Ritual for the Good Friday Procession

In collaboration with Restore the ’54, we are happy to offer our readers a ritual for the procession for the Burial of Christ traditionally held on Good Friday, which we have previously written about here, here, and here.

Rónán Ó Raghallaigh of Restore the ’54 explains:

“They took therefore the Body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” (John 19:40)

From time immemorial, the Church has reënacted the mysteries of Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection during the days of Holy Week. The liturgical rites of these days are infused with an ancient beauty and fervour, not seen elsewhere in the ecclesiastical calendar. The Church, as a teaching Mother and an attentive Spouse, instructs her children about the saving work of Christ through various dramatic rites:

• The Palm Sunday Procession,
• Four Passion accounts sung by different characters at varying pitches,
• The Altar of Repose & Adoration,
• The Stripping of the Altars,
• The Ecce Lignum Crucis with the Adoration of the Cross,
• The Lumen Christi,
• The Blessing of the Paschal Candle and Baptismal Water, &c.

One ceremony that was commemorated in many places before the reforms of Trent was the Deposito (Burial of Christ). This rite has survived in the Bragan Missal at the end of the liturgy for the Mass of the Presanctified. In other places it has continued as an extra-liturgical ceremony (in Poland and Germany, and most especially in the Holy Sepulchre itself).

The rite of Burial took place after Vespers on Good Friday. “The first surviving record of this custom…comes from Anglo-Saxon England, in the Regularis Concordia of about 973, though is appears to have originated on the continent at a rather earlier date.’ (Philip Goddard, Festa Paschalia p. 191)

The ceremonial provided here is a condensed version of the original Good Friday Funeral Procession found in the Ordo Processionum (1925) of the Friars Minor in Jerusalem. The rite consists of the following elements:

1. Singing of the antiphon Offerimus Ergo,
2. Funeral Oration (Eulogy) followed by the Miserere Mei Deus,
3. St John’s account of the Burial of Our Lord (the Gospel proper of the Mass of the Presanctified)
4. Removing Our Lord from the Cross, singing of the responsory Velum Templi,
5. Anointing Our Lord with aromatic oils and sprinkling with grains of incense,
6. Wrapping Our Lord in linen cloth and burial, singing of the responsory Sepulto Domino, and
7. Singing of the Christus Factus Est followed by the oration Respice quæsumus.

It is hoped that this ceremonial of the Burial of Christ can, and will, be used in many parishes in order to foster greater devotion to Our Lord and an increased gratitude for the mysteries of His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

A Vestige of Ancien Régime Versailles in the Holy Land (3)

Part 1: The French King as Bishop in the Use of the Royal Chapel at Versailles, 1
Part 2: The French King as Bishop in the Use of the Royal Chapel at Versailles, 2

Part III:
Modern Survivals of Royal Honors in the Liturgy of the Holy Sepulcher

Much of the glorious liturgical patrimony of the Gallican church—the stational processions, public penance, local chant traditions, the rich urban liturgy sustained by great beneficed clergy of the cathedral chapters—perished alongside the King in the revolutionary despoliations.

There is one place, however, where a curious relic of the honors once given to the bishop-king of France lives on: in Jerusalem. Many ancient practices have weathered the centuries under the hallowed dome of the Sepulcher, whose liturgical customs were essentially “frozen” in the 19th century by a series of consensus agreements between the six Churches, managed and enforced by the Ottoman authorities, and collectively called the Status Quo.

Designed to eliminate all future cause for disruption or dispute between the various Churches over possession of parts of the ancient basilica, it essentially means that, whatever the Greeks, Latins, Armenians, Syriac, Copts or Ethiopians were doing then—whatever shrines they possessed, feast days they celebrated, candles they lit—they must keep doing so in perpetuity, on penalty of breaking the agreement. Consequently, medieval practices like the Funerals of Christ and the morning-time Easter Vigil, vanished everywhere else in the Latin West, survive here by the iron force of custom, and valiant pilgrims may still attend midnight Matins with the Franciscans on feast days.

Image result for messe consulaire au saint sépulcre"

One such custom harks back all the way to the Royal Chapel of Versailles: the traditional honors given to the French Consul, formerly the French king’s official representative in the Protectorate of the Holy Land.

In a remarkable and puzzling anachronism, many of the ceremonial honors once offered to the French king in his palace at Versailles are still given to the Consul General of the French Republic on several occasions throughout the year, as a special recognition of France’s role in defending the Christian patrimony of the Holy Land.

Before approaching these fascinating glimpses into the past, a brief review of France’s role in the Holy Land is in order.

The Ottoman Period

French interest in the Holy Land goes back, of course, to the Crusades and before, but the stable presence and advocacy of the French in the Levant began in the 16th century. The Capitulations between King Francis I and the Sublime Porte gave France special guardianship of all Christians (Latin and Greek) in the Holy Land and the entire Ottoman empire. Essentially, it put Christians under French legal patronage, so that Christian grievances could be aired by the French ambassador directly at the Ottoman court, and the ambassador in turn could negotiate ever more rights for missionaries and other French citizens. This was a distinguished role that, despite the waxing and waning of her influence, France never quite relinquished.

16th century copy of the 1569 Capitulations between Charles IX and Selim II.

