Catholic CornucopiadCheney

Part II: The Middle Ages

Chapter II: From Charlemagne to the End of the Fourteenth Century

From St. Gregory to Charlemagne, 591-814

Section 3.—The Roman Breviary in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

The Roman Breviary: Its Sources and History

I. History of the Formation of the Roman Breviary.
Raoul of Tongres, a writer at the end of the fourteenth century, gives us the following information concerning what was done by the papal chapel or Roman curia: “Either by order of the pontiff or upon their own initiative, the clergy constantly shorten the office, and sometimes modify it to suit the convenience of the cardinals.” This author knew what he was talking about, for he was able to compare a copy of the Roman office of the time of Innocent III. (1198-1216) with the ceremonial of Peter Amelius, the Ordo Romanus XV., still used in his own day in the papal chapel.1

This form of the Roman office owed its success and its universal extension to the recently founded order of the Friars Minor, who at once adopted it. As they were bound to devote themselves to external works, to preaching and ministering to souls, it was only natural they should choose an abridged office. So they adopted the Breviary of the Roman curia, save that instead of the Roman psalter—St. Jerome’s first revision, which kept close to the old Itala—they employed the Gallican—St. Jerome’s second revision.2 Other modifications soon followed as circumstances required. Either in obedience to the command or with the approval of Gregory IX. (1227-1241), Haymon, general of the Franciscans, undertook the revision and correction of the Breviary of the Roman curia, which Nicholas III. (1277-1280), himself a Franciscan, appointed to be used in all the churches of Rome.3 It appears, notwithstanding, that the Lateran remained faithful to its ancient office, for, later on, Pope Gregory XI. (1370- 1378), when drawing up the statutes for the canons who formed the Lateran chapter, states that “the members should agree with the head, and that, in the church of the Lateran, the day and night offices ought to be sung according to the rubric, order, and usage of the Holy Roman Church or of the chapel of our Lord Pope.” This is the first official declaration enjoining the ordo of the Roman curia as the usage of the holy Roman church. Henceforth, and especially after the exile at Avignon, the ancient Roman office came to be regarded as out of date. The office according to the ordo of the holy Roman church, as St. Francis of Assisi calls it, meant nothing else than the usage of the curia. The history of the substitution passed out of men’s minds, and at the end of the fourteenth century it was the common opinion that the Franciscans alone followed the ordo of the holy Roman church.

Raoul of Tongres states quite simply that the Franciscans adopted the usage of the curia or office of the papal chapel. This he substantiates by passing in review the facts of the case, and in his zeal for the maintenance of the purity of the liturgy, he passes over nothing of importance bearing upon the subject. His chief complaints against the new Franciscan books are as follows: (A) Shortening, alteration, or suppression of lections. Instead of the sermons, homilies, and passions of the saints, the Friars Minor often read only a short passage from the chronicle of Damasus, or from the Liber Pontificalis. (B) The Franciscans have always nine lections for all their saints, and for each day within the chief octaves, entirely omitting all feasts of three lections. Hence arises great confusion from the transference o so many feasts arbitrarily raised by them to a higher rank. (C) Their arrangement suppressed almost entirely the reading of Holy Scripture in the office, the legends of saints were spread over nine lections, and were even drawn upon for the text of the little chapters. Thus the Franciscans went far beyond the reform effected by the Roman curia, pushing its plan of simplification to greater lengths, shortening the lections until only three or four lines remained. It must be said in their defence that, as a rule, if not always, these Breviaries with exceedingly short lections were reserved for use on journeys or the private recitation of office, since it was then impossible to carry great choir books about with one. The result of the multiplication of festivals of nine lections, and of raising the days within octaves to the rank of doubles, was to render the recitation of the ferial office very infrequent, and to make the recitation of the psalter within the week an impossibility.4 While leaving the contents of the Breviary unchanged, the way in which the office was recited was modified. From henceforth the office as recited by the Franciscans consisted for the most part in the common of saints with lections taken from their legends, and an important part of the Breviary fell practically into disuse.

