The Rite of Coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor

July 4th marks the death of the Archduke Otto von Hapsburg (1912-2011), eldest son and heir of the last reigning Emperor of Austria. In remembrance of him and his Cæsarian ancestors, we here provide a translation of the rite of coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor, from Vatican Codex 6112, published in Acta Selecta Caeremonialia Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae, and probably used for the coronation of the Lord Henry VI and his wife the Lady Constance by the Most Holy Lord Celestine III in 1191.


Here begins the Roman Order for the Blessing of an Emperor, when he receives his crown from the Lord Pope in the Basilica of Blessed Peter the Apostle at the altar of the martyr Saint Maurice.

On Sunday, early in the morning, the Emperor-Elect descends with his wife to the church of Santa Maria Traspontina, near the Terebinth, and is there received with honours by the City Prefect and the Count of the Lateran Palace and his wife, the Judex Dativus,[1] and the Treasurer. He is led through the portico as the clergy of the City, all clad in copes, chasubles, dalmatics, and tunicles with thuribles sings Ecce mitto Angelum meum, up to a dais set up under the upper arch at the top of the steps before the bronze doors of the church of Santa Maria in Turri. There sits the Lord Pope in his chair surrounded by bishops, cardinals, deacons, and the other orders of the Church.

Coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III from Les Grandes Chroniques de France, c. 1332-1350, British Library Royal 16 G VI f. 141v. Image credit, British Library.

Then the Emperor-Elect with his wife, and all his barons, clercs, and laymen kiss the feet of the Lord Pope. The Queen and his other attendants stand back, and the Emperor-Elect swears fealty to the Lord Pope in this wise:

In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I, N., King of the Romans, and future Emperor of the Romans, affirm, pledge, promise, and swear by these holy Gospels before God and the blessed Apostle Peter, and the Vicar of the blessed Apostle Peter, fealty to the Lord N. the Pope, and thy successors who enter into office in the canonical manner, and that I will henceforth be protector and defender of this Holy Roman Church and of thy Person, and that of thy successors in all their needs insofar as I be supported by divine assistance, according to my knowledge and ability, without deceit or evil design. So help me God and these God’s Holy Gospels.

At that point, the Lord Pope’s Chamberlain receives the pall that shall be given to the Emperor-Elect. Thereupon the Lord Pope thrice asks the elect if he shall have peace with the Church. He thrice responds “I will,” and then Lord Pope says, “And I give thee peace, as Christ did to his disciples,” and kisses his forehead, chin (which must be shaved), both knees, and lastly his mouth. Thereafter the Lord Pope rises and thrice asks him if he shall be the son of the Church. He thrice responds, “I will,” and then the Lord Pope says, “And I receive thee as son of the Church,” and places the mantle over him. He kisses the Lord Pope’s chest and takes his right hand, and the Chancellor holds him with the left. The Emperor-Elect is led by the right by the Lord Pope’s Archdeacon, and thus enters through the bronze door up to the silver door, while the clerics of St Peter sing, Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel. The Lord Pope leaves him there to pray, while the queen slowly follows with her escort until the said silver door. Once he has finished praying, the Emperor-Elect rises and the bishop of Albano says the first prayer over him: “O God, whose holdeth in thy hand the hearts of kings, incline the ears of thy mercy to our humble prayers, and grant to thy servant our Emperor N. the government of wisdom, that, having drunk counsel from thy fount, he may please thee and preside over all kingdoms.”

The coronation of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Clement VII in Bologna, the papal coronation of the emperor. Painting by Luigi Scaramuccia, 1661.

Then the Lord Pope enters the church of St Peter as the clergy of that church sing the responsory Petre, amas me. When it is over the Lord Pope says a blessing and sits at the seat prepared for him at the right side of the rota. After the bishop of Albano’s prayer is finished, the Emperor-Elect enters led by the Cardinals Archpriest and Archdeacon and sits at the said place with them, that they might tell him how to respond to the Lord Pope during the scrutiny. Seven bishops sit in order at the Lord Pope’s right as he conducts the scrutiny, and the German bishops sit at the Emperor-Elect’s right. The cardinals and other ranks of the church sit. 

The Lord Pope says,

The ancient ordinance of the holy fathers teacheth and commandeth that whosoever is elected to rule must first be most diligently examined in all charity about the Trinitarian faith, and questioned about sundry matters and morals that suit his government and must needs be observed, according to the saying of the Apostle, “Impose not hands lightly upon any man” (1 Tim. 5:22). Moreover, he who is to be ordained must be first instructed how one raised to this dignity ought to comport himself in the church of God, so that those who impose hands of ordination on him may be free of blame. Therefore by that same authority and precept we ask thee in sincere charity, most beloved son, whether thou wilt give all thy wisdom to the divine service inasmuch as thy nature is capable.

The Emperor-Elect replies, “With all my heart I so wish to obey and consent in all things .” 

Q: “Wilt thou temper thy manners from all evil and as far as thou art able, with God’s help, change them to all good?

R: “I will.” 

Q: “Wilt thou with God’s help keep sobriety?”

R: “I will.”

Q: “Wilt thou give thyself up to divine business, and remove thyself from lowly cares, as far as human frailty permits?”

R: “I will.”

Q: “Wilt thou keep humility and patience in thyself, and incline others to the same?”

R: “I will.”

Q: “Wilt thou be affable and merciful to the poor, to pilgrims, and to all the needy on account of the Lord’s name?”

R: “I will.”

Then let the Lord Pope say, “May the Lord bestow upon thee all these and other goods, and strengthen thee in all goodness.” And all reply, “Amen.”

Then follows the examination of the Emperor-Elect’s faith: Credis secundum intelligentiam &c.

Then the Lord Pope goes to the sacristy and dresses himself in pontifical vestments up to the dalmatic, and thus dressed he sits. Meanwhile, the bishop of Porto says this prayer over the Emperor-Elect in the middle of the medium rotaDeus innerrabilis auctor, as in the anointing of a king. Then the Emperor-Elect goes to Gregory’s choir with the aforesaid Cardinals Archpriest and Archdeacon, who act as his teachers throughout the office of anointing. They dress him with the amice, alb, and cincture, and thus dressed lead him to the Lord Pope in the sacristy. He makes him a cleric and grants him the tunicle, dalmatic, cope, mitre, buskins, and sandals to be used in his coronation, and thus dressed he stands before the Lord Pope. 

After the scrutiny, the Bishop of Ostia leaves through the silver door, where the queen stands in waiting with the judges and her barons, and says the prayer Omnipotens aeterne Deus fons &c. over her. Thereafter, one of the cardinal priests, whom the prior previously appointed, and similarly a cardinal deacon, whom the archdeacon previously commanded, lead the queen to the altar of St Gregory, and there she waits for the Lord Pope to depart in procession. 

