Category Archives: Church History

Initial Thoughts on Stripping of the Altars

For some reason, the books I most like to read are quite expensive. With no lending seminary library in the area, that means I normally have to wait until Christmas time to get a fresh crop of theological reading material. Well—Christmas has come and so has my reading list!

At the top (thanks to my awesome in-laws!) is Eamon Duffy’s Stripping of the Altars. For those unfamiliar with it, this book was originally published in the late 90’s and is now into a second edition. It is at the heart of a revisionist reassessment of the state of late medieval catholicism and the history of the English Reformation(s). The old view was that late medieval catholicism was a mass of impenetrable superstition just ripe for a Reformation which was eagerly embraced by all right-thinking English-speaking people. In this work, Duffy has two main sections: the first uses social historical techniques (looking at wills, bequests, court cases, etc.) to document the vibrant and coherent character of late medieval devotion; the second section challenges the assumption that the Reformation was a movement just waiting to happen that had wide popular support.

I’m about a third of the way through it and have a few thoughts which will likely be expanded later (and as I read more):

  • This is a great book—learned yet still very readable and highly informative! In this first part in particular, it shows what can be done when social history is done well.
  • This is also a very large book, tipping the scale at 700 pages. While I’ve seen it referenced quite a lot, I’m guessing that this is a text that falls in the same class as Dix’s Shape of the Liturgy: it’s referenced more often than actually read…
  • It’s both informing and corroborating my earlier hunches concerning the prymers and their relationship to the early Books of Common Prayer. I suspect I’ll be writing quite a lot more on this connection.
  • In a sense, sections of it remind me strongly of Percy Dearmer’s little book on the history of the Church of England. That is, it portrays the 15th century in mostly idyllic terms and the Reformation as a rupture caused by a powerful few. I’m looking forward to the second section where I hope he will draw a clearer picture of this.
  • Sometimes he seems to suggest that the evidence he gathers means more than it does. Being able to point to texts is important (and is often all we have to go on); demonstrating how widely read, held, and representative they are is a different story entirely.
  • Social history is a terrific tool but always errs in the direction of the anecdotal. As a result it must be well deployed in using it to help solve the previous problem. But its anecdotal character can be used to conceal as well as reveal.
  • As he points out in the intro, Lollards rarely appear and they are reckoned as naught in the main. On the other hand, he’s quite right that so often scholars focus on the marginal groups rather than trying to sketch a picture of mainstream orthodoxy. I appreciate that and am thinking of how Aelfric fits into his time.
  • All in all, so far, I highly recommend it!

American Sarum: Monday Afternoon

Monday afternoon was the Sarum Mass. While there was a session entitled learning the rubrics beforehand, it was really an opportunity for a talk through what was going on as we watched the participants practice. Unfortunately due to the sickness of some key folks and the sudden disappearance of a central annotated edition of the service, the practice was more helter-skelter than it was intended to be and the rubrics session couldn’t live up to the original intention.

I have to confess upfront that it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a Traditional Latin Mass. This would be a much more informed article if I’d been recently and could compare the differences between a “standard” TLM and what occurred at the conference—but I can’t.

There is no video of the mass that I know of, but there are some photos. This album contains photos from the entire conference with the mass at the end.

The church was surprisingly full—I think many of the regular congregants came and other interested folks. A couple of the people from my parish were able to come (and should leave comments to add to my account…).

The point of the service was to present as completely as possible an actual Sarum Mass. It was not a suggestion that this is what the Episcopal Church should do now, but rather to convey an experience of the liturgical world from which the Anglican rites developed and the world to which Dearmer, Frere, Staley, and other Victorian and Edwardian liturgists pointed as a source for understanding and enriching the Anglican rites of their day. The service was a reconstructed votive mass of the Blessed Virgin. Full programs containing the Latin and an English translation were handed out, but my preference was just to watch and listen without it.  As the basis of the Sarum truly is the Roman Rite, I didn’t have much trouble following along. To my eyes, it was much like other Latin Masses to which I have been but the server and subdeacon were much more involved in the preparation of the chalice than I recall. There was also a significant moment, I believe just prior to the fraction, where the deacon held the paten and sudary cloth high which was familiar from to me from late medieval manuscript images.

What struck me, likely due to Dr. Harper’s presentation, was the interplay between the choir and the altar party. The choir was singing almost the entire time and very little of what the altar party said could be heard. It was completely clear that the Ordinary of the Mass sung by the choir was following a different track from the altar party. That is, while the altar party undoubtedly said the same parts—the Gloria, the Sanctus, etc.—they did not wait until the choir had finished singing to continue their parts. Instead, the choral sanctus stretched from the beginning of the canon until the elevations, there was a pause for the elevations, then the choral benedictus qui venit continued from that point virtually until the end of the canon and the beginning of the Communion proper. It reinforced for me how linear our current service is: only one significant action is occurring at a time, and if an overlap would occur, we stop until that action or element is completed. The medieval experience seemed to have much more layering.  (Of course, it must be noted that the congregation present acted like a typical modern congregation—we “paid attention” and “followed along” as we are used to and did not wander around and do our own devotions as a medieval congregation would have!)

On one hand, the worship experience seemed more rich because of the multiple elements occurring simultaneously. On the other, the layering did obscure some aspects of the experience, deliberately so. The deliberate obscuring of the altar party’s actions and vocalizations left no doubt in my mind that my personal edification was not the point—their action was Godward. The elements most central presented to the congregation’s perceptions—the choir’s part—were also not for congregational edification as it was not in our native tongue and even someone like me who understands a modicum of spoken Latin sometimes would have difficulty understanding all the words due to the polyphony. Thus, the Godwardness of the experience was quite clear. What was less clear to me was the theological place of the congregation; I got the strong sense that we were superfluous. Yes, our being there changing something about the nature of the service in the same way that any act of observation alters the behavior of the observed, but I lacked a sense that we played a necessary role—and I found that theologically interesting.

I say “interesting” because it’s leading me to reflect on my understanding of the place of liturgy within the life of the liturgical community. I *do* see value in the continuity of liturgical action conducted on behalf of the full community in the full community’s absence. That is, masses and offices should be said on behalf of and in reference to the community even when the full community is not able to gather for them—even a token congregation provides the necessary continuity, but the presence of those few is both significant and important whereas the choir and clergy seemed sufficient in the Sarum system in a way that felt questionable to me.

This is the last post on the sessions of the conference, but I am working on a summary post that seeks to pull together what I took from the conference, what I think its real strengths were, and the questions that I believe it poses to the larger Episcopal Church.

American Sarum: Sunday Afternoon

Session 5: Dr. John Harper: Sonic Ceremonial

This session was amazing. I don’t have learning to appreciate fully everything that he said, but it has taken my understanding of late medieval liturgy up a level. (That’s not to say that you had to have a lot of prior learning to get anything out of it, just that he covered the whole spectrum. A shotgun blast of erudition!) I received a strong sense of how intellectual my knowledge of liturgy in this period is; I know books and books about books. What I don’t know nearly as well are the spaces in which the liturgies were conducted, the timing of the various parts and how both of these overlapped.