Subsequent Capitulations augmented French claims and led to the establishment of a French Protectorate over the Holy Land, with Louis XIV declaring himself the protector of Christians of all rites in the Ottoman Empire. French consuls resided first at Sidon and Alexandria, visiting Jerusalem in their circuits. Finally, in the nineteenth century, the French government established a French Consulate General in Jerusalem itself to manage the affairs of its citizens and to perform France’s traditional advocacy on behalf of Christians there.

The Franciscan custodians of the Holy Sepulcher began to offer liturgical honors to the consuls early on in their private chapels, as a token of gratitude and deference for their special role.[1] Some 19th century authors claim that these honors are directly based on the use of the Chapel, while others such as Santi are reticent about the obvious similarities.[2] When private chapels gave way to public churches at some point in this period of the consolidation of the Protectorate, the Franciscans continued to treat consuls with the same liturgical honors in all their Churches in the Levant, including the Holy Sepulcher.

For the French, this was an important sign of preeminence in the intense competition with other 19th century colonial powers. As Catherine Nicault argued, they were “carefully codified liturgical honors which made them the most eminent foreign dignitaries in Jerusalem.”[3]

In 1742, the Sacred Congregation intervened to codify the rite, acknowledging the honors but forbidding the kissing of the Gospel book:

  1. The Te Deum will be sung at the Consul’s entry into his duties
  2. A special place will be reserved for the Consul in the Church
  3. The Prefect will send a servant to inform the Consul at the time for Mass
  4. The Consul must not take the aspergillum from the priest’s hands, but the priest will approach with it and the Consul will take it with his finger at the end of the sponge. The priest will keep hold of the aspergillum.
  5. After genuflecting before the altar, the celebrant will bow toward the Consul before and after Mass
  6. The Consul will not be allowed to kiss the Gospel book
  7. The Consul will be incensed separately and the pax-brede will be given him to kiss
  8. The Consul will follow the procession holding a candle given him by one of the clergy
  9. On various special occasions, the prayer for the most Christian King will be said.

A Royal ordinance of 3 March 1781 countered, reaffirming the Consul’s exclusive right to a place of honor, to kiss the book, to receive the aspergillum from the priest’s own hand. Further, it made attendance at all Consular Masses obligatory for the Consul, Vice-Consul and his staff, on pain of a 30 livre fine (to be used for the redemption of slaves).

The Modern Period

After France’s aggressive secularization law of 1904, the French consul refused to continue to participate in these traditional ceremonies. The fate of royal honors seemed sealed when the fall of the Ottoman Empire, bringing with it the abolition of the Capitulations, abrogated France’s special privileges in the Levant.

The story of France’s tenacious attempts to retain the honors, to the irritation of the other Mandate powers, is told in fascinating detail by Catherine Nicault.

After fierce negotiations, the Holy See reached an accord with France on 4 December 1926 to reinstate the honors “in recognition of centuries of services rendered to Catholic individuals and communities of all nationalities in the Levant by the diplomats and consuls of France.”

The Accord permits the Consul all the usual honors and the right to sing Domine salvum fac Rem publicam, save for omitting the right to kiss the gospel book (already suppressed by the Congregation), the bows before and after Mass, and the right to sit in choir.[4] It does leave untouched, however, any local customs to the contrary.



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This modification of the traditional verse Domine salvum fac regem nostrum, sung during the ancien régime, was first assigned to be sung after Mass by the Concordat of 1801.

Several decades later, the Franciscans decided to extend the honors to other officials representing Catholic countries traditionally offered protection to the Holy Land. These are, currently, Italy, Belgium, and Spain. Consequently, the French Consul is no longer the only state official to receive these special honors, and they have been diverged away from their origin in the use of the Royal Chapel.

The honors are given not only in the Sepulcher but in several Franciscan churches in the Holy Land, such as Beirut. I should also point out that the Eastern Rite and Orthodox Churches have their own tradition of consular liturgies and other honors, which are not discussed in this article, but may be studied in Santi’s Les Messes Consulaires.

The Honors

The honors in their present form consist principally in the rite of Solemn Entry and the ceremonial of consular Masses.

1) Solemn Entry

The first honor is the privilege of a solemn entry into the Holy Sepulcher, recalling the King’s reception by the Vincentian fathers of the Royal Chapel. According to Franciscan custom, it is otherwise reserved to cardinals.

Today, Consuls receive this solemn reception within thirty days of assuming their post. On 6th November 2019, the new Consul General of France, René Trocaz, made his solemn entry into the Holy Sepulcher. The consul walked in procession with a Franciscan cortege from Jaffa Gate to the Holy Sepulcher, and then to the French church of St. Anne, where a Te Deum was sung.

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Official entry of new consul Pierre Cochard in 2016. The official booklet with rubrics and prayers for the event can be downloaded here.


2) Consular Masses

Besides the solemn entry, the Consul is present as a matter of protocol at two types of liturgies during his tenure: Consular Masses and Masses in the Presence of the Consul.

