon hebdomadary the Gospel Book, and a cleric carried the tablets on which the Litany is written. Those who carried the crosses were (as at Lyon and Bec) barefoot, and their heads sprinkled with ashes. In this procession the priest is vested in a chasuble even today.

When the procession arrived at the church of the station, a priest and two deacons lay prostrate before the altar until the Litany was finished. They did six or seven stations each day. The canons, monks, and sisters all chanted the Litany. (We will see the sisters assisting at these processions elsewhere too.)

On Ascension Day after Terce, the clergy, in copes with the archbishop or (in his absence) with the Abbot of St. Pierre, made a procession in which they carried all the reliquaries. It came down by the steps of the great portal and entered by the door of the cloister. After they were all arranged in the nave of the church, the archbishop vested in his pontifical garments, or in his absence the Abbot of St. Pierre, went to the altar of the Sepulcher preceded by two clergeons bearing candles, three subdeacons also carrying candles, a fourth subdeacon thurifer, a major subdeacon carrying the Gospel Book, the archdeacon carrying the golden cross, followed by the other deacons, then the archbishop. Then the cantors, with their backs turned to the Sepulcher said: Quem creditis? Two or three canons responded, Christum qui surrexit. The cantors: Jam ascendit. The canons: Alleluia. As they were singing this, the procession re-entered the choir and the archbishop began the mass with the same ceremonies as on Easter, but without priest assistants and without the Venite populi.

There was a peculiarity about this feast. After the Offertory with its verses they went in procession in the almonry. First went the holy water bucket-bearer, the two candle bearers, and the thurifer chanting the Responsory Christus resurgens with the verse.[2] There they blessed the food saying Edent pauperes, etc., sprinkling water on it and incensing it. Then there was a sermon. The mass finished in the usual way.

On the Vigil of Pentecost they held the same ceremonies of Baptism as on Holy Saturday. Six vested priests assisted, but not at the mass. Today before beginning the mass they do not say Accendite. Before the Postcommunion they said Vespers with the psalm Laudate Dominum omnes gentes and the Magnificat with two antiphons, following the rite of Holy Saturday, and Vespers ended with the Postcommunion. The ceremony is done in the same way today.

On Pentecost one finds all the same practices and ceremonies as on the day of Easter, except the Office of the Sepulcher. Before Vespers and before Mass there is a Processio ad introducendum archiepiscopum as on Christmas; and the Venite populi for the Eucharist as on Easter and Christmas; the same rite of Vespers as on Easter, during the procession to the fonts singing the psalm Laudate pueri and on the way back the psalm In exitu. The same is done on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. In fact it is meant to be the same thing: for the two Saturdays of Easter and Pentecost were dedicated to solemn baptism of the catechumens, and during the Week after Vespers the newly baptized were taken in procession to the baptismal fonts where they had been regenerated, and the priest said a prayer over them. Note particularly that the prayer ad fontes is especially for them.
After the Octave of Pentecost they read not only the books of Kings, but also Chronicles, as formerly at Rouen.

On Christmas day after Vespers, St. Stephen’s day, and St. John’s day, they made solemn processions for the deacons, priests, and boys of the choir, as formerly at Rouen.[3] The following morning at Mass there was a special ceremony for them: the choir boys had their boy-bishop who presided over the whole office except the mass.

On Holy Innocents the Te Deum, Gloria in excelsis, and Alleluia are still sung in Vienne as in Lyon before the Gospel. Elsewhere they are not said because formerly Christians fasted on this day more Quadragesimali.

On Candlemas after Prime, the archbishop or Abbot of St. Pierre, vested in an apparelled alb, amice, stole, maniple, and a while cope with his mitre and crosier, preceded by his ministers, comes to the altar to bless the candles which he sprinkles and incenses. The sacristans distribute candles to the clergy who light them, and then there is a procession in the cloister.

On St. Mark’s day there is no mention of the Major Litany or a procession, and these are still not done in Vienne, just as they are not at Lyon.