Cathedrals: Multiple and Overlapping Spaces

Using the plans of Hereford Cathedral, Dr. Harper identified the three principal worship spaces within a late medieval cathedral.

The heart of the cathedral’s worship life is the choir (quire) which contained the high altar. This section is located literally at the heart of the cathedral where the two transepts come together. This is where the main body of canons would gather to sing the Offices and would celebrate the Mass of the Day. (I believe the organ is located here, but I can’t swear to it.)

To the east is the Lady Chapel. In this area, a separately funded body of people are attending to the various services for Our Lady. Thus, there was daily a Matins, Lauds, Vespers, and Compline of the BVM, the Lady Mass, and, after Compline, the Antiphon/Anthem ceremony when choral arrangements of the Antiphons (Alma Mater Redemptoris, Salve Regina, etc.) would be sung.

To the west of the Choir is the Nave or the parish church. You don’t see it in the 1950’s plans I inked to, but there was a stone pulpitum (essentially a big stone rood screen that you could get on top of—readings would be done from its top) that separated the Choir from the Nave. The Nave was the parochial space. The parish priest led masses, baptisms, weddings, funerals, and the Friday Jesus Mass in this space. However—note the aisle in the plan… On Sundays and Holydays processions that went forth from both the Choir and the Lady Chapel would travel around this space as the various services overlapped and inter-related. And it’s this inter-relation of space that must be considered to understand the full impact of sound and action in late medieval liturgy. There could literally be three different services going on at the same time—on in each of the three main spaces—and variously interacting with one another sonically if not physically. Indeed, there are surviving complaints from canons that the noise from the parish masses was interfering with their choir services.

The organ would only play on Sundays and Holydays and, I believe, supported what was going on in the Choir. Hearing this piece of information made me realize that I have to reconsider the old Lent and Advent restrictions on organ playing—these never originally applied to parish settings, as far as I can tell, and chiefly impacted the Choir only!

Rochester Cathedral: Who does what when


Rochester Cathedral (note the photo of the in-place pulpitum with the pipe ranks atop it and the railing where the reader would stand to read into the Choir but be seen and heard in the Nave) which has its Lady Chapel in the South Transept gives us a great opportunity to look at exactly how worship would have been late out in the period after Henry VIII’s break with Rome but before the institution of the Book of Common Prayer. This is English Sarum in its heyday. The reason why it’s such a terrific case is because Rochester had been staffed by a Benedictine priory. With the dissolution of the monasteries in 1540, it was re-founded as a secular cathedral by letters patent in June of 1541. Bishop Nicholas Heath drew up a set of injunctions in 1543 and statues in 1544 to regulate the life and worship of the new cathedral structure.

Here’s the breakdown of people we find in Heath’s directions:

  • Dean and Chapter (7 people)
    • Dean
    • 6 canons
  • Choral Body (23 people)
    • 6 minor canons (clergy)
    • 6 clerks (lay or clergy)
    • 1 Master of Choristers
    • 8 Choristers
    • Deacon and Subdeacon
  • Grammar School (22 people)
    • 2 Instructors of Grammar
    • 20 Grammar boys
  • Church servants and poor men (12 people)
    • 2 Vergers
    • 2 Bellringers/sweepers
    • 2 Porters
    • 6 Poor men
  • Household Servants (4 people)
    • 2 butlers
    • 2 cooks


These people were then correlated to a chart that displayed how these various groups were deployed across the day for Holydays and Workdays. (The chart is copyrighted or I’d post it.) There are five possible staffing groups that were deployed for various services based on the service and the rank of the day:

  • Choristers: these were the 8 singers and their Master of Choristers who also doubled as the organist
  • Priests and clerks: these were the 6 minor canons and the 6 clerks (I don’t know if the Chapter is included here as I don’t know how often they were around. I expect that the deacon and subdeacon were in this group as well.)
  • Full choir: Choristers + Priests and clerks
  • Full choir & Grammar school: Like it says, full choir + boys
  • Said: It’s on the chart but isn’t explicitly described. Clearly the minimum necessary here is a priest and a server.

From the chart it’s clear that the Choristers and Master of Choristers are the main body for the Lady Chapel and the Priests & Clerks inhabit the Choir on Workdays. The Choristers are used for the Jesus Mass in the parish church on Fridays. On Holydays, the Full Choir and the Grammar School come together for big blowout events.


Since this was a conference for musicians, the “what” in this case was the music. There were three basic kinds of music used:

  • Plainsong—sung unison
  • Improvised polyphony (organum)—plainsong with two parts added, one moving in open fifths above, the other moving below by a fourth IIRC
  • Composed polyphony (pricksong)—this is the composed polyphony for a set of voices (anywhere from 3 to a maximum of 12 (!!)) that we’re used to from Byrd and others

On a regular workday, the only people who would be singing polyphony at Rochester Cathedral according to Bp. Heath’s directions were the Choristers when they sang at Lady Mass 8 AM every morning but Saturday. (On non-festal Saturdays, the Lady Mass was the Mass of the Day and was sung by the Full Choir at the main Mass of the Day slot; the Lady Mass was only “said” at 8 AM in the Lady Chapel). On the Eves of all Doubles (including Saturdays as eves of Sunday), the Full Choir sang the Anthem of the BVM in composed Polyphony. The Grammar School joined with the Full Choir for the Anthem on Holydays.  Thus, in the 8 surviving major sources of liturgical polyphony from the period,

  • 29% of the pieces are for the Mass
  • 33% of the pieces are for the Office
  • 39% of the pieces are for the Anthem

When it comes to the Mass, very little of the Propers get embellished. Instead what receives the embellishing is the Ordinary of the Mass. Again, most singers will be familiar with this as the major mass pieces are the Ordinary: Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei. (Note, though, that in Sarum non-votive masses, the Kyrie was troped and thus was part of the Proper, not the Ordinary—hence no Kyries in most Byrd Masses; it’s because they’re Sarum…)

In the Offices, the main areas for polyphony were the final Respond of Matins and the Magnificat (not the Benedictus, note). Compline was sung separately from Vespers and tended to be more formal (more formal than what I’m not sure—my notes don’t say: possible answers could be “than Vespers” or “than continental sources”).

As a side note, note that music composed for the Lady Chapel is small-space music—it wasn’t intended to fill the whole space of the cathedral because it didn’t have to.

Dr. Harper then displayed a fascinating chart that I didn’t have anywhere near time to copy down. It displayed the correspondence between liturgical “height” of a feast and the number of voices liturgical music (usually Masses) for the feast contained. It was a very clear distribution of kalendrical importance expressed through song. Christmas received pieces for 8 voices on one end of the spectrum; All Saints, and Feasts of Confessors and Martyrs received 5 at the other.

