Some Peculiarities of the Lyonese Use

Between offices, Aelredus and I have been busy in the scriptorium with our translation of the Voyages Liturgiques hoping to see it published eventually. In response to a question raised by one of our loyal readers struck by the curious sight of a Subdeacon leaning on a misericord to read the Epistle at the High Mass in the Lyonese use recently celebrated by the FSSP on the feast of St Irenæus, herein we provide a relevant except from Voyages’ description of Mass in the Cathedral of Lyon.

Images courtesy of FSSP Lyon

At the beginning of the collect, the Major Subdeacon [there were also two minor subdeacons] goes bare-headed [at certain times he, being a canon, wore a mitre] to the raised third stall of the first row in the front of the choir on the right-hand side. He leans on the misericord and rather reads than sings the Epistle in a moderate tone. The misericord is a wooden board the size of about two hands, over which the canons and cantors lean while they sing the psalms and hymns, and this position is considered equivalent to standing.

After the end of the Collect, the Celebrant goes to sit together with the Assistant Priests and Deacons, half on each side. The Celebrant reads the Epistle and what follows on a small iron stand by his side.

The two choir-boys set their candles on the ground by the foot of the râtelier [a candelabra] after the Collect and go up to the altar to fetch the silver tablets upon which is set a parchment with the Gradual and Alleluia. They present them to a Canon and three Perpetuals [a special rank of Canons] who had just taken their places at the first high chairs of the right side near the Great Rood. Leaning on their stalls they sing the Gradual and then give their places and the tablets over to four others who sing the Alleluia and its verse and return to their places in choir. They call this singing per rotulos. The precentor is at the first place of the Epistle side and the cantor at the first place of the Gospel side near the Great Rood.

Since the recent Mass of St Irenæus was not celebrated by the Canons of Lyon at Cathedral, it did not feature the practices described in the last paragraph. Instead, towards the end of the Alleluia, the choir-boys acting as acolytes go stand towards the back of the choir (near the nave) and hold their hands over their breast while the incense is prepared. Once the Deacon picks up the book and asks for the Celebrant’s blessing, the choir-boys go fetch their candles. This manner of holding the hands is not mentioned in the Voyages, but is described in later ceremonials. The readers of the prophecies during Holy Week also hold their arms crossed while they wait for other ceremonial actions to be completed.

Another aspect of the Lyonese use that has arrested people’s attention is the vestment used by the thurifer. It is called the orfrois de tunique, or “tunicle orphreys.” As the name suggests, it is a remnant of the full subdeaconal tunicle, since in the Cathedral, only subdeacons were allowed to be thrufiers. Hence, the 19th century ceremonial states that the thurifer is to wear the orfrois on the greatest feasts, and the Subdeacon during the short Vespers attached to the end of Holy Saturday, while assisting the Celebrant as he incenses the altar during the Magnificat. In the Voyages, Le Brun des Marettes reports that on Corpus Christi and the feast of St John the Baptist in the Cathedral, a Subdeacon clad in a mitre and orfrois led the procession after Benediction to carry the Blessed Sacrament to the neighbouring parish church, where it was reserved. Note that the Canons of the Cathedral of Lyon had the privilege of wearing a mitre, even in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. 

New Years’ with the Canons of Sens (4): Mass and Second Vespers

We have been examining the riches of the Feast of the Circumcision as celebrated by the illustrious cathedral chapter of Sens, based on a MS. written under the auspices of the Lord Archbishop Peter of Corbeil. See the previous posts in this series: Introduction and First Vespers; Compline; Mattins, Lauds, & the Little Hours. This post will describe interesting elements in the Mass and Second Vespers of the feast.

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After Terce, the canons prepared for Mass, singing a carol while the celebrant readied himself. This jocund conductus ad presbyterum is a bit of a grammar lesson, for each stanza begins begins with the word dies in a different case: dies (nominative), diei (genitive), diei (dative), diem (accusative), dies (vocative), die (accusative). 


