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The Mozarabic, Visigothic, or Hispanic Rite is a form of Catholic worship within the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, and in the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church (Anglican). Its beginning dates to the 7th century, and is localized in the Iberian Peninsulamarker (the Roman Hispania). Mozarab is the term for the Christian population living under Muslim rulers in Al-Andalusmarker.

Formation of early Catholic rites

Ritual worship surrounding the Eucharist in the earliest Christian Church was not scripted with precise rubrics as is the norm today. One of the earliest known documents setting down the nature of Eucharistic celebration is the Didache, dating from 70–140 (see historical roots of Catholic Eucharistic theology). Few details are known of early forms of the liturgy, or worship, in the first three centuries, but there was great diversity of practice. As Christianity gained dominance in the wake of the conversion of Constantine I, early in the fourth century, there was a period of liturgical creativity as the communities emerged from smaller gatherings to large assemblies in public halls and new churches. This time of creativity saw the combination of embellishment of existing practices with the exchange of ideas and practices from other communities. These mutual processes resulted both in greater diversity and in the merging of forms throughout major cities and regions. The liturgies of the patriarchal cities in particular had greater influence on their regions so that by the 5th century it becomes possible to distinguish among several families of liturgies, in particular the Jerusalem, Alexandrian, Antiochene, Byzantine, and Syrian families in the East, and in the Latin West, the African (completely lost), Gallican, Celtic, Milanese, Roman, and Hispanic (Mozarabic) families. These settled into fairly stable forms that continued to evolve, but none without some influence from outside. In the West, however, the liturgy in Roman Africa was lost as the church there was weakened by internal division and then the Vandal invasion, and then was extinguished in the wake of the Islamic ascendancy. In Gaul, the fascination of the Franks with Roman liturgy led them to begin adopting the Roman rite, a process that was confirmed and promoted by Charlemagne as an aid to imperial unity.

Visigoths in Iberia

The Arian Visigoths were driven from Francemarker and came south, converting to Catholicism in 587. The Catholic liturgical practice in Iberia prior to the Visigoths (and the Muslims) is termed "Old Hispanic", and inaccurately is often called Mozarabic. There was a liturgical tradition in Hispania prior to the arrival of the Visigoths as evidenced by the fact that it lacks Arian influence. This liturgy reached its point of greatest development in the 7th century, and is found partly in the Verona Orationale, taken to Italy for safekeeping after the invasion of Muslims (below). Terminological confusion regarding the liturgical development in this area is common, and most names proposed bear a degree of inaccuracy; hence qualifications are the norm in the discussion of this history. The most precise use of the term "Mozarabic rite" is for that liturgy followed by the inhabitants of former visigothic Hispania who submitted to Islamic rule and their descendants. St. Isidore of Seville (d. 636), who was influential at the Fourth Council of Toledo 633, according to the wishes of that Council, gave the Hispanic rite its final form before the invasion of the Muslims.

Muslims in Iberia

A crisis within Visigoth rule facilitated the Muslim invasion; shortly after 711 only a remnant of Iberia was left outside of Muslim control. The term "Mozarabic", in early centuries having more diverse spellings, comes from Arabic for "Arabized".

As is generally the case with Islamic rule the Christians were made dhimmis and therefore became subjects of an Islamic ruled state. Islamic rule is normally more systematic than Christianity when it comes to its treatment of non-believers. This system kept Christians in an inferior political and financial position. This was true of the Umayyad emirate which enforced the Qur'anic rules obliging dhimmis to pay the jizya and killing those who defamed Muhammad or reverted to Christianity after converting to Islam.

This tolerance began to erode after the rule of the Umayyad emirate ended and al-Andalus devolved into small local kingdoms. The change started with the conquest of the Almoravides in the 11th century. The Almoravides deemed the previous Muslims to be too willing to work with Christians and persecution increased. Under the even stauncher Almohads the position of Christians declined further and Iberia became a much more violent place for Christians. In order to avoid violence there were many in Iberia who in various ways adapted to Moor culture, in dress and work, in marriage, and in language.