After all these things are completed, the ministers dress the Lord Pope with the chasuble and pallium, and place the mitre on his head. Then the procession sets out. The orders go first, according to custom, and then goes the Emperor-Elect with his aforesaid guides, followed by his wife, up to St Peter’s altar. Then the Primicerius sings the Introit with the schola and the Kyrie eleison, and then he is quiet. The Lord Pope goes up to the altar, and after the confession he gives the peace to the deacon, and incenses. After the incensation, he goes up to his seat. In the meantime, the Emperor-Elect and his wife prostrate themselves before St Peter’s altae, and the archdeacon says the litany. After it is over, the Emperor-Elect’s cope is removed.

The bishop of Ostia anoints his right arm with exorcized oil, and between his shoulders, and says,

Lord God Almighty, to whom is all power and dignity, we entreat thee with supplicant devotion and most humble prayer, that thou mightest grant to this thy servant the fruit of the imperial dignity, that, established in thy disposition, no past obstacle might impede his rule of the Church, nor future one one obstruct it; but by the inspiration of thy gift of the Holy Ghost, he might rule the people subject to him with equal balance of justice, and might always fear thee in all his works, and strive continually to please thee. Through &c.

He continues,

May our Lord God Jesus Christ, son of God, who wast anointed by his Father with the oil of gladness above his fellows, by this infusion of holy oil pour over thy head the blessing of the ghostly Paraclete, and make it penetrate unto the depths of thy heart, that thou mightest be made worthy of grasping the invisible by this visible and sensible gift and, having ruled thy temporal kingdom with just governance, of reigning with him for aye, the king of kings, alone without sin, who liveth and glorieth with God the Father in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, &c.

After the king’s anointing follows the blessing of the queen before the altar, Deus qui solus &c, and the anointing of the queen’s breast with holy oil: Spiritus Sancti gratia &c. Then the Lord Pope leaves his seat and goes to the altar of St Maurice followed by the emperor and his queen. The Lord Pope stands at the threshold at the entrance to the altar, and the Emperor-Elect stands before him the middle of the rota with the queen at his right, and the six bishops of the Lateran palace stand around in the rotae which are placed there, according to the ancient custom. The seventh bishop serves the Lord Pope when he officiates at the altar.

Then the first and second Oblationarii take the crowns of the Emperor-Elect and the queen from the altar of St Peter and place them on the altar of St Maurice. The Lord Pope gives the ring to the Emperor-Elect saying,

Receive the ring, the pledge of holy faith, solidity of the realm, and increase of power, by which thou mayest with triumphal power repulse thine enemies, destroy heresies, unite thy subjects, and join them in the steadfastness of the Catholic faith. Through &c.

Prayer after the giving of the ring:

O God, to whom belongeth all power and dignity, give unto thy servant the fruit of his dignity, wherein by thy recompense he might remain and always endure, and strive continually to please thee, through &c.

He girds him with the sword and says,

Receive this sword bestowed on thee with God’s blessing, wherein by the virtue of the Holy Ghost thou mayest resist and repulse all thine enemies and all adversaries of God’s Holy Church, and safeguard the kingdom committed to thee, and protect God’s encampments by the help of the unvanquished conqueror our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer after the sword:

O God, who by thy providence dost govern all things in heaven and on earth, be mindful to our most Christian king, that he might break the strength of all his enemies by the virtue of his spiritual sword, and fighting entirely destroy them. Through &c.

Now he is crowned. Then the Archdeacon takes the crown from the altar of St Maurice and gives it to the Lord Pope, who places it over the Emperor-Elect’s head saying this prayer:

Receive the sign of glory, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, so that, scorning the ancient enemy and the contagion of all vices, thou mightest so love judgement and justice and live mercifully, that thou mightest receive the crown of the eternal kingdom from Our Lord Jesus Christ in the company of the saints, who with the Father &c.

Then the Lord Pope places the crown over the queen’s head as seven bishops impose their hands upon her, and the Lord Pope says in a loud voice, while the bishops stay quietly,

Receive the crown of glory and of royal excellence, the honour of gladness, that thou mightest shine and be crowned with splendid and eternal exultation, that thou mayest know thyself the consort of the realm and always prosperously counsel the people of God; and the higher thou art are exalted, the more thou mightest love and keep humility; since thou shinest without wreathed with gold and jewels, so within thou mayest strive to be adorned with the gold of wisdom and the jewels of the virtues, that, worthily and laudably meeting the ever-lasting Spouse Our Lord Jesus Christ with the prudent virgins after the passing of this age, thou mightest be made worthy to enter the kingly door to the heavenly halls, with the help of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father &c.

Here the Lord Pope gives the sceptre to the emperor saying,

Receive the sceptre, a sign of royal power, the straight rod of of the realm, the rod of virtue, whereby thou mayest rule thyself, and with royal virtue defend holy Church and the Christian people entrusted to thee by God from evil-doers, correct the wicked, bring peace to the upright, and lead them with thine assistance that they might be able to hold the right path, in order that thou mightest arrive from thine earthly kingdom to the ever-lasting one, by the help of him whose kingdom and empire endureth without end for ever and every. Amen.

Prayer after the giving of the sceptre:

O Lord God, fount of all good things and giver of all advancement, grant to thy servant N., we beseech thee, that he mighteth well keep the dignity he hath received, and vouchsafe to strengthen the honour thou hast given him. Honour him before all the kings of earth, enrich him with bountiful blessing, confirm him in the kingly throne with firm stability, visit him with offspring, and grant him long life: let justice ever spring up in his days, that he may glory in his kingdom with joy and gladness everlasting. Through our Lord &c.

 

Coronation of Emperor Sigismund by Pope Eugene IV in 1433. Woodcut after a detail from the Portale del Filarete, a bronze base relief on the gate at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome by Filarete. Source.

Thereafter the Lord Pope returns to Saint Peter’s altar with his ministers. Then the City Prefect and the Primicerius Judicum lead the emperor and the Prefect of the Navy and the Secundicerius Judicum the empress. When they are standing in their places the Lord Pope begins Gloria in excelsis Deo and the schola responds; then he says this prayer: “O God of all kingdoms and supreme protector of the Roman Empire, grant to thy servant our Emperor that he may wisely perfect the triumph of thy virtue, in order that he who is prince by thy disposition, may always be powerful by thy favour. Through &c.”

Then the archdeacon and other prelates, deacons, primicerius, and subdeacon standing between the cross and the altar begin the laudes saying thrice: “Hear us, O Christ!”, with the schola and notaries responding in the choir, “To our Lord N., by God’s decree Supreme Pontiff and universal Pope, long life!”

The archdeacon and those standing with him again say “Hear us, O Christ!” and the schola and notaries respond, “To our Lord the great and peaceful Emperor, crowned by God, long life and victory!”, also thrice.

“Hear us, O Christ!” The schola and notaries respond, “To our Lady his Wife, the most excellent Empress, long life!” thrice.

Likewise “Hear us, O Christ!” and the response, “To the Roman and German army, long life and victory!” thrice.

Likewise “Saviour of the World!”, and the response, “Help thou them,” thrice.

Likewise, “Holy Mary!”

“St Michael!”