The protocol for these Masses is given on the website of the General Consulate:

1) A place of honor with prie-Dieu and carpet is reserved for the Consul General.
2) The Consul General is received at the door of the church by the clergy, who offer him holy water and conduct him to his place.
3) When he arrives at the altar, after his genuflexion the celebrant turns and bows to the Consul General.
4) After the Gospel is read by the deacon, he carries it to the Consul General (after the celebrant) to be kissed.
5) At the Offertory, the deacon incenses the Consul General immediately after the celebrant.
6) At the end of the Mass, after the Postcommunion the Domine salvam fac Rem publicam is sung twice (see above).
7) The celebrant bows to the Consul General before leaving the altar.
8) The clergy leads the Consul General to the door of the church.
9) In solemn processions when the Consul General is present, a place of honor is reserved for him immediately after the clergy. Upon entering or exiting the church, he is received and accompanied as described above.
10) When the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, the honors provided in 3, 5, and 8 are not given.
11) At Masses for the Dead, the honors provided in 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 are not given.

A Consular Mass with Consul Pierre Cochard


Consular Mass, 2016

Some consular Masses are fixed, others vary each year. The Consulate website lists the schedule for 2017:

Consular Masses in 2017

4th February 2017 – Saint Maron. Maronite church.
April 2017 – Syrian Catholic Exarchate. Syriac Catholic church.
25th May 2017 – Ascension – Greek Catholic Exarchate. [Domaine de l’Eleona]
14th July 2017 – French national holiday. Basilica of St. Anne.
August 2017 – Armenian Catholic Exarchate. Armenian Catholic church.
11th August 2017 – Saint Clare. Convent of Poor Clares.

Masses in the presence of the Consul

6 January 2017 – Epiphany. Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem
3rd March 2017 – Crowning with Thorns. Ecce Homo.
16th April 2017 – Easter. Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher.
14th July 2016 (St. Anne’s)
14th July 2018 (St. Anne’s)

Conclusion: A curious anachronism?

Of course the question that begs to be asked is why the French state, rigorously secular, allows its representatives to take part in these ceremonies and receive these honors, and, in turn, why the Franciscans continue to render this homage to them. The Consulate’s website explains these honors in sympathetic detail, if in a way that distances the Consul from their religious implications:

As part of his required duties, the Consul General continues to assume the role of protector of several religious communities in accordance with treaties that were signed with the Ottomans and that have remained in force throughout the changes in states…In exchange, in the name of the Republic the Consul receives certain liturgical honors, such as the ceremony of his entry into the Holy Sepulcher, which recalls French protection over the holy sites, consular Masses, his presence in uniform at Christmas and Easter celebrations alongside other consuls from Catholic countries. If this religious role assumed by the Consul General has become less central, nevertheless it has its purpose: not only as a matter of tradition but also for the purpose of maintaining stable relations with the Christian community, whose future is always delicate and uncertain.[6]

The survival of this practice invites several interesting questions.

First of all, it is an open question, from a sacramental point of view, how honors exclusively reserved for the king in virtue of his quasi-sacramental ordination as Davidic King of France could be transferred to a diplomatic representative (of any stature) who has had no such anointing. Are there any other cases when royal honors are offered to an ambassador acting, so to speak, in persona regis? Honors given to the King and others in their capacity as members of the Order of the Holy Spirit do not seem like a relevant parallel, since they did not include such honors.

But in pure speculation let us assume that such a transfer were theoretically possible; namely, that royal honors could be given to the king’s agent in view of the quasi-episcopal ordination the king receives in his unction, in which the representative in some way participates. The fact is that today the Consuls, who might not even be baptized, no longer represent an ordained monarch but France’s secular head of an avowedly secular state born in bloody hatred of the Church.

In the final analysis, have the royal honors have become mere political protocol and historical curiosity, having lost their historical connection with France and the Royal Chapel, or even with the Catholic faith of France’s representatives?

Whatever the case may be, these ancient honors are a touching pre-revolutionary atavism, a reminder of the gesta Dei per Francos, when the Eldest Daughter of the Church bestirred herself in defense of the mother of all Churches, defending her siblings and vindicating the sovereign rights of God in heathen lands. The honors are no longer the outcome and the symbol of the protectorate, but first of all the memory of a past which no one can abolish.

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Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Ms-5089 réserve, fol. 168v.


[1] The ceremonies must have grown out of an understanding between the Franciscans and the French government over proper liturgical protocol for French representatives. The Archives of the Custody contain consular correspondence that indicates their attendance at Franciscan liturgies in Alexandria and Sidon, and their use of a special chair, e.g., in the Holy Sepulcher.

[2] P. Santi, Les messes consulaires des rites orientaux, Beirut, 1968

[3] Nicault, Catherine (1999). “The End of the French Religious Protectorate in Jerusalem (1918-1924)”. Bulletin du Centre Français de Jérusalem.

[4] The items of the Accord are as follows:

  1. a) The Representative of France will be invited to the solemn Mass
  2. b) a place of honor will be reserved for him outside and facing the choir. Nevertheless in churches where the French consuls’ chair is a fixed and immovable piece of the structure at the time of the signing of this Accord, the Representative of France will retain use of it, even if this chair is located inside the choir.
  3. b) the clergy will receive the Representative of France at the door of the Church, will offer him holy water and lead him to his place
  4. d) during the ceremony, the clergy will incense him before the others in attendance
  5. e) at the end of Mass the clergy will accompany him to the exit

