A Short History of the 
Roman Mass

 by Michael Davies

Chapter 7
Eastern and Gallican Additions  to the Roman Rite


The Roman Mass as reformed by St. Gregory gradually spread and became predominant not only in Italy, but also beyond the Alps. The prestige of the Roman Church, the sober nature of her liturgy, the fact that at Rome were the tombs of the Prince of the Apostles and many other martyrs, all combined to give the Roman liturgy a distinctive ethos of authenticity and authority. In addition, the absence of any great primatial see in Europe, but for Toledo in Spain, and the troubled nature of the times, favored this rapid expansion. But during this expansion the Roman liturgy absorbed features of local, that is to say Gallican, traditions which, derived from an earlier period and with affinities to eastern usages. Some of these Gallican features were eventually to find their way to Rome and to be incorporated into the Roman Mass itself.

The Sacramentary that bears the name of St. Gregory is the term used for a family of Sacramentaries which emerged after his pontificate. The most important of the Gregorian Sacramentaries is the one referred to as The Adrianum. It was sent by Pope Adrian I [722-795] to Charlemagne at the request of the Emperor in 785 or 786. Charlemagne had asked for a Roman Massbook as he wished to standardize the liturgy in his Empire in accordance with the Roman usage. He was helped in this task by Alcuin, an English monk, who made up for deficiencies in the Roman Sacramentary by adding material from Gelasian sacramentaries current in Gaul, sacramentaries which contained Gallican material. Alcuin's mixed rite Sacramentary found its way back to Rome and material from it found its way into the Roman Sacramentary. It is from this Gallicanized Roman Sacramentary that the finalized Roman Missal was eventually compiled. By the 11th century, and at the latest the latest the 12th century, this Gallicanized Roman rite had supplanted all the pure Gallican rites in the west with the exception of the survival of the Mozarabic rite at Toledo and a Romanized version of the Ambrosian rite in Milan. The principal that rite follows patriarchate had finally prevailed in the West as well as the East.

The additions to the Roman rite, some of which originated in Jerusalem and the East as well as from Gallican rites, or via Gallican rites, form its more elaborate, decorative, and symbolic parts. The pure Roman rite was exceedingly simple, austere, and plain; nothing was done except for some reason of practical utility. Its prayers were short and dignified, but almost too austere when compared with the exuberant rhetoric of the East. In our Missal we have from non-Roman sources much of the Holy Week ritual, and such decorative and symbolic processions and blessings as those of Candlemas and Palm Sunday. Doctor Fortescue writes:

If one may venture a criticism of these additions from an aesthetic point of view, it is that they are exceedingly happy. The old Roman rite, in spite of its dignity and archaic simplicity, had the disadvantage of being dull. The Eastern and Gallican rites are too florid for our taste and too long. The few non­Roman elements in our Mass take nothing from its dignity and yet give it enough variety and reticent emotion to make it most beautiful. 9