“St  Michael!”

“St Gabriel!”

“St Raphael!”

“St Peter!”

“St Paul!”

“St John!”

“St Gregory!”

“St Maurus!”

“St Mercurius!”

“Christ conquereth, Christ reigneth, Christ commaneth!” and the others respond likewise three times.

“Our hope!”

“Our victory!”

“Our honour!”

“Our glory!”

“Our impregnable wall!”

“Our praise!”

“Our conqueror!”

“To him praise, honour, and power for all ages of ages! Amen.”

When the laudes have finished, the Epistle is read and the Gradual and Alleluia are sung. Then the Emperor and Empress remove their crowns, and the Gospel is read. When it is over, the Emperor puts down his sword and goes up to the Lord Pope’s seat, followed by the Empress, and they offer the Lord Pope bread together with candles and hold. The Emperor also offers the wine and the Empress the water to be used in the Holy Sacrifice that day. Then they return to their places. When the Preface begins, the Emperor removes his cope and puts on his own mantle. At the words Pax Domini, he goes up to receive communion dressed in his own mantle, accompanied by the Empress, and after receiving communion they return to their places. 

After Mass, the Count Palatine goes up to the Emperor, removes his sandals and buskins, and puts on him the imperial greaves and spurs of St Maurice. Receiving their crowns, the Emperor and Empress follow the Lord Pope towards their horses, led by the aforesaid guides. When the Lord Pope comes up to his horse, the Emperor holds his stirrup. Then he is crowned and joins the procession. The Empress follows the Emperor with her escort, and the other barons follow. All the clergy of the City shout their accustomed acclamations from their parishes, and the Jews likewise in their neighbourhood. Let the whole city celebrate and let all the bells ring out. The Emperor’s chamberlains go first, followed by those throwing coins, lest they impede the knights’ progress. When they reach the Holy Stairs, the priores cardinalium of S. Laurence, standing without the walls, begin the laudes, as is the custom, and the rest respond. When they are over, the Emperor dismounts, removes his crown, and holds the Lord Pope’s stirrup as he dismouts. Then the Emperor and the City Prefect lead the Lord Pope to the Leonine Hall,[2] where they separate. The Empress, meanwhile, is led by the Primicerius and Secundicerius Judicum to the Hall of the Empress Julia, where she is to lunch with the bishops and her other barons. The Emperor’s chamberlains and the Lord Pope’s chamberlains serve all the orders of the presbytery of the Holy Palace, as the Pontiff and Emperor await. Then the Emperor lunches seated at the right of the Lord Pope, and everyone else sitting at his seat. 

Pope Clement VII and Emperor Charles V walk in procession after the coronation. Sketch by Juan de la Corte, Museum of Santa Cruz, Toledo.

After lunch one of the deacons rises at the archdeacon’s command and reads a Lesson, after which the cantors rise and sing as they are accustomed. After the chant all rise for the blessings. Let the Lord Pope retire to his chamber, and the emperor to the Hall of the Empress Julia.

When the Emperor-Elect descends from the Mount of Joy,[3] and comes to the Ponticellum, he swears this oath to the Romans: “I, N., who shall be Emperor, swear that I will uphold the Romans’ good customs, and uphold their charters[4] without deceit or evil design. So help me God and these holy Gospels.” He should swear a similar oath at the Colline Gate and at the steps of St Peter.


[1] The ordinary municipal Judge in late-antique Rome, called dativus because he was not elected by the people but appointed by the emperor. See “Dativus” in Du Cange’s Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis.

[2] Also known as the Camera Majoris Palatii, or Triclinium.

[3] Thus called by pilgrims. In Ancient Rome, the hill was called Mons Vaticanus or Clivus Cinnae. The medieval Romans referred to it as Mons Malus, and later Mons Marius (Monte Mario), as it is still known today.

[4] The cartae tertii generis were charters relating to the possession of castles. A libellus was a charter governing the possession of estates. In essence, the emperor swears to rights and privileges of the Roman people.

The Lenten Veil, by Henri de Villiers

 

The Lenten Veil—Velum quadragesimale

By Henri de Villiers

We are grateful to the author for his permission to translate and publish his article Le voile de Carême – Velum quadragesimale.” 

Lent is a time of fasting. In former times, in order to prepare themselves to live the great mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, Christians not only fasted from food but also practiced an auditory and visual fast.

Auditory privation took the form of suppressing of the use of the organ and musical instruments, but also in many diocesan uses, suppressing the ringing of bells.

Visual privation with the veils that were placed over the Cross and the statues or even the prohibition of placing flowers upon the altar. Visual privation also included closing off the sanctuary with a great veil, the velum quadrigesimale.

And so in Paris, until around the year 1870, such a veil was hung from the first Sunday of Lent until Spy Wednesday. This great veil, made of violet or ash-coloured linen, completely closed off the sanctuary and masked the view of the High Altar. It was dropped on the pavement of the sanctuary during the course of Spy Wednesday Mass during the chanting of the Passion according to St. Luke, precisely when the chronista reached the chanting of this verse: “et obscuratus est sol: et velum templi scissum est medium.” (Luke 23:45).

This dramatic visual action gave life to the words of the Gospel of the Passion that the faithful heard and reinforced its meaning in their hearts.

This great veil—called the velum quadrigesimale or velum templi—was not, however, particular to Paris, since it is found in all the lands of the ancient Carolingian world. Its usage is attested by many councils and medieval statutes and actually goes all the way back to Christian antiquity. Growing more and more ornate toward the end of the Middle Ages, especially in Germany, the Lenten veil, which had survived the Lutheran reform, is currently witnessing a renewed interest.

1. The Lenten Veil in the Ancient Use of Paris

Below are several paragraphs concerning the decoration of churches during Lent, taken from the Caeremoniale Parisiense published in 1662 by Cardinal de Retz, and edited by Martin Sonnet, priest and beneficiary of the Church of Paris, a reference work for understanding the old Parisian rite. This passage describes the set-up of the decoration of churches proper to the time Lent, carried out before First Vespers of the First Sunday of Lent. Regarding the great Lenten veil, the parisian Ceremonial stipulates not only when it must be placed in the sanctuary, but also at what precise moments it must be opened or closed.

*****

From the Sundays and ferias of Lent until Palm Sunday.

And when Jesus had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry (Matthew 4:2).

1. The first Sunday of Lent is a semi-double of the first class. Semi-double with respect to the office; first class, with respect to its privilege.

2. The Saturday before Vespers, the Master of Ceremonies ensures that the churchwarden or the sacristan and his assistants entirely cover up all crosses, reliquaries or relics of the saints, and images of the church, even the Processional Cross, in a dignified manner with a violet or ash-coloured veils made from camlet or damask silk, or from a silky fabric. He likewise ensures that the high altar and the other altars of the church be covered with frontals of the same colour.

3. And before the high altar, between the choir and the sanctuary, from one side to the other, a great oblong and wide veil is hung, or a large curtain made of violet or ash-coloured camlet, which can be drawn back or folded or let down when needful, or even spread out or closed or drawn, until Wednesday of Holy Week.

