Friday, October 23, 2009

Fr. Daniel Rock: 19th Century English Ecclesiologist and Liturgiologist

Many of us are more than familiar with Catholic liturgiologists such as Adrian Fortescue, Josef Jungmann, Edmund Bishop and Archdale King, to name only a few, however, one individual who is perhaps less familiar for us today is the Rev. Daniel Rock, D.D.. Accordingly, I thought perhaps some "introductions" (or re-introductions as the case may be) might be in order.

Fr. Rock was an English Catholic priest who lived from 1799-1871. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes him as an "antiquarian and ecclesiologist." In the article on Fr. Rock it notes that "He was educated at St. Edmund's College, Old Hall... There he came under the influence of the Rev. Louis Havard from whom he acquired his first interest in liturgy... He was then chosen as one of the first students sent to reopen the English College at Rome..."

In 1827, Fr. Rock was appointed the domestic chaplain to the Earl of Shrewsbury -- better known to many of us simply as Lord Shrewsbury -- at Alton Towers, and there remained until 1840. The name and person of Lord Shrewsbury is of course intimately bound up with the English Catholic revival and the person of A.W.N. Pugin. Indeed, Pugin was both a contemporary and associate of Fr. Rock and both had connections with Lord Shrewsbury at Alton Towers. It was to make a formidable combination: " included that learned Doctor Rock with whom Pugin had already corresponded concerning his Designs for Gold and Silver Smiths, who was both Chaplain to Lord Shrewsbury and the foremost Catholic ecclesiologist of his time. A zealous millionaire [Shrewsbury], a zealous architect [Pugin], a wise and zealous priest [Rock], a consuming mutual ambition for the restoration of the glory of a Church that was despised..." (Pugin: A Medieval Victorian, M. Trappes-Lomax, p. 98-99)

Alton Towers in the 19th Century

Bernard Kelly, in his brief biography of Rock (see: Some Great Catholics of Church and State, p. 51-54) notes that in 1852, after the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy (in which Rock actively played a part), he was made one of the Canons of Southwark Cathedral.

Turning to his writing, of Fr. Rock's works I would make note of Hierurgia, or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: With Notes and Dissertations Elucidating its Doctrines and Ceremonies. In a letter to Pugin, Rock self-describes this work as an attempt to "trace the origin, and note the accidental changes in the vestments of the priest and his attendant ministers at mass, and to explain to our Protestant fellow-countrymen the meaning of our church ceremonies..." (See Trappes-Lomax, p.66)

Rock also wrote a smaller work, Textile Fabrics; A Descriptive Catalogue of the Collection of Church-Vestments, Dresses, Silk Stuffs, Needlework and Tapestries.

However, the work which I particularly wished to highlight is The Church of Our Fathers as seen in St. Osmund's Rite for the Cathedral of Salisbury: With Dissertations on the Belief and Ritual in England before and after the coming of the Normans, published in four volumes, and "in which he studies the Sarum Rite and other medieval liturgical observances." (Catholic Encyclopedia, "Daniel Rock")

Some consider this Rock's greatest work; a work which "profoundly influenced liturgical study in England" thereafter (ibid.) and which established his reputation in the field of liturgical and ecclesiastical study.

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I am pleased to inform our readers that all of the aforementioned works by Rock are available freely and in their entirety on under Rock, Daniel, 1799-1871.

Here, for example, are the four volumes of The Church of Our Fathers:
Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4

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