At Mass, as one might expect, each part of the Ordinary (Kyrie Clemens rector, Gloria II, Sanctus IV, Agnus Dei IV) was farced, even the Credo, whereof this is the sole attested example. The Gloria and Credo are troped in the style of the Pater noster and Apostles’ Creed at Compline and Prime, i.e. the text and music of each trope-line is a quotation, textual and musical from another liturgical piece. 

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With respect to the musical propers, however, only the Gradual includes a short trope in the form of a prose; the Sequence Laetabundus follows the Alleluia. 

While the subdeacon prepares to read the epistle, the rest of the canons sang the famous carol Lux optata, and the epistle itself, sung to a special melody, alternates with a trope, most probably intoned by another cleric. The tropes are, like those of the the Gloria and Credo, textually and musically centonized.

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While the deacon readies himself to sing the gospel, the canons again sing a conductus, and although the gospel is not farced, it is sung to special tone:

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 Second Vespers

The canons were surely quite exhausted when time came for second Vespers, and so, after the solemn Deus, in adjutorium sung to the same melody as in First Vespers, they sang the hymn (curiously placed at the beginning), antiphons, and psalms without any tropes. Gaude Maria Virgo was the responsory sung after chapter, and here they did sing all the verses of this particularly prolix piece, concluding with the Marian prose Inviolata, which was extremely popular in the Middle Ages. A short sequence replaced the versicle, as at the other hours.

For the Magnificat, withal, the canons exerted one last effort, for it is set to four different antiphons! O beata infantia, they began, and followed with the first verse of Our Lady’s canticle. Then they sang the antiphon O gratissimi, followed by the second verse; then the antiphon O felices panni, followed by the third first; and then O presepe, with a long melisma of the O, and the fourth verse. They repeated each of these four antiphons after each verse until the Sicut erat, after which they rejoiced with a melismatic Alleluia.

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The MS. then provides three additional conductus, one to be sung while the bacularius (the head cantor, so-called because he held a staff, baculus) prepared himself for an office; one to be sung at an apéritif; and one for lunch. 

At the end of the MS. is an appendix containing special troped melodies for the epistles of the Masses of St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents, all of them centonized. 

See the other posts in this series:

1. A Feast of Fools?: First Vespers
2. Compline
3. Mattins, Lauds, and the Little Hours
5. Why the Office of Peter of Corbeil was Suppressed
6. A New Years’ Apéritif with the Canons of Sens

Stained Glass, Light Metaphysics, and Medieval Allegorical Commentary

Stained Glass

“The Old Testament is this vault which rises in a single rib, in a single groin, and the New Testament is the same rib that returns […]. And the keystone of this mystic vault is Jesus.”–Charles Péguy

The windows that exclude weather and let in the light are the doctors who stand against the storms of heresy and shed the light of the Church’s doctrine upon us. Light shines through the window glass, and this glass is the mind of the doctors, who contemplate, as if in a mirror, the heavenly things hidden in the figures (GA 1.130).

For those devoted readers who have followed us through Honorius’ Gemma Animae, here is a little meditation I wrote on his method of allegorical commentary.

According to the mystical tradition derived from Dionysius, and expounded by St. Thomas (e.g. I-II, q. 101), the liturgical symbol is the privileged medium through which the Christian soul contemplates the Divine Light in this life. Direct vision of the Divine Light must await the state of bliss. At the present time, since we have not entered into the pure light of eternity, “we need the ray of Divine light to shine upon us under the form of certain sensible figures.”

Otherwise invisible to us, the Divine Light appears through the filtered, differentiated light of incarnate figures. In the Old Dispensation, these figures were the narratives of salvation history and the ritual practices of the Old Law, which found their highest expression in the Temple liturgy, through which (according to Aquinas) the initiated could actually glimpse Christ as through a glass very darkly.

Christ comes as the Sun, shining through these figures and revealing that they were likenesses of him all along: “Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer all these things?” In the New Law, the liturgical symbol becomes a diaphanous membrane through which we may contemplate the whole sweep of Christ’s redemptive work in the figures of salvation history, and even glimpse something of our heavenly end.