On the other hand, there was a parallel tendency which led to a contrary result. While some wished to simplify and curtail the Roman office, others speedily made new additions to it. Additional offices began to make their appearance—De Beata Maria Virgine and Defunctorum—then special prayers, such as the penitential and gradual psalms, finally metrical hymns, short concluding prayers such as the Commemoratio S. Crucis and the Suffragia Sanctorum. The metrical hymns, so highly esteemed in Milan in St. Ambrose’s day, and prescribed by St. Benedict in his arrangement of the office, fell for a time into disfavour. Spain long refused to admit them. They were disapproved of in the Carolingian empire when the Roman office was introduced. Hence it followed that for a long period they were not used in the Roman basilicas, although the monks who served in these churches recited them in the office of their own monasteries. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries some feeble and arbitrary attempts were made in Rome to revive the ancient office. The other additions just referred to are almost without exception non-Roman. From the ordos of the Cluniacs, Carthusians, Cistercians, they found their way into the “ordines romani” after the constitution of Gregory XI. (1370-1378). The piety of individual priests and religious added yet other offices, such as those of All Saints, the Holy Cross, the Holy Spirit, etc. It must be borne in mind that these additions (with the exception of the Quicumque and some of the hymns) are merely artificial adjuncts, having but slight connection with the ancient office; they are no integral part of it, but are placed at the end of the Breviary as a sort of appendix, and can be separated from it without dislocating the different parts which compose the ancient contents of the book.5

II. The Breviary in the Thirteenth Century.
Notwithstanding the abridgements and simplifications of which we have spoken, the liturgical office which the great men of the patristic period bequeathed to the church seems to have remained intact as a whole. The Roman curia and the Franciscans had only made it shorter and more definite.6 Dom Guéranger7 states that there is perhaps some bitterness and sharpness in the reproaches which Raoul of Tongres casts upon the Franciscans.

(a) As far as the Antiphonary is concerned, it does not seem that they made much change: “In the liturgical collection of Blessed Tommasi,” says Dom Guéranger, “there is an Antiphonary written in the reign of Alexander III. (1159). Now this book, which contains the office as curtailed by St. Gregory VII., is almost identical with the existing Roman Breviary, which in its turn is both the abridgement of the Gregorian Antiphonary and the Franciscan Breviary. Therefore the Franciscan collection left the Gregorian foundation untouched.”

(b) The psalter retains its ancient traditional division intact for the canonical hours throughout the week (i.e. nine or ten psalms for Prime on Sundays); the structure of the office, with its well thought-out coherence, and its succession of psalms, antiphons, hymns, versicles, lections, responses, and prayers, is plainly to be seen. Therefore the Ordo Romanus XI. can say: “Sicut mos est, sicut Ecclesia consuevit.”8

(c) The Canonical Hours:—The arrangement of psalms at Matins is the same as at present. Frequently the whole passage forming the gospel for the festival was sung. The name of this office underwent a change. The term Vigiliæ formerly given to it was restricted to the first Matins of festivals (i.e. to the office of the feria); the Matins of the festival itself were called Matutinum. Lauds were still called Matutinæ Laudes, but later began to be called simply Laudes. In Advent, Matins were richer than at present. The responds Aspiciens, Aspiciebam, Missus est had several versicles. The Gloria, Te Deum, and the Gloria in excelsis at Mass were sung in Rome on the Sundays in Advent.

Lauds were very often shortened by reciting all the psalms under one antiphon. With the exception of Saturday, when the Officium de Beata V.M. was recited, there was a daily commemoration of our Lady; during the paschal period a commemoration of the Passion and of the Resurrection. Raoul of Tongres shows that the concluding antiphons of our Lady— Alma, Ave Regina, Regina Cœli, and Salve Regina— formed at this time no essential part of the office. It was only in 1239 that Gregory IX. ordered the recitation of the Salve Regina on Fridays after Compline. The custom of interpolating antiphons after each verse of the Benedicite and Benedictus on Sundays and festivals—known as triumphare antiphonas—was given up. There was no difference between the little hours as recited in the twelfth century and in the preceding period. Raoul’s only complaint is that the custom has commenced of suppressing the five or six psalms (20-26) which ought to have been recited on Sundays in addition to the ordinary psalms (i.e. psalm 53, the commencement of psalm 118, and Confitemini). The omissions at Vespers were of no importance. On Sundays and festivals, the five psalms of the first vespers were almost always sung under one antiphon, as is still done during the paschal season. The Magnificat was no longer chanted “triumphaliter” with a great number of antiphons. Compline was almost the same as at present. The lection, Fratres sobrii estote, was varied according to the festival. The order followed was Confiteor, Converte nos, Deus in adjutorium, four psalms, a hymn which varied with the season, chapter, respond and versicle, antiphon and canticle, Kyrie eleison, Pater and Credo with versicles, except on great feasts, the collect Illumina: the benediction, and, in choir, the aspersion with versicle and collect Exaudi nos.

(d) We have seen already that the amount of alteration in the lections was more considerable. As we learn from the rules of St. Benedict and St. Cæsarius and the Ordines Romani XI. and XII., the ruler of the choir used formerly to arrange the lections as he thought fit. It was thought sufficient to point out the book to be read. Along with the new custom of shortening the lections, there came in also the custom of definitely indicating the verses of Scripture, or the passage from the sermons, homilies, and legends which were to form the lection.