One of his main points in the discussion of music on the eve of the Reformation is how much of it survived. Organs narrowly missed being banned by one vote (in Parliament, I believe) and Elizabeth saved the choirs. As we consider late Medieval liturgy/music and the transition into the early Anglican experiment, the retention of music must be kept in mind.

Experiencing a Sarum Liturgy

The second part of Dr. Harper’s presentation was watching a video of a reconstruction of a Sarum service for the reconciliation of penitents. He asked us when we watched it to be aware of its effect on us from a few different angles. First, what does it mean to participate in a liturgy in a language we don’t understand but of which we know the general gist? Second, what is the lived impact of certain uses that seem boring on the page—like the prolonged recitation of the penitential psalms in plainsong—but may be more powerful in the experience?

The service was done at St Teilo’s, a church which is part of a Welsh museum, and which the Harpers (John’s wife is also a formidable scholar of medieval music and liturgy) and other scholars are using to learn more about the lived experience of medieval liturgy. Here’s a pdf of a paper on how liturgists might learn from it and some pointers on how a Sarum Mass might be done in this particular church.

Here’s at least a portion of the service we watched uploaded to YouTube. Jeremy Davies, precentor at Salisbury is serving as the priest, Dr. Harper is the second server.

I’ll put the next session in another post given the current length here…

American Sarum: Sunday Morning

I apologize for the significant delay in getting this out—most of my meager online time this week has been spent in the discussions at the Cafe…

The main event of Sunday morning was, of course, Mass at Christ Church, Bronxville according to their Sarum Use.

The difficulties with logistics came home to roost on Sunday morning. The hotel for the conference was a good fifteen to twenty minutes away from the church. With the number of people at the hotel, one shuttle was not sufficient for the number of attendees without cars. As a result, M and I had to go on the shuttle’s second trip and arrived late to the mass, coming in at the end of the Gloria. We started out seated in a side-aisle behind a pillar where we had no view at all of the chancel area but we moved during the offertory hymn to a spot in the nave where we could see what was going on.

Canon Davies preached the sermon—I quite liked it and thought he did a nice job weaving questions of identity and naming in the beginning of John with the I Am statements of that Gospel; others found it wordy and a bit diffuse.

Three points before I continue to the ceremonial:

  1. It was Mass; I was there to worship. As a result, I didn’t take notes and can’t draw out any schematics. What I am relating is what I can remember seeing based on where I was sitting. Other attendees with better views and/or memories should feel free to offer corrections!
  2. Dr. Percy Dearmer—by way of The Parson’s Handbook—is the best known and most authoritative proponent of the English Use. And that’s the term he uses: English Use. While much of the practices and principles are drawn from Sarum books, his goal was a synthesis of the tradition for his times that would preserve both the English and catholic heritage of the Church of England to be used in strict accordance with the rubrics of the authorized Prayer Book. At one point he writes: ” A great deal of harm has been done by the thoughtless use of the word ‘Sarum’ when the statements of the Prayer Book should have led us to the only exact word ‘English'” (PH 6th ed., 38). That the church identifies its use as Sarum suggests that it is in contact with Blessed Percy and his sources, but also that they are not full exponents of his English Use.
  3. I won’t (and can’t) go into detail on the history of the parish. However, it seems from the rector’s talk later in the day that the church had some early Dearmerite influence at its beginnings, and an influential clergy team later who introduced some aspects of the English Use. There was quite a gap, though, and the rector identified a number of ceremonial changes that he had made to make things more like they were before. As a result, I don’t know how long they have been doing things in the manner that I saw—I can only relate what was done on Sunday.

The service was a Rite II Holy Eucharist from the BCP. They used the high altar, celebrating eastward, which was appointed with riddel posts and riddels. Interestingly, the two angels holding the candles were facing each other rather than outward. There were three vested sacred ministers—the celebrant, deacon, and subdeacon—and the crucifer and thurifer both wore tunicles as well. All five had appareled amices, but I saw no appareling on the albs.  (Alb appareling is present in some of the recent photos in the parish books, though.)

These are the differences that I noticed from my Fortecue Anglo-Catholic parish:

  • There were no genuflections. (Dearmer insists on this.)
  • There was less incense than usual. While I thought I saw the top of the thurifer’s head in the gospel procession, I didn’t hear the pause-clank-pause of censing the book. After the censing of the altar—which the celebrant did alone—he pivoted then censed the choir and congregation with three long swings. Then the thurifer took back the thurible and censed him with three doubles. There was censing at the elevations. (Dearmer reserved censing for things not people and IIRC was against the notion of “double swings”)
  • At the Sursum Corda when the celebrant turned westward to speak to the people, the deacon and subdeacon on their respective steps turned to face each other (and the celebrant) in the “open position.” (I’m told this is a Dearmerite position but it’s not in the directions of the 6th ed. of the Parson’s Handbook; it could be a later concept.)
  • When the deacon and subdeacon lined up with the celebrant, it was always at the middle of the altar. I don’t recall seeing them line up together at either horn of the altar.
  • There were a few textual deviations from the BCP such as the inclusion of Ps 34:8 (“taste and see…”) after “Behold the lamb of God…” at the conclusion of the canon.
  • There was no offertory procession
  • The procession moved in the usual order (crucifer, torches, choir, clergy, celebrant last) as opposed to Dearmer’s order where the clergy are right after the torches and before the choir.

So, by my reckoning, the ceremonial of the parish was definitely catholic and had a fair amount of influence from Dearmer but was not wholly or strictly English Use. The most noticeable influence of English/Sarum custom was in the ornaments and vestments. An anglo-catholic like myself could point out a number of differences from “standard,” the most notable being the lack of genuflections. To an uninformed participant it would probably have seemed like a typical idiosyncratic anglo-catholic Mass.

The thing that surprised me the most wasn’t in the chancel, though. It was watching the congregation (those who weren’t there for the conference). Very few of them made manual gestures during the service; most exited the pew to receive the Sacrament with neither a bow nor genuflection. While the chancel action seemed standard catholic fare, I didn’t see much evidence of catholic practice in the pews. I don’t know if this relates to discontinuity in liturgical practice between rectors or other factors but the spirituality of the ceremonial did not appear to be present in the gathered body.

American Sarum: Saturday Afternoon

Session 3: Dr. Allan Doig: The Revival of the Sarum Rite in the Nineteenth Century: Liturgy, Theology & Architecture

Dr. Doig is from Oxford University and has published most recently in the field of liturgy and architecture. He began and ended his presentation with references to the Directorium Anglicanum. Published in 1858, this was the first work to advocate a recovery of Sarum rubrics and ceremonial for application to the Book of Common Prayer (English 1662). After presenting a bit about the Directorium itself and the—literal—trials of its author, the Rev. John Purchas, Dr. Doig described the situations in England that led up to it.