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Detail of stained-glass, Sainte Chapelle

With this in mind, the mode of revelation ascribed to the liturgical rites by the allegorical commentators may be understood through an aesthetic analogy with the Gothic stained glass window. In fact, from a historical point of view, the same Dionysian metaphysics inspired the conception of the Gothic style, with its use of light and color, and the Scriptural-allegorical optic of certain liturgical commentators as they sought to “illuminate” the “spiritual gem” of liturgical ritual.

Revelation is like the construction of a cathedral. God laid the stones and painted the windows in the Old Testament. He illuminated them in the New. The Temple is the Cathedral, media autem nocte. At Easter dawn the light of the Resurrection and the flame of the Holy Spirit flood through these windows to reveal the whole program of sacred history, its inner coherence and its splendor, the inner life that, though obscured, had animated it from the beginning. The High Priest in his cerulean robe, whom we once glimpsed in the shadows, suddenly is revealed as Christ himself. The dark forms of the lower ministers, the priests and levites, the hanging lanterns, suddenly spring into view as the orders of acolytes and deacons, Christ’s priests, and the doctors of the Church, disguised there all along, only waiting to be revealed. The Temple cultus was our cultus in germ; in Christ it finally springs into flower.

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Gloucester Cathedral (Source)

And even now the sun has not ceased rising. Through the illuminated colors of the liturgy of the new High Priest, we look further and catch some glimpse of the realms of light where angels sing and the saints rejoice, their earthly pilgrimage accomplished, the devil finally defeated. At times, at the Sanctus for example, the angelic song bursts through and the Heavenly and Militant churches are united in anticipation of their final reunion around the Altar of the Lamb. On the eschatological nature of liturgical cult, Fr. Quoëx writes:

The state of blessedness is the ultimate sacred reality to which the first two states of cult are ordered. The provisional realities, shadows, and figures of this world will give way to the eternal rest toward which man tends and in which, through the merits of Christ, he will be established as body and soul. There, “in this state of the Blessed, nothing in regard to worship of God will be figurative; there will be naught but ‘thanksgiving and voice of praise.’” Thus, the Angelic Doctor cites Apocalypse (21:22): “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

The role of the Doctor is to help Christians to see the pure Light of Christ shining through the colorful pageant of the liturgical rites. As a friendly guide, he takes us up to the glowing windows of the rites one by one, pointing out the crowds of figures to him and deciphering the dense episodes of salvation history: a liturgical exegesis.

The doctor performs an act of Apocalypse, revelation, unveiling. This act has an eschatological dimension, because at the same time that he makes us glimpse the limbs of Christ working in the liturgy, he causes us to yearn for the light to overcome the mediating forms entirely, for faith to cease and vision to begin. So by “decoding” the liturgy, the commentator trains us to wish for the state of glory.

Allegorical commentary is not merely didacticism, or arcane scholastic exercise, or a childish “Where’s Waldo?” where the game is to spot Christ wherever you can. It came from a belief about the nature of Revelation itself. These commentators were convinced that liturgy was the ongoing drama of Biblical Revelation happening before their eyes, a continuation of the Incarnation that, like the sun shining through the stained glass each morning, flooded the dark world with Light and revealed Christ’s manifold presences in the Church. This drama invited intelligent viewing, and even active participation.

The Biblical narrative is not consummated once and for all on Calvary, but again and again when the sun rises on each Eucharistic celebration. The monk’s lectio divina in the dark of the night finds its completion in the Eucharistia at daybreak, when the protagonists are cast on the Eucharistic stage and he takes active part in the drama of salvation history: might catch a glimpse of Moses coming through the sea, or see Joshua blow his triumphant horn.

As the sun rises with the morning Eucharist in Sainte Chapelle, the dark figures buried in the stories of stained glass are irradiated with the light cast by the Sun who banished the shadows and fulfilled the figures. The companies of prophets and patriarchs renew their ceaseless homage to their Antitype, the Christian joins in worship with all the saints and patriarchs through whom God has revealed himself, and the humble species of the Eucharist is projected in pied beauty on the canvas of the chapel walls.