On the second day of June, the feast of St. Blandina and her companion martyrs, they held a great solemnity in Vienne: it was called the Feast of Miracles. There were great festivities on boats in the Rhone. The clergy of the church of Saint-Severe and the cathedral, the monks and the religious of Saint-André-le-haut all went in procession to the church of Sainte Blandine, preceded by two crosses and followed by all the people. There they said the mass of holy martyrs. After the Epistle they chanted the Gradual, then read the martyrs’ Acts in the manner of an Epistle, taken from the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius (Book 5, chapter 1) with the title Lectio Libri Ecclesiasticae Historiae. They do this still today. (This is worthy of note, because in it we can see a practice was mentioned by St. Gregory of Tours: that the Acts of the martyrs were recited in the divine offices and sometimes even in the Mass.) After this reading of the Acts the Alleluia and Prose are chanted, and the deacon reads the Gospel.

There were three different masses of St. John the Baptist counting that of the Vigil.[4] The second was said after Lauds, and the third after Terce.

On the 30th of June, in place of the Commemoratio S. Pauli, they have the Celebratio, like the Celebritas of Lyon.

On the 1st of August the martyrdom of the Maccabees was read after the Epistle at the conventual mass, and it is still read today.

On the 8th of August the Feast of St. Severus, priest of Vienne, the cathedral church went at night in procession to the church of St. Severus; in ipsa nocte statio ad sanctum Severum.

The day of St. Maurice is like Christmas. After First Vespers the monks of Saint-André-le-bas come to the cathedral church to chant Matins, and next the monks of St. Pierre do the same. After Prime the processions come to their mother-churches, and a their arrival all the bells must ring.

The archbishop vested in chasuble and pallium, after incensing the altar at the beginning of Mass, goes to sit in his throne of white marble behind the high altar. After the Prose the archbishop gave a sermon to the people and gave an indulgence.

In other sources we find that until the year 1100, in the diocese of Vienne Lent began on the Monday after Quinquagesima, which they currently call (by corruption) Lundi gras, and not on Ash Wednesday, as they do now. Perhaps this is why in some communities they abstain from meat during these two days.

Formerly no one in Vienne could be married from the Rogations until Trinity.

If a canon quits his canonry, he can no longer assist at the cathedral church as an honorary member. Whereas, if the canon had once been a choir boy, he would always have retained the right to assist as a canon because he was nourished and brought up in gremio Ecclesiae; and even if he did not possess a second canonry, he would take his old place, always retaining the right to assist and keep his rank there.
In Vienne, if at the moment of death, a poor man requests to be buried in the little cemetery of the cloister of the cathedral church, and he dies as a true Christian, fortified by the sacraments, he is buried there in the following manner. All the clocks of the cathedral church are rung, just as they would be for a canon; all the canons, the whole rest of their clergy, and even the archbishop when he is in the city go preceded by the cross and silver candlesticks to take the body and bury it with as much ceremony as if the man had been a canon, except the things that are proper to priests alone. On the second week after Easter many masses are said for these poor dead in the chapel of the Sepulcher. This is an example of extraordinary piety and charity toward the poor, (and we shall see something like it elsewhere.)

The Wednesday after the fourth Sunday of Lent is called the Feria quarta in scrutiniis, and they still do the examination of the catechumens in the cathedral church on that day, and on Holy Thursday they do the Office of the Catechumens.

On Holy Saturday the faithful bring the new blessed fire back to their homes.

Quasi modo Sunday is called Dominica in Albis depositis.

Feasts of nine lessons have twelve when they fall on a Sunday. The eighth and the ninth lessons are read as one, and for the ninth they read the Gospel of the Sunday, and then the three lessons of the Homily are read as one. Likewise, on many feasts of three lessons, one finds five, even in Paschal time, because very often they say the two or three readings of the Gospel as one. Their Breviary has very long readings, but no one complains about them in Vienne, as they do not in Lyon.

On solemn feasts the Necrology is not read after Prime and the customary prayers for the dead are not said. In their place they say a verse that is appropriate to the mystery or the feast.