In the early nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. It brought great inequity between the rich and poor and caused major shifts in the population distribution of England. The lower classes were ill-served by the Established church and Non-conformism was on the rise. With the flood of people out of the country and into the cities, the church was caught flat-footed: there qere too many clergy in the rural areas and not nearly enough in the cities. Whereas the Established Churchneededboth houses of worship and clergy, the Baptists and Methodists were able to hire halls and provided lay preachers wherever a need arose.

In 1818, the government tried to address the problem by setting aside a million pounds for the building of 96 churches. A few years later the concept was replicated with a larger scope—but far fewer resources; half a million pounds were set aside for building 450 churches. The result was an architectural style referred to as “Commission Gothic” which was a thinly Gothicized preaching box. These measures helped, but didn’t solve the problem.

In 1833,the Tractarian movement kicked off with Keble’s preaching of the “National Apostacy” sermon. In the same year, A. W. Pugin conducted a tour of English architecture and churches. He connected the spread of modern architecture with a degradation in modern morals. Gothic architecture, on the other hand, had a higher moral structure literally built into it. The symbolism and encoded meanings built into Gothic architecture made it, Pugin believed, a greater vehicle for truth. He found the faith encoded in the Gothic buildings more compelling than what was being preached and, in 1834 as a result of his architectural study, Pugin joined the Roman Catholic Church. Conversely, he associated the lack of architectural integrity in the more recent church buildings with the failures of the Established Church. Perhaps in part because of his route into the Roman Catholic Church, Pugin’s Catholicism had much in common with a medieval, Sarum perspective—it was romantic, aesthetic, and was nurtured in an environment replete with meanings.  

The Tractarian Movement, on the other hand, was well under way in 1834. It had already penetrated to the rural regions and the Tracts for the Times were making their impact felt. The catholicity of the Tracts was rather different from what Pugin desired—he wished to see a return of medieval rite and ceremonial; the Tractarians had quite different goals. Nevertheless, there were some interesting intersections between the two.

John Henry Newman made his decision to swim the Tiber in 1845. Before leaving for studies in Rome, he attended the consecration of one of Pugin’s churches, St Giles, in 1846. He described the building in literally glowing terms. He called it the most splendid building that he had ever seen. Newman’s subsequent discovery of the Baroque cooled his enthusiasm for Pugin’s work. In later years when he preached at another of Pugin’s churches Newman found the altar too small for a proper Solemn High Mass, its tabernacle too small for a proper exposition, etc. Pugin and Newman butted heads on a number of occasions due to competing views on the liturgy and the architecture necessary for its performance. Pugin envisioned a medieval rite like Sarum; Newman, a Baroque Roman.

While the Oxford Movement spawn an Oxford society on architecture that offered advice on building churches in England and in the far-flung English colonies, the Cambridge Camden Society began the central architectural powerhouse of the mid nineteenth century. Founded by Benjamin Webb and John Mason Neale, their views were far more strident than those of the Oxford group. Articles in the Ecclesiologist called for a recovery of medieval practices for use with the prayer book. They wanted a more frequent and elaborate celebration of the Eucharist and were the first to point to the Ornaments Rubric and its importance. Not everyone agreed, however, and they faced significant persecution for their stances; Webb was inhibited for 16 years as a result of his ritualizing ways.

 The central medieval touchstone for the Cambridge Camden Society was the writings of Durandus of which they released a translation in 1843. Inspired by his work, the society promoted “architecture with an agenda.” They won and the Cambridge Camden Society, later known as the Ecclesiological Society , and its aesthetic concepts became the norm for Anglican church buildings. With the renewed vigor of the English Church through the Oxford and Cambridge Movements, some 4,000 churches were built or reconditioned between the 1830s and 1870s. The great majority of these followed the precepts of the society. While Pugin had converted to the Roman Church, he was not in principle a Romanist and shared much in common with the Ecclesiologists.

It is at this point—with the maturity of Pugin, with the success of the Ecclesiological Society—that Purchas’s Directorium Anglicanum appeared. The Directorium insisted that the rubrics of the BCP were incomplete as they stood—some other information was needed to complete them and that the answer lay in the pre-Reformation era. The section “Of Ceremonies” in the 1662 BCP gave some hints and nods towards late medieval practice, Purchas believed. As a result, the Directorium cites medieval precedents, appealing to contemporary Roman ceremonial when a medieval source could not be found. Whenever possible, though, he preferred a medieval Sarum source.

What the Directorium did was to give directions for ceremonial that fit the shape of the buildings that the Ecclesiologist Society had prepared. The shape was there—Purchas provided the ceremonial that worked in them. As a result, the Directorium became the main authority for rite and ceremony in the Church of England for the next half-century.

Session 4: Canon Jeremy Davies, Precentor of Salisbury Cathedral

This presentation is harder to describe because so much of it was based around the PowerPoint presentation of photographs of the liturgies from Salisbury Cathedral. As a result, I won’t be able to do it true justice in a written format.

He began with the question of how a diverse modern community inhabits, uses, and worships within a medieval building—how do they go about being good heirs of a medieval structure?  Peter Brook, an English theatre director, wrote against the newly rebuilt Coventry Cathedral—the building was constructed first, then the church considered how to use it. This is backwards: the ceremony has to come first.

In the medieval world, this was the case. The ceremony did come first and the cathedrals were built to enable and to shape it. When Richard Poore began the construction of the current cathedral at New Sarum, he brought more than a new ground plan; he had studied at the University of Paris and brought back the new theology, a new mindset, and the desire to create something innovative. Just as he brought back the new Scholastic theology, he brought the new Gothic architecture to replace the old monastic styles. The Sarum Rite was first of all rooted in the Roman Rite of the Western Church. While the Roman Rite progressively simplified, the Sarum Rite remained elaborate. [I believe this was a reference to the liturgical reforms along Franciscan lines eventually leading to Trent and the Tridentine forms but I’m not positive of that…] Poore knew that the ceremony had to come first and would dictate the shape of the space; he had the advantage of having experienced the Old Sarum cathedral first.

At this point, the presentation moved into a lengthy presentation of the conduct of the modern Easter Vigil in the Salisbury Cathedral space. Processions remain an important part of the liturgy at Salisbury and the Easter Vigil is no exception. The description that he gave seemed to show a negotiation between a medieval space and a standard Liturgical Renewal Movement ceremony (complete with a recently-added LRM fountain-style font that looks quite out of character with the rest of the building).  

 Cocktail Hour

The day concluded with cocktails at the nearby house of a member of the parish. The finger-foods were delicious , and the setting delightful. We met a number of interesting people, including a number of folks who read the blog, and caught up on doings back in Atlanta with Bishop Whitmore, the assisting bishop of the diocese.

American Sarum: Saturday Morning

Morning Prayer

The day’s events opened with a sung service of Morning Prayer. As you can imagine at a conference of Anglican musicians, the singing was wonderful. The psalms were well-chanted by all; standing in the midst of the congregation singing the hymn was a great experience. Morning Prayer occurred and God was duly worshipped.