[5] “Dans le cadre de sa circonscription, le Consul général continue à assumer un rôle de protection des communautés religieuses dans la ligne des accords signés avec les Ottomans, toujours en vigueur par le jeu de la succession d’États. À cette proposition diplomatique s’ajoutent des subventions, la mise à disposition de coopérants et, dans le cas des domaines nationaux, la prise en charge de l’entretien et du gardiennage. En échange, le Consul jouit, au nom de la République, des honneurs liturgiques, comme en témoignent la cérémonie de son entrée au Saint-Sépulcre qui rappelle la protection française sur les Lieux saints, les messes consulaires, ou encore sa présence en uniforme aux célébrations de Noël et de Pâques, aux côtés des autres consuls des pays catholiques. Si ce rôle religieux assumé par le Consul général devient moins central, il demeure utile non seulement eu égard à la tradition mais aussi au maintien d’équilibres communautaires délicats et à l’avenir toujours incertain des Chrétiens dans la région.” (Source: https://jerusalem.consulfrance.org/Histoire)


Crusader Liturgy: The Feast of the Liberation of Jerusalem

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Taking of Jerusalem 1099. In the background the Passio Christi (Source)

When, on the Ides of July of the year of the most fructiferous Incarnation of Our Lord 1099, after nearly four years of bellicose pilgrimage and a month-long exhausting siege, the Crusaders finally broke through the inner ramparts of Jerusalem and poured into the holy city, freeing it from centuries-long occupation by the Mohammedan horde, their surpassing joy could only find liturgical expression in the office of Easter Day, which was celebrated, however out of season, in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. Hæc dies quam fecit Dominus, exsultemus et lætemur in ea—the words of the Gradual resounded in that venerable basilica, as Raymond of Aguilers, chaplain of the Lord Raymond of Saint-Gilles, Count of Toulouse and later Count of Tripoli, recounts in his Historia Francorum qui ceperunt Iherusalem. The mediæval mind easily understood the deliverance of Jerusalem from the infidels as a type of the deliverance of mankind in Our Lord’s glorious Resurrection; a new day, demanding a canticum novum. Raymond’s fond memories of the event wax exuberant in his chronicle:

A new day, a new joy, and new and perpetual delight! The fulfilment of labour and devotion: new words, new songs were sounded forth by all. This day, I say, which shall be celebrated for centuries to come, transformed our pains and travails into joy and exultation. This day, I say, was the harrowing of all heathendom, the consolation of Christendom, the renewal of our faith. “This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us be glad and rejoice therein”, for therein the Lord illumined and blessed His people. […] This day, the Ides of July, shall be celebrated to the praise and glory of God’s name […] In this day we sang the office of the Resurrection, for on this day, He Who arose from the dead by His power, uplifted us by His grace. 1  

In the ensuing octave, the triumphant knights roamed around the holy places of the city, venerating the relics, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, and they solemnly celebrated the Octave Day on 22 July, choosing the worthy Godfrey of Bouillon as their ruler. They thenceforth established 15 July as a liturgical feast day to commemorate the liberation of the holy city, as the chroniclers attest, among them William of Tyre, e.g.:

In order that the memory of this great deed might be better preserved, a general decree was issued which met with the approval and sanction of all. It was ordained that this day be held sacred and set apart from all others as the time when, for the glory and praise of the Christian name, there should be recounted all that had been foretold by the prophets concerning this event. On this day intercession should always be made to the Lord for the souls of those by whose commendable and successful labours the city beloved of God had been restored to the ancient freedom of the Christian faith. 2  

Early in Godfrey’s reign, a canonical chapter was established in the church of the Holy Sepulchre, and a proper liturgical use slowly developed, especially after that body was reformed and placed under the Augustinian rule in 1114. The use of the Holy Sepulchre was based, as one would expect given the origin of its immigrant churchmen, mostly on northern French uses, especially those of Chartres, Bayeux, Évreux, and Séez. This use would in turn form the basis of those of the religious orders that emanated from the Holy Land, including the Carmelites and the Knights Templar and Hospitaller. 

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The liturgical sources variously dub the feast of 15 July the Festivitas sancte hierusalem, or Festivitas hierusalem quando capta fuit a Christianis (or a Francis), or In liberatione sancte civitatis Ierusalem (de manibus turchorum). The admirable victory of the First Crusade was thus fixed into the framework of the history of salvation, being both the fulfilment of prophecies, as William of Tyre states in the aforesaid excerpt, and the anagogical harbinger of the ultimate victory: the Christians’ entry into the heavenly Jerusalem. 

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John of Patmos watches the descent of New Jerusalem from God in a 14th century tapestry (Source)

The Mass opens with the famous introit borrowed from the Fourth Sunday of Lent: Letare Iherusalem et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam, gaudete cum leticia, qui in tristicia fuistis, ut exultetis, et saciemini ab uberibus consolacionis vestre, with the verse from the eminently apposite psalm 121. Preaching on this feast day shortly after the reconquest, Fulcher of Chartres repeated these verses from Isaias, and gave the continuation of the prophecy, concluding with the declaration that the Crusader triumph was its fulfilment: Hec omnia oculis nostris vidimus. Ekkehard of Aura agreed that the prophecy applied to the epic of the Crusaders, writing (rather abstrusely):

These, and a thousand other prognostics of the sort, albeit that they refer through anagogy to what is above—our mother Jerusalem—encourage the weaker members, who have drunk from the breasts of the consolation of those things written and to be written, to undergo dangers even historically by an actual journey because of such a contemplation or partaking in joy3.

William of Tyre, too, claimed the reconquest of Jerusalem was the literal fulfilment of Isaias’ oracle: ita ut illud prophete impletum ad litteram videretur oraculum «letamini cum Ierusalem et exultate in ea omnes qui diligitis eam».

