Notes on the Liturgical Ornaments of the Cistercian Rite (Missale Cisterciense)

Recently I came across a few new images of the Cisterican rite and it prompted me to reach back to a few old images I also had and felt it might be an opportune time to provide some brief notes on this particular liturgical usage with a specific focus on its liturgical ornaments. Whenever I broach this subject I am always put to mind of the greater liturgical diversity that was to be found historically, not only within the Church Universal, but also within the Latin West in the pre-conciliar era. 

Now, it must be said, this liturgical diversity was at one time much broader still in periods such as the middle ages comparative to the post-Tridentine church, but within the post-Tridentine period while the Romanizing tendency was certainly in great evidence in response to the Protestant Reformation and its rejection of "Roman claims", so too was a respect for legitimate and historical expressions of liturgical diversity also concurrently found; something expressed quite clearly by St. Pius V in his bull, Quo Primum

Fast forward to the post-conciliar period and we've unfortunately seen the advent a paradoxical situation where, at one and the same time, we have the loss of these historical expressions of legitimate liturgical diversity -- a liturgical flattening if you will, with most of these historical liturgical books of the religious orders and primatial sees substantially disappearing -- combined with a rather chaotic approach to the post-conciliar Roman liturgical books themselves. In a sense we have the inverted situation from what we saw in the era of St. Pius V, with traditional historical expressions disappearing and, whether officially or unofficially, liturgical novelty and chaos either favoured or at very least tolerated. 

This commentary aside, one of the historical liturgical expressions that can be found is that of the Cistercian rite. The Cistercian liturgical books, expressed in the Missale Cisterciense and Breviarium Cisterciense,  itself has undergone various liturgical developments over the course of its history, and the photos shown here represent the liturgical books as expressed after the reforms of 1647. (Prior to this, there was a greater divergency between the Roman and Cistercian liturgical books). In that regard, what we are looking at amounts to a fairly "Romanized" form of the Cistercian rite it must be noted. 

The Cistercians are, of course, known for their relative austerity, and one of the features of their liturgical tradition which you will take note of in each of these photos is the absence of metal altar crosses in favour of wooden one's. (The late 17th century Cistercian rituale also directed that the feet of the corpus should be higher than the candlesticks proper, but as you will see from these photos, this was by no means universally observed.) 

Another point worth noting is that at one time the usual six candlesticks we are so accustomed to now, were not used in the Cistercian rite, but here again eventually the more typical Roman usage would come to pass, and in addition, two large "standards" (or candelabra magna) were also adopted, being lit from the Sanctus until the Communion. (The use of standards are also seen within the Carthusian rite.)

The Chanting of the Gospel

In terms of sacred vestments, the Roman colour sequence was only adopted in the early 17th century and, similar to the Carthusian rite, one did not typically find dalmatics and tunicles -- nor even copes -- used in most instances, however, this would come to be be relaxed in cases of solemn pontifical Masses and those solemn Masses celebrated by the abbot.

By way of an interesting side note, the Cistercian abbey of Eberbach had a very unusual series of liturgical colours that the eminent liturgiologist Josef Braun gives to us, which included -- amongst other colours -- grey for the feast of St. Bernard, "donkey grey and gold" for the feasts of the Visitation and Conception, brown for the Christmas Vigil, even going so far as to specify particular materials and colour combinations for certain feast days. 

At one time, the use of silk was not permitted, but this too would change early on as the order grew and spread.

On the altar were placed two altar cloths of plain linen (which were removed after the conclusion of the Mass) and the historical form of the Cistercian altar tended toward a medieval style table altar with the mensa set upon stone columns like seen here below. However, already by the 13th century some relaxation took place here with altar frontals being permitted on great feasts and, once again, one will see from these photos that the form of the altar also later on took some of the more typical forms in successive centuries. 

Historically speaking, thuribles were in the earliest days of the rite only permitted in iron or copper and it is worth noting that similar restrictions on the kinds of metal or materials used were not only at one time found for thuribles and altar crosses, but also the altar candlesticks, chalices and so forth. However, herer too many of these original restrictions would later come to be relaxed as one can see in evidence within the photos.

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