It was a perfectly acceptable prayer book service, but I was confused at some of the choices made. The psalms were chanted with the cantor singing the first half of the verse and the congregation singing the second half—I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced that before and found it unusual. The canticle following the single reading was the Te Deum. While I would have chosen the Benedictus on principle, the Te Deum is a perfectly legitimate choice—but the Suffrages were set A. Our current Suffrage B is the set that the West has historically appended to the Te Deum. The ’79 BCP detatched them from the Canticle and appointed them as an option, making them the natural choice when the Te Deum is used.

The combination of these choices made me wonder—if the conference is on American Sarum, why not do a more Sarum-style Office? Why not use the Benedictus, and if the Te Deum is used, why not use the suffrages sung with it at Salisbury? Why not use Sarum practice in chanting the psalms? The implication is that the Sarum Use is exclusively a Mass use. And it may be at this particular church—I haven’t seen any references to public Offices. But it needn’t be and shouldn’t be; a use that consciously engages the Sarum tradition is missing a significant piece of that tradition if it omits the Offices.

Session I: Fr. Unterseher

The first session was by Fr. Cody Unterseher, a priest associate of the parish who is finishing a PhD in Liturgics at Notre Dame, and a member of the Pray Tell blogging team. This session was focused around the notion that, contrary to the oft-repeated parish phrase, no—we haven’t always done it that way. Thus, as a theory-based introduction to the conference as a whole, it served as a reminder that there has always been diversity in Christian liturgy. Drawing on the work of Paul Bradshaw and others, Fr. Unterseher noted that discontinuity is as much a feature in Christian liturgy as continuity. No—we haven’t always done it that way. While I do have some quibbles with some of his historical points—particularly around what level of continuity did exist and an overly hasty dismissal of the Ornaments Rubric—the presentation did a good job of introducing non-specialists to the legitimate discontinuities in the liturgical past. The purpose of this historical introduction was make the point that discontinuities are not uncommon in our liturgical record—and we now live in a situation of much change and turbulence. We should’t let how we’ve done thing in the past hold us back from what we could be doing and how we can leverage our historical resources to help us in this new situation.

Session 2: Dr. John Harper

This session was one of the reason I came to this conference and Dr. Harper did not disappoint. In a fast-paced and data-rich hour, Dr. Harper walked us through the key points grounding the medieval Use of Sarum. He began by reminding us that there was a clear and distincive Ecclesia Anglicana that authorized the Sarum Use between 1534-1549. During this fifteen-year period between Henry the 8th’s definitive break with Rome and the introduction of the first Book of Common Prayer, England was a church apart from papal domination that authorized the Sarum Use as the official use of the realm. Homing in on the word “Use,” he challenged the typical protestant equation of Use with texts and suggested that we gain a fuller sense of the term is we understand a Use to be the confluence of:

  • Materials—both texts and objects
  • People—both as offices held by individuals and the personalities who inhabit those offices
  • Place—meaning both a geographical location and the normative worship spaces
  • Time—used in a general periodic sense but also referring to the local sense specific to a day and place

He then explicated these four factors with a wealth of detail and a fantastic set of slides which included the two cathedral sites at Old and New Sarum and the major stages in the construction of New Sarum. This was coupled with a discussion of the major individuals—mostly bishops—who saw the growth and expansion of Sarum and how the community of canons likewise grew until it reached a stabilized number of 52 canons on a quarterly rotation in New Sarum.

Regarding the spread of the Sarum Use he noted that it was one of the earliest coherently codified Uses in England; due to the cathedral’s shift to New Sarum and Richard Poore’s compilation of the customary and ordinal for the new building, Sarum offered a clearly defined system which other dioceses could borrow for use and adaptation. Furthermore, Sarum Use was frequently adopted by parishes in diocese which retained a monastic cathedral. Since parishes couldn’t use monastic uses without significant adaptation, the secular Sarum Use was a natural substitute for writing/compiling their own.

Dr. Harper’s final point was to return to the concept of a Use as something very much more than just a text. Medieval liturgy was very much a “sensory polyphony” where a variety of sights were overlaid by a variety of sounds and a variety of smells. Texts, actions and movements were also layered with the various parts of the worshipping body participating in different activities at the same time and only coming together at the main cofluences of the liturgy like the Great Elevations.

We were left with a sense of the wealth and richness of the liturgical environment and the possibilities that existed for us in appropriating even a bit of these for our current context.

Englishing Sarum

Time and leisure being what they are, this post will be far more a set of pointers than a properly-researched orderly exposition. I’ll loop back and hit Late Sarum later—I think it more important for the purposes of the coming American Sarum conference to consider a key step in the Sarum story: its leap to the modern day.

I choose the somewhat unwieldy “Englishing” quite deliberately because I want to highlight two of its sense, both of which are fully at play. The first is that, for the Sarum materials to have an impact on the England the America of the modern day, they had to leave the language of Latin and enter the tongue of English. This is the simplest meaning of the term.

However, something else is going on here as well. As a recent commenter pointed out in regard to another topic, you can never go back again. Bringing something forward from a past time into a present gives it a whole new set of meanings based on the new context, how the present context views the past, and the purposes and ideologies involved in selecting and reviving this particular slice of the past (and not others). There was a very deliberate program of “Englishing” at work in the 19th century revival of Sarum.

One of the key movements in 19th century, particularly Victorian, England was Gothic Revival. This was a confluence on romanticism, medievalism, and nationalism that found expression in a variety of ways. The term is most commonly associated with architecture, but it stands at the heart of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) and became a major cultural force.

Pause for a moment to consider King Arthur. Unless you’re a trained medievalist, your chief exposure to King Arthur and the Round Table is fundamentally rooted in Gothic Revival forms of romanticized medievalism lavishly illustrated by some of the great painters produced by the philosophy of the PRB. Tennyson’s Idylls of the King is a classic example of how these movements filtered into the broader English consciousness.

Catholic expressions of Anglicanism (i.e., Anglo-Catholics and other folks) typically trace themselves back to the Oxford Movement—and this is correct in a general theological way. The Oxford Movement was not Anglo-Catholic, though, and readers of the Tracts are often surprised at the amount of weight given to topics like bishops and the relationship between Church and State rather than ritual or ceremonial. The movement that had more impact on the daily practice and perception of the Church of England was the Cambridge Movement which birthed the Cambridge Camden Society which would become the Ecclesiological Society and exerted a disproportionate influence on how churches were built, decorated, and appointed. The Cambridge Camden Society, founded by Blessed John Mason Neale and comrades, was explicitly and fundamentally medievalist in orientation. The majority of Neale’s hymns are translations of medieval texts and even his original compositions—like Good King Wenceslaus—are medieval in character.

