Victorian Sarum

If anyone still mentions the Use of Sarum nowadays, it is certainly due to the Catholic and liturgical movement in the Church of England during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Most frequently, research into medieval liturgical usage was applied to “ritualising” the 1662 Prayer Book. In those days, an Anglican priest found using the Use of Sarum would have been in very serious trouble. In spite of this, the complete texts in Latin of the Sarum Missal were published and printed in 1868, and in the same year, a complete Missal was translated into English. Perhaps some priests used Sarum for masses during the week and kept it to themselves – we will never know. The former book is what I use for my daily Mass – wonderful just to follow a rite and not be tinkering about!

The nineteenth century was a period of two clashing cultures: the Industrial Revolution and Romanticism. The first represented reason, capitalism and progress; the second sought to emphasise the spiritual and aesthetic qualities in man. The first was resolutely modern and the second sought its reference in the Middle-Ages or rather in an idealised vision of that period.

Romanticism produced the Gothic Revival in Victorian England as it did elsewhere. The movement concerned mainly architecture, but was the foundation of the artistic movement known as the Pre-Raphaelites. The image most of us have of King Arthur or St George and similar legends is entirely a product of Romanticism. That is how we learned those stories at school.

Another fallacy we have to reckon with is that the Oxford Movement was not Anglo-Catholic but a theological and spiritual movement. Newman was not a Ritualist! The impetus for building Gothic churches and elaborating the liturgy came from Cambridge, the Camden Society which became the Ecclesiological Society. Medievalists like John Mason Neale pushed for a full-scale medieval revival.

The Victorian mind being both pragmatic and eclectic, some of those men published liturgies that amalgamated historical sources, contemporary Roman Catholic practice, the compulsory Prayer Book and whatever they fancied. The other forgotten Uses of England were plundered for material to fill in the gaps.

The weakness of Victorian Sarum was the fact that Roman Usage was not strictly codified in the years preceding the first Prayer Book. The nineteenth century Sarum enthusiasts sought to do with Sarum what Pius V did with the Roman Rite, that Ecclesia Anglicana might be able to stand even with Rome. The idea was to be Catholic but not Roman Catholic. I suppose it was something like our own experience – we defend ourselves from having it rammed down our throat like the ducks and geese in France that are force-fed to produce the famous foie gras. There is the idea of being Catholic whilst holding Rome at arm’s length, a lesson taken from Gallican France, Germany and Josephist Austria. The English legal mind exploited the Ornaments Rubric to the full – which led to riddle posts and fine curtains adorning every altar of the Kingdom by the turn of the century.

I’m afraid the subject of the Victorian attempts at reviving Sarum would require a considerable amount of historical research in uncharted waters – and access to libraries the other side of the Channel. It would be quite a challenge.

For the studies themselves of the Use of Sarum, I can recommend the following works which you can download and print – not the same as having the printed book, but it’s better than nothing.

Other standard works are Vernon Staley’s Ceremonies of the English Church, Percy Dearmer’s Parson’s Handbook and W. H. Frere’s Principals of Religious Ceremonial. A good search on Google can often bring up a scanned copy or the possibility of ordering a printed copy.

I have already covered an article on this subject by Derek Olsen in my older article Sarum, a Liturgical Experience and a Romantic Cultural Movement. It is quite amazing to think that some mainstream Anglican clergy set up a meeting in America to study the Use of Sarum. Quite incredible! Previously, when another vision of the Roman Catholic ordinariates for ex-Anglicans prevailed, I wrote The Future Liturgy of an Anglican Ordinariate: Why not Sarum? in the Anglo-Catholic blog. Those were heady days!

Also see Rule of Analogy about Walter Frere’s work.

A good question would be, if they failed then, would we be any more successful now? I have not got involved in any real movement, but people follow my blogs and e-mail list (very little traffic on that these days). My ideology is not the same. I don’t expect Sarum to take root and become a trend! I do feel in tune with the nineteenth-century Gallican ideal, but they represented a national Church, and I represent very little other than sympathetic contacts with other Christians resenting the dominance of the apologist zealots. With the turn taken by the Ordinariates, another opportunity is gone, and I hardly ever see Sarum being any more the official rite of a Church than the Dominican rite now celebrated by only a few Dominican priests or the old Lyons rite in France.