We can’t all pray with the illuminated book of Sainte Chapelle, but through the window of the liturgical commentary we can see the Scriptural types cast upon the walls of our own churches wherever we are.

Voyages Liturgiques: Chartres


Chartres lies on the banks of the river Eure. In Latin it is Carnutum or Carnotum ad Auduram.

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Chartres Cathedral, Choir Screen, Annunciation

Notre Dame de Chartres.

The Cathedral Church of Notre-Dame is very beautiful, and the crypt is richly ornamented, decorated and illuminated by several silver lamps. The outside surroundings of this church—I mean the Cathedral—are quite beautiful. There are three very large porticos. Atop that of the main door there are two towers visible from 5 leagues away.[1]

The choir is one of the biggest and most beautiful one can find, and filled with a very great number of chairs, two rows of stalls on each side, and a rather large bench as a third stall, with a step of carved wood.

The bishop’s chair is rather ordinary, and placed on the Epistle side at the head of the canons’ seats, as in Paris and Rouen, but it is not covered. It only has a carpet in front and a seat for the bishop, as in the illustration.

The main altar is quite big. It has no balustrades, but only brass columns with angels on top arranged around the sanctuary. The antependium (parement) is attached to the altar-cloths a half-foot over the edge of the altar. Its fringe rests on the altar table itself.[2] Above the altar there is only one veil (parement) on the retable, above which there is an image of the Blessed Virgin in gilded silver. Behind the veil is a bronze bar, and above it a gold crucifix one and a half foot tall. At its foot is another bronze bar that protrudes about one or one and a half feet over the altar. On the end of it hangs the holy Ciborium, according to the Council of Tours, sub titulo crucis Corpus Domini componatur.

Above the corner of the altar there is a small violet veil about one square foot in size, suspended from a small cord as at Orleans.

Just before the Consecration, the deacon draws it to the center of the altar so that (they say) the Sacred Host can be seen by those standing in the back of the choir. This small veil is a very ancient custom in this church, as they say. I believe the real reason was to present the priest during the Consecration with a vivid image of Christ on the Cross. There is such an image on the veil itself, which was called the majestas or divina majestas. Inclinet ante majestatem.

There are aisles that allow one to walk around the choir, but the stained glass though very large is so dark because of the painting and thickness of the glass that in wintertime they still use bougies at 10:30 in the morning after the conventual Mass to say Sext. At Sext they do not respond Deo gratias after the Short Chapter. There is no response to the Versicle after the Brief Response, which has a melisma as long as the Verses of the major hours. Apparently they make the response in a low voice during the melisma.


Pre-Mass Ceremonies

The blessing of the holy water on Sunday is not done after Terce, as in most churches, but at the first Mass, which is said at four or five in the morning. The priest who will celebrate it is vested in an alb and stole and blesses it in a stoup, sometimes at the entrance of the church, sometimes in another place, and then he goes to the chapel to sprinkle the people present to hear Mass.

Before High Mass, an altar boy brings the holy water bucket (or Orceau, as it is called in Chartres, from the Latin term urceus or urceolus) when everyone is ready to hold the stations. The procession goes out from the choir through the crucifix door, and without going through the nave it goes directly to the altar of St John the Baptist at the intersection on the left. The priest, accompanied by the deacon and subdeacon vested in albs and stoles, except the subdeacon, with an almuce over their arm and their biretta in hand, sprinkles the altar, then the deacon and subdeacon, and then the entire clergy. After the procession has made a turn around the entire choir, it enters again by the same door. The same practice is found in many large churches that I describe in this account; this makes it clear that the purpose of the Sunday procession before Mass was to sprinkle the people and the common places.[3]

Solemn Mass

At Solemn Mass, the priest, deacon, and subdeacon first reverence the altar and then turn towards the choir and reverence it. Then they turn back towards the altar and begin the Mass, before going up to the altar. During the Gloria in excelsis the subdeacon goes to the jubé [i.e. rood-screen tribune] with the Epistle Book, and at the same time the deacon, having received the Gospel Book, retires behind the altar. The priest remains alone at the altar with his assistant priest clad in a surplice, standing at the end of the altar to serve the celebrant.

