Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mass at Ottobeuren

Our good friend and sainted pontiff Zephyrinus seems to have a great appreciation for baroque ecclesiastical architecture, particularly the architecture of Ottobeuren monastery. While the Rad Trad is not exactly "dead nuts" on baroque himself he can admit freely that when done properly (which is expensive and why it rarely works) baroque can be a wonderful liturgical setting. Above is a video from the FSSP's annual trip to Ottobeuren which always concludes with a Mass. One sees the advantage of chant in a baroque setting, it creates liturgical continuity with the past and prevents the Mass from becoming the "opera of the poor" which characterizes so many vulgar polyphonic propers.

Take a peek!


  1. After watching this video I would rather retain that baroque is a decadent style. It is true that, in this church (well, it's a monastic church, it probably has something to with the space disposition), the liturgical space, the choir, &c. are quite well built, but the artwork is nothing more than horrible - in my opinion. But I agree with you that, at least, this church have not a low Mass arrangement, and that it is far better than most post-Tridentine churches.


    There is a detail in the video that strikes me: during the final procession, the Priest, Deacon and Subdeacon doesn't wear the biretta! The biretta is actually one of the features wich "distinguish" SSPX and Ecclesia Dei liturgical praxis: while its use was "abolished" in 1962, most of the latter institutes continue to wear it; this images indeed remind me something that happened when I studied in Venice:

    At that time I used to attend the FSSP church of San Simon Piccolo. The chaplain, Fr. Konrad zu Löwenstain (a wonderful priest, I should say!) always wore the biretta in sung and spoken Masses -he was actually the only priest in that church. But the only time I could attend a High Mass there, on Passion Sunday 2012, he followed the 1962-Ecône rite: violet tunicle & dalmatic, no Confiteor before Communion, and NO BIRETTAS. Do you know other examples of this crazy praxis, or have you heard any justification for it?

    Kyrie eleison

    1. Justinianus: Back in the 1990's in Rome, the regular Sunday "indult" Mass (as it then was) never saw the priest wear the biretta. At the time, there were a few who suggested to me that the reason for this puzzling and troubling omission was a kind of anti-Roman Jansenism left over from the pre-Ecclesia Dei seminary formation in France. Who knows, though? It was a strange time, and the atmosphere of the indult Masses was always a little defeatist and overly deferential to prejudices like the animus towards the biretta. And it probably didn't help that the priest in question was later sentenced to prison for some pretty unsavory activities (albeit he was in the US at the time).

    2. ...baroque is a decadent style... But Baroque was the right, healthy, Triumphalist response to decadence.

    3. I do sympathize with Justinanus. But well, the Baroque Churches are here, and it would barbarism to destroy them. We should leave them as things to be loved surely, but not imitated. The problem is when well-intentioned Catholics start imitating Baroque or even "rose bonbon" wedding cake gothick in their churches - it does not work. When I was visiting St Peter's, I was most of the time mentally trying to recreate the dimensions and atmosphere of the Constantinan Basilica, which must have been something. Come on, surely, Romanesque deserves a return, given that we dont have the means or the benefactions anymore for proper Gothick.

    4. I meant that it works in that the use of space and open ceilings are amenable to traditional liturgy. This monastery has the added benefit of *not* having that most disgusting of baroque ecclesiastical features, columns next to the altar, which frames the sanctuary like a theatre.

      I think architecturally, although I do not care for the baroque decor myself, St Peter's in Rome "works" because it still follows the traditional basilica layout (cruciform shape, baptistry off the side in the back, an open choir, a free standing altar under a baldacchino, and a confessio). Of course I wish that Julius II had started a Romaneque church instead, but I hardly think it compares to such things as the churches of Vienna and Munich!

      Baroque can be done well, but it is outlandishly expensive. When it is not cost effective—and it never is in modern times—people turn to plaster statues, fiddleback vestments, "shrines" that substitute for side altars, and all other manner of kitsch "art." Romanesque is both more beautiful and less expensive!

    5. And if anyone is interested as to how the old basilica looked:

    6. Very informative article, RadTrad, thank you. By the way, the abbey church of Sainte Madeleine du Barroux in Provence is a particularly successful rendition of the Romanesque style.

    7. Capreolus:
      Thanks for your answer. That is perhaps a reason; the other could be the influence of Mgr. Lefebvre's style (SSPX priests actually think biretta is a "luxurious garment" without liturgical meaning...) And maybe the "low Mass" style and the lack of true liturgical education in that time - I never lived it, so perhaps I'm wrong - also had something to do with that lack of care.

      It is clear that I do not want the baroque churches to be demolished (as I don't want some modern but spatially more or less traditional churches to be demolished too). But it is also worth saying that, despite most traddies do not think so, it is not a good style to promote in projecting and building new churches. I do agree with His Traddiness that the style which best suits the Traditional Latin Liturgies is romanesque (or even pre-romanesque, at least for small churches), even more than gothic.

      Well, while it's true that architecture proper is what is more important, it is also true that decor is there, and it helps (or not) the faithful to truly participate (mystically) in the Divine Liturgy. So, if it is ugly, or theatrical, that is not good for the congregation.

      Kyrie eleison

    8. You're very welcome! A' propos architectural styles: one practical advantage of the Romanesque for contemporary churches is the relatively inexpensive technique (please hear me out!) of poured concrete. It sounds functionalistic and 'modernist,' but I have seen it done in the U.S. to good effect--it depends on the 'molds' and of course the architect's competence.
      Since I've shared a little about past impressions, I can pass on that one of my professors when I was studying in Vienna maintained (to toss Eris's apple) that the Baroque was not only suitable for churches but the ideal style, because (he said) it combined the lightness and soaring vistas of the Gothic with the immediacy and emotional appeal of Mannerism, etc. Evidently many Viennese agreed with him, at one time; at least, many of Vienna's Gothic structures have been "baroqueified" on the interior. Hanson, the great art historian, indirectly supports this view, I suppose, when he maintains that light is the architectural symbol of Christianity par excellence.

  2. Dear The Rad Trad. Thank you for your most gracious Comments. I do admit to admiring Baroque architecture in its ecclesiastical settings. Nothing but the best for God.

    It was wonderful to see the FSSP's Divine Mass in this beautiful location. Thank you for publishing it. My interpretation on Ottobeuren is "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam" (To The Greater Glory Of God).

    Your Post and Video have only served to convince Zephyrinus that it is now required to pursue the funding of the proposed Minor Basilica at Blackfen, Kent, England. Almost certainly, along the Baroque architectural lines of Ottobeuren. Therefore, I have purchased another ticket for the EuroLottery Draw.

    Grateful thanks from The Rad Trad's good friend and "Sainted Pontiff".

    in Domino