Toledomarker, approximately 75 kilometres south-east of Madridmarker, was strategically important to the Muslims, and there the Christians were able to arrange a compromise making Toledo somewhat different from the rest of Muslim Iberia (the Al Andalusmarker): Christians were permitted to practice their religion and retain their property.

Christianity restored in Iberia

As the Christians reconquered Iberia, the kings sought to establish links to Europe and the Papacy. They established the Way of Saint Jamesmarker for pilgrims and invited Roman-rite Catholics ("Franks") into Iberia, who established that rite in all christianised portions, a change that was met with "uprisings", such that the Mozarabic rite was permitted to be used in Toledo and Leon even after the Muslims had been expelled. The Mozarabic rite was approved by Pope John X in 918, suppressed by Pope Gregory VII in 1085 yet permitted in six parishes. Unity in liturgical practice was strongly encouraged by Rome from an early date as well as around the general period of the East-West Schism; areas christianised after periods of conquest typically had the Roman rite installed—this was true for centuries in the East as well. Eventually the Mozarabic rite became a memorial service, as people grew to accept the Roman rite.

Gallican, Mozarabic, and Roman rite connections

There is evidence that the Mozarabic rite is tied to the Gallican rite, given common points of construction. Schaff argues for an Oriental element in both the Gallican and the Mozarabic (or Old Hispanic), while Jenner quotes Dom Marius Férotin, O.S.B., who writes that the framework of the liturgy is from Italy or Rome, while various details such as hymns are from Iberia, Africa, and Gaul. Jenner states that there is no extant concrete information about the Old Hispanic liturgy prior to the end of the 6th century, a point echoed by Cabrol. Michael Davies reports that it is commonly believed that the Gallican rite came from the East, perhaps Antioch, and through Italy influenced the West. The work of St. Isidore, who was asked by a Council of Toledo (probably the one occurring in 633) to revise and rearrange the liturgy of the time (Old Hispanic), leaves us a number of documents demonstrating liturgical stability prior to the Muslim invasion. Cabrol lists several liturgical points of Oriental origin ("the place of the diptychs, the Kiss of Peace, and even the 'epiclesis'") while indicating the liturgical commonalities to the entire West, including Rome and Gaul. Cabrol also indicates that the Mozarabic rite contains some customs that ante-date those of Rome.

Preservation and relevance of the Mozarabic rite

The Mozarabic rite is the second-best attested liturgy in the Latin Church in terms of preserved documentation. The Mozarabic rite was considered authoritative for the clarification of a Sacramentary received by Charlemagne from Pope Adrian I (d. 795). The first is, of course, the Roman Rite, which, to encourage unity of faith and worship, generally replaced the Mozarabic in Iberia from about 1080.

In the year 870, Charles the Bald, wishing to see what the ancient Gallican Rite had been like, had priests sent from Spain to say the Mozarabic Mass before him.

In the latter part of the eighth century, the Rite had fallen under some suspicion owing to quotations cited by Elipandus of Toledo in support of his Adoptianist theories, and the Council of Frankfurt 794 spoke somewhat disparagingly of possible Islamic influence on it. It was due to these suspicions that in 924, John X sent a Papal Legate named Zanello to investigate the Rite. Zanello spoke favorably of the Rite, and the Pope gave a new approbation to it, requiring only to change the words of consecration to that of the Roman one. Spanish Priests gradually started to use the Roman words of institution (though there is no evidence whether or not it was done consistently).

When king Alfonso VI of Castile conquered Toledo in 1085, it was being disputed on whether Iberian Christians should follow the foreign Roman rite or the traditional Mozarabic rite. After other ordeals, it was submitted to the trial by fire: One book for each rite was thrown into a fire. The Toledan book was little damaged after the Roman one was consumed. Henry Jenner comments in the Catholic Encyclopedia: "No one who has seen a Mozarabic manuscript with its extraordinarily solid vellum, will adopt any hypothesis of Divine Interposition here."The king allowed six parishes in the city to continue to use the Mozarabic rite.

