Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Is Braga a French Rite?

Rite of Versailles
The English local uses, defunct since the death of Mary Tudor with precious few exceptions, are essentially local variations of the Rouen liturgy used in Norman France, itself a local "dialect" of the Roman rite, to borrow from Adrian Fortescue. The Dominican rite, still used according to the 1962 variation in some circles, shares many prayers and choir ceremonies with the Sarum and Norman rites. Some of the propers are stunningly similar, such as the oration Veneranda on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. It begs the question, are the Roman rite and the medieval European rites distinct from each other?

The two were certainly different prior to the Minorites (Franciscans). Rome jealously resisted any innovations even in the most remote of ways, such as the broader use of incense in the rites of Europe. The international character of the Roman Curia brought the European liturgy, a synthesis of the Benedictine monastic choir rites with the cathedral liturgies of European dioceses—themselves informed by a resurgence in literary and philosophical education, to Rome. The Curia had its own rite, which one could summarize as the Roman text with the European ritual. The Lateran Cathedral and St. Peter's Basilica retained the more congregational and communitarian Roman ritual and practices during this time. Papal Mass as it existed until 1964 could itself be called a blend of these two forces. The Franciscans used the Curial liturgy and popularized it as the Roman rite throughout Europe. Nicholas III, a Franciscan, suppressed the old Roman usages at the basilicas of the City, making the Curial rite the only form of the Roman rite (the current era is not the only time an extraordinary form of the Roman rite was suppressed!). We all know what happened under St. Pius V and the aftermath of Trent.

The consequential question then is: can the medieval European rites—excluding the unique liturgies of Milan and Toledo—similar enough to characterize as one rite with many variations? As mentioned above, Sarum, Rouen, and the Dominican rite are all very similar as they should be. Dominicans often studied at the university of Paris, itself likely influenced by the same Norman praxis which the conquerors brought to England after Hastings. What, then, of Braga? The Bragan rite, as our friend Marco has underscored many times on his excellent blog on that tradition, shares many of the same prayers as Sarum and the Dominican liturgy, both on feasts and Sundays per annum. Braga is in northern Portugal, nearly a thousand miles from Normandy. Can the Norman liturgical family really extend that far south or had dioceses begun to develop their own variation of the Roman rite very early on in the Middle Ages, only encountering the proper texts with the coming of the Minorites? Another possibility is that these common texts are themselves remnants of the liturgy used prior to Alcuin and Charlemagne's attempt to impose the 9th century Roman books on Western Europe. People will speak of the Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries, but are there a reasonable number of extant Gallican source to cross-reference? Unlikely, which makes this thesis impossible to test. The neo-Gallican rites, while occasionally making concessions to Jansenist culture (octave of St. Augustine while suppressing the octave of Ss. Peter & Paul), are themselves orthodox and can be read as an attempt to revitalize French liturgical life. Unfortunately, the propers were themselves changed considerably and are not returns to the Norman texts (if they were even used in Lyons or Paris). Still, Normanesque elements are readily visible in the neo-Gallican rites: extravagant choir ceremonies, vivid and loquacious proper orations, and optional ferial readings for the resumed Sunday Mass. They are not part of the medieval European or Norman group, but imitate them in style, indicating a distant relation. 

So how were the various medieval European rites connected, given their considerable textual departure from the Roman rite, to which they imparted their ceremonies?

1 comment:

  1. Historically, we know that the building blocks for the Bragan rite were the Roman Paschal/Baptismal rite and the Canon. From the little I've managed to find on the subject, the Bragan rite was one of the few and early cases of trying to express communion with Rome via a composed rite. The "french" influence would have come, I think, via the Cluniac bishops the diocese had. The rite was suppressed several times, and also tampered with to Romanize it even more. The 1920's revision was an attempt to bring it back to more authentic "waters".
    I'm still looking for a book which will give an in-depth look at its history.