After having sung the Epistle, the subdeacon returns to the altar. The deacon immediately comes out with the Gospel Book and, having received the celebrant’s blessing, goes to the jubé[4] accompanied by the subdeacon, who holds the cushion; the altar boy who walks in front incensing; and the two candle-bearers. From the moment the deacon goes away from the altar, he raises the Gospel Book with both hands and, as he passes, the clerics get up and bare their heads. The subdeacon takes the open Gospel Book to the celebrant for him to kiss, and then to the canons at their places, and then he returns to the altar.

When the priest has incensed the altar at the Offertory, the deacon takes the thurible that the altar boy gives him and goes down the altar-steps and, having incensed the altar with three strokes, he kisses it at the corner. Then he continues to incense it by going around it, and he incenses the two reliquaries with three strokes each, and goes back to his place. A short moment thereafter the altar boy takes the thurible to the deacon, who incenses the rest of the altar in the same way, kisses the other corner, and then incenses the priest and subdeacon. Then the thurifer, having received the thurible from the hands of the deacon, incenses him. The deacon always holds his biretta in his hand and during the entire Mass he does not put it down except when taking the Gospel Book to the jubé.

At the Sursum corda, the subdeacon receives the paten, which is given to him with a veil. He holds it slightly elevated in front of him behind the altar, so that he sees nothing that is performed there.

One remains standing at the elevation, except only at Masses when one says the O salutaris Hostia, and then only while it is being said.

At the Pater, the subdeacon comes back in front of the altar and gives the paten without the veil to the deacon, who holds it even higher than the subdeacon until the end of the Pater, when he puts it back on the altar.[5]

Then the choir sings the psalm Exaudiat, during which the celebrant, his ministers, and all the clergy kneel.[6] Then the priest receives communion, and the deacon, taking the cruets, pours out the ablutions. This is the only time that the deacon serves the priest. An altar boys gives him a basin to wash in as at the Lavabo, and pours the water out into the piscina, so that the priest is not obliged to drink what he rinses off his fingers. This was done everywhere in former times, and is still done at Lyon and among the Carthusians, who have preserved more ancient customs.

The priest goes to the corner of the altar to say the final prayers, and the deacon, having turned towards the clergy, sings the Ite missa est. Then the Celebrant gives the blessing and goes back to the sacristy with his minister in the same order that they came in.

When the bishop celebrates pontifically on great feasts, he gives the solemn blessing at the Agnus Dei, and not at the end of the Mass.[7]

Holy Week Celebrations

The ceremonies of public penance on Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday are more or less the same as those we shall describe for the church of Rouen.


On Maundy Thursday, six priest-archdeacons celebrate the High Mass together with the bishop, consecrate the holy oils with him, and receive communion under two species from the same host and the same chalice. The bishop stands before the middle of the altar, with three priests at his right and three at his left, along a single line. All seven sing with one voice and carry out all the ceremonies of the Mass together. Praiseworthy church, which has carefully preserved such an august and ancient ceremony! which helps us understand why in several churches the bishop is assisted on great feasts by priests and curés in the celebration of Mass.[8] At the end of the Mass, the deacon, without saying anything, gives the blessing with the sacred Host before taking it to the Treasury where it is reserved in a burse for the following day.

On the same day, the Mandatum or washing of the feet was performed. The altars, however, are not washed until the following day right before the start of the Mass ex praesanctificatis.

During Easter week, the Procession to the Fonts is performed at Vespers. All the clergymen of the Cathedral Church who are neither priests nor deacons, whether or not they be canons, carry a white baton during this procession, as does the sub-cantor who walks at the head of the younger canons. This is done, it is said, to represent the white habits that the newly-baptized used to wear during the Octave. On the way to the fonts and coming back they sing the fourth and fifth psalms of the feria.