It’s within this context that a renewed interest in Sarum sources began. If you check back to the previous post on editions, you’ll note that the Victorian period—the second half of the 19th century—is when the publishing really took off. Because of the ideologies surrounding the revival, “Victorian Sarum” is both more and less than “historical Sarum.” Translations and syntheses of “Sarum” practice became an odd amalgamation of 1) historical sources, 2) contemporary Roman Catholic practice, and 3) the authors’ fancy. The balance of these three components varies by author and by work, some being more grounded, some being more fanciful.

Sarum becomes a cypher for a host of things. Sarum becomes directly equated with English. Thus other regional uses like Hereford, Lincoln, Exeter, and York were both plundered for raw material when there were Sarum gaps, and were downplayed in order to keep Sarum front and center. (Christopher, Pfaff’s chapter 14 is entitled “Regional Uses and local variety” and covers the English non-Sarum material quite well.)  When Sarum is equated to English then it was given a natural antithesis: Roman. Now, a more objective view will recognize that in the heyday of the Sarum Use there was no strictly “Roman Use.” The sense I get from what little I do know of late medieval Continental uses is that many of them had their own local customs and traditions. There was no monolithic “Roman” practice from which Sarum diverged, and it was probably as unique as its neighbors. My sense is that when Rome did move to standardize, it relied on the liturgical uses of the mendicant orders—particularly the Franciscans because the orders were already trans-regional (due to the whole “wandering” bit implied in “mendicant”).

Thus, if you wanted to espouse catholic practices but still keep a certain distance from Roman Catholicism and all that stood for in pre-Victorian and Victorian England, an appeal to “Sarum” was your key. It was both medieval and catholic but conceptually not Roman Catholic. It was native and English, and not a foreign imposition. Too, there’s the “Ornaments Rubric” which deserves a massive post of its own for the role it played—or was given to play—in grandfathering in Sarum appointments and ceremonial.

There’s quite a lot more to say here. Actually, there are probably several book-length studies that could written here. I don’t know if any have and would love to hear if you know of any…

In any case, given the current concerns, I want to point to just three resources. These are what I consider to be the three central works on Sarum/English ceremonial from the end of the 19th century and that have done the most to create what is referred to variable as the Sarum or English Use:

  • Vernon Staley’s Ceremonies of the English Church
  • W. H. Frere’s Principals of Religious Ceremonial
  • Percy Dearmer’s Parson’s Handbook

Each of these is available for download from Google Books and each deserves a post in their own right.

The Solidification of Sarum

Ok, back to Sarum and picking up Richard Pfaff’s The Liturgy in Medieval England where we left off at chapter 11 (“New Sarum and the spread of Sarum Use”).

Pfaff lays down at the start that, contrary to the previous block, we have a partial map for this period; while we have no secure starting place, we do have a more definite ending place:

Two hundred or so years later [after the change from Old Sarum to New with the new cathedral in 1225 and after], by the end of the fourteenth century, a high degree of both elaboration an standardization seems to have been reached, and the very full rubrics which reflect what we study as the New Ordinal are widely copied into missals. When books with unambiguous titles like Missale as usum insignis et praeclarae ecclesiae Sarum begin to be printed at the end of the fifteenth (the two earliest are 1487 and 1492), the relevant material from ordinals has been thoroughly incorporated into the text of the missal. (Pfaff, 365).

This chapter shoots to establish what picture we can establish around the year 1290. By this time, the cathedral has been established for well over a half-century, the main recognizably “Sarum” sanctoral occasions have been added to the kalendar, and we have some actual manuscript sources from which to work.

Richard Poore, dean of the Old Sarum cathedral from 1197 (succeeding his brother Herbert who had been elected bishop) later bishop of Chichester (1214-1217) then of Salisbury (1217-1237, again succeeding his brother), both shepherded the move to New Sarum directed in 1218 and appears to have been responsible for codifying the new practice in conjunction with his dean, William de Waude (precentor from 1218, dean 1220-1245).

In his tentative reconstruction of the period, after going through quite a bit of technical data, Pfaff sketches a helpful overview of the time from Old Sarum to the end of the fourteenth century and the Risby text printed by Frere. Old Sarum probably started out with a Gregorian + Young Gelasian missal like the Leofric missal with similar adaptations for a secular context. “The ordinary would likewise have contained no striking divergences in wording from that used elsewhere throughout the kingdom—or, for that matter, in most of western Europe—and would have been supplied with a minimum of ceremonial rubrics, if any at all” (Pfaff, 384). So—our starting place with Osmund and Old Sarum is what I’m used to from my early medieval days, a regular mixed missal and the Romano-German Pontifical for directions.

By the middle of the twelfth century, two changes occurred: a growth and formalization of the cathedral chapter (so, more folks and a more hierarchical arrangement of them [i.e., the “rulers” for the choir?]) and a revision of the massbooks at the cathedral containing more extensive and elaborate rubrics. Thus, in William de Waude’s 1220 visitation (before New Sarum, remember), he speaks of “new” massbooks and “old” massbooks reflecting the slow spread of the Old Sarum revision filtering into the parish churches of the diocese.

With the move to New Sarum and, consequently, new spaces and dedications to new saints, a revision of the Old Sarum revision was necessary. The completion of this revision and its attending customary and ordinal is what we now consider to be a distinctly identifiable “Sarum Use” and began to be referenced as such by the directives of other bishops.

This period should probably be brought to a close by the year 1319 in which the feast of the relics of Salisbury was officially changed; it had been on September 15th—not a good day as it’s the Octave of the Nativity of the BVM—and was changed to the Sunday after the Translation of Becket (July 7th). This shift will become a key litmus test later on for answering the “Sarum or Not” question.

So, at the end of this stage, our direct evidence are the missals printed by Legg, the Consuetudinary and the Ordinal printed by Frere (but not the Customary…), and the two mass ordinaries with some ceremonial directions in Legg’s Tracts on the Mass.

Pfaff’s next chapter looks at the work of Bishop Grandison of Exeter (1327-69) who uses and adapts Sarum for his own purposes and is quite interesting for how Sarum was used as a base from which to make further changes in the fourteenth century. It’s really cool stuff (for a liturgy geek) but not directly relevant to the over-all condensed Sarum story which is what I’m trying to present here. Thus, I’ll pick up next time with his chapter 13.

