Sunday 31 July 2022

For the Season "Per Annum" 2022 : 4

Saint Martin vestments
In this post, we are pleased to present one of the Studio's vestments in the Saint Martin style.  

This style is the Saint Bede Studio's own contemporary interpretation of the ancient form of Roman chasuble.  It is extremely ample but, being carefully shaped, does not fall like a blanket on the wearer (as so many contemporary vestments do).  Rather it falls into the folds of the arms and gathers gracefully. 

This particular vestment is made from a deep green fabric (not so easy to obtain) and ornamented in the Roman style - being a Tau ornament in the front and a column at the back. The striking ornament is formed quite simply from an ecclesiastical brocade in colours of burgundy and old gold.

The Saint Martin chasubles can be made in a variety of qualities of fabric in all the Liturgical colours, and can be lined or  unlined. 

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

Enquiries Visit this page

Tuesday 26 July 2022

For the Season "Per Annum" 2022 : 3

The vestments shewn in the adjacent photographs were prepared by the Saint Bede Studio for a priest from the United States.

This chasuble was tailored in the Studio's Saint Austin design, a variant on the Gothic Revival chasuble, being pointed front and back.  The vestments were made from an English ecclesiastical brocade in a lovely brighter shade of green.  They were lined in red taffeta.

The Saint Bede StudioThe vestments were ornamented with an orphrey braid of the Studio's own design in colours of green and gold upon red. The braid called Saint Chad is directly based on a design by AWN Pugin.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

Enquiries Visit this page

The Saint Bede Studio

Tuesday 12 July 2022

For the Season "Per Annum" 2022 : 2

Green vestments

Recently, the Saint Bede Studio completed this set of vestments in the Gothic Revival style.

The vestments were made from a lovely silk damask, woven in the United Kingdom.  Lined in a beautiful shade of blue taffeta, the vestments were ornamented with one of the Studio's unique braids.  This braid, Saint Chad, is derived from the ornament of a chasuble designed by AWN Pugin.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : This page.

Gothic Revival vestments

The Saint Bede Studio

Sunday 10 July 2022

For the Season "Per Annum" 2022 : 1

Green vestments
The Studio has completed this set of vestments in our Saint Giles style, being a more flowing and slightly more ample chasuble in the Gothic style.

These vestments are made from a beautiful brocade in two shades of green, one being very dark, the other an Emerald green. Their combination is very rich and distinctive. Ornamenting the vestments is the earliest of the Studio's Puginesque braids, a design of alternating quatrefoils in gold upon a red base. The lining is a brighter red.

The chasuble is shewn being worn with an apparelled amice.

Click on the image for an enlarged view.

Enquiries :

Tuesday 5 July 2022

LORD to whom shall we turn [re-visited] ?


by Michael Sternbeck

In 2016, as a result of a paper given at a liturgical conference in London by Cardinal Sarah - in those happier days when he was Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship - an unpleasant public kerfuffle broke out, with Cardinals and Curial officials contradicting each other about the direction the celebrant should (or might) face when offering Mass according to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  An interesting, but unconvincing debate (1) ensued on the precise meaning of the General Instructions of the Roman Missal in order to prove (or disprove) the point that the "normative direction" for the celebration of the Ordinary form is ad orientem and versus populum is the "exception".

Figure 1.
Pope Paul VI offering Low Mass ad orientem
before a vast crowd in Saint Peter's Square in 1963.
Versus populum celebrations increasingly 
the usual form of Papal Mass during his reign.

Despite little victories of textual meaning, the reality is that - so far as the practice of the Church is concerned - the "normative" direction is versus populum.  It had been so increasingly in Papal Rome from the moment Pope Paul VI offered Mass versus populum on the occasion of his Coronation in Saint Peter's Square on 29th June 1963.  Throughout the rest of the 1960's leading up to the publication of the new Roman Missal in 1970, (2) Pope Paul increasingly offered Mass versus populum, signifying that he wished to establish this as the normative practice for the Roman Church. (3) Throughout the Latin Church, very few resisted this new direction.

We might regard the practice of celebrating Mass versus populum as the product of a particular (dated) liturgical philosophy and based on imperfect scholarship. The fact remains, however, that worldwide, the majority of celebrants and the Faithful are quite comfortable with versus populum celebrations of the Mass and do not see any reason to change.  We might take this a step further and observe that Liturgical Tradition is not prominent in the consciousness of every, or even most Catholics.  Perhaps the younger generation - which has no interest in the outdated causes of the 1960s - is more disposed to it.  With that hope, we have prepared this paper, an expansion of small posts which previously have appeared on the blog of the Saint Bede Studio. This article is not intended to be an apologia for the celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Mass of the Roman Rite ad orientem;  a large number of scholars have done this very ably. Its intention is to clarify certain misconceptions about both ad orientem and versus populum celebrations.

 “The altar of holy Church is Christ, as John testifies, when he says in his Apocalypse that he saw him as a golden altar standing before the throne.  In him and through him the gifts of the faithful are offered to God the Father.”  

