Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Introducing the Use of Esztergom and the Monumenta Ritualia Hungarica

While in Budapest recently for a liturgical conference, I had the pleasure of meeting a young liturgical scholar, Miklós István Földváry, who works closely with Professor László Dobszay. This Hungarian liturgical scholar has been doing much work in relation to the Ritus Strigoniensis or use of Esztergom -- a Hungarian variant of the Roman rite.

Recently, Dr. Földváry notified the NLM about the forthcoming publication of two critical editions related to the use of Esztergom: the 1484 Missale Strigoniense and the Ordinarius Strigoniensis, forming a part of a new liturgical series: Monumenta Ritualia Hungarica. The edition of the Missal is due out in approximately one month's time and the Ordinarius is expected to be published in February or March 2009. These are published under the direction of Professor Balázs Déri -- chief editor of the Hungarian sacred music quarterly "Magyar Egyházzene". (At this moment I can provide no details as to where the books will be able to be purchased from, but the NLM will provide this once more is known.)

It is worth noting that this series will find the original texts in their Latin form, but the introductions and notes will themselves be in the English language. The reason for this is because these scholars wish to make their own regional use better known amongst liturgical scholars and others generally. A noble enterprise.

Dr. Földváry has sent along to the NLM a copy of one of the introductory chapters of the critical edition to the Missale. Because of its length, I will directly post only a few excerpts below, but the full chapter may be read here: The Use of Esztergom.

With that, a few excerpts.

The Use of Esztergom (Ritus Strigoniensis)

The Latin liturgy lived in many variants in the Middle Ages. With respect to their character and history of development, we may distinguish two major periods, and accordingly two principal types of ritual variants. The first group comprises the ritual variants dating to the period prior to the process of Romanisation at first supported and later commanded by the Carolingian rulers, the second includes the post-Carolingian variants which were later discontinued in the wake of the Council of Trent.

The so-called old Latin liturgies, belonging to the first group, developed in connection with particular cities or regions and synchronically to each other, thus there are fundamental structural differences between them. Among these we may list the Beneventan, Mozarabic, Gallican, Ambrosian liturgies, and the rite of the City of Ro­me (this latter is called old Roman in order to distinguish it from the general label “Roman”, usually applied to the later forms of Western liturgies).

To the second group belong the individual variants of the so-called Franko-Ro­man liturgy. The original intention of the Carolingian rulers and their commissioned liturgical experts was undoubtedly to appropriate the old Roman liturgy as faithfully as possible, and they intended to make its well-regulated and unchanged observance mandatory in the entire Frankish empire. Total uniformity, however, proved to be impossible to accomplish for two reasons. On the one hand, the old Roman liturgy of the 8th century was not fully defined and unified, and its interaction with the Transalpine regions had already begun by that time. Thus from the beginning the commissioned experts encountered an heterogeneous old Roman tradition, and they identified several differences between the earlier and the later elements of this tradition. On the other hand, the austere, almost puritanical character of the old Roman li­tur­gy seemed somewhat foreign to the inhabitants of the Transalpine regions, and its adoption would have required the abandonment of many widespread customs, texts, gestures that were considered important components of the liturgical taste of Gallican and Germanic spirituality. In this situation, the Carolingian experts felt compelled, despite their original intentions, to use the available material somewhat creatively, although their activity was marked by venerable moderation. Since their construction consisted mostly of different old Roman elements enriched by many non-Roman ad­di­tions, the result of their redactive efforts may with good reason be called Franko-Ro­man. This liturgy, though it lived in many variants, was structurally uniform, which can­not be said of the old Latin liturgies. Its texts, melodies, and ceremonies were ta­ken from one common fund.


Un­til today liturgical historians have not placed due emphasis on the post-Caro­lin­gian ritual variants. Particular traditions have been treated as some kind of curiosity and mostly from the point of view of local or national history. Thus for a long time the­re was no attempt to treat these ritual variants systematically and the occasional inquiries did not reflect upon the very essence of the phenomenon. Studies typically focu­sed on the most unusual ceremonies, and other than this, the liturgical scholars only identified the calendar, especially with reference to the sanctoral cycle, as the bearer of the regional character.

In terms of this outlook, it was not liturgical history strictly speaking, but musico­lo­gy that resulted in a breakthrough. From the very beginning the study of the Gregorian melodic repertory was inseparable from the study of the liturgical texts. After the Gradual (the sung items of the Mass) which is rather uniform in this regard, the attention of scholars turned to the textual choices of the Antiphonal (the sung items of the Divine Office). Soon it became obvious – to a great extent as a result of the research of medieval Hungarian music – that the post-Carolingian ritual variants were actually more securely and more manifestly identifiable based on the choice and order of items within the temporal cycle, although previously it was assumed to be uniform.


Thus the following could be determined about the Hungarian Office-tradition and through it about the whole rite: it possesses some characteristics that are applicable to the entirety of the Hungarian tradition, but cannot be found in their totality in any other tradition. These characteristics have parallels all over Europe, but do not indicate any single direction. This proves that the Hungarian liturgy does not appear either partially or as a whole to be the adoption of any foreign tradition. Its structu­re is characterised by different strata of traditions whose relationship is best described in a hierarchical arrangement.

The entire Hungarian tradition is sometimes called the Esztergom use (ritus Strigoniensis), after the primatial see of the country. Its central and best documented variant is the actual use of Esztergom, whose purest representatives are Esztergom itself, Buda, with insignificant changes Pozsony (Pressburg in German, at present Bratislava in Slovakia), or – at times with mild variations – the central and northern regions of historical Hungary.


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