4. Now, this great veil is spread out for all ferial hours only, and for the entire day and night, and it is never spread out during mass, nor during the Sunday office from First Vespers until Second Vespers and for the entire day and night, nor indeed on the offices of double and semi-double feasts, nor by day nor by night.

5. Additionally, all draperies and all the carpets of the steps or the predella of the high altar and the other altars, are taken down throughout the Church: in sum, until Easter, the entire church is without ornament.

*****

Observe how the same Ceremonial describes the lifting of the great Lenten veil a little later, when it speaks about Spy Wednesday:

*****

11. The deacon sings the Passion according to St Luke, which the celebrant meanwhile reads on the Gospel side, as is noted in the preceding Tuesday. Now, after he arrives at the eagle which is in the middle of the choir, the Master of Ceremonies extends the great veil between the sanctuary and the altar, in the usual manner. It is elevated in each part of the choir, and held by two clerics, until these words of the Passion: “And the veil of the temple was rent in the midst”. And when the deacon pronounced those words, at the command of the Master of Ceremonies, the two aforementioned clerics immediately let go, so the veil may suddenly fall entirely on the floor of the choir, and it is afterwards taken away by the sacristan.

******

It is very interesting to note that the great Lenten veil remains opened all Sunday, from First Vespers to Second: the Day of the Lord, Dies Domini, has always been the feast of the Resurrection, even in Lent. Fasting is forbidden on this day.

The Cæremoniale Parisiense of Cardinal de Noailles, published in 1703, moreover, quite reasonably postpones the installation of the veil until after Compline of the First Sunday of Lent and before the Night Office of Monday: since the veil remained open on all Sundays, its installation before First Vespers of the First Sunday of Lent—however it perfectly logically fit with the entry into Lent—was not absolutely necessary. According to this Ceremonial, the other veils on the images and crosses are nevertheless always installed before First Vespers of the First Sunday of Lent. As we shall see, the practice of placing the Lenten veil after Compline of the First Sunday is already found in most medieval monastic customaries from the 10th century, and perhaps this is a souvenir from ancient times—before St. Gregory the Great!—when the fast did not commence until Monday.

2. The Lenten Veil in the Rest of Europe

Before the Renaissance and the printing of the first diocesan ceremonials, it is not always easy to discover the development of various liturgical rites in exact detail: the rubrics in the old Medieval Missals are fragmentary or even non-existent. We may still glean several useful details in the acts of provincial councils, and especially in the Customaries of the Abbeys, which regulated the details of conventual life in each of the great monastic centers with great precision.

And so we find the great Lenten veil mentioned by a series of medieval Anglo-Norman councils as being part of the supplies that every church was obliged to possess: these are the councils of Exeter (1217), Canterbury (1220), Winchester (1240), Evreux (1240), and Oxford (1287).

Prior to these councils, a number of customaries, constitutions, and statutes of medieval abbeys witness to the custom of closing off the sanctuary with a veil during Lent.

The most ancient mention is found in the Consuetudines Farfenses, the Constitutions of the Abbey of Farfa, near Rome, produced around the year 1010 (ch. XLII), which notes for the evening of the First Sunday of Lent:

Nam denique secraetarius cortinam exacta vespera in fune ordinet et completorio consummato in circulos extendant.

And finally, after Vespers have finished, the sacristan shall set up a curtain over a cord and, at the end of Compline, they shall spread it out.

St. Lanfranc († 1089), abbot of Saint-Étienne in Caen and then archbishop of Canterbury in 1070, speaks in his statutes about the Lenten veil, which must be installed after Compline of the First Sunday of Lent, and about other veils for the crosses and images, which are placed the next day before Terce:

Dominica prima Quadragesimae post Completorium suspendatur cortina inter Chorum et altare. Feria secunda ante Tertiam debent esse coopertae Crux, Coronae, Capsae, textus qui imagines deforis habent.

On the First Sunday of Lent, after Compline, let a curtain be hung up between the choir and the altar. On Monday before Terce, the Cross, crowns, reliquaries, and the fabrics which have images [painted] on them must be covered up (Statutes ch. 1, § 3).

Here are several more references, which admittedly show some variation in detail amongst the medieval monastic uses, but which allow us to appreciate the wide extent of the use of the Lenten veil:

  • Post Completorium appenditur velum inter altare et chorum quod nullus praeter Sanctuarii Custodes, atque Ministros, absque rationabili causa audet transire.After Compline, a veil is hung between the altar and the choir, which no one besides the custodians of the sanctuary and the ministers [of the mass] should dare to cross without reasonable cause. (Liber Consuetudinum S. Benigni Divionensis, Customary of St-Bénigne in Dijon)
  • Dominica post completam debet Secretarius tendere cortinam inter chorum et altare et Crucifixum cooperire.On Sunday after Compline the Sacristan must stretch out a curtain between the choir and the altar and cover the Crucifix. (Liber Usuum Beccesnsium, Book of the Usages of Bec-Hellouin)
  • Hac die post Completorium cruces cooperiantur, et cortina ante Presbyterium tendatur, quae ita omnibus diebus privatis per XL usque ad quartam feriam ante Pascha post Completorium remanebit. (…) In Sabbatis vero et in vigiliis SS. duodecim Lectionum ante Vesperas a conspectu Presbyterii est cortina retrahenda, et in crastino post Completorium est remittenda. Similiter retrahentur ad Missam pro praesenti defuncto, et ad exequias: Non intres in iudicium, donec septem psalmi finiantur post sepulturam. S et ad benedictionem novitii. (…) Ad missam vero privatis diebus, ut Sacerdos libere ab Abbate, si assuerit, ad Evangelium legendum benedictionem petat, Subdiaconus cornu cortinae in parte Abbatis modice retrahat, et data benedictione, ut prius erat, remittat. Diaconus vero accedat ad cortinam, ubi sublevata est, quaerens benedictionem.On this day, after Compline, let the crosses be covered up, and a curtain be extended before the sanctuary, which must remain so on all ferial days throughout Lent until after Compline of the Wednesday before Easter. […] On Saturdays, however, and the vigils of saints of twelve lessons, the curtain must be drawn back before Vespers that the sanctuary might be visible, and it is put back the next day after Compline. It is likewise to be drawn back on a funeral mass where the body is present, and on obsequies from Non intres in judicium until the seven penitential psalms finish after the burial, and on the blessing of a novice. […] But on weekday masses, in order that the priest, if he wishes, can freely ask the blessing of the abbot for reading the Gospel, let the Subdeacon slightly draw back the end of the curtain at the abbot’s side, and after the blessing has been given, let him put it back as it was before. But let the deacon walk up to the curtain, at the point where it is lifted up, to ask for the blessing. (Liber Usuum Cisterciensium, Book of the Usages of Cîteaux, ch. 15: De Dominica prima XL).
  • Hac die post IX ante Sanctuarium cortina a Sacrista tendatur, et cruces in ecclesia cooperiantur. (…) In festis vero SS. XII. Lectionum, et Dominicis, die praecedente ad Vesperas a conspectu Sanctuarii cortina abstrahenda est, et in die festi post Completorium rehrahenda: similiter singulis diebus ante elvationem Domin Corporis abstrahantur, et ea facta retrahetur.On this day after None, let a curtain be spread out before the sanctuary by the sacristan, and let the crosses in the church be covered up, […] But on saints feasts of twelve lessons, and on Sundays, at Vespers on the preceding day the curtain is to be opened up that the sanctuary might be visible, and after Compline on the feast it is to be put back. Similarly, on each day let it be opened up before the elevation of the Body of the Lord, and closed again thereafter. (Tullense S. Apri Ordinarium, Ordinary of St-Evre-lès-Toul)
  • Vesperae autem diei praecedentis diem cinerum, cruces, et imagines cooperiantur, et cortina ante Presbyterium tendatur, quae ita omnibus diebus privatis usque ad quartam feriam hebdomadae palmarum dum canitur: Et velum Templi scissum est, remanebit. (…) Et omnibus etiam privatis diebus ad elevationem Dominici Corporis et Sanguinis Missae conventualis, quae cantantur in summo altari.Now, at Vespers of the day preceding the Day of Ashes, let the crosses and images be covered up, and a curtain be stretched out before the sanctuary, which shall remain thus on all ferial days until Wednesday of the Week of Palms, when Et velum templi scissum est is sung. […] but not on ferial days at the elevation of the Body and Blood of the Lord during conventual Mass, which is sung at the high altar. (Caeremoniae Bursfeldenses, Ceremonial of the German Benedictine Congregation of Bursfelde, ch. 31, 1474-1475)

