Liturgical History and Art As Seen in a 1770 Mozarabic Missal

Some of you might find the following edition of the Mozarabic Missal rather interesting, both for reason of its beauty and also for reason of the interesting story the art within tells. It was published in 1770, not in Rome or Spain as one might expect, but rather in colonial Mexico. It is a beautifully bound specimen, bound in a chestnut coloured calf that was executed in Mexico as well:


Here is a detail of the gilt emblem on the front cover:

The gilt emblem depicts St Ildefonso, the 7th century Bishop of Toledo, receiving the chasuble from the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Thanks to Lucas Viar for assistance in identifying this.)


Canon Missae

Arms Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros

Two illustrations that are of particular interest speak to Western liturgical history.  There has always been something of a push-pull tension between a centralizing tendency toward the Apostolic See and that of the local rites and usages. These next two images speak to that, specifically of a conflict on the question of the use of the Mozarabic versus the Roman liturgical books in Toledo in the time of King Alfonso VI -- who desired the Roman rite to gain predominance in his kingdom.



This particular plate represents a duel between two knights, one the Castillian, Juan Ruiz de Matanzas, who fought in defence of the ancient Mozarabic rite; the other the knight of Alfonso VI.

It was a trial by combat that was intended to settle the question of which set of liturgical books would be used.  The plate depicts and notes the victory of the Mozarabic champion.

That, however, did not end the controversy, culminating in the legendary "trial by fire:"


"Both books were thrown into the fire."
"The Roman leapt out of the flame. The Gothic one was unharmed in the flames."

The plates imply the victory of the Mozarabic liturgy, though Archdale King, in the Liturgies of the Primatial Sees, recounts another variant on this legend however, taken from the "Chronicle of Najera" that reverses the two; the Mozarabic missal leaping from the flames and the Roman remaining in the flames unharmed.

King sets out the broader background:
In Castille, Alfonso I, his French queen Agnes and the Cluniacs were in favour of the Roman rite, while the people, clergy and some of the bishops were for the Mozarabic. On 14 March 1075, we find Alfonso, together with El Cid and Simeon of Oca, at the opening of the holy ark (arca sancta) of relics at Ovideo, where the two rites were represented. The king exhorted those who were present to redouble their prayers for a solution of the liturgical controversy. It would seem that in the following year Alfonso decided to abolish the Mozarabic rite, but, perceiving the very real affection of the people for it and unwilling to cause rebellion, he suffered the formal act of suppression to remain in abeyance for two years. It is evident that there were strong manifestations of national sentiment. On 9 April 1077 (Palm Sunday), it was decided to settle the thorny question by means of a duel, which took place at Burgos. The date is attested by two texts originating from that city. One of the champions, says the Chronicle of Burgos, was a Castillian, the other came from Toledo (a knight in the service of the king), and the Toledan was vanquished. The Annales do not say who was the victor. The 'knights' knight' was defeated according to the Chronicle of Najera, which records a subsequent trial of the rival liturgies by fire...
The interesting history and stories that the liturgical arts can tell.

If you are interested in more information about the Mozarabic rite proper, do head on over to NLM to read the series of posts I published about it in 2009-2011:

The Mozarabic Rite: Introduction
The Mozarabic Rite: The Two Missals
The Mozarabic Rite: Introductory Rites and Lessons
The Mozarabic Rite: The Offertory to the Post Sanctus
The Mozarabic Rite: "Canon" to Communion and Dismissal

Photo credits: Dorothy Sloan Books
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