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.

2 thoughts on “The Solidification of Sarum

  1. Pingback: Continuing Sarum | English Catholic

  2. Christopher


    I have yet to purchase this work, though it is on my list. Does he address other Isles uses? I think of Hereford and Bangor, for example. Sarum tends to get sometimes undue attention (many sources go into our Prayer Book) as if it were the only distinctly Isles Use and I think this is unfortunate as it can lead to an assumption of a more regularized (distinct from uniform) set of prayer practices than was the case.

    I know you have raised this matter as well in the past, but related to this is the things we simply cannot know or can only know in part because liturgical texts are at best liturgical debris and not actual liturgical happenings. Postures, gestures, colors, dress, all those things of flesh we can only know at best in part from art, descriptions, and rubrics and yet these too are not only formational, often demonstrating distinctives of local traditions (if not piety), but preventing us from perhaps ever knowing how various were practices. I am reminded, for example, that black was the earlier color for Advent and Lent, but due to necessity and perhaps tastes, blue and purple ease into use and our imaginations. And blue and purple say different things culturally and scripturally from black.

    That what you have quoted from Pfaff suggests that he makes modest, tentative, and partial conclusions as well as broken-open claims tells me of a wise historian of liturgy.

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