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.

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