3. The German Fastentuch

The Lenten veil has remained in use here and there in Sicily and in Spain, but it is especially in Germany and Austria that it has been preserved to our day. The fact that the Lenten veils (or Fastentuch in German) had there become genuine works of art by their decoration surely has something to do with their preservation, and the continuance of their use.

The Lenten veil of Paris would usually have been a rather ordinary woolen sheet (made of ‘camlet’ to employ the technical term used by Martin Sonnet in the Ceremonial of 1662), and must have remained without any special decoration for a long time, as it was in its primitive state. None of these have been conserved and we have not been able to find any ancient iconographic representations.

On the other hand, it is at the end of the 13th century that we observe, in Flanders and Germany, that Lenten veils became ornamented, first with embroidery and then with painting, becoming more and more rich and sumptuous.

Especially in southern Germany and Austria one sees that Lenten veils became very richly painted canvases representing scenes of the Passion, often true masterpieces of their time.

Voile-de-Carême-de-la-cathédrale-de-Fribourg-1612.png
Lenten Veil of the Cathedral of Fribourg (1612)

In Germany, the cathedral of Our Lady of Fribourg preserves the largest Lenten veil known in Europe. Dating to 1612, it measures more than 10 by 12 metres and weighs almost one ton. The central scene of the crucifixion is surrounded by 25 squares containing various episodes of the Passion.

Voile-de-Carême-de-lAbbaye-de-Millstatt-en-Autriche-1593
Lenten Veil of the Abbey of Millstatt in Austria (1593)

The Lenten veil of the Abbey of Millstatt, in Carinthia (Austria) originating in 1593 had fallen into disuse. Restored, it has been reinstalled and used once more every Lent since 1984.

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Lenten Veil of the Cathedral of Gurk in Austria (1458)

These Lenten veils were a veritable instrument of catechesis through image, educating the people on the history of salvation.

Voile-de-Carême-de-la-cathédrale-de-Gurk-en-Autriche-composé-de-99-tableaux-de-lEcriture-1458
The Lenten Veil of the Cathedral of Gurk in Austria, composed of 99 (tableaux) from Scripture (1458)

In Northern Germany, the Lenten veil remained of a much more simple design: made of white linen decorated with embroidery, consisting usually of references from Scripture or the liturgy. These features are found also in the ancient Lenten veils of Flanders that are conserved in the museums of Belgium, the more ancient belonging to the 14th century. The Museum of the cathedral of Brandenburg near Berlin possesses one dating from the year 1290.

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Voile-de-Carême-de-léglise-lAssomption-à-Marienbaum

Martin Luther, who detested the idea of Lent and of penance, tried to make the Fastentuch disappear in all of Germany. Little by little they fell into disuse, and from the end of the 19th century the use had practically disappeared. Curiously, this ancient tradition reappeared vigorously beginning in 1974, when the charitable association Misereor had the idea of producing a Fastentuch to give concrete expression to Christians’ Lenten efforts. This initiative has a certain impact all over Germany, leading to the rediscovery of this tradition, the restoration of numerous historic veils that slept in the vaults of cathedrals or museums, and their suspension in sanctuaries once more. There was so much interest that even the Lutherans were moved to put them up! Currently, it is estimated that one third of German Catholic churches as well as many hundreds of Lutheran parishes hang up a veil during Lent. From Germany the practice is expanding currently into Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland and even France.

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4. A Tradition with Roots in Christian Antiquity

The practice of veiling images, crosses, and relics during Lent is certainly ancient in the West. Thus, we see in the life of St. Eligius, written by St. Audoin († 686), that the precious casket of the saint was covered by a veil during the entire duration of Lent. But this is not exactly the purpose of this article.

The practice of hanging a veil before the sanctuary of churches hearkens to the most ancient period.

The Old Testament, a type of the New, speaks of a veil that covered the Holy of Holies, first in the itinerant Tabernacle of the desert, then in the Temple of Jerusalem (according to St. Paul, the veil that was rent at the death of Christ was the second veil, and a first veil closed off the Holy Place. Cf. Hebrews 9:3).

The first Christian churches used the sanctuary veil as much in the West as in the East.

The ancient altar was usually covered by a ciborium or baldacchino, between whose columns veils were hung.

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Besides these veils over the ciborium, the sanctuary itself was separated from the choir and the nave by a cloister called the chancel or templon, a barrier that might include columns, between which veils were hung. Twelve columns closed off the sanctuary of the basilica of the Anastasis (today the Holy Sepulchre) constructed by Constantine at the beginning of the 4th century. These columns served to support curtains, as various patristic texts tell us. The curtain of the sanctuary of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, donated by the munificence of the emperor Justinian, was made of cloth of gold and silver of an estimated cost of 2,000 minae.

Reconstitution-du-sanctuaire-de-Sainte-Sophie-à-Constantinople-vue-de-face

This double rung of veils, the veil of the templum and the veil of the ciborium, constituted the limits of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies in the temples of the new covenant.

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The curtains were kept closed or open depending on the moments of the liturgical action. Their opening always signified the full transmission of grace and symbolized the opening of the heavens.

