Sarum Rite (more accurately SARUM USE), the manner of regulating the details of the Roman Liturgy that obtained in pre-Reformation times in the south of England and was thence propagated over the greater part of Scotland and of Ireland. Other, though not very dissimilar Uses, those of York, Lincoln, Bangor, and Hereford, prevailed in the north of England and in Wales. The Christian Anglo-Saxons knew no other Liturgy than that of the Mother Church of Rome. Their celebrated Synod of Clovesho (747) lays down: “That in one and the same manner we all celebrate the Sacred Festivals pertaining to Our Lord’s coming in the Flesh; and so in everything, in the way we confer Baptism, in our celebration of Mass, and in our manner of singing. All has to be done according to the pattern which we have received in writing from the Roman Church” (Canon 13).—”That the Seven Canonical Hours be everywhere gone through with the fitting Psalmody and with the proper chant; and that no one presume to sing or to read aught save what custom admits, what comes down to us with the authority of Holy Scripture, and what the usage of the Roman Church allows to be sung or read” (Canon 15).
St. Osmund, a Norman nobleman, who came over to England with William the Conqueror, and was by him made Bishop of Sarum or Salisbury (1078), compiled the books corresponding to our Missal, Breviary, and Ritual, which revised and fixed the Anglo-Saxon readings of the Roman Rite. With these he appears very naturally to have incorporated certain liturgical traditions of his Norman fellow-countrymen, who, however, equally with the conquered English, ever sought to do all things in church exactly as was done in Rome. In appreciating the widespread Sarum Use, concerning which the extant literature is very copious, it is well to bear in mind that just as the Roman Rite itself has always been patient of laudable local customs, so, in medieval times the adopting of the Sarum Service Books did not necessarily mean the rejecting of existing ceremonial usages in favor of those in vogue at Salisbury, but only the fitting thereof into the framework outlined in the Sarum Missal, Breviary, and other liturgical manuals. Again, it must not be forgotten that the Sarum Use represents in the main the Roman Rite as carried out in the eleventh century, and that the reforms introduced by Gregory VII and his immediate successors which culminated in the thirteenth-century Franciscan revision of the Breviary, only very slowly and very partially found their way into the service books of the Gallic and British Churches. Hence, the marked resemblance of the Sarum Use to those of the Dominicans, Calced Carmelites, and other medieval religious orders.
The following are the more noticeable variants of the Use of Sarum from the developed Roman Rite of our own times.
(I) At Mass, as in the Dominican Use, the Sarum priest began by saying a verse of the psalm “Confitemini”, with a shortened Confiteor followed by the verse “Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini” Nevertheless, at Salisbury every celebrant was bound to have recited the whole psalm “Judica me Deus” in the sacristy before coming to the foot of the altar. The prayer “Aufer a nobis” was said, but not that which now follows it, in lieu of which the priest simply made the sign of the cross and proceeded to read the Officium, or as we call it, the Introit, repeating it not only after its Gloria Patri but also after the psalm-verse which precedes the latter. From the Kyrie to the Offertory the deviations from our actual usage are slight, though on festival days this section of the sacred rite was often enormously lengthened by varied and prolix sequences. Like the Dominican and other contemporaneous Uses, that of Sarum supposes the previous preparation of the chalice (put by the Sarum Missal between the Epistle and Gospel), and thereby materially abbreviates the Offertory ceremonial. According to an archaic usage, still familiar to ourselves from the Roman Good-Friday Rite, the prayer “In spiritu humilitatis” followed in place of preceding the washing of the priest’s hands, and the psalm “Lavabo” was omitted, so also to the “Orate Fratres” (at Sarum, “Orate Fratres et Sorores”) no audible response was made. From the Preface onward through the Canon, the Sarum Mass was word for word and gesture by gesture that of our own Missals, except that a profound inclination of head and shoulders took the place of the modern genuflection and that during the first prayer after the Elevation the celebrant stood with arms stretched out in the form of a cross. As in France and generally in Northern and Western Europe the Benediction given at the breaking of the Sacred Host was not curtailed to the mere pronouncing of the words “Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum” but, more particularly when a bishop officiated, was very solemnly given with a formula varying according to the festival. The Agnus Dei in the Sarum Use was said as by the Dominicans after and not before the Commingling, but the prayers before the priest’s Communion were other than those with which we are familiar. The kiss of peace was given as with us but there was no “Domine non sum dignus”. The words pronounced by the celebrant at the moment of his own Communion are striking and seem peculiar to the Sarum Missal. They may therefore be fittingly quoted: “Hail for evermore, Thou most holy Flesh of Christ; sweet to me before and beyond all things beside. To me a sinner may the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ be the Way and the Life.” The “Quod ore sumpsimus” and some other prayers accompanied the taking of the ablutions, and the Communion and Postcommunion followed as now. But no Blessing was given and the beginning of the Gospel of St. John was recited by the priest on his way from the sanctuary to the sacristy.
