Friday, February 14, 2020

A New Series from Canticum Salomonis on the French “Royal Honors”

Our best friends in the whole world at Canticum Salomonis (really, they’re the best, they even wrote this summary of their work for us!) have finished another interesting series, this one on the liturgy of the French Royal Chapel. The first part describes the daily liturgical regime of Louis XIV and the peculiar customs of the Royal Mass in the Chapel at Versailles, largely conformed to the Roman Rite since 1580, but never without some very French touches. During these Masses, some unique honors were given to the King sitting at his prie-Dieu in the choir, such as the right to kiss the Gospel book and the corporal, genuflections and reverences, a special communion service, and more. Alexandre Maral, curator at Versailles, argues that these honors make the King the liturgical equivalent of a bishop assisting outside his diocese.

King Louis XIV praying in the chapel of Versailles, from the Heures de Louis le Grand, 1693, BnF MS. Lat. 9477 
The second part deals with the King’s coronation and anointing, and what Gallican theologians made of it. The special anointing sheds some light on the meaning of these liturgical honors as an expression of the King’s quasi-episcopal status. This part also touches on Louis XIV’s government of the French Church in the form of assigning benefices.

The Holy Ampulle, which was traditionally said to contain oil used by St Remigius at baptism of Clovis, and employed in the coronation ceremonies of all of the French kings from Louis VII in 1131 to Louis XVI in 1774.
Fascinatingly, some of these customs unique to the Royal Chapel have survived in the churches of the Franciscan Custody. The third part documents the centuries-old honors given to the French Consul General in Jerusalem, a curious anachronism considering France’s secular convictions. Who could ever convince a Frenchman to give up pomp and circumstance? Toujours Français, toujours… catholique?

The French Consul General in Jersualem is received at the Holy Sepulcher by the Francsican Friars of the Holy Land Custody.

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