On the first Monday of Lent and on the Vigil of Christmas in the primatial church of Vienne, before the conventual Mass they pardon those who have broken the statues of the chapter.

At the three Christmas masses, besides the Epistle they also chant a prophecy, according to the ancient practice of the Gallican Church. This used to be done at Rouen and Orleans until 150 years ago. It is done in Vienne after the Epistle.

During Advent and from Septuagesima to Easter (excluding feasts) they use black vestments.

On Palm Sunday they use green, and at the masses of Holy Thursday and Saturday, white.


[1] Prose is the usual French term for Sequence.

[2] Its proper verse. These sometimes varied, but it seems the standard one for this responsory was “Dicant nunc Judaei quomodo milites custodientes sepulcrum perdiderunt Regem; ad lapidis positionem non servabant Petram justitiae; aut sepultum reddant, aut resurgentem adorent, nobiscum dicentes”. See the music and an article about the procession here:

[3] In the Middle Ages, the Feast of the Holy Innocents (which began after Christmas Vespers) was considered a special day for children, St. Stephen’s Day was a day of celebration for the order of deacons, and St. John’s Day for priests.

[4] An ancient Roman custom.

Epiphany and its Octave (GA 3.16 – 21)

Ch. 16
On the Sunday Dum medium silentium

Image result for theophany painting

The Sunday that occurs between Our Lord’s Nativity and Epiphany signifies that time when the Lord was in Egypt. Hence the Communion antiphon Tolle puerum et matrem eius (Matthew 2).

CAP. XVI. – De Dominica, Dum medium silentium.

Dominica, quae inter Nativitatem Domini et Epiphaniae occurrit, significat tempus illud quo Dominus in Aegypto fuit, unde et in communione, Tolle puerum et matrem eius (Matth. II), canitur.

Ch. 17
On the Saints and their Octaves

We celebrate the birthdays of saints because through death they were born from this world into eternal life. We keep their octaves because in the octave, i.e. in the Resurrection, their glory will be doubled in Christ.

CAP. XVII. – De sanctis et octavis eorum.

Natalia sanctorum ideo celebrantur, quia de hoc mundo in aeternam vitam per mortem nascebantur. Octavae vero illorum ideo coluntur, quia in octava, id est in resurrectione, gloriae eorum per Christum duplicabuntur.

Ch. 18
On Epiphany


Formerly the Octave of the Ides of January was a feast for the triple triumph of Augustus Caesar. We celebrate the same day, which we call the Lord’s Epiphany, for three reasons: because a star showed the way to Our Lord and he was revealed to the nations on that day, and after thirty years he was baptized in the Jordan on the same day, and one year later on the same day he was manifested as God at the wedding of Cana through the conversion of water into wine. Thus it is called Epiphany or Theophany, which means appearance or manifestation or showing forth. For it is said that on this day the Lord fed the five thousand from the five loaves. Thus the first nocturn concerns the star’s appearance, the second nocturn the Magi’s visit, and the third Our Lord’s baptism. In the sacraments of the Mass the subject is the conversion of water into wine and the feeding of the people from the loaves.

CAP. XVIII. – De Epiphania.

Octava Idus Ianuarii olim habebatur celebris ob triplicem triumphum Augusti Caesaris. Hanc eamdem diem, quam Epiphaniam Domini vocamus, ob tres causas celebramus, quia Dominus stella duce illa die gentibus est revelatus; et post triginta annos eadem die in Iordane baptizatus, et revoluto anno ipsa die per aquae in vinum conversionem ad nuptias Deus est manifestatus. Ideo Epiphania vel Theophania appellatur, quod apparitio vel manifestatio aut ostentio interpretatur. Traditur enim quod hac die quinque millia hominum de quinque panibus Dominus satiaverit. Itaque in primo nocturno stellae apparitio. In secundo nocturno Magorum visitatio. In tertio Domini baptizatio. In sacramentis missae agitur aquae in vinum conversio, vel populi de panibus saturatio.