The Sarum Breviary, like the Sarum Missal, is essentially Roman. The Psalter is distributed through the seven Canonical Hours for weekly recitation exactly as with us, though naturally the psalms (XXI-XXV) left over from the Sunday Matins and assigned by Pius V for the Prime of different ferias are, as in the Dominican and Carmelite Breviaries, marked to be recited together on Sundays in their old place at the beginning of that Canonical Hour. Nor in the Sarum Matins do there occur the short prayers termed Absolutions. On the other hand, a ninth Responsory always preceded the Te Deum which was followed by the so-called “Versus Sacerdotalis”, that is to say, a versicle intoned by the officiating priest and not by a cantor. At least on festival days, a Responsory was sung between the Little Chapter and Hymn of Vespers. When there were Commemorations or Memories as they are called in the Sarum, Dominican and allied Uses, the “Benedicamus Domino” of Vespers and Lauds was twice sung; once after the first Collect, and once after the last of the Commemorations. Compline began with the verse “Converte nos Deus”, the hymn followed instead of preceding the Little Chapter, and the Confiteor, as at Prime, was said among the Preces. The Compline Antiphons, hymn, etc., varied with the ecclesiastical seasons; but the introduction of a final Antiphon and Prayer of Our Blessed Lady closing the Divine Office (Divine Service, it was called at Sarum) is posterior to Sarum times. The Antiphons of the Sarum Offices differ considerably from those in the actual Roman Breviary; but both from the literary and from the devotional point of view the latter are in most instances preferable to those they have superseded. The proper psalms for the various Commons of Saints and for feast days are nearly always the same as now; but for the First Vespers of the greater solemnities the five psalms beginning with the word “Laudate” were appointed as in the Dominican Breviary. The order of the reading of Holy Scripture at Matins is practically identical with that of the Breviary of Pius V, though in the Middle Ages the First Nocturn was not as now reserved for these Lections only. An interesting feature of the Sarum Breviary is its inclusion of Scripture Lections for the ferias of Lent. The Lections taken from the writings of the Fathers and from the Legends of the Saints were often disproportionately long and obviously needed the drastic revision they received after the Council of Trent. The Sarum hymns are in the main those of the Roman Breviary as sung before their revision under Urban VIII and comprise by consequence the famous “Veni Redemptor” of Christmas Vespers and the “O quam glorifica” of the Assumption with one or two others in like manner now obsolete.
Very striking in the Sarum Use is the elaborate splendor of the accompanying ceremonial, which contrasts vividly with the comparative simplicity of Roman practice. Three, five, seven deacons and as many subdeacons, two or more thurifers, three cross-bearers and so on are often prescribed or at least contemplated. Two or four priests vested in copes, termed Rectores Chori or Rulers of the Choir, presided over the sacred chants. There was tensing of many altars, and even during the reading of the Lections at Matins priests in their vestments offered incense at the high altar. Processions were frequent, and that preceding the High Mass on Sundays was especially magnificent. On the altar itself rarely more than two or at the most four candlesticks were placed, but standing round or suspended from the roof were many other lights. An ornament used at Sarum, which at present survives only at papal functions, was the ritual fan. It was made of rich materials and was waved by a deacon over the priest during his celebration of the Holy Mysteries.
(4) The Sarum churches followed the Roman ecclesiastical calendar, supplementing it, as is still done, with a multiplicity of local feasts. We note one or two variants. The feast of the Apparition of St. Michael at Mont-St-Michel in Normandy (October 16) was kept instead of that of the same archangel in Italy (May 8); Sts. Crispin and Crispinian take as in France and elsewhere the place of Sts. Chrysanthus and Darias (October 25); a feast of Relics is kept in July; that of the Most Sweet Name of Jesus on August 7; that of St. Linus the Pope in November instead of in September, etc. The classification of festivals in Sarum Use is slightly more complicated than that which now prevails. To the cleverly drawn up Book of Rules for finding out the particulars of the Office or Mass to be said, which was parti-colored, being written in red and black, the name of “Pica” or “Pie” was given. Feasts are either double or simple, the former being subdivided into principal doubles, non-principal doubles, greater doubles, etc. Simple feasts (among which are reckoned days within octaves) have only three lessons at Matins, though the nocturn preceding these is sometimes of three, sometimes of nine and sometimes of twelve psalms.