“When,” said St John Chrysostom, “the heavenly host is upon the altar, when Jesus Christ, the royal lamb, is immolated, when you hear these words: ‘Let us all pray to the Lord together’, when you see that the veils and curtains of the altar are pulled back, consider that you contemplate the heavens that are opened up and the angels that come down to earth.”

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The West was not to be outdone: one finds in the Liber Pontificalis several references to popes (e.g. Sergius I, Gregory III, Zachary, Hadrian I) who donated veils to ornament the arcades of the ciboria and the sanctuaries of Roman churches.

Many ancient Eastern and Western liturgies contain a prayer—the prayer of the veil—that the celebrant says when, during the offertory, he leaves the choir and enters the sanctuary, going beyond the veil that closed it off.

The prayer of the veil in the Liturgy of St James, which represents the ancient use of the Church of Jerusalem, is justly renowned:

“We thank Thee, O Lord our God, that Thou hast given us boldness for the entrance of Thy holy places, which Thou hast renewed to us as a new and living way through the veil of the flesh of Thy Christ. We therefore, being counted worthy to enter into the place of the tabernacle of Thy glory, and to be within the veil, and to behold the Holy of Holies, cast ourselves down before Thy goodness: Lord, have mercy on us: since we are full of fear and trembling, when about to stand at Thy holy altar, and to offer this dread and bloodless sacrifice for our own sins and for the errors of the people: send forth, O God, Thy good grace, and sanctify our souls, and bodies, and spirits; and turn our thoughts to holiness, that with a pure conscience we may bring to Thee a peace-offering, the sacrifice of praise:

(Aloud.) By the mercy and loving-kindness of Thy only-begotten Son, with whom Thou art blessed, together with Thy all-holy, and good, and quickening Spirit, now and always:

R/. Amen.”

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The Assyro-Chaldean, Armenian, Coptic, and Ethiopian Churches have kept the use of a curtain that closes off the sanctuary. In the Armenian Church, a church is considered to be in disuse if its sanctuary is bereft of a curtain. In the Byzantine church, the columns that once propped up the curtain grew coated with icons in the course of the ages and became the iconostasis: the curtain is still present, although its extension is most often limited to the breadth of the sanctuary doors.

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Even if a curtain closes off the sanctuary yearlong in the East, there are nevertheless special customs during Lent. Thus, in the Armenian Church, the usual curtain is replaced during Lent by a black curtain. This black curtain always remains closed during mass and the Lenten offices, symbolizing the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. It is not opened until Palm Sunday.

The Russians likewise change their usual brightly coloured curtain for a sombre-coloured one during the weekdays of Great Lent. All the other veils and coverings of the church are similarly changed. Brightly coloured curtains return on Holy Saturday during the Paschal Vigil, right before the singing of the Gospel of the Resurrection, while the choir sings “Rise up, O Lord, and judge the earth.”

Conclusion

Is it foreseeable that this custom will be restored in France, like it has in Germany?

Juridically, there is nothing blocking it, since the Congregation of Rites has affirmed that the use of the great veil of Lent closing off the sanctuary is indeed permissible (decr. auth. 3448, 11 May 1878).

Nevertheless, we still have something of the “visual Lent” of our forefathers since we have kept the Roman usage of veiling the crosses and statues before First Vespers of Passion Sunday (fifteen days before Easter). Even if this article is not directly about that beautiful custom, it might perhaps help us to better understand the origins of that use and to grasp its historical and symbolic depths.

*For more on veils, also posts at NLM here and here.

Archdale King on Liturgical Fans

From Liturgies of the Religious Orders by Archdale King, 1955, pp. 290, 321-322, 374.

A liturgical fan (flabellum) of leather, silk, parchment or feathers was used in the sacrifices of the heathen and from very early times in the Christian Church. The Apostolic Constitutions (late 4th century) say: “Let two of the deacons, on each side of the altar, hold a fan, made up of thin membranes, or of the feathers of the peacock, or of fine cloth, and let them silently drive away the small animals that fly about, that they may not come near to the cups”[1]. John Moschus relates the story of an Italian bishop, offering the Holy Sacrifice in the presence of Pope St. Agapitus I (535-536), who requested the Pope to tell the deacon with the flabellum to go away from the altar at the prayer of the holy oblation[2]. Hildebert de Lavardin, bishop of Tours (1135-1134), sending a flabellum to a friend, says:

And so, when you drive away flies descending upon the Sacrifice with the fan I sent to you, you ought to ensure the onslaught of temptations is driven away from the mind of the celebrant with the winnowing-fork of the Catholic faith. This is so that what is taken up for use may proffer you mystical understanding[3].

The fan[4] was in use in Ireland in the early Middle Ages, and it is mentioned in various texts of the period, while the ornament itself is represented in ancient Irish illuminations. A Hiberno-Saxon manuscript of the gospels (8th century) at Trier depicts a fan in the right hand of St Matthew, and the monogram of the Book of Kells (8th century) shows angels bearing a fan which seems to be made of thin plates of metal surrounded by little bells.

evangeliar_aus_trier_-_der_tetramorph
St Matthew holding a fan, as depicted in the Trier Gospels.

The liturgical fan was commonly used in Rome and the West generally from the secret till the end of the canon during the Middle Ages. Its use has been described in the Cluniac customary: One of the servers (they must always be two), standing with a fan near the priest, does not neglect to keep flies away from the Sacrifice, the altar, and the priest himself from the moment the infestation begins until it ends[5]. 

Ordo Romanus XIV (14th century) prescribes the fan, si tempus requirit, and a pontifical ceremonial of the time of Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) gives the rubric: “Let them also carry fans during summertime in order to drive flies away from the service[6].” The sacristan is reminded in the ordinarius of Liège (c. 1285) to provide a flabellum “in the season of flies” for the private Masses of the brethren, as well as for the conventual Masses. Its use is attested also by Durandus of Mende (ob. 1296).

The subdeacon holds the paten and the deacon the fan as St Regulus celebrates Mass, in the Vita S. Dionysii (B. N. Fr. lat. 5286, fol. 103).

The use of a fan as a liturgical ornament seems to have disappeared from the Western Church, except in the Carmelite and Dominican Orders, after the council of Constance (1415), continuing merely as part of the honorific insignia of the Pope on solemn occasions. It exists today in the Eastern Church in the Syrian (Marwaḥ’tḥo), Byzantine (ripidion), and Armenian (keshotz) rites. A ripidion is given to the Byzantine deacon at his ordination.

In the case of the Carmelite rite, the ordinal of Sibert of Beka (1312) gives the following rubric: During fly-season after the beginning of the secrets the deacon must hold a fan with which becomingly to prevent them from bothering the priest, and drive them away from the Sacrifice[7]. It was repeated in the ordinal of 1544, but the ceremonial of 1616 permitted its use to be optional. The variations of usage were described in an appendix to the ceremonial of 1906, without, however, committing itself as to whether the fan should still be used:

During fly-season, the deacon (and even the server in a private Mass) must, according to the Ordinal of the Divine Office of 1544, and may, according to the Ceremonial of 1616, hold a fan in his hand after the beginning of the secrets, and with it becomingly prevent them from bothering the celebrant and drive them away from the Sacrifice, as is still the custom in some places. For the server at private Mass, it is added: and to make the priest a bit more comfortable … especially in hot climates[8].