Ch. 19
On the Magi

Image result for chinese christmas painting magi

The king Zoroaster was the first to discover magic, and from his seed came Balaam who prophesied this about Christ: Orietur stella ex Jacob, et consurget homo de Israel (Numbers 24). The Magi who came to the Lord with gifts were descended from Balaam. Now Magi are a kind of astronomer, experts in the stars. Our Lord wanted to be sought by these men because he wanted a testimony from the wise men of the world on the basis of which the gentile peoples might believe. He wanted to be found by three men because he wanted to be worshipped in the three parts of the world, namely Asia, Africa, and Europe. He wanted to be found through a star because he wanted the people to be converted through Sacred Scripture. He wanted to be found on the twelfth day after his nativity because he wanted to draw the world to himself through the twelve apostles. Now Our Lord wanted to be baptized for three reasons. First, to “fulfill all justice”; second, to endorse the baptism of John; and third to sanctify the waters for us. He wanted to be baptized after thirty years before he began preaching because he wanted to teach the people at the perfect age after he had gained wisdom. He wanted to be baptized by John and no other because from him he wanted a witness among the people because the Jews believed that John was a prophet.[1]

CAP. XIX. – De Magis.

Primus Zoroaster rex magicam invenit, de cuius semine Balaam exstitit, qui de Christo hoc praedixit: Orietur stella ex Iacob, et consurget homo de Israel (Num. XXIV). Ex cuius progenie hi Magi fuerunt, qui ad Dominum cum muneribus venerunt. Magi autem sunt dicti, quasi mathematici, scilicet in stellis periti. Ideo autem Dominus ab his quaeri voluit, quia testimonium a sapientibus mundi habere voluit, quibus et populus gentium credidit. Ideo vero a tribus inveniri voluit, quia a tribus partibus mundi scilicet Asia, Africa, Europa, coli voluit. Ideo hoc per stellam fieri voluit, quia per sacram Scripturam populum converti voluit. Ideo in duodecimo die a nativitate sua hoc fieri voluit, quia per duodecim apostolos mundum attrahere voluit. Propter tres autem causas Dominus baptizari voluit: primo, ut omnem iustitiam impleret: secundo, ut Ioannis baptismum comprobaret: tertio, ut aquas nobis sanctificaret. Idcirco autem post triginta annos baptizari, et tunc praedicare voluit, quia nos adepta scientia in perfecta aetate populum docere voluit. Ideo vero a Ioanne, non ab alio, baptizari voluit, quia ab illo testimonium ad populum habere voluit, quia videlicet populus Iudaeorum illi, ut prophetae, credidit.

Ch. 20
On Matins of the Epiphany

In this night, we do not sing the Invitatory, because turn down Herod’s deceitful invitation to the Magi, yet the sixth psalm we sing is Venite exsultemus (Psalm 94), because we celebrate that in the sixth age of the world the gentiles came to the faith. In the third nocturn, we sing the antiphon Fluminis impetus[2] and the psalm Deus noster refugium (Psalm 45), because we remember that, in the third age, the city of God (civitatem Dei), i.e. the Church, was gladdened by the river of baptism. And so in the third nocturn we frequently sing Alleluia, because we announce that in the third age, joy came through the baptism.

CAP. XX. – De Matutinis.

In hac nocte invitatorium non cantamus, quia subdolam Herodis invitationem cum Magis declinamus; in sexto tamen loco psalmum, Venite exsultemus (Psal. XCIV), canimus, quia sexta aetate mundi gentes ad fidem venisse plaudimus. In tertio nocturno antiphonam fluminis impetus (Psal. XLV), et psalmum Deus noster refugium (ibid.), psallimus, quia tertio tempore flumine baptismatis civitatem Dei, scilicet Ecclesiam, laetificasse cognovimus. Ideo in tertio nocturno Alleluia frequentamus, quia in tertio tempore per baptismum laetitiam advenisse annuntiamus.

Ch. 21
On the Octave Day of Epiphany

On the Octave Day of Epiphany, we celebrate the baptism of the Church, as in the antiphons Veterem hominem[3] and Te qui in spiritu.[4] Baptism is performed with water, since this element is clearly contrary to fire. Now, the fire of punishment is lit by the kindling of sin, but extinguished by the water of baptism. Hence is it written that in the beginning the Holy Spirit sustained it, for water washes filth away, extinguishes thirst, and restored the image, and so by baptism we are washed of the filth of our sins, drink from the fount of life, and are restored to the image of God.