But by fulfilling the ancient prophecy, the victory of 15 July itself became the type of a more lasting kind of victory. The very use of an Advent introit points to the Second Coming, and the collect, secret, and postcommunion emphasize this eschatological theme:

Collect: Almighty God, who by thy marvellous strength hast torn thy city Jerusalem from the hands of the paynims and restored it to the Christians, help us in thy mercy, we beseech thee, and grant that we who with yearly devotion celebrate this solemnity may deserve to attain the joys of the heavenly Jerusalem. Through our Lord, &c. (Omnipotens Deus, qui virtute tua mirabili Ierusalem civitatem tuam de manu paganorum eruisti et Christianis reddidisti, adesto, quesumus, nobis propitius, et concede ut qui hanc sollennitatem annua recolimus devotione, ad superne Ierusalem gaudia pervenire mereamur. Per Dominum.)

Secret: Mercifully accept, O Lord, we beseech thee, this host which we humbly offer thee, and make us worthy of its mystery, that we who celebrate this day when the city of Jerusalem was freed from the hands of the paynim may at last deserve to become fellow-citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. Through our Lord, &c. (Hanc, Domine, quesumus, hostiam quam tibi supplices offerimus dignanter suscipe, et eius misterio nos dignos effice, ut qui de Ierusalem civitate de manu paganorum eruta hunc diem agimus celebrem, celestis Ierusalem concives fieri tandem mereamur. Per Dominum.)

Postcommunion: May the sacrifice we have received, O Lord, profit to the salvation of our body and soul, so that we who rejoice in the liberty of thy city Jerusalem may deserve to be counted heirs of the heavenly Jerusalem. Through our Lord, &c. (Quod sumpsimus, Domine, sacrificium ad corporis et anime nobis proficiat salutem, ut qui de civitatis tue Ierusalem libertate gaudemus, in celesti Ierusalem hereditari mereamur. Per Dominum.)

The orations for the “Missa de Jerusalem” in a sacramentary of the Holy Sepulchre written in the second quarter of the 12th century.

The Epistle pericope is Isaias 60, 1-6 (“Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee” &c.), the first line whereof forms the verse of the Gradual, Omnes de Saba, taken from the feast of the Epiphany. Ekkehard mentions this passage together with that of the introit as one of prophecies that the Crusaders’ feat had made “visible history”4. The Alleluia responsory, which seems to have fluctuated between Te decet hymnus and Qui confidunt, both lifted from Sundays after Pentecost, are taken from psalm verses germane to the liberation of Jerusalem. This was followed by a brash sequence, Manu plaudant, which will have to be discussed in a future post.

The Gospel lesson comes from Matthew 21, 1-9: Our Lord’s glorious entry into Jerusalem before His Passion, acclaimed as the Son of David by the Hebrew children. The pugnacious Offertory of the Third Sunday after Epiphany, Dextera Domini fecit virtutem, was chaunted thereafter and, during communion, the antiphon from the Second Sunday in Advent: “Arise, O Jerusalem, and stand on high: and behold the joy that cometh to thee from God.”

As the church of the Holy Sepulchre grew too small for the needs of the new Crusader Kingdom, and as it merited embellishment in any case, a considerable rebuilding was undertaken which concluded with the re-dedication of the church on 15 July 1149, the quinquagenary of the liberation, by the Lord Fulcher of Angoulême, Patriarch of Jerusalem. This prelate seems to have undertaken some revision of the Latin Jerusalemite liturgy, which especially affected the 15 July, now the bicephalous celebration of both the liberation and the dedication of the church of the Holy Sepulchre—Liberatio sancti civitatis Iherusalem de manibus Turchorum et Dedicatio ecclesie domnici sepulcri—with two Masses and Offices. In the basilica itself, the Dedication seems to have been celebrated exclusively, except for the morrow-mass, which was that of the Liberation. The collect of the Liberation, however was changed: “Almighty and everlasting God, builder and guardian of the heavenly city of Jerusalem, protect from on high this place with its inhabitants, that it might be in itself an abode of safety and peace”4; this was borrowed from a preëxisting collect. The change of focus of this new collect is also evinced by the introduction of antiphons into the Office borrowed from the office of the Dedication that tended to refer to the dignity of the church of the Holy Sepulchre rather than the glorious liberation of the city.

The ordinals indicate that in the basilica a festive procession took place after the morrow-mass of the Liberation; whether this was introduced with the 1149 revisions or was a continuation of an earlier practice is unknown. The procession set out from the church of the Holy Sepulchre to the Temple, and upon arriving at its entrance they sang prayers taken from the office of the Dedication. They then set forth to the “place where the city was captured”, i.e. the place where the wall was breached on 15 July 1099, and held another station, a sermon was preached, and a blessing given; perhaps the sermon by Fulcher of Chartres mentioned above was delivered in these circumstances. Thus the procession connected the Old Testament (the Temple) with the New (the Holy Sepulchre) and with the Crusader victory (the city wall). Finally the canons and the faithful returned to the Holy Sepulchre for Tierce. The rest of the office in the basilica was composed mainly from elements taken from the office of the Dedication according to the use of Chartres. One presumes, however, that in the other churches of the diocese of Jerusalem the Mass and Office of the Liberation were celebrated instead.