Dying embers? Perhaps, but the dream was worth it!

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8 Responses to Victorian Sarum

  1. “There is the idea of being Catholic whilst holding Rome at arm’s length, a lesson taken from Gallican France …” Indeed, and I have just published an article on Anglican re-appropriations of (inter alia) the Parisian Breviary during the 1830s. William IV Parisian is the prelude to Victorian Sarum! The article is in the new issue (vol. 3.1) of ‘Usus Antiquior’; I think you might find it interesting.

  2. I have an old copy (1899) of Vernon Staley’s: The Ceremonial of the English Church, (A.R. Mowbray & Co.) I have not always been one of those “apologist zealots”. 😉 In reality, the “priest” MUST also be a pastor, and not just a “celebrant” of the sacrament. In fact, it is always ‘Word & Sacrament’! 🙂

    • Btw, I still read and enjoy the sermons of Edward Pusey, he was a very spiritual man of God! Again, I have some much older books and copies of his Sermons.

      I wonder Fr. A. if you have read the theology and works of Austin Farrer? Rowan Williams called him the greatest Anglican mind of the 20th century! Wow, very high regard for sure!

  3. frseanhenry says:

    By the way, as an aside, I’m delighted to see James Murray in the picture you chose to accompany your article–the editor of the OED. One of the great ironies from the point of view of modern credentialism is that Murray never received a university education (as I recall).

  4. An interesting article; I am also interested that you use Sarum on a daily basis. I am hoping you might be able to settle a puzzle for me; the missal makes no reference to where one mixes the chalice at a low Mass. The ceremonial for high Mass is clear, however, though it would be highly impracticable to follow it at a Missa Lecta. Do you consider that the chalice should be mixed before Mass (as the Dominicans do), or at the Offertory? I’d be grateful for your opinions, and especially if you know of any source for information that I may have missed.

    • Nice to hear from you, Father. I mix the chalice exactly as in the Dominican rite, with the formula specified in the Sarum Missal Ab eo sit benedicta, &c.

      I say Kyrie eleison, Pater, etc. going down to the foot of the altar. The Judica me had been said between the sacristy and the altar before mixing the chalice. Some of all this is conjectured, but I refer to the Dominican Rite for what is not clear in the Sarum rubrics. York is less clear. Sometimes one gets a snippet here and there and the ambiguities in the Sarum Use become clear and logical. By and large, the Sarum rubrics are clear, but you and I were trained with the Roman Rite and its extreme precision. Once it’s all sorted out, it’s just a question of getting used to it and doing it every day (if you’re not in a Roman Rite parish!).

      Now I’m more Sarum than Roman!

  5. Yes, I incline to your view that it should happen early. But it would seem to be an informed guess. The parallels (French rites &c) suggest a very early start. Sarum would seem to be clear that the vestments are put on at the altar (for a low Mass; at a High Mass in greater churches, only the chasuble—the cope being worn for a procession, and the procession leaving from a sacristy or vestry). I see that the French rites (cf Wickham Legge) have the mixing of the chalice even before the taking of the amice. As you write, Sarum does not have the precision of Rome; the epistle might be sung from a number of places, and I have found one clear reference to a blessing given after the Ite Missa Est (to which there is no reference in the missals).
    Very best in Domino.

    • I notice some similarities between the Low Mass of a bishop in the Roman rite (pre-1963) and Sarum, like vesting at the altar, washing hands after the Ablutions, etc. Simple priests could do many things that became reserved to bishops only after Sixtus V’s revisions if I remember rightly.

      Medieval churches had no sacristies. Vestries in England always date from after the Reformation. There is some amount of ambiguity and variation, which is why, when in doubt, I adopted Dominican custom. There is normally no blessing after a priest’s Mass but a simple sign of the cross, but a blessing can be added as it is extra actionem. I say the Prologue of St John from memory on the way back to the sacristy. I find it is enough to know the first 4-5 verses and read the rest on arrival.

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