In order to give more space to the Holy Scriptures, the lections of the second nocturn on Sundays were allotted to them. St. Bernard and Raoul of Tongres inform us that the books of Scripture commenced in the church were to be continued in the refectory, as is still done in some monasteries.

(e) The inconvenience arising from the increase of festivals can only be understood by a study of the change effected during the period with which we are now concerned. Hitherto the festivals of saints, which were much less numerous, as well as the feasts of our Lord, falling on the average once a week, had an office in addition to the office de tempore; i.e. Matins and Lauds were duplicated, once for the feria and once for the feast. The former were usually said on the eve a little after sunset,9 and were composed of three psalms, with antiphons and versicles, but no invitatory, three lections with responds, and the Te Deum or Te decet laus. The second Matins and Lauds were recited towards midnight. According to the Ordo Romanus XI. of the canon Benedict, this custom is accounted for at Rome by the fact that the two offices were not to be recited by one and the same choir, one being recited by the canons of the church to which the pope had proceeded in order to hold his chapel there, and the other by the pope and cardinals. As feasts with two offices, we may name the Nativity, the Epiphany, Ascension, SS. Peter and Paul, the Assumption, and the feasts of the local Patron Saints. The existing Matins for these festivals, according to the Ordo Romanus XI., are made up from the double Matins of this earlier period,10 a fact which accounts for the absence of the invitatory on the feast of the Epiphany. This custom, however, seems to have been peculiar to Rome, for nowhere else do we hear of a double office being imposed as of obligation. The Roman curia first, and then the Franciscans, began to fuse the two offices into one organic whole. The little hours did not change their fixed psalms and hymns on festivals, but at the greater hours the psalms and hymns varied with the festival. Thus, by introducing the special prayers and lections of the feast, or by simple commemorations, the festivals of the saints became, as it were, enshrined in the office de tempore. As festivals increased, the ferial office was recited more rarely—a circumstance which, as we have seen, caused distress to Raoul of Tongres. It is true that the Franciscans gave an impetus to the increase of festivals in the calendar, but Gregory VII. began the movement by deciding that the office of the majority of canonized popes should be celebrated throughout the whole church. After him, other festivals were thus extended, two of which deserve to be mentioned, as both had previously given rise to controversies—the feast of the Holy Trinity, and the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The feast of the Holy Trinity, established at Liège in the tenth century, in spite of the opposition it encountered from Leo IX. and Alexander II., was adopted in widely distant parts of the church, and was extended to the whole church by Pope John XXII. before 1334. According to recent investigations, the festival of the Immaculate Conception originated in the Benedictine monasteries of England, and was sanctioned by a council of English bishops held at London in 1129.11 It early became popular in Normandy, and was instituted at Lyons about 1140, when it gave rise to objections on the part of St. Bernard. It spread throughout France, and was adopted in Rome in 1246, and in 1476 was extended to the universal church by Pope Sixtus IV.12 The office was copied from that of the Nativity of Our Lady, the word Nativitas being replaced by Conceptio.

III. The Roman Breviary during the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries .
As we have seen, the Franciscans gladly availed themselves of the shortened office of the Roman curia, while they, in turn, made this office still more acceptable to the clergy of the papal court by the simplification and the portable form which they tended to give to it. It is this reciprocal influence which forms the most striking feature in the liturgical development in the thirteenth century. In 1227 the Synod of Trier prescribed the use of a small Breviary for ecclesiastics when travelling, “Breviaria sua in quibus possint horas suas legere, quando sunt in itinere.” These volumes were called porteforia, portues, viatica when adapted for travelling; cameraria when used in private apartments. Such a book was necessary for a friar minor always occupied in preaching from place to place, and unable from his many occupations to celebrate the office in choir. It was equally necessary for the episcopal schools under their changed conditions, for in the thirteenth century the ancient monastic schools, where clerks and scholars shared in the whole divine office, and joined in the liturgical life of the monastery in the choir, at the same time as they pursued their studies, were no longer in existence. It was also the sort of book required at the universities, where a feverish activity allowed the young clerks and theological students no leisure for assisting at the long divine office celebrated in the ancient manner in the cathedrals. The new generation had to content itself with a small portable volume containing the parts indispensable for the fulfilment of their obligation, and facilitating the rapid discharge of the daily pensum of official prayer, and this they found in the Breviary of the Roman curia adopted by the Franciscans.

Under Innocent III., or about his time (i.e. between 1192 and 1230), further modifications were introduced, as may be seen from a comparison of the Ordo Romanus XI. of the canon Benedict and the Ordo Romanus XII. of Cardinal Cencius. The Te Deum was suppressed for Advent Sunday.13 The long prayers and the penitential and gradual psalms were to be recited only during Lent.