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The Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem. Fresco by St. Theophan of Crete. Meteora, Church of St. Nicholas (Source)

Alas, Christian rule of Jerusalem did not last the century. In 1187, the city fell to Saladin, and, although the liturgical use of the Holy Sepulchre survived in the remainder of the Crusader states and within certain religious orders, the celebration of the feasts of the Liberation of Jerusalem and the Dedication of the Holy Sepulchre seem to have been mostly abandoned. It only reappears in one manuscript after 1187, which dates from the odd episode when Jerusalem briefly returned to Christian hands thanks to the machinations of the excommunicate Emperor Frederick II. In this manuscript, the Mass is entitled Missa pro libertate ierusalem de manu paganorum, and the Gospel pericope from Matthew 21 has been replaced with the verses in Luke 19 wherein Our Lord weeps for Jerusalem. It has therefore been argued, with undeniable verisimilitude, that the old Liberation Mass was transformed into a Mass to ask for the recapture of Jerusalem. But in any case, even this proved short-lived.

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Although notices marking the liberation of Jerusalem on 15 July appear in the kalendars of several Western liturgical books, few Western churches adopted the feast as it was celebrated in Jerusalem. It does appear in a 14th century missal from the Hospitaller priory in Autun, under the title In festo deliberacionis Iherusalem. Liturgical books from Tours, Nantes, and the Abbeys of St Mesmin (near Orléans) and Beaulieu (near Loches) feature a feast of the Holy Sepulchre on 15 July, although it does not make explicit reference to the Liberation, and its propers antedated the First Crusade. A feast for the Liberatio Iherusalem appears with a Mass and Office in liturgical books from the cathedral of St Étienne of Bourges dating from the 13th to the 15th centuries. Its propers are composed of elements from office of the Dedication and also from the Easter liturgy: a fascinating reminder of the Paschal joy that seized the Crusaders on those happy Ides of July 1099.

Our hearty acknowledgements to the reader who provided us with some of the necessary bibliographic material for this post. 


1. Nova dies, novum gaudium, nova et perpetua leticia; laboris atque devotionis consummatio, nova verba nova cantica, ab universis exigebat. Hęc, inquam, dies celebris in omni seculo venturo, omnes dolores atque labores gaudium et exultationem fecit. Dies hęc, inquam, tocius paganitatis exinanicio, christianitatis confirmatio, et fidei nostrae renovatio. Hęc dies quam fecit Dominus, exultemus et letemur in ea, quia in hac illuxit et benedixit Dominus populo suo […] Hęc dies celebratur Idus Iulii, ad laudem et gloriam nominis Christi. […] In hac die cantavimus officium de resurrectione, quia in hac die ille qui sua virtute a mortuis resurrexit, per gratiam suam nos resuscitavit. 

2. Ad maiorem autem tanti facti memoriam ex communi decreto sancitum omnium voto susceptum et approbatum est, ut hic dies apud omnes solemnis et inter celebres celebrior perpetuo haberetur, in qua, ad laudem et gloriam nominis christiani, quicquid in prophetis de hoc facto quasi vaticinium predictum fuerat, referatur: et pro eorum animabus fiat ad Dominum intercessio, quorum labore commendabili et favorabili apud omnes predicta Deo amabilis civitas et fidei christiane et pristine restituta est libertati. 

3. Hec et huiusmodi mille pesagia licet per anagogen ad illam quę sursum est matrem nostram Hierusalem referantur, tamen infirmioribus membris ab uberibus consolationis prescriptę vel scribende potatis pro tanti contemplatione vel participatione gaudii periculis se tradere etiam hystorialiter practica discursione cohortantur. 

4. Versis in hystorias visibiles eatenus mysticis prophetiis.

5. Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, edificator et custos Iherusalem civitatis superne, custodi locum istum cum habitatoribus suis: ut sit in eo domicilium incolumitatis et pacis. Per Dominum.

The Funeral of Christ: Franciscan Treasures of Good Friday

A guest article by Anaïs Uberti, a student in Jerusalem and communications director at the Terra Sancta Museum.

Today churches around the world celebrate and commemorate the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. Each year, on the very site where the historical events took place, in the Holy Sepulcher, a ceremony takes place that is one of a kind: the Funeral of Christ. The most intense moments of the Easter Triduum in Jerusalem are brought to life by the Franciscans of the Holy Land bring to life with the use of exceptional liturgical objects.

Each year on Good Friday, thousands of pilgrims gather in Jerusalem from all parts of the world. They come to celebrate the Passion of Our Lord on Calvary, and follow the Way of the Cross through the streets of the Old City. In the evening in the Holy Sepulcher, the Funeral of Christ takes place following an ancient custom that goes back to the beginning of the Franciscan presence in Jerusalem. Its current form has not changed since 1750.


