A Short History of the 
Roman Mass

 by Michael Davies

Chapter 3
The Gallican Rite


The fact that until the 8th century the West did not apply the general principle that rite follows patriarchate is both anomalous and unique. That the Bishop of Rome was Patriarch of all the West is a fact not disputed by anyone, and yet the Western Churches did not follow his rite. Until the 8th century, it was the local rite of the city of Rome only. It was not used in northern Italy, and even the southern dioceses of the peninsula had their own liturgical use. It usual to classify all these Western [Latin but not Roman] rites under the general name of Gallican. This practice is justified inasmuch as they all differ from the Roman and are closely related among themselves. We know most about the Gallican rite, in the strict sense, as it was used in Gaul. Variants are found in Spain, Britain, Italy and other countries. The generally accepted view is that the Gallican family of liturgies originated in the East, possibly in Antioch, and after being adopted in Milan during the 4th century spread throughout the West. Milan was, at that time, the Metropolitan See of northern Italy and the second most important see in the West.

From about the 8th century the local Roman rite gradually spread throughout the West, displacing the Gallican liturgies, but being modified by them in the process. There are two places in Western Europe where the old Gallican liturgies are still used. The first is Toledo in Spain, the Mozarabic rite. The word "Mozarabic" refers to the Mozarabes, the Christian Arabs, and, strictly speaking, should only be applied to those parts of Spain which fell under Moorish rule after 711. In its present form it is the last remnant of the old Spanish rite. From the 11th century the Mozarabic rite was more and more driven back by that of Rome, and it seemed that it would disappear completely. In 1500 Cardinal Ximenes, the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo who died in 1517, revised its liturgical books, and founded chapters at Toledo, Salamanca, and Valladolid to preserve its use, but it is only in the Corpus Christi chapel in the cathedral at Toledo, founded by the Cardinal, that it is still celebrated today, but with Roman elements, in particular the Roman form of the words of institution. Cardinal Ximenes had a Mozarabic Missal printed in 1500, and a Breviary in 1502.

The city of Milan also has its own rite, commonly called Ambrosian, but there is no evidence to prove that St. Ambrose did more than compose the words of half a dozen of the hymns of the rite which is much more Romanized than that of Toledo, and includes the whole Roman Canon. The people of Milan took up arms on several occasions to resist attempts to impose the Roman Rite upon them. It was considerably modified after 1970 to bring it into line with the New Mass of Pope Paul VI.