Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Mass in 1450 reconstruction

A while ago I came across an online video of a  reconstruction of Sunday Mass celebrated as it would have been for Trinity XVIII on 4 October 1450 in a village church somewhere, anywhere in Catholic Europe  - but more particularly in Sweden. The Rite or Use is not Sarum - nor, despite the note by a viewer, is it the Dominican Rite. 

Sweden in the mid fifteenth century was part of the Union of Kalmar, created in 1397 which bound all the Scandinavian realms and their dependencies together. Wikipedia has an introduction to this topic. with appropriate links, at Kalmar UnionBy the date envisaged for this Mass Sweden had temporarily broken away and was under the rule of King Charles II  ( VIII according to the later numbering system adopted in the early seventeenth century ) in the first of his three reigns, that of 1448-57. There is a Wikipedia life of him at Charles VIII of Sweden

The history of the Scandinavian realms and the richness of their culture in this period is, I suspect, little known outside them today. Once you are past the Vikings for most outsiders there is nothing beyond the very evocative film 
The Seventh Seal - life in rural Sweden in the Black Death is shown as not the greatest of fun - until Queen Christina comes along in the seventeenth century. There is, of course, in reality a fascinating story to learn about, and, as with this reconstructed Mass, to see the northern kingdoms as part of a wider European culture.

The  church is perhaps a bit plain in its decoration - in Denmark village churches often display a wealth of wall paintings that were merely whitewashed out rather than actively defaced after the establishment of Lutheranism, as well as the survival of important devotional statues and art in all three kingdoms. 

In Wales there has been reconstruction of the church of St Teilo from Pontardullais, which was moved from its state of decay on its original site in 2003 and is now at St Fagans Museum. It is decorated and furnished as it might have been circa 1520, and has been used for services in the medieval use.

Colourful interior of St Teilo's Church.

The reconstructef interior of St Teilo’s Church
Image: visitwales.com

There is a slight translation problem as to using the term ‘fourteenth century’ as opposed to ‘1400s’ - a consequence of the difference between English as opposed to other languages 

As a regular at the usual antiquior it seems very familiar  - don’t tell certain people in Rome.

The video can be seen at Medieval Sancta Missa (1450) and in a slightly shorter version ( without the introduction in Swedish ) at Medieval Sancta Missa (1450)

For videos of the Sarum Use look at the links on Fr Sean Finnegan’s Valle Adurni blogsite, which links to a video of a Candlemas celebration in the chapel of Merton College in the late 1990s - I was there and it was wonderful.

From the The Society of Saint John the Wonderworker which is a Western Rite Orthodox group who celebrate the Sarum Use as their normative rite there are two more recent videos. One is of a Sarum Use Mass celebrated by their Bishop of Whithorn, Dumfries and the Marches for Invocavit Sunday in 2020 which can be seen at Use of Sarum - Bishop's mass with lenten array

Ths second is of a celebration in Carlisle Cathedral on August 1 this year. It can be seen at Holy Mass (Use of Sarum) - Carlisle Cathedral 01/08/2021

In addition there are edited highlights online of a Sarum Use celebration at the Anglican St Thomas’ in Toronto, again for Candlemas. This unfortunately has two glaring errors for Sarum practice - the presence of “Serviettes” and communion in the hand ( which is disgusting in any Rite ). That said it does otherwise give a quick idea of what it might have been like to attend such a liturgy in about 1500.

I did wonder if that church was the one that the splendid author Robertson Davies was inspired by in writing The Cunning Man - though happily without the conclusion of that particular Mass of the Presanctified..,.


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