Editing Sarum: 19th Century Scholarship on Sarum Materials

Before we continue much further in the discussion of Sarum history, we need to take a quick survey of the texts themselves. The key issue, of course, is that most interested parties approach the Sarum materials not through the manuscripts but through the printed editions. Most of these were done in the latter half of the nineteenth century by British Anglican scholars with an agenda, but that doesn’t suggest that the scholarship is faulty—it simply means that we ought to be aware that the agenda exists. In this post we’ll consider the Latin texts. English-language editions are part of the later story which we’ll save till then…

Mass Texts (in order of publication)

  • F. H. Dickson, Missale ad usum insignis et praeclara ecclesia Sarum: Published in fascicles from 1861 through 1885, this was the first attempt to print the Latin text of the Sarum Missal. Perhaps ironically, it printed the latest representatives of the Sarum Use—Dickson used no manuscripts for his text, but instead relies upon the printed Sarum Missals (Pfaff notes 47 printings between 1487 and 1534 with an additional six during the Marian restoration). Thus, Dickson’s text represents the full-blown Sarum Use as it appeared just before the development of the Prayer Book.
  • W. G. Henderson, Processionale ad usum insignis ac praeclara ecclesia Sarum: From 1882, this is an edition of the processions and various texts associated with them that supplement the missal. Henderson edited these from several sources, most notably two printed editions: the first printed edition from 1508 and the second done in 1517. He says concerning that these two “appear to be clearly the most correct, and fortunately they are quite independent of each other” (Henderson, vi). I’m not sure here what “quite independent” means, not having perused the text, but it does give one pause! He’d also done some partial collations with later printed editions and with three manuscripts, a 14th century, and early 15th, and a late 15th. 
  • W. H. Frere, Graduale Sarisburiense: a Reproduction in Facsimile of a Manuscript of the Thirteenth Century [No download due to a 1966 reprint]: First published in 1894, this is a gradual rather than a missal but makes reference to the “missing” missal parts. Based on the evidence it becomes clear that it is a very early manuscript—between 1203 and 1220—and the missal with which it is partnered both pre-dates New Sarum and contains references to a pre-New Sarum customary.
  • W. H. Frere, The Use of Sarum: The Original Texts Edited from the Manuscripts (vol 1); The Use of Sarum: The Original Texts Edited from the Manuscripts (vol 2): The first volume came out in 1898, the second in 1901. When the term “Sarum” is generally used in liturgical circles, the reference cannot fail to include this book whether directly or indirectly. What Frere gives us in these two volumes is the Sarum “rules of the road.” This work is both important enough and complicated enough to be discussed below in broader detail.
  • J. W. Legg, Tracts on the Mass: Published in 1904 as volume 27 of the Henry Bradshaw Society, this book is a compilation of a number of ordinaries with ceremonial directions for Mass that Legg had collected. There are some French and Dominican materials here along with English texts. The key Sarum items include a 14th century Ordinary (from the Morris Missal), a list of manuscript Sarum Missals known at that time,  and—at the very end—the 13th century ordinary from the Crawford Missal. These will be discussed below especially in relation to Frere’s Use of Sarum.
  • J. W. Legg, The Sarum Missal, edited from Three Early Manuscripts: Published in 1916, this is the first collated edition based on the earliest manuscripts of the Sarum Missal. Legg’s base text is the Crawford Missal, the earliest complete Sarum manuscript. The other two are from just before and just after 1300. So, published thirty years later, this edition reflects the state of the Sarum missal some two hundred years before what is printed in Dickson. Nevertheless, the evidence it gives is past the period of “beginnings” and is after the establishment of the cathedral at New Sarum. It can’t tell us about the origins of the Sarum Rite, but does provide witness for its practice in the High Middle Ages.

First, note the dates on the missal publications: the historically later missals were printed first, the historically earlier ones were printed last. The latter point is perhaps the most important as it means that all of the compilation of the customaries and ordinaries were not done with ready reference to the earliest forms of the text. This may, in part, explain some of the confusion since there was indeed confusion…

Second,  Frere’s Use of Sarum is a key book that requires closer examination. Pfaff notes that it “is almost impenetrably difficult to use” (Pfaff, 373). [I’m glad he said this—I thought it was just me!] The two volumes contain four main texts which Frere entitles the Consuetudinary, the Customary, the Ordinal, and the Tonary. The Tonary is the simplest—it gives the psalm/canticle tones. The next three are more complicated. Frere explains the difference this way: “…the Ordinal defines the character, contents, and method of the Services while the consuetudinary defines the persons who are to conduct them; in other words, the Ordinal deals with the Rite, and the Consuetudinary with the Ceremonial” (Frere, II.vii). That’s clear enough. However, Frere attempts to describe the Customary as an intermediate term between the two:

The Customary seems to be based entirely on the Consuetudinary; . . . to this there are joined some further additions not drawn from the Consuetudinary, which may be taken either as ‘general rubrics’ and therefore supplementary to the Ordinal, or as additional liturgical customs and therefore supplementary to the Consuetudinary. The Customary is thus a link between the two. (Frere, I.xi-xii)

There are two problems here. The first is, according to Pfaff, the Consuetudinary and the Customary are properly differentiated by time and not by genre. The Customary is later than the Consuetudinary. The second, is that Frere has committed contextual damage with his arrangement: the base texts of both the Ordinal and the Consuetudinary come from the same manuscript. Here’s Pfaff to clear things up:

What is printed on pages 1-207 of [Frere’s] second volume as “Ordinale Sarum” is, with very considerable elisions, the Risby ordinal (BL Harley 1001) text—without folio references. In that manuscript folios 1-83 contain the office ordinal, 84-116 that for the mass, and 117-55 the consuetudinary (as described above). So in printing the first two sections of this manuscript in his volume II and the third in volume I Frere has split his main witness: one which, though apparently the earliest surviving of its kind, was in any case written in the early fourteenth century, several decades into the story we are trying to trace here, and belonging to a parish church in Suffolk, a long way from Salisbury. (Pfaff, 374)

So, at the end of the day, Pfaff dates the roots of the consuetudinary to the last period of Old Sarum, between 1173 and before 1220, but finds the Risby Ordinal to be from about a century later as it “represents practices codified for the new cathedral” (Pfaff, 376).  The point here isn’t to try and pick up the historical narrative again, rather it’s to show the complicated and convoluted state of the sources as we have received them and which we’re still in the process of trying to figure out despite more than a century of additional work since these first editions were made.

Now it’s time to turn to the “Ordinal” for a second (remember, the ordinal is how to fit the service books together, not the ceremonial) . We begin with Pfaff’s emphatic statement: “no manuscript witness to what can fairly be characterized as a Sarum ordinal dates from earlier than the fourteenth century” (Pfaff, 379). The two items in Legg’s Tracts on the Mass supplement what appears in Frere’s volume II and reveal some further differences in the evolution of the Rite. The most important is the fact that Legg’s ordinal from the Crawford Missal has some minor differences from what is preserved in the Risby text. Pfaff concludes from these that “it is plain that the missal with which the Risby rubrics correspond is of a strain somewhat independent of the three edited or collated by Legg” (Pfaff, 380). The pay-off is that, once again, the evidence and therefore the Sarum story is more complicated than it may first appear.

The next issue is that Frere prints only the “Old Ordinal” and not the “New Ordinal” on the grounds that the New Ordinal is the text incorporated into the later printed missals and, since they have been reproduced so many times, they are not worth collating and printing together. The real shame here is when we realize (by way of Pfaff’s comments, of course [414]) that the New Ordinal is the Ordinal text in the four sources from which Frere edited his “Customary”; the Customary and the New Ordinal are complimentary documents but we’re unable to view them that way in Frere’s text!