CAP. XXI. – De octava Epiphaniae.

In octava Epiphaniae baptismus Ecclesiae celebratur, sicut in antiphonis, Veterem hominem, et te qui in spiritu. Ideo autem in aqua baptizatur, quia hoc elementum igni contrarium comprobatur. Fomite vero peccati ignis poenarum accenditur, sed per aquam baptismatis exstinguitur. Ideo hanc Spiritus sanctus in principio fovisse legitur. Aqua enim sordes abluit, sitim exstinguit, imaginem reddit, ita nos baptismate a sordibus peccatorum nostrorum lavamur, a fonte vitae potamur, imagine Dei renovamur.


[1] This chapter quotes the antiphon Tribus miraculis.

[2] Fluminis impetus lætificat, alleluia, civitatem Dei, alleluia.

[3] Veterem hominem renovans Saluator venit ad baptismum ut natura quae corrupta est per aquam recuperaret incorruptibili veste circumamictans nos.

[4] Te qui in spiritu et igne purificas humana contagia Deum ac redemptorem omnes glorificamus. These and the rest of the day antiphons of the Octave of the Epiphany were of Greek origin, translated into Latin and put into the Roman liturgy at the request of Charlemagne. They were not received into the Roman curial breviary and were therefore not included in the Tridentine breviary.

St. Maurice of Vienne (3): On Lent

Part (1), (2)

The reader will recall that de Moléon is describing ceremonies taken from a 12th century Ordinal (hence the past tense). He indicates when these ceremonies are still practiced in the 18th century when he is writing.

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Vienne Missal (14th c.), Lyon, Bibl. mun., ms. 0526, f. 111v

On all Sundays from Septuagesima to Easter there was a procession or station at a church in the city.


On Ash Wednesday there were also stations.

After None they blessed the ashes. Then the archbishop (or in his absence the priest of St. Pierre de Vienne) and his chaplain, vested in black silk copes came into the choir, taking the place of the Dean along with the deacon and subdeacon who carried the ashes.


On all days of Lent before Compline they said the Office of the Dead, then went to the chapter room for a reading from the Dialogues of St. Gregory, after which they went to the refectory to drink some wine.

They called this the potus caritatis. Even then they did not eat. That came later.

Wednesday of the fourth week of Lent is called in the Ordinal of Vienne and their last Missal Feria quarta in Scrutiniis. They still perform the scrutinies today in this church, even though all those to be baptized are children, with the subdeacon reciting the Credo for each child before the priest, as a profession of faith. For good reason, the Gradual of this Mass is Venite filii. The ceremonies are too long to record here in French. They can be found in Latin in the Ordinal, which we hope to make available to the public.

They said the Te Deum laudamus on Palm Sunday, as at Lyon and in the whole Order of St. Benedict on the Sundays of Advent and Lent, and I see no sound reason to omit it.

The blessing of palms was done by the archbishop (or in his absence by the priest of Saint-Pierre) vested in alb, amice, stole, and greek silk cope. The cross was bare in the procession and they did not say Attollite portas.

On Spy Wednesday at the Mass they said (and still say) all the solemn intercessions for the various states as on Good Friday.

On Holy Thursday after None the archbishop, vested in alb and amice, stole and silk cope with his mitre and crosier went to the doors of the church to admit the public penitents who were waiting their to receive permission to enter.

Then he gave a sermon, at the end of which he said three times Venite filii. The archbishop said the verse Accedite and let in the penitents. Immediately the seven penitential psalms were said, during which the archbishop and penitents lay prostrate before the pulpit. Then the archbishop said the prayers, verses, and collects, and gave them the pardon and indulgence.