©M.-A. Beaulieu/Custodia Terrae Sanctae (CTS)


The funeral procession begins in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, and is punctuated by readings from the Gospel. After of moment of silent prayer, the Franciscans raise their voices gradually in the twilight of the Holy Sepulcher to intone Psalm 51 (50) “Miserere mei, Deus–have mercy on me, O God.” The procession of the faithful makes its way slowly to Calvary, bearing the crucifix on which a statue of Christ has been nailed. The statue used this year was offered to the Holy Land by the Catholics of Colombia. The only sound that breaks the silence of the Deposition at the high point of the ceremony is the rustle of the ministers’ vestments: a rich 19th century Spanish set of black velvet with gold and silver embroidery, decorated with the instruments of the Passion, made in Valencia specially for the Holy Sepulcher. At each station during the procession, the Custos vests one of the six priests with a black stole. The set of stoles was recently restored by the Sister Adorers of Saint Savior, who live in the Milk Grotto of Bethlehem. Particular care is taken on this day in the choice of vestments, in order to express the deep reverence and gratitude of the faithful to the Creator for the sacrifice of his Son. For this occasion, the altar of Calvary is also dressed in its most beautiful array. The Greek altar, only allowed to be used by the Latins once per year for this ceremony, is specially dressed in an antependium belonging to the same Spanish set.


In the background, the Custos of the Holy Land vested in a cope of black velvet. The deacons are vested in dalmatics from the same Spanish set. ©M.-A. Beaulieu/CTS


When the effigy of Christ arrives on Calvary, two deacons take off their dalmatics and remove the crown of thorns with pincers and the nails in his hands and feet with a hammer, placing them on four plates donated by Charles II of Spain. The hammer-strikes on the wood resound throughout Golgotha, otherwise silent despite being packed with faithful and pilgrims.



The deacon holds a crown of thorns he has just removed from the statue of Christ with pincers. He prepares to place it on the Spanish plate in the foreground. On the two sides of the altar are the two pokals (Austrian and Polish) and the aspersorium.
©M.-A. Beaulieu/CTS



Wrapped in a white cloth, the dead Christ is then carried to the Stone of Unction. Here the Custos of the Holy Land kneels and, removing his cope, gently anoints the body, symbolically representing Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. He then pours perfumes on the body with an aspersorium of silver filigree. Then he sprinkles grains of incense from two silver pokals offered by Emperor Leopold I (Hapsburg) and Mikołaj Zebrzydowski, voïvode  of Krakow in the 17th century.


The Custos incenses and perfumes the body of Christ on the Stone of Unction. To the right, the silver aspersorium contains the perfumes
©M.-A. Beaulieu/CTS


Then Christ is carried to the Aedicule and placed on the stone of the tomb. There it rests until Holy Saturday morning, for the proclamation in the Holy Sepulcher of the Lord’s Resurrection and the victory of life over death.


Christ in the Tomb. ©M.-A. Beaulieu/CTS


The Funeral of Christ in the Holy Sepulcher


At the Stone of Unction, the Custos sprinkles incense on the Body of Christ during the Funeral of Christ

I. Introduction

Most Catholics will be familiar with the multi-part reading of the Passion Gospel during the liturgies of Holy Week in the Roman Rite. In previous centuries all throughout Europe, elaborately staged, mimetic enactments of the Passion took place in and out of the liturgy, but especially during the Gospel of the Liturgy of the Presanctified.

The Good Friday Procession for the Burial of Our Lord survived in the Rite of Braga, even after the general adoption of the Roman Rite and the various Tridentine prohibitions regarding these florid Passion dramas of the Middle Ages. The ceremony has also survived in the Holy Sepulcher by a similar accommodation.

For the liturgy of Good Friday, the Tridentine Missal prescribed the three-part recitation of John’s Gospel, and nothing more. The Franciscans of the Holy Sepulcher faithfully adopted the Tridentine reforms, but preserved the Funeral of Christ (Processio funebris Feria IV in Parasceve) by transferring it out of the Liturgy of the Presanctified to the evening of Good Friday.

File:Gillis Mostaert I - Passion play on the city square in Antwerp.jpg
Passion play on the city square in Antwerp, Gillis Mostaert

Here it continues to flourish as a paraliturgical devotion for the edification of modern pilgrims and visitors, and stands as a unique remnant of the faithful fervor of medieval Latin Christianity for the Passion of Our Lord. It is attended by nearly 250 friars and clergy from the patriarchate, and thousands of native and pilgrim Christians. The Franciscan ceremony has this further advantage, that it is performed in the very sacred places that Our Lord sanctified with the blood of His Passion.

The ceremony unfolds in seven stations, following nearly the same route as the daily procession. At each station, the corresponding verses from various Gospels are read, with certain dramatic elements accompanying the crucifixion, deposition, anointing, and burial of the latter stations. Originally, each station featured a homily and not a Gospel reading, but the homilies became too long and so they were replaced by Biblical texts, now read in vernacular languages.

Readers can follow the ceremony beside our commentary in the Ordo processionis funebris pro feria IV in Parasceve, itself taken largely from the 1925 Ordo Processionum (pp. 69 et sqq in the PDF), or watch videos from past years here and here.


II. The Six Stations and their Gospels

(1) The Chapel of the Apparition/Mary Magdalene (Mt 20: 1-5; 20 – 25, Italian)
(2) Shrine of the the Division of Christ’s Garments (Mk 14:53 – 72, Greek or Polish)
(3) Shrine of the Crowning and the Improperia (Lk 22:66-71; 23:1-12 , German)
(4) The Chapel of the Crucifixion, Latin altar, (Place of Crucifixion) (Jn 19:1-16), English)
(5) The Chapel of the Crucifixion, Greek altar (Place where Christ Expired) (Jn 19:17-37, French)
(6) The Stone of Unction (anointing ceremony and Arabic sermon)
(7) The Tomb or Aedicule (Jn 19:38-42, Spanish)

a) First through Fourth Stations: From the Chapel of the Apparition to the Chapel of the Crucifixion (Ad capellam apparitionis; Ad capellam divisionis vestimentorum; Ad columnam coronationis et improperiorum; Ad locum crucifixionis D.N.J.C)

The procession begins at 8:10pm in the Chapel of the Apparition, with the following ministers:

The Custos (the superior of the Franciscans in the Holy Land and custodian of all the holy sites) in alb, stole, and cope, who is assisted by the Vicar of the Custody and the Steward, vested the same way; six priests in Franciscan habit and four deacons in dalmatics; the Secretary of the Custody in stole bearing a special crucifix on which an effigy of Christ with articulated limbs has been affixed; and nearly three-hundred friars and local clergy take part, all in surplices.