(5) The order of Collects, Epistles, and Gospels differs from that of our Missals in that the summer Sundays being called First, Second, etc., after Trinity, instead of being counted from Pentecost, there is some slight inversion of order. The Second Sunday of Lent had its proper Gospel (Matt., XV, 21) in lieu of that of the Transfiguration now repeated from the preceding Saturday. For the Sunday next before Advent, the Gospel assigned was not that of the Last Judgment, but the entering of our Lord into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matt., XXI, 1), our Gospels of the First, Second, and Third Advent Sundays becoming those of the Second, Third, and Fourth respectively. It is evident, therefore, that the selection of Sunday Gospels in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer merely perpetuates a Catholic tradition.
(6) The Sarum sequence of colors is very ill-defined. However, as in the Dominican Missal, it is expressly laid down that on solemn days the most precious vestments be used irrespective of their hue. Otherwise, the recognized Sarum colors were white, red, green, and yellow, with black for Masses for the Dead. In the later centuries purple or violet, and blue, seem to have been very generally added. Yellow vestments are prescribed for feasts of Confessors. To our Blessed Lady white was allotted, but never blue, which color, on its introduction from the Continent, was looked upon as merely a substitute for purple or violet. In Passion-tide (Good Friday included) the Sarum liturgical color was red—a custom still observed at Milan. A striking peculiarity of the Sarum Use was the appointing of white vestments for Lent, except at the Blessing of Ashes on Ash Wednesday, when the celebrant wore a red cope. Similarly the sacred pictures and statues were veiled in white and not as with us in purple. They were thus covered not only during the two last weeks of Lent, but from its beginning until Easter Sunday morning.
(7) Sarum customs included elaborate ceremonial observance at Christmas-tide, of the feast of Deacons on St. Stephen’s Day (December 26), of the feast of Priests on St. John’s Day (December 27), and of the feast of Children or Childermas, on Holy Innocents‘ Day (December 28). Much also was made of the traditional rehearsing of the twofold genealogy of our Blessed Lord; on Christmas Day itself that according to St. Matthew, and on the Epiphany that according to St. Luke.
(8) The Sarum Holy Week was imposing. The Palm-Sunday procession moved to a tent or chapel at some distance from the church, whither the Blessed Sacrament had been conveyed at daybreak, and returned preceding two priests bearing the Blessed Sacrament in a feretory on their shoulders. At the words in the Passion: “And the veil of the temple was rent in the midst”, a great white curtain which from the first day of Lent had concealed the altar and sanctuary from the choir and people was divided and drawn aside. The Tenebrae candles were twenty-four in number instead of fifteen, and the Office itself was almost identically that now in use among the Dominicans, Calced Carmelites, etc. On Maundy Thursday, three hosts were consecrated: for, in addition to the one to be consumed in the Good-Friday service, another was needed to remain in the sepulchre until Easter Sunday morning, beside which on Good Friday, with much ceremony and the formal sealing of the tomb, the unveiled crucifix was laid. The Easter Sepulchre itself was mostly a permanent stone structure recalling in its shape and decoration the altar-tombs of the period. Very much, too, was made of the Easter Sunday procession of the return of the crucifix and of the Blessed Sacrament to the high altar, the latter again to be enshrined in the pendant dove for which our tabernacle has been substituted. The Holy Saturday function was very similar to that of the present day. The grand old hymn of Prudentius “Inventor rutili” has, however, long since given place to our “Lumen Christi“, and the prolix five-fold and seven-fold Litanies have been materially abridged. In medieval England, as in French churches almost to our own day, the solemn visit to the font by the officiating clergy during the Second Vespers of Easter was the occasion of much musical display.
(9) Holy Church in all ages has tolerated considerable diversity in the accessory ceremonies accompanying the ministering of Sacraments other than that of the Holy Eucharist. The ritual still in use in England perpetuates some of the Sarum peculiarities such as the manner of the plighting of troths, the giving of gold and silver by bridegroom to bride during the marriage ceremony, and the like, though some other observances, such as the holding of a silken canopy over the newly-married couple and the falling of the bride at her husband’s feet to kiss them in token of subjection,’ have dropped out. As evidence of the dependence of the Sarum Use on the Roman tradition, it may also be noted that in place of the Anglo-Saxon form for the Sacrament of Extreme Unction “Ungo oculos tuos”, etc., the Sarum books prescribe the Roman formula “Per istam sanctam Unctionem”, etc., a change which from the point of view of the theologian is of real importance.
During the few years of the reign of Mary Tudor an attempt was made in England to resuscitate the Sarum Use, which lingered on for sometime afterwards among the Seminary priests of persecution times; but it is now wholly obsolete, except, as the reader will have remarked, in so far as the Dominican, Carmelite and kindred Uses, cling, like that of Sarum, to certain liturgical practices derived from early Roman discipline, but which the Church has allowed to fall into desuetude.
F. THOMAS BERGH