Currently there is no more trace of this public penitence except the seven penitential psalms, along with this rubric in the Supplement to the missal:

Feria V in Ecclesia Primatiali ante missam sit officium catechumenorum et reconciliatio poenitentium, et ideo dicuntur septem psalmi poenitentiales.” They still do the office of the catechumens.

The blessing of the oil of the sick was done before the Per quem haec omnia Domine and the blessing of the oil of catechumens and chrism after the Pax Domini. Vespers were embedded in the Mass and ended with the Postcommunion.

To this day, after the Mass, the deacon carries the Blessed Sacrament to the place prepared for it, and brings it back the next day to the high altar for the Mass ex praesanctificatis, as at Chartres.

In the Mandatum ceremony when the canons’ feet are washed, the archbishop, his ministers, and the clergy were barefoot. The archbishop and the dean washed their feet, poured water over their hands, then gave them unleavened bread and wine blessed by the prelate.

On Good Friday only the archbishop in black silk cope and his ministers in albs say the Confiteor in the vesting room, then come out entirely barefoot (and still do so today), prostrate themselves before the altar and spend some time in prayer. Rising, the reading of the two prophecies begins, and the chanting of the two tracts. Then an archdeacon chants the Passion according to St. John. (The whole rest of the office is nearly the same as in the ancient Ordinal of Rouen from the 11th century). Afterwards they return barefoot to the vesting room.

After Communion, in a loud voice the celebrant said (and still says) In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus sancti. The response was Et cum spiritu tuo. This is still the cases in the missal of 1519; the response today is Amen. Then the cantors, standing before the altar, begin a Responsory and verse, then repeat from the beginning up to the verse, while the archbishop does the incensation. In ancient times and up to the present in Vienne, this ceremony constitutes the whole of Vespers for this day.

On Holy Saturday the archbishop, vested in a silk cope and the archdeacon in a white dalmatic, preceded by candle-bearers, a subdeacon, and twelve curés-prêtres assistants and the master of the choir boys, went to the chapel of Our Lady in the cloister to admit the infants to be baptized, and the archdeacon said: Orate electi, flectite genua, Levate. Complete Orationem vestram, et dicite Amen. Then the sign of the cross was made on their heads.

The archbishop asked each the name of each, and said the oration or exorcism Nec te lateat, Satana. Then the archdeacon said Catechumeni recedant, Si qui Catechumeni, exeant foras. After the catechumens left, the archdeacon, having received the blessing of the archbishop, descended with the subdeacon in the choir in front of the altar to perform the blessing of the Paschal candle. Meanwhile the members of the minor choir stood and the major choir sat until the deacon said Dominus vobiscum.

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Vienne Missal (14th c.), Lyon, Bibl. mun., ms. 0526, f. 110v

During the blessing of the candle, the choir master (capiscol) or scholastic vested in a silk cope blessed the incense and fire, and then carried the grains of incense to the archdeacon whom he helped to embed in the holes of the candle at the proper time. Then the archdeacon lit the Paschal candle with the new fire. (Some of the faithful take away flames from this blessed fire to their homes, as at Lyon and Rouen.) Then a lector climbed the jubé to read the prophecies, which were intermixed with orations and Tracts, as they are today. (The twelve curés chanted each oration after each of the twelve prophecies according to the Missal of Vienne of 1519. Today it is done by two priests who chant them alternately.)

When they began the Tract Cantemus Domino, the choir-master took a priest and his boys with him (and perhaps the rest of the cantors too) and went to the baptismal fonts which were in the chapel of St. John the Baptist (in the cloister) and there chanted the Litany, repeating each verse three times. (This is called the Litania terna. It is the origin of the nine-fold Kyrie eleison in the Mass, in which each group of three was sung by the cantor and the two choirs in alternation.) After the Litany, everyone returned to the choir.

After the prophecies, Tracts, and Orations were finished, they invited forward those who were to be baptized. They placed the boys on the right side and the girls on the left, and said over them the orations for catechumens. Going in procession to the baptismal fonts, the Curé of St. John went with the priest assistants carrying the vase of holy chrism, as the cantors chanted the second litany and the two choirs responded. After it was finished, the archbishop blessed the fonts conjointly with the twelve curés, as they do today at Troyes; namely, they made the blessings in the form of the cross and the aspirations with the bishop, and held their hands up like him, though they did not touch either the water or the candle, as is marked in the Ordinal of the cathedral church of Vienne written in 1524.

