Local French Rites

This is a reposting and slight amendment of an article on the English Catholic, but which now has pride of place on a blog with the theme of local liturgies and “Northern Catholicism”.

The Use of Sarum is largely based on the importing into England of the usage of the Cathedral of Rouen. There was a great variation of liturgical usage in the French Church up until quite recently. These are the so-called Neo-Gallican rites, the local usages of the French dioceses.

Like the Use of Sarum, these rites are characterised by their complex ceremonies and the number of ministers officiating at High Mass. Their being maintained after the Council of Trent and the codified Roman Missal of 1570 was justified by their having being in existence at least two hundred years before that date. However, in the eighteenth century, they proliferated in quite an anarchical way, even in dioceses hitherto using the Roman rite of St Pius V. Many of these uses followed the Parisian liturgy.

When the Concordat of 1801 was forged between Pius VII and Napoleon, the Holy See granted tacit recognition of these liturgies. It was only under the influence of Dom Guéranger, the founder of Solesmes and an Ultramontanist, that many of these rites gave way to the Roman liturgy in the second half of the nineteenth century. However, some ceremonies, usages, and in some cases, complete books like the Lyons Rite, survived up to the 1960’s. At that point, the modern Roman rite flattened everything to McDonalds uniformity.

Since the various indults and the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of Benedict XVI, the Lyons rite has been resurrected to a point. I have myself seen many survivals of Sarum-like customs in celebrations of the old Roman rite. Actually, Sarum is essentially the old medieval rite of the Archdiocese and Province of Rouen.

The Parisian rite is of particular interest. Before the fifteenth century, the Parisian Missal and Breviary were kept at the Cathedral. Those priests wanting copies could copy out the originals and keep the copies in their churches. These books were printed for the first time under the Episcopate of Louis de Beaumont (1473-1492). A revised edition was printed by Jean Le Munérat who did the Breviary in 1479 and the Missal in 1481.

En 1583, the Bishop of Paris, Pierre de Gondy, was asked to adopt the Roman Breviary as King Henry III of France had introduced into his chapel. The Chapter wanted to keep the old books of the Diocese. Corrections were made to the Breviary and the Breviarium insignis Ecclesiæ Parisiensis restitutum ac emendatum was published in 1584. The Missal was printed in 1585, one year later.

In the eighteenth century, the Archbishop of Paris, Charles de Vintimille, promulgated the Breviarium Parisiense of 1736 and the Missale Parisiense in 1738. These books had considerable influence in other dioceses, including Rouen. The Breviary became the prototype of Pius X’s reform of the Breviary in 1911.

The Order of Mass in the Parisian Missal is identical to the Tridentine order, but the propers are a mixture of medieval and revised texts. There are many more Prefaces in the Parisian Missal than in the Roman.

The colour sequence in Paris is strikingly similar to Lyons, and even to Sarum.

White: From Christmas Eve to the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, feasts of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and non-virgin martyrs, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, marriages, and the administration of baptism; and funerals of little children.

Red: Maundy Thursday, Pentecost, the feasts of martyrs, time after Pentecost.

Green: fests of confessor bishops, the Chair of St. Peter, the consecration of bishops.

Violet: Time of Advent and Septuagesima; feasts of holy confessors, for administering extreme unction.

Ash grey: Ash Wednesday to the day before Passion Sunday, Mass for the forgiveness of sins.

Black: In the blessing and imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, all offices for the dead.

Yellow: During the octave of the Epiphany, feasts of the holy angels.

Gold: Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi Sunday, from the Presentation in the Temple to Septuagesima, Trinity to Advent. Red is used if gold is not available.

Blue: For feasts of St. Joachim and St. Anne, St. Louis King of France, abbots, monks and righteous men and women, holy women. Violet is used if blue is not available.

Brown: Passion Sunday until Vespers of Holy Saturday.
Red vestments with black orphreys (like Sarum) are used if brown is not available.

* * *

Here also is a repost about a Roman Catholic priest (former Anglican who swam the Tiber during World War II) I once knew here in Normandy, who celebrated the Roman Rite with Norman usages

* * *

From here, I found a typical photo of Fr Quintin Montgomery-Wright (1914-1996), who was parish priest of Le Chamblac near Broglie (Eure).

Note the two young boys each side of Fr Montgomery in blue dalmatics, wearing apparelled amices. I remember the presbytery gates and the presbytery just visible in the background. There are two rulers in copes and the deacon and subdeacon further towards the front of the procession. The vestments being red, it is anyone’s guess what Feast it was.

Fr Montgomery, as a priest of the Diocese of Evreux, used the ‘extraordinary’ Roman rite – but he kept what he could of the old Bayeux and Rouen usages which were so similar to Sarum.

I said this in another posting I wrote:

Fr. Montgomery was an amazing fellow. He had stacks and stacks of vestments, and did the liturgy the old Norman way, like Sarum. There were little blue dalmatics for altar boys, and I often sang as a coped Ruler at Sunday Mass at Le Chamblac. He vested on the Lady chapel altar (the church’s south transept). The Judica me psalm was said at the Lady altar and in procession. He likewise said the Prologue of St John on the way from the high altar back to the Lady chapel. At the time, I though he was just being odd, but this was the medieval and pre-Tridentine way of celebrating.

Here are a few photos:

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1 Response to Local French Rites

  1. MP says:

    The photos to which you link were a stunning surprise. I had not realized how truly beautiful the liturgy could be when clergy attend to details such as the subtleties of seasonal liturgical changes, or dalmatics for small boys. So much was lost in the liturgical changes of the 1960s, and in the homogenization of worship across national boundaries, all in the name of holy simplicity and institutional uniformity. Just as architects threw up concrete blockhouses for public housing in the name of clean lines, according to the dictates of modern art, so sacristies were stripped of many exquisite vestments. No wonder people abandoned church. What was left to be uplifting? The lines aren’t clean, they are barren. What is more surprising is that local liturgical uses had a real place in communicating ideas to worshipers. This priest, who worked to keep something special alive, did a real service. I am glad the photo record is still available. Thank you for sharing it.

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