Office Texts

To clarify just how useful these printed editions are to bringing order to the wild world of Sarum breviaries, I’ll turn it over entirely to Pfaff:

With few exceptions, it is next to impossible to state exactly what the totality of the Sarum office is for any specific day. [While the structure is fairly stable, the rubrics, contents, and texts themselves show an increasing state of flux.] In short, anything like a critical edition, in the sense of one which establishes a base text and records variants from it, is with the breviaries that concern us almost a contradiction in terms. (Pfaff, 429).

With a situation like this, the need for something like Maydeston becomes that much more important since in his day the clergy were working from these manuscripts rather than printed versions.

So—to summarize as briefly as possible, the access to Sarum Mass materials are in a far better state than the Office. We have printed versions that shed light on both our earliest surviving (Legg) and latest (Dickson) missals. On the Office side, there is one major representative(Procter and Wordsworth) which is just that—representative—and which can not and should not be regarded as “The” Sarum Office but an example of “A” late Sarum Breviary.

On The Sarum Rite: Beginnings

Let me begin with a disclaimer… My area of study is, broadly, the lived interpretation of the New Testament as it appears in preaching, Christian formation, and liturgy. While I have an interest and a certain expertise in medieval liturgy, my major encounter with the sources has focused on English, pre-Conquest monastic liturgies with a special focus on the Office (and, naturally, later Anglican develo0pments). Most of the following discussion will be about the Sarum Rite/Use (we’ll tackle that “/” later) which is an English post-Conquest secular tradition, largely focused around the Mass. Thus, my tendency is to read the later sources through what I know of the earlier sources rather than the other way around.

Indeed, one of the things I’ve never fully understood about the Sarum Rite is where it came from and how it differs from the pre-Conquest missals that I’ve studied. That is, from the texts of the missals themselves (i.e., leaving aside the complicated questions of ceremonial), what emerges at Trent doesn’t seem all that different from a book like the Missal of Robert of Jumieges, the central exemplar of the Late Anglo-Saxon Benedictine Revival. Where do the differences appear that make “Sarum” distinctive from both its English precursors and its later continental parallels?

That’s precisely where Richard Pfaff starts in Chapter 10 of The Liturgy of Medieval England: A History which is entitled “Old Sarum: The beginnings of Sarum Use.” I’m not going to follow his argument closely for the sake of clarity, but here are some of the major take-aways that I found in this chapter.

First, it’s important to keep at the forefront of our minds that such a thing as the “Sarum Use” is a synthetic abstraction. We can’t imagine people all across Southern England using the same colors, ceremonial, practices, and liturgies in lock-step with one another. Economics, technology, and local circumstances make this impossible. That is, you can’t imagine that a little parish church had the same vestments, participants, and space that the cathedral at Salisbury did. A wealthy church would have more vestments and, presumably, more and newer books than a poorer one. Furthermore, churches dedicated to certain saints or containing certain relics would need different liturgies from others. Just because a Salisbury altar consecrated to a certain saint received a special liturgy wouldn’t mean that liturgy would be performed in another church without such an altar. So, what is “Sarum” is defined as a set of customs and characteristics that generally hold among a set of practices and books. And then there’s the factor of how these items change or don’t change over time which is an entirely other can of worms…

Second, (speaking of time) it’s important to recognize the effects of both time and liturgical space in attempting to wrap our heads around Sarum practice. Strictly and narrowly defined, “Sarum” refers to the books and practices of the Salisbury diocese as archetypically represented in the books and practices of the cathedral of said diocese. And that’s a moving target. In one of the main synthetic narratives of what Sarum is and isn’t is the suggestion that Sarum Use in its totality—books, rubrics, colors, vestments, what have you—was codified by one guy, Richard Poore, at one time, 1225, at one place, Salisbury Cathedral. Unfortunately, as Pfaff lays out, it doesn’t work like that; this simplistic narrative simply can’t account for the actual historical evidence.

There are some important factors in terms of time and place, however. Generally speaking, the Norman Conquest of England from 1066 on was a turning point. While Norman influence had been building in the second quarter of the eleventh century, William the Bastard brought a sea change in the way church establishment was done from the Late Anglo-Saxon ways. At the end of my period, the Benedictine Revival (970 and forward) had seen the transformation of cathedrals into monastic rather than secular foundations. So—all the clergy hanging around were monks rather than canons. With the Conquest there were literal “see” changes; diocesan centers were moved to different towns within their territory and Norman churchmen usually replaced the previous Anglo-Saxon incumbents.

(Think of state capitals on the eastern seaboard of the US—most of them are, now days—fairly minor cities within their states; population and business centers have shifted over the years. Same thing there. The centers of old Anglo-Saxon diocese didn’t meet the needs and geography of the new Norman realm so they were moved to fit the new landscape.)

Also, the Norman churchmen returned to the more normal pattern of having secular canons at cathedrals rather than monks.

Thus, the old Anglo-Saxon diocese had its cathedral at Sherborne with a monastic community. After the Conquest, the see was moved to Old Sarum around 1075 and established with canons. Then, the see was moved to its present location at Salisbury (New Sarum) in around 1225. What we consider Sarum was finalized in the new cathedral but was begun beforehand at Old Sarum.

Third, in terms of the change from the Anglo-Saxon materials into Sarum materials we can see three major influences. One is monastic. Despite the move away from Sherborne and the establishment of canons, there may be what Pfaff calls a “shadowy” monastic influence particularly in the ceremonial going by the testimony of English additions to a Old Sarum copy of the Romano-German Pontifical (the major ceremonial guide used by the early medieval church). The second is the establishment of canons themselves. A set number of priests meant something both for how many participants there could be in liturgy and how many altars the church could have. Last is the example of Leofric C. The Leofric Missal is one from my period which contains three distinctive parts, A, B, and C. A and B are earlier monastic Anglo-Saxon/Breton texts. Leofric C reflects the efforts of Leofric, Bishop of Exeter, and his updating of the book to reflect his secular situation. Something similar must have happened with the Sherborne/Old Sarum liturgies—we just have no evidence of what they started with and exactly what happened when.

What we can say is that distinctively Sarum saints and rubrics appear in the Sarum gradual from between 1200 and 1220, but the earliest surviving missal, the Crawford Missal) is from sometime around 1275 or so. Furthermore, the earliest reference to a Sarum customary also seems to predate both the foundation of Salisbury Cathedral and our oldest missal. Thus, Pfaff concludes the chapter with “this tentative, simple, and indeed obvious conclusion: that there existed a self-conscious Sarum liturgical tradition well before either the new cathedral at Salisbury was begun in 1220 or the ‘Old’ Sarum ordinal was drawn up” (Pfaff, 364).