Exultet Roll.jpg

The reason these curés assisted at the blessing of fonts at the Saturday vigils of Easter and Pentecost is because they brought with them to the cathedral all the infants of their parishes that were to be baptized. For in ancient times the only baptismal fonts were located in the cities, in the cathedral churches, as is the case today in Florence, Pisa, Parma, Padua, and elsewhere. The bishop put holy chrism in the water in the form of a cross. After the ordinary questions on the faith of the creed and other things, the priest baptized each of the infants by three immersions, plunging him three times in the water (sub trina mersione) and invoking the holy Trinity: saying Et ego te baptizo in nomine Patris, then plunging the infant once into the water, then et Filii, and plunging him for a second time, and et Spiritus Sancti, and plunging him in for the third time. Taking the infant from the font, the priest took a bit of holy chrism with his thumb and made a sign of the cross on the top of his head saying the prayer Deus omnipotens. Then the priest clothed him in a white robe in the form of an alb, saying the usual words Accipe vestem candidam etc. (Receive this robe, white and without blemish, which he must carry before the Tribunal of Our Lord Jesus Christ, if you wish to attain eternal life.) Terrible words on which Christians would do well to reflect….

After this, if the bishop is present (according to the Ordinal), he also gave the infants the Sacrament of Confirmation. Si Episcopus adest, statim confirmari oportet infantulum. Then the procession returned to the choir as two priests chanted the third litany, which was repeated seven times.

The archbishop went to prepare for the Mass, and as he returned to the altar the deacon said (and still says) in a loud voice: Accendite[1] (as the canons still do in Lyon, and used to do in Rouen less than one hundred years ago; and as is still done at Angers on major feasts). Then all the candles were lit and they began the Kyrie eleison. The whole rest of the mass and Vespers are the same as everywhere else, except that at the end, instead of Ite missa est, the deacon says Benedicamus Domino without Alleluia, on account of Vespers.

I was very surprised not to find a communion of the newly baptized in this Mass, which (as Rosweyde and Cardinal Bona prove) used to be given not only to adults but also to newborn infants. It is found in the ancient Ordo Romanus, cap. de Sabbato sancto, and was still practiced in France in the 12th century in the time of Hugh of St. Victor, who in his first book on Ecclesiastical Sacraments and Ceremonies, chapter 20, speaking of a newly baptized, said that the priest dipped the end of his finger in the blood of Christ and in this way gave the Sacrament of the Eucharist to the newly baptized infant who has learned by nature to suck. Pueris recens natis idem Sacramentum in specie Sanguinis est ministrandum digito sacerdotis, quia tales naturaliter sugere possunt.[2]

This practice of giving communion to newly baptized infants was present, not only in the 12th century, but at Beauvais less than three hundred years ago, as we see in the Ordinals of this church that go back to that time, and hence comes the custom, even today, of carrying the newly baptized infants to the high altar, which is done in the whole diocese of Rouen and in many others.)


[1] In the Ordo Romanus I, this is the word said by the subdeacon to indicate that the pope is ready to leave the sacristy and begin the stational Mass: Quod cum nunciatum fuerit, statim sequitur subdiaconus adstans ante faciem pontificis usque dum ei adnuat pontifex ut psallant: cui dum adnuerit, statim egreditur ante fores secretarii et dicit : Accendite. Qui dum accenderint, statim subdiaconus sequens tenens thymiamaterium aureum, pro foribus  ponit incensum ut pergat ante pontificem.

[2] Author’s note: “On this question, see St. Augustine in his book to Boniface against the Pelagian heresy (1.22) and his letter to Vitalis, St. Ambrose, (Lib de Initiandis, ch. 8) and St. Paulinus, Letter 32. Everyone knows that the deacon in the African church gave both species to infants in their mothers’ arms, something the Greeks still do today.”