Cardinal Jiménez de Cisneros (d. 1517) published in 1500 a Mozarabic Missal, and two years later a Breviary, both of which were formally approved by Pope Julius II. To perfect the presentation of the liturgy Jiménez interpolated elements of the Roman rite then in Iberia, particularly the preliminary prayers for the Mass. He also instituted a chapel in the cathedral of Toledo, with a college of thirteen priests to use the Missal and Breviary. This continues to the present day, in spite of vicissitudes that included the killing of all the priests of the group in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.

The texts prepared by Jiménez were republished at various times. The dawn of the twentieth century saw an intensification of studies of the rite and the publication of its manuscript sources. In response to the encouragement given by the Second Vatican Council in Sacrosanctum Concilium, 3-4 to renew other rites as well as the Roman, the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo Marcelo González Martín set up a commission to revise the liturgical books of the Mozarabic rite. Between 1988 and 1995, the Missal (in two volumes), the Lectionary (also in two volumes), and a vernacular (Castilian) version of the Ordinary of the Mass appeared, with the required approval of the Spanish bishops conference and confirmation by the Holy See.

The Mozarabic Mass is celebrated daily in the Corpus Christi Chapel (also called the Mozarabic Chapel) in the Cathedral of Toledomarker, and every Sunday by the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church. Two of the original six "Mozarabic" parishes of Toledo remain. Additionally, all the churches of Toledo annually celebrate this rite on the Mozarabic Feast of the Incarnation in December 18, and on the feast day of Saint Ildephonsus in January 23. The rite is also used on certain days each year in the Talavera Chapel of the Old Cathedral of Salamancamarker and less regularly in other cities in Spainmarker. Pope John Paul II celebrated it once in each of the years 1992 and 2000.

The Mozarabic rite has been of interest to non-Catholic communions as well. For example, in the 1880s the Anglican church examined the Mozarabic rite for ideas about making their own liturgy more inspiring, and at present the aforementioned Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church employs it for the celebration of all sacraments.

The oldest Western manuscript written on paper is the Mozarabic Missal of Silos, from the eleventh century.

Mozarabic rite a lesson in evolution of rites

After the early period of persecutions came to an end, Christians began to develop more elaborate forms of worship, perhaps because it became possible to store and share rubrical ideas over time and geography, and because love for Christ inspired greater elaboration. Liturgical variety has always been assumed, by the Church, to be permissible in small details that do not touch upon articles of faith or morals. This variety is a natural result of the Church, i.e. the body of faithful, being in "a dialogue of love" with Jesus: this is how forms of worship are perceived by the Church—which can authoritatively, but not arbitrarily, "define and limit the usage of rites" (quotes from Ratzinger). G. S. Lee writes that the Church is always eager to "recognize the varying wants of her spiritual children, and to shape her devotional exercises in conformity to these". The Council of Toledo affirmed it to be "a form of worship grateful to the people" and the Council of Mantua, 1067, declared it to be free of heresy and "also worthy of praise".

Character of Mozarabic rite

While the liturgy used during the period of Islamic rule was very much like that to which St. Isidore put some finishing touches in the 7th century, during Islamic rule the pastors took more care, where practice of Christianity was permitted, to address the faithful during the Mass. The Bible was translated into Arabic during this period as well, and the liturgy was celebrated in Arabic.

The Mozarabic Mass is longer in duration than that of the Roman rite. Imagery and ceremony are used extensively; its great beauty is shown in the support it received even after the Roman rite was installed throughout Iberia. Many learned theologians have praised it. Many hymns were written within the Mozarabic rite.

The Mozarabic rite may have emphasized the Blessed Virgin Mary's role even more than did the liturgy of Rome. It also exalts Mary by addressing her directly in prayer, which the Roman rite does not do.

The Mozarabic rite was the first to use ashes within the liturgical celebrations of the Church. Ashes were used prior to the Mozarabic rite, but this was done outside of liturgical events, e.g., marking people for penance.

