Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary

In the octave of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and since St. Osmund of Salisbury's feast day was last Sunday (replaced by the Second Sunday of Advent, of course), it's a good idea to look at Salisbury Cathedral in the Sunday Shrine Series. Built from 1220 to 1258, it is one of those unusual cathedrals that has a unified style: Early English Gothic. Many cathedrals display a series of styles from Norman to Early Gothic to Pointed and Flamboyant, but Salisbury has only one style, which of course has been repaired and restored through the years.

It is from Salisbury that we have received the Sarum Rite, attributed in this Catholic Herald article to St. Osmund of Salisbury, William the Conqueror's Chancellor:

St Osmund (d 1099) was chaplain and then chancellor to William the Conqueror after the Norman Conquest.

If, however, his early career was dedicated principally to secular affairs, there is no question of his devotion to religion in the latter part of his life as Bishop of Salisbury.

A monk at Malmesbury called him “an orthodox bishop, a man of humility, worthy to be honoured and praised for his wisdom and holiness”.

Osmund has been held responsible for the introduction of the Sarum Rite, based on Norman models. With its elaborate attention to ceremony and its particular prayers, this Rite was widely used in southern England, Wales, Scotland and even in parts of Ireland until formally abolished by Elizabeth in 1559. Its influence, however, may still be detected in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

This program from a concert held earlier this year at New York City's Episcopalian Trinity Church, however, mentions Richard Poore, the Bishop of Salisbury who began the construction of The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1220, as an important person in the development of the Sarum Rite:

In 1220, Richard Poore, the bishop of Salisbury, began the construction of a spectacular new cathedral for his diocese. He called it “The Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” known and loved today as Salisbury Cathedral.

Aside from overseeing the early years of the construction of the cathedral, Bishop Poore also devoted himself to enriching and documenting the liturgy to be carried out within it, weaving architecture and liturgy into a single fabric. Poore wrote two new volumes detailing the liturgical practice at Salisbury, the Ordinale and Consuetudinarium (which spelled out the ceremonial he planned) that carried over and elaborated on liturgical customs of the past.

Within decades, this “Sarum Use” (“Sarum” is derived from “Sarisburia,” the name the Domesday Book (1086) gives to Salisbury) had become renowned for its splendor, complexity, and —dare one say?— The polyphonic embellishments to this gorgeous ceremonial—seldom performed in church today— are some of the most exquisite beauties of any age.

More about Salisbury Cathedral from the official website, including detail about Ken Follett's novel Pillars of the Earth.

Image source.

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