Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Processions of Sarum and the Western Church

In the Autumn of 2007 I had mentioned an on-demand reprint that was being offered by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (PIMS) in Toronto, Canada, that of Terence Bailey's study, The Processions of Sarum and the Western Church, originally published in 1971 by the press of PIMS. (Terence Bailey has also published The Ambrosian Alleluias, Ambrosian Cantus and Antiphons of the Ambrosian Office -- not to mention other chant studies.)

I happened to be at the Pontifical Institute shortly after this announcement came out, though sadly at the time they had sold out of their shelf copies.

This might have been fortuitous however, as I managed to find a very nice cloth hardcover edition of the original 1971 PIMS publication. I know there was some interest expressed in this title -- as there always is whenever the Sarum use comes up it seems -- and so I wanted to detail a bit of what I have seen in the book, based upon a quick browse of it. As this will be my first introduction to the work of Terence Bailey, I cannot comment upon him as a researcher and the perspective he brings to his research at this point.

The book is subdivided into two sections. Part one, which encompasses the first 78 pages of the book, focuses upon the Sarum practice of processionals, the form of those processions, the occasions for the processions, the chants and prayers that accompanied them (including chant scores), and developments in the customs at Salisbury. This includes a listing and description of the relevant manuscripts and libraries which hold copies of Sarum processionals. What will be of most interest however are the ceremonial descriptions of the Sarum processions, from those which were most typical, to those used for more solemn occasions. This presents an interesting picture of the liturgical life and form of the Sarum use.

Part two is a 100 page section on processions generally in the Western Church.

The appendices are also quite interesting, particularly the second appendix which includes a large selection of 16th century "woodcuts illustrating the stations which appeared in the editions of 1502 and following." These are symbolic diagrams that show the placement of acolytes, thurifers, clergy, crucifers and so on in the liturgical context of the Salisbury use.

An example that might be of some interest is that which shows the order for the blessing of the candles on the feast of the Purification (Candlemas):

The reason I have picked this example is because we actually have a tangible point of visual comparison:

While the image is not terribly clear (being a still taken from an amateur recording of the Catholic celebration of the Sarum use in Merton College on the Feast of the Purification ten years ago -- Fr. Sean Finnegan was the celebrating priest) it shows the arrangement of the three crucifers (the cross of borne by the tunicled crucifer in the middle is harder to make out but is there), the two acolytes (the leftmost acolyte is not visible but there), the two thurifers (again, the leftmost thurifer is not visible in this image) and the priest to the right for the blessing of the candles just as the 16th century woodcut above shows.

What makes this topic of particular interest is that it is elements such as processions, and more elaborate ceremonial generally, which were characteristic of the use of Salisbury and gave it some of its liturgical distinctiveness.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Very striking in the Sarum Use is the elaborate splendour of the accompanying ceremonial, which contrasts vividly with the comparative simplicity of Roman practice. Three, five, seven deacons and as many subdeacons, two or more thurifers, three cross-bearers and so on are often prescribed or at least contemplated. Two or four priests vested in copes, termed Rectores Chori or Rulers of the Choir, presided over the sacred chants. There was censing of many altars, and even during the reading of the Lections at Matins priests in their vestments offered incense at the high altar. Processions were frequent, and that preceding the High Mass on Sundays was specially magnificent. (Source)

This book then seems to give us a nice insight into this aspect of Sarum liturgical life -- and not only Sarum liturgical life, but even Western liturgical life more generally.

It looks like a study that will be of interest to liturgical historians, ceremonialists and musicologists alike.

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