Fr Zimmerman says that its use has never been entirely abandoned, but he fails to say in what provinces it may be found. A Carmelite of the Irish province told the writer (1949) that the flabellum has figured in some churches in recent years for the rite of 1504, but as a ceremonial adjunct rather than as a fan for the oblata. It was formerly used by the deacon (server at a private Mass) from the beginning of the secrets until the end of the canon.

44

The oldest known Dominican missal, from Paris (c. 1240), there is an illustration in which the priest is depicted at the altar, assisted by a deacon waving a flabellum. The actual ceremonial of the Order (1869), gives a rubric similar to that in the Carmelite ordinal of Sibert: During the season of flies the deacon uses a fan to drive flies away, lest they bother the priest[9]. A note says that the fan is still in use in a few houses.

See more about the fan in The Liturgical Arts Journal and the ‘blog of the Schola Sainte Cécile, and consider donating one to your local cathedral.

NOTES.

[1] Apost. Const., VIII, cap. XXII.

[2] Prati Spiritualis, cap. CL

[3] Dum igitur destinato tibi flabello descendentes super sacrificia muscas abegeris; a sacrificantis mente supervenientem incursus tentationum Catholicae fidei ventilabro exturbari oportebis. Ita fiet ut quod susceptum est ad usum, mysticum tibi praebeat intellectum. Epist. VIII.

[4] Irish culebad; Old Irish culebath.

[5] Unus ministrorum, qui semper duo debent esse, stans cum flabello prope sacerdotem, ex quo muscarum infestatio exurgere incipit, donec finiatur, eas arcere a sacrificio et ab altari, seu ab ipso sacerdote non negligit.

[6] Deferant quoque aestivo tempore flabella ad eijiciendas muscas a ministerio.

[7] Tempore etiam muscarum post inceptionem secretarum debet diaconus tenere flabellum quo cohibeat eas honeste a molestando sacerdotem, et abigat a sacrificio.

[8] Juxta Ordinale divini officii anni 1544 debet et juxta Caeremoniale 1616 poterit diaconus (et etiam minister in missa privata) tempore muscarum post Secretorum incoeptionem Flabellum in manu tenere, quo eas honeste a molestando celebrante cohibeat et a Sacrificio abigat, prout adhuc alicubi usus est. Pro ministro in Missa privata additur: atque ad Sacerdotem aliquantulum consolandum … praecipue in locis calidis.

[9] Tempore vero muscarum Diaconus utatur flabello ad abigendas muscas, ne molestent sacerdotem.

New Years with the Canons of Sens (1): A Feast of Fools?

Urge recristianizar las fiestas y costumbres populares. Urge evitar que los espectáculos públicos se vean en esta disyuntiva: o ñoños o paganos. Pide al Señor que haya quien trabaje en esa labor de urgencia, que podemos llamar «apostolado de la diversión».

Fr Josemaría Escrivá, Camino

We have previously written about a remarkable MS. that seems to record the steps for a festive dance performed by the precentor of the Cathedral Chapter of Sens two days a year. The Cathedral of St Étienne de Sens was indeed renowned during the Middle Ages as a centre of liturgical excellence, both for the perfection of its ceremonies and, especially, of its chant. By the 13th century, the sobriquet li chanteor de Sens (“the cantors of Sens”) had become the proverbial byname for the city, such was the fame of its ecclesiastical singing.[1]

Thus in one of the first printed chant-books published by the church of Sens for the use of its entire ecclesiastical province, the Precentor did not hesitate to boast in the preface:

“Throughout all Gaul, the most holy Metropolitan Church of Sens shines with such dignity and excels with such grand majesty in the symphony of its divine offices, that none could deem them anywhere else more beautiful, more holy, more admirable, and (insofar as it pertains to the divine mystery) closer to the example of antiquity.”

During the High Middle Ages, the splendor of the Senonese cathedral liturgy was at full display on the Feast of the Circumcision, which Henri Villetard, a 19th-century canon of Sens, called “the seal of the musical glory of this ancient Metropolis.” It has been preserved in MS. 46 of the Bibliothèque Municipale de Sens, an extravagantly bound tome with two antique ivories, which has since the 16th century been known under the misnomer Missel or Office des Fous.

Feast-of-Fools

Throughout all mediæval France, the joys of the Christmas season elicited particularly playful liturgies, especially on the kalends of January. The ensemble of these sprawling festivities became known as the Feast of Fools. The excesses that unsurprisingly tarnished such celebrations often drew the condemnation of censorious ecclesiarchs, but one looks in vain for such infelicities in Sens, MS. 46. The book simply contains the music for the entire Office and Mass for the Feast of the Circumcision, albeit heavily troped, with paraliturgical songs pertaining to the same, all under the straightforward heading Circumcisio Domini. The picture it paints is certainly one of exuberant merry-making, but all of it conveyed through ritual, and what better medium of expression for the legitimate rejoicing of the plebs sancta Dei?

The MS. in question has been traditionally attributed to Peter of Corbeil, who ruled the see of Sens from 1200 to 1221. This cultivated prelate was a master of theology, who, while canon of Paris, counted among his pupils one Lothair of Segni, who in 1198 was exalted to the Petrine dignity under the name Innocent III. He duly promoted Peter to various posts, culminating in his appointment to govern Sens[2].

Peter was not only a noted theologian and philosopher but also a poet and musician. As archbishop he wrote an Office for the Assumption which was used in Sens as late as the 17th century. Some of its responsories have been published by Solesmes in Variae preces and the Processionale monasticum.

When he lent his talents to the Feast of the Circumcision, Peter was likely aiming to curb the immoderation that often marred the celebration of the Feast of Fools, providing both a decorous liturgical ritual and thereby a means of enticing the faithful away from the purely secular revels attached to the kalends of January. A similar approach to the issue had been taken in 1198 by Odo of Sully, bishop of Paris, and, as canon, Peter affixed his name to Odo’s decrees.

THE OFFICE

In his Office, Peter generally transcribed musical pieces that were already in use and are attested elsewhere, but he also appears to have taken the chance to incorporate songs of his own composition. These are, withal, of para-liturgical character; Sens would have scarcely tolerated innovations in the liturgical offices themselves.