Gregory IX. (1227-1241) ordered the recital or chanting of the Salve Regina on Fridays after Compline, and also took part in the composition of the office of St. Francis of Assisi. Then, during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a number of festivals hitherto restricted to Rome became universal; i.e. SS. Vincent and Anastasius, 22nd January; the Apparition of St. Michael, 8th May; Our Lady of the Snows, 8th August; the Dedication of the Lateran basilica of the Saviour, 9th November; the Dedication of St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s, 13th November, etc. Saints of the Francisan order were honoured in the calendar by festivals much higher in rank than those of the ancient Saints. Accordingly, the Breviaries secundum usum romanæ curiæ belonging to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries give the festival of St. Francis of Assisi with a privileged octave, and they have also octaves for the translation of St. Francis and St. Clare, St. Bernardine, and many others. The festival of Corpus Christi, too, belongs to the thirteenth century, having been instituted by Urban IV. in 1264. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote the office for the feast, so remarkable for its style and theological exactitude.

In 1298, Pope Boniface VIII. ordered that the festivals of all the Apostles and Evangelists and of the four great Doctors of the Latin church—SS. Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Gregory the Great—should be celebrated throughout the whole church as doubles. In 1389, Urban VI. added the feast of the Visitation. For the fifteenth century one may mention the feast of the Seven Dolours in 1423, which was celebrated in Cologne and Germany before being inserted into the calendar of the universal church; the feast of the Transfiguration, instituted by Calixtus III. in 1457; the feast of the Presentation of our Blessed Lady, sanctioned for Germany in 1464 by Paul II.

It is almost impossible to leave the thirteenth century without saying something about one branch of liturgical poetry—the metrical office-hymns. Fr. Dreves has published a large number of these compositions in his Analecta Hymnica, which can thus be made the subject of further studies. The examination that he has made of the subject has led him to the conclusion that these productions first began to appear in the twelfth century. But it seems their origin may be pushed even further back, for there exists a metrical office-hymn of the tenth century. The office for the feast of the Lance and Nails in the Roman Breviary gives an idea of this kind of composition.

The frequent disturbances, political, ecclesiastical, and social, of the fourteenth century, have left their traces in the liturgy. The sojourn of the popes at Avignon, known as the Babylonian exile on account of its duration (1305-1378), was from our point of view, as well as from others, productive of unfortunate results. It left indelible traces upon the history of the church; and since the liturgy is closely bound up with the facts of history, we can infer its fortunes during this period. The canonical hours could not fail to be modified by the fact that the Lateran basilica, the mother church and mistress of the Catholic world, was no longer the usual scene of the pontifical office. There were no Roman basilicas in Avignon. In comparison with St. Peter’s, the Lateran, St. Paul’s, St. Mary Major, the church within which the liturgical functions of the papal court had to be performed was no better than a temporary chapel. The ceremonies must needs be curtailed, the sacred text cut short, and the magnificent ritual reduced, just what the Ordines Romani of that date show actually to have taken place.

The Ordo Romanus XIV. shows how the vicissitudes of the papal court had the effect of reducing the splendour of the liturgy, while the calendar was enriched by the addition of a large number of feasts and saints which had hitherto been of merely local observance. Such, for example, were the festivals of the Holy Trinity, St. Martial, St. Giles, St. Anne. From this period dates the definite separation between the rite of the Roman curia and the rite of the basilicas of Rome, the former drifting away ever further from the latter, and exhibiting more and more its own poverty.

1 Migne, Patr, Lat., lxxviii. 1273-1367.
2 For the Gallican psalter, see above, p. 63.
3 Addenda, I.
4 Until the twelfth century, the term octave meant in the Roman rite that a simple commemoration of the feast was made in the office of the eighth day. On the days within the octave (dies infra octavam) there was no mention in the office of either the feast or the octave. We have an example of this still in the Roman Breviary with regard to St. Agnes. Her feast is celebrated on the 2 ist January, and on the 28th it is mentioned only at Vespers and Lauds, and in the ninth lection at Matins. The name in ancient Roman service-books is Octava S. Agnetis.
5 For the details, see Dom Bäumer, vol. ii. pp. 39-46.
6 Dom Bäumer, vol. ii. p. 57.
7 Inst. Liturg., i. p. 324.
8 Cf. Mabillon, Museum Italicum. Migne, Patr. Lat., lxxviii. 951-954.
9 It has been thought that in this we have the origin of anticipating Matins and Lauds of the morrow by reciting them the evening before.
10 Migne, Patr. Lat., lxxviii. 1029 and 1031.
11 Addenda, II.
12 Addenda, III.
13 Migne, Patr. Lat., lxxviii. 1063.