Although this Church fasts on the vigils of Apostles, and observes more fasts than others, it nevertheless does not keep the fast on the Vigil of Pentecost, following the ancient custom of the Church, and of the churches of Angers, Nantes, and Amiens. Indeed, the Father attest that there was no fasting during the fifty days of Eastertide, which only ended on the evening of Pentecost Sunday.

On the Ember Wednesday of December, they read the entirety of the Gospel Missus est as the first lesson of Matins, like at Sens. Then the choir prostrates itself and sings the antiphon Salve Regina, and then the homily is read as usual.


[1] About 17 English miles.

[2] On this difficult passage, consult Claude de Vert, Explication (…) des céremonies de l’eglise, pp. 297 and 355, where he explains the typical way the antependium was suspended from the altar by an iron bar, which was in turn covered by a sort of fringe. De Vert and other, especially Jansenist contemporaries disparage the antependium as one of the unnecessary ornaments of the altar.

[3] At this time in many places, the pre-mass procession continued but without the sprinkling of people, church, and common rooms of the cloister. In several places, De Moléon stresses the origin of the procession as a sprinkling rite.

[4] The French word for rood screen. See an extensive article on the French rood screen (here), and its disappearance (here).

[5] On rites attending the Pater noster, see Jungmann vol 2, pp. 299 et sqq. In many places the Pater noster including an elevation or ostentation of the host, or the raising of the paten during the prayer at panem nostrum, as a signum instantis communionis, a sign of the imminence of Communion.

[6] On the addition of post-Pater Noster prayers in the Middle Ages, which were allowed to drop during the 16th century reforms, but flourished in many places afterwards, see Jungmann, Missarum Sollemnia, vol. 2, 292-293. In some places a prostratio was expected at this point.

[7] On the Gallican solemn pontifical blessing, which is different in form and position from the Roman, see Jungmann vol. 2, pp. 294 et sqq.:

“The Gallic pontifical blessing, like the blessing in the Orient, was usually preceded by the deacon’s exhortation: Humiliate vos ad benedictionem, which was answered by a Deo gratias; then the bishop, with mitre and staff, turned to the people and read the formula of blessing from the Benedictionale held before him; at the concluding sentence he made the sign of the Cross three times in three directions. The formula of blessing itself was regularly composed of three members, following the model of the great priestly blessing in the Old Testament (Numbers 6:22-26), which also appeared in the most ancient collections. After each of these three members (usually consisting of well-rounded periods) there was a response, Amen, and at the end a special concluding clause” (296). Jungmann notes that this blessing was retained in the cathedrals of Lyons and Autun right up to his time.

[8] On the origin and development of concelebration in the West, see Jungmann, Missarum Sollemnia, vol. 1, pp. 195 et sqq.

Officers in the Cathedral Chapter of Rouen (9)

Dignities (Officers) of the Rouen Chapter

altar server 5

The High-Dean (Haut-Doyen) is the first dignity of the chapter after the archbishop, and when he is present at Prime and Compline it is he who makes and receives the Confiteor, and sprinkles the holy water in Lent at the end of Compline.

The Cantor (Chantre) officiates in cope with his baton at the High Masses of Triple and Double Feasts and at solemn funerals. He is in charge of making sure no one talks in choir, and has the right of light correction over the clergy, which means he can give at most one blow. He has the right to run or set up chant schools.

The Chancellor (Chancelier) is the Intendent or Master of Schools. In other churches he is thus called the Capiscol, Ecolâtre, or Scholastique. He is in charge of making the chronological table that is placed in the Paschal Candle, to keep the Matricule, [Ed.: the register of clerics, based on which he assigns each to his place]. He must also rehearse the Matins readings with the choir boys and other clergy [and also with the three subdeacon-canons who sing the lessons of the first Nocturn at Matins on great feasts] and he must listen to all of them when he is required to do so.