The Breviary has a short and uncomplicated extra office (session of prayer) before the main morning office.

Extensive use is made of responsories between the celebrant (priest) and faithful during the Mozarabic Mass, including during the Confiteor (prayer of confession of guilt for sin), which is quite different from that in the Roman rite (Tridentine or post-Tridentine); though much of the preparatory prayers and other elements in the old Missal were borrowed from a Romano-Toledan Missal and is not originally part of the rite.

While the liturgy is quite beautiful, it also tended toward "prolixity" and at times was lacking in "sobriety". The Roman rite of Mass is more ordered: in its Tridentine form it left almost nothing to the choice of the celebrant; the present (Mass of Paul VI), though it limits extemporaneous variations to the words of introduction to certain ceremonies, frequently allows a choice between different formulas of prayer. This may be due to the influence of the Mozarabic rite.

There was no fixed anaphora or Eucharistic prayer in the Mozarabic rite of Mass, which permitted a fair degree of extemporaneous flexibility. When the Mozarabic rite was given a new lease on life in 1500, the Roman words of institution, the key words that Jesus used at the Last Supper, were required. Originally, the Mozarabic words of institution were from St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (11:24), with the formula for the consecration of the wine being a combination of 1 Corinthians 11:24, Luke 22:20, and Matthew 26:28. These were the words written on the (old) Mozarabic Missal, though the Roman formula was included as a footnote in the Missal and was used in actual practice in place of the old Spanish formula (note, however, that it was reinstituted by the modern Mozarabic Missal).

Some Eucharistic prayers are addressed to Christ rather than to God the Father. After the consecration of the bread and wine (see Eucharist), the host (the real presence of Christ under the species of bread) was broken into nine pieces, each representing a facet of Christ's life on earth, seven of which are arranged in a cross on the paten.

See also


  • Western Latin Liturgics, [72299]
  • Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, Catholic Information Network [72300]
  • Celebrating Being Catholic, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians [72301]
  • Dom Fernand Cabrol, The Mass of the Western Rites [72302]
  • Mozarabic Rite Celebration at St. Peter's, Catholic World News [72303]
  • The Occidental Liturgies, History of the Christian Church, Schaff [72304]
  • Charles R. Hale, Mozarabic Collects Translated and Arranged from the Ancient Liturgy of the Spanish Church, (Preface), 1881 [72305]
  • Abbot Cabrol, The Excellence of the Roman Mass, The Angelus, February 2001, Vol. 26, No. 2 [72306]
  • Rev. Bertrand de Margerie, S.J., Part 2 of Mary Coredemptrix In the Light of Patristics [72307]
  • Fr. Paul Bombardier, To learn about Gregorian chant, check out these Web sites, [72308]
  • Cardinal Ratzinger's speech on the Liturgy, Association for Latin Liturgy [72309]
  • History of Ash Wednesday, [72310]
  • St. Veremundus, [72311]
  • Blog by Robert Gotcher: Classic Catholic [72312]
  • Fr Stephen Shield, The Traditional Latin Rite in the Church Today, Latin Mass Society of England and Wales [72313]
  • Primary Sources for Medieval Studies, Library University College Cork, Ireland (list of resources about liturgy and hagiography) [72314]
  • United States Catholic Bishops, Committee on the Liturgy, In the February 2000 Newsletter [72315]
  • The Rites of the Catholic Church [72316]
  • Henry Jenner, Mozarabic Rite, Catholic Encyclopedia [72317]
  • La Ermita (Spanish) [72318]
  • Osés, Gutiérrez, & Redondo, Geografía e Historia de España y de los Países Hispánicos, Santillana, 1986.
  • H. S. Lee, The Mozarabic Rite, Catholic World, Vol. 49, No. 294, September 1889 [72319]
  • Bat Ye'or, Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, Fairleigh Dickenson University Press, ISBN 0-8386-3943-7

External links

Media of the Mozarabic Mass

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