The black vestment set used by the Custos and four deacons is a 19th century Spanish set.

Each station begins with a chant, after which one of the six priests dons a black stole and reads the Gospel passage that corresponds to the station, retaining the stole after his reading. On the way between the stations, the cantors chant the Miserere (Psalm 50) with the antiphon Parce Domine between each verse.

The procession begins, like the daily process, at the Chapel of Mary Magdalene, also known as the Chapel of the Apparition, which is located to the north of the Tomb and is the part of the Holy Sepulcher belonging to the Latin Church, and thence passes through the shrines in the ambulatory to the various stations. There is no explicit dramatic element until the fifth station in the Shrine of the Crucifixion, on the far side of the ambulatory next to the southern door.

The shrine is built on top of Mt. Calvary itself, the exposed rock of which can be seen in several places. One has to climb up a steep staircase to reach the top. The shrine is richly decorated with frescos, scores of lamps and candles and a large crucifixion scene above the Greek altar, The Altar of the Crucifixion proper. The two Latin altars south of the Greek altar commemorate the place of crucifixion (The Altar of the Nails of the Cross or the Medici Altar) and the Mother of Sorrows, the place where Mary stood.

The procession goes first to the Latin altar–at the place where Christ was nailed to the Cross–for the fourth station.

b) Fifth Station: The Deposition (Ad locum ubi Christus in Cruce exspiravit)

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When the Gospel of the fourth station is finished, the procession passes to the Greek altar (which the Latins are allowed to use uniquely for this ceremony) where the processional cross is taken behind the Greek altar and placed to the very hole where the Holy Cross was inserted into the stone of Mt. Calvary:

Deinde ad locum ubi Christus exspiravit proceditur, et collocatur Crux in ipso foramine Calvariæ rupis ubi Crux Christi erecta fuerat. Hic habetur quinti Evangelii lectio Gallico idiomate.

At the point in the Gospel reading when Christ expires on the Cross, there are some moments of silence, and then a deacon finishes the Gospel, which tells of Joseph of Arimathea’s intercession with Pilate, in an elaborate chant tone.

At the end of the Gospel, two of the deacons. representing Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, remove their dalmatics to perform the deposition ceremony:

Expleto Evangelio, per binos diaconos, Iosephi et Nicodemi personas agentes, fit Imaginis Christi e Cruce pendentis Depositio.

The ceremony takes place in solemn silence, except for three hammer strokes. First, the Crown of Thorns is removed, and placed on a silver platter donated by Charles V.


The two deacons behind the Cross remove the nails from Christ’s hands and feet, first striking the wood of the Cross with a hammer. The first deacon removes the first nail from Christ’s right hand. When the nail is removed, the articulated arm of Christ slides down at the shoulder. Likewise, after a second hammer stroke rings out in the silence of the chapel, the second nail is removed, and the other arm swings down. Likewise for the third nail, and all are placed in a second plate. The Body is lowered from the cross with a white cloth.


The deposed Christ is laid on the altar where the burial shroud has been spread. The choir begins the chant Velum templi scissum est.

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c) Sixth Station: Anointing at the Stone of Unction (Ad petram unctionis)

At this point, the six priests in stoles bear the body down the mountain of Calvary to the Stone of Unction. Here the Custos removes his cope and girds himself with a towel to anoint the body.

The anointing consists of three parts.

(1) The Custos sprinkles grains of incense onto the uncovered Body.
(2) He then anoints the Body with myrrh.
(3) Finally, he incenses the Body.


The  Stone of the Unction stands directly opposite the Southern door (the only modern entry point into the Sepulcher). A large mosaic depicting the deposition and anointing provides the backdrop for this moving ceremony.

After the anointing, a homily is delivered in Arabic for the local faithful.

d) Seventh Station: The Burial in the Tomb or Aedicule (Ad sanctum sepulchrum)

After the anointing, the Body of Christ wrapped in the Shroud is carried to the Tomb by the six priests, where it is reposed in the Tomb of Christ Himself and incensed to the chant Sepulto Domino.


The ceremony ends with the Christus factus est, then the Custos reads the following prayer, after which the clergy depart for the sacristy in silence:

Réspice, quǽsumus, Dómine, super hanc famíliam tuam, pro qua Dóminus noster Iesus Christus non dubitávit mánibus tradi nocéntium et crucis subíre torméntum. Qui tecum vivit et regnat in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen.

*Unless otherwise noted, the photographs in this post are provided courtesy of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.

This article is being printed in advance of Holy Week. During Easter Week, we hope to post an eye-witness account of this year’s ceremony, along with a more in-depth look at the historic vestments, vestments, and decorations used during the Procession.