The Penitentiary (Penitencier) gives the sermon on Holy Thursday and he performs the reconciliation of the public penitents.

Unlike others, this illustrious church does not have perpetual Vicars (Vicaires perpetuels), Semiprebenders (Semiprebendez)[1]or canon-serfs[2] to perform the duties of Hebdomadary for others. The worthy canons of Rouen conduct themselves with such honor that would allow, not for anything in the world, that a subdeacon, deacon, or priest who is not a major canon should celebrate or serve Mass at the high altar. They would rather not have a deacon or subdeacon.

There is so much respect given to the Hebdomadary in the Cathedral church of Rouen that when a canon performs his role according to the set order, no other canon dares to pass in front of him, either in the middle of the choir or to reach their chairs, taking another way to their places instead. This distinction is not given to any other of the canons. I have been assured that formerly, during the week of his service, the Hebdomadary lived and slept in a room next to the Sacristy, separated from the society of men so as to be more united to God, and to be in a better state to offer his prayers and sacrifices for the people.

There is one more thing. In accordance with a very ancient practice, the Hebdomadary was obliged, on Saturday before None, to come to the middle of the choir and prostrating himself on the floor he humbly gave thanks to God and asked forgiveness for the omissions and faults he may have made in his office that week. Sixtus IV made this obligatory under threat of excommunication, if the Hebdomadary refused to do this, though the chapter can absolve him of this after he has made satisfaction. In the year 1409, the Dean and the chapter wrote to Pope Innocent VIII to modify this practice, arguing that this prostration could consist in a simple genuflection and profound bow, and not lying down flat on the pavement in the middle of the choir [which at that time was not carpeted in winter]. They alleged that the former custom was vulgar, difficult, and dangerous to old men and the infirm, and that in place of this kind of prostration in the middle of the choir, it could be done before the high altar. This is how it is practiced today. The Hebdomadary leaves his place in choir just as None is finished and Vespers of Saturday is starting, and going up to the high altar he remains kneeling and slightly bowed on the predella during the first Psalm while he prays. When he finishes his prayer he kisses the altar and returns to his place.

The Hebdomadary is the only one who has a candle in choir in the winter, in an absconse or dark lantern, in order to read the absolutions and benedictions at Matins, and the chapter and collect at Lauds.

Besides this dark lantern there is another very large lantern of silver, with a candle that is kept lit during the winter and during the summer for the three nocturns. At the first or second Psalm of Matins, an older choir boy holds it up high in the middle of the choir or in the jubé before a chaplain or acolyte cantor or subdeacon, who carries the great Lectionary or book of lessons. The fact that this lantern is used in both summer and winter to read the lessons, and even on the Vigil of the Assumption, the only day of the year when Matins is said after Vespers, is a sign that the canons of Rouen have never forgotten that Matins should be said at night.

alter server 12 (vicente boras)

To read more from the Voyages Liturgiques about the liturgy of Rouen, see

Part (1): The Cathedral Chapter of Rouen
Part (2): Major Feast Days
Part (3): Ordinations and Saints Feasts
Part (4): The 15th Century Ordinal of Rouen
Part (5): Public Penance
Part (6): Lenten and Rogation Processions
Part (7): The Privilege of St. Romanus
Part (8): The Corpus Christi Procession and 40 Hours for the King


[1] Benefices for clerics (usually priests) who in theory substituted for a canon holding a prebend, due to the latter’s illness or another indisposition. In places they came to be treated as permanent positions or stepping stones to more prestigious offices.

[2] There was a distinction within many French cathedral chapters between “free” canons (chanoines francs) and “serf” canons. The former, usually drawn from the nobility or high bourgeoisie, had more freedom to be absent from their choir than the latter, who were strictly obliged to be present, and thus bear the larger part of the burden of the office, while they also did not have a voice in chapter. In 1769, the Parlement confirmed this internal hierarchy but removed restrictions on absenteeism for this lower class of canons. Cf. here.