Conductus ad Tabulam

The MS. opens with one of Peter’s compositions, to be sung in ianuis ecclesie (at the doors of the church) by the clerics as they entered before for Vespers on the evening of 31 December. The song is an exhortation to joy, inviting all to delight in the upcoming asinaria festa (Feast of the Ass). This forms the introduction to the song Orientis partibus, a veritable proto-Christmas carol. The clerics intoned this conductus—a paraliturgical processional hymn—as they made their way to the tabula, a tablet showing the ordo for the day, that everyone might know his role.

conductus

Orientis partibus is a jocular hymn addressed to an ass. It was sung in numerous mediæval Christmastide pageants which featured the ass who bore Our Lady to Egypt, but in Peter’s version, an additional stanza makes it clear it is addressed to the ass who bore the magi to Bethlehem. In the cathedral of Beauvais, a pageant was performed before Mass, as a maiden holding a child and riding an ass was escorted to the church, but in Sens there is no evidence of any visual representation of the animal. It was merely a well-known seasonal tune, with a ludic melody to which the layfolk sang the refrain, Hez, sir Asne, hez!—the only words in the vernacular in Peter’s Office.[3]

First Vespers

deus

After reading the tabula, the celebrant began the Deus in adiutorium meum intende, farced so as to become a hymn with three rhyming quatrains. It was not uncommon for the Benedicamus Domino at the conclusion of the Office to be troped into a hymn, as we shall discuss hereafter, but this is one of the two instances where the introduction to the Office undergoes this treatment.

Commentators have noted the rich musical variety in Peter’s Office. The two introductory songs are of “markedly un-Gregorian”[4] character, but the Deus in adiutorium hymn is set to a more typically Gregorian melody.

The alleluya of the invocation is troped as well in the form of a prose (prosa, in the MS.), i.e. a sequence: the word itself is split in half, so that the seven verses of the prose are inserted between alle and luya. The playful structure thus imitates the gay verses which call for the entire church to resound with sweet harmonies in praise of the son of Mary, that the Holy Ghost might fill all the faithful with gifts and glory. Other instances exist of such proses inserted into the alleluia, which drew especial rebuke from grim later liturgists[5]. This particular prose also appears in a 13th century Ordo pontificalis from Sens (B. M., MS. 12) inserted as a trope into the Marian antiphon Alma Redemptoris Mater. The melody, although somewhat reminiscent of the merry introductory songs in its rhythm, is based on that for the termination of 6th-mode responsories once used in Sens, and is hence firmly Gregorian. 

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A musical interlude postpones the commencement of the psalmody and invites the faithful to consider the intimate connection between the incarnation and birth of Our Lord and His death and resurrection. According to the rubric, “four or five” clerics begin the versus Hec est clara dies singing in falso, retro altare. In order words it was sung in fauxbourdon, using a three-part harmony with two or three tenors, a countertenor, and a descant, which was sung an octave higher than written in falsetto.[6] The Verse is borrowed from a chant sung in the procession back from the baptismal fonts during the special Vespers of Easter Day and its octave.

Then two or three clerics in front of the altar respond, in unison, singing the verse Salue festa dies, a pastiche of Venantius Fortunatus’s famous Paschal hymn adapting it to the Christmas season. Then all join in singing the sequence Letemur gaudiis.[7]

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Finally, the clerics sing in organum the versus Christus manens quod erat, set to the melody of one of the stock melismas added to the end of responsories on the most solemn feasts.

Only now does the usual psalmody begin, with no tropes or special melodies. The antiphons, though ancient, are not those preserved in the Tridentine breviary for this feast, and the five psalms are those of Christmas Vespers rather than Vespers of Our Lady.[8] The chapter (Isaias 9:2) again differs from the Tridentine one, and is sung to a special solemn melody:

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Many mediæval uses sang a prolix responsory after the chapter on first Vespers of major feasts, a custom that has not been preserved in the Tridentine books, but is kept in uses such as the monastic, Dominican, and Carthusian. Here the responsory is particularly long, with several verses, the last of which is farced with three different proses.

It is interesting that Peter’s office does not indicate that a hymn is sung at this point. It might be an archaic feature, since hymns were introduced into the Roman office at a fairly late period. But since the other offices of this feast do include a hymn, one cannot help but wonder whether Peter here made a singular concession to brevity. Indeed, although the next piece is oddly dubbed a versiculus, it is it fact it is a long, hymn-like sequence originally sung as a trope to the Hosanna of the Sanctus at Mass.

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The Magnificat is sung as usual, with an ancient antiphon that differs from the Tridentine one. The Benedicamus Domino is the occasion for a final hymn produced by troping both the verse and response. Several such Benedicamus tropes in the form of hymns survive, which were sung on the greatest feasts as a last outburst of gaiety before the conclusion of an office. In Laon, in fact, the feast of Epiphany was the occasion for a completorium infinitum, so-called on account of a rubric at the end of Compline that indicates tot Benedicamus quot novit quisque canamus, “let as sung as many Benedicamus [songs] as we know!” Puer natus in Bethlehem and O filiæ et filiæ are two such Benedicamus tropes still sung to-day.

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See the other posts in this series:

2. Compline
3. Mattins, Lauds, and the Little Hours
4. Mass and Second Vespers
5. Why the Office of Peter of Corbeil was Suppressed
6. A New Years’ Apéritif with the Canons of Sens


NOTES:

[1] According to the 13th-century chronicler Galvaneus Flamma, the cultivation of Gregorian chant in Sens dates back to the reign of Charlemagne who, intent on promoting the use of the chant of the city of Rome throughout his empire, founded three schools of chant, one in Metz, the other in Sens, and the third in Orléans. Although some have cast doubt on the accuracy of this late source, the musical traditions of Sens were surely ancient, and jealously guarded, for, as another saying went, Ecclesia Senonensis nescit novitates (The Church of Sens knows no novelty). The Archdiocese of Sens, moreover, numbered amongst its suffragans the dioceses of Paris (until 1622), Chartres, Orléans, Nevers, and Auxerre, and amongst its abbeys St-Denys, Ferrières, Fleury, St-Germain d’Auxerre, and St-Pierre-le-Vif, all of which looked to their metropolitan see for liturgical direction.

[2] The Lord Peter was also close to King Philip Augustus, and when Pope and King came to be at odds, Peter tended to favour the latter, prompting Innocent to complain, Ego te episcopavi, which prompted Peter to retort, Et ego te papavi.

[3] Although in some places, the vernacular was sometimes used during Christmastide offices such as the Feast of St Stephen.

[4] David Hiley, Western Plainchant, p. 42

[5] E.g. Jean-Baptiste Le Brun des Marettes, who, in his Voyages liturgiques de France, wrote with respect to sequences, “One must not regret their loss too much, for most were nothing more than pitiful rhapsodies, such us the use that begins Alle necnon et perenne cœleste luia” (p. 168).

[6] The indication that the music was sung behind the altar may allude to the representation of a crib placed there on Christmas Day, as was done in Rouen for the performance of a liturgical drama featuring the shepherds. The rubrics of this MS., however, offers no evidence for this supposition.

[7] Originally a trope on the concluding melisma of the second verse of the Offertory Deus enim firmavit of the second Mass of Christmas composed by Bl. Notker the Stammerer. The piece proved popular and was sung outside its original context. In Paris, bishop Odo also appointed it to Vespers of the Circumcision.

[8] I.e. psalms 109, 110, 111, 129, and 131 rather than 109, 112, 121, and 126 as in the Tridentine office.

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.)

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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. 

Notes

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.