Figure 2.
Mass celebrated in the Benedictine Abbey
Church of Brugges, Belgium.
The Church is oriented, the altar being
free-standing and resting in the apse
beneath a stone canopy.
This extract from the old Roman Pontifical for the Ordination of subdeacons elucidates the teaching of the Church that the altars of our churches signify Christ, although Christ himself is at once the priest, victim and Altar of Sacrifice.  The distinguished theologian and liturgist, Canon A. Croegart, emphasises the primacy of the altar:

“Without the eucharistic sacrifice, there would be no communion; without communion, there would be no reserved sacrament, nor any of the other forms of devotion connected with the worship of the reserved sacrament.  Everything depends upon the altar, yet this order of importance is all too frequently ignored.”  

Croegart’s conclusion is obvious, yet startling:  

“The altar is not an ornament of the church, but rather, the church is an architectural ornament housing and covering the altar.  The jewel does not exist for the casket, but the casket is adapted to and serves the jewel...Therefore, it is important that the altar should be prominent in the church.  By its central position and sumptuousness, the altar should, straightaway, draw the attention of those who enter the church.” (4)

This is the Church’s ancient and continuing understanding of the nature of the altar and its relationship to the celebration of Mass.

Simply translated, the Latin term ad orientem means “towards the east”.  One of the meanings of the word orientation is “the action of turning to or facing the east”.  To pray facing the East was not an invention of Christianity, it was a custom common to Jewish and Pagan worship alike, although not universal.  Ancient peoples faced the rising sun to pray, in some cases identifying it as a deity.  Where the sun rose was considered by ancients to be the place from where life, power and happiness came.  But the books of the Old Testament also contain many references to orientation and facing towards Jerusalem for prayer.  Cleansed of pagan notions, and enriched by the expectation of Christ appearing in the East at the Second Coming, orientation became part of Christian prayer, both public and private, from the earliest times.  By the reign of the Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century, when Christianity emerged from persecution, the celebration of the Sacred Mysteries was almost invariably oriented.

Figure 3.
Floorplan of the typical arrangement
of the basilican-style church found
from the fourth century.
The floorplans of the public churches which began to be constructed in the Constantinian period, situate the cathedra or chair of the bishop in an apse and facing eastward.  Often, benches for presbyters were arranged on either side of the bishop’s chair.  Standing forward of these seats, at the entrance to the apse, was the usual position for the altar, standing freely, and often covered by a canopy or ciborium. The foregoing is often referred to as the basilican arrangement of churches and it was common in the East and West of Christendom, with significant regional variations.

It was this basilican arrangement which was used to justify the introduction of the celebration of Mass, versus populum in the 1960s.  That this was based on faulty understandings of the early liturgy has become widely accepted in more recent years.  During the ancient celebration of the Sacred Mysteries in these basilican churches, the celebrant and the faithful would all face eastward, not each other.  Orientation was the essential and consistent element.  Some churches in this early period were also built in the opposite direction, so that the celebrant and the faithful, whilst facing east, were turned towards the apse, not the entrance to the church.  This was the arrangement of churches which became typical in the East and the West down through the centuries until the versus populum revolution of the 1960s.

Although there is a great deal of discussion now and a body of scholarship concerning the revival of the celebration of the Roman Rite Mass ad orientem, it may be observed that this discussion is largely limited to the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  Yet, the principle ought to concern the orientation of Liturgical prayer throughout the entirety of the Mass.

Amongst the many innovations introduced immediately following Vatican Council II was a provision (Ritus Servandus 1965, no. 23) for the celebrant to pray the Kyrie, Gloria, Collect and Creed at a sedilia, rather than at the altar (as had previously obtained).  This provision, of course, was derived from the practice where a bishop celebrated Mass solemnly, either at the faldstool or at the throne. The 1965 provision was taken a step further with the introduction of the new Missal in 1970.

Figure 4.
The Conventual Mass celebrated at the Benedictine Abbey
of Le Barroux, France. 
At this moment, the celebrant is singing the Collect
not from the altar but at the sedilia,
attended by the deacon and subdeacon.

Dom Emmanuel OSB, a monk of the Abbey of Le Barroux (France), gave a paper to the 1997 CIEL Conference about this topic. In a comprehensive analysis of available liturgical texts stretching back into the first millenium, in which is discussed firstly the position of the celebrant during the Kyrie, Gloria, Collect and Creed and secondly, the position of the celebrant during the readings from the Scripture, Dom Emmanuel reached these two conclusions:

Having finished our enquiry we may now answer this question: as far we can judge from the texts currently available, the Roman Mass, both according to the use of the [Roman] Curia and those of the dioceses and religious orders, show us that the simple priest is at the altar for the Gloria, the Collect and the Creed, and that this is the case until 1962.  So, the Ordo Missae of 1965 departs from the common (and almost universal) practice up to that point when it prescribes that the simple priest may carry out these functions at his seat.  

[However,]  by having the celebrant positioned at the sedilia for the readings, the Ordo Missae of 1965 (and then that of 1970) [does] not depart from what we know of Roman usage (taken as a whole) through the centuries. (5)

Dom Emmanuel's study and of course many other works on liturgical history, reveal that in the early church (and we know that from archaeological evidence as well the ancient churches which still exist) the Cathedra of the bishop was mostly placed in the apse, behind the altar, with benches for the presbyters on either side.  This was a position, as Dom Emmanuel concludes, which emphasised the jurisdiction of the Bishop.  He argues, however, that it never was customary in the Western liturgy for the priest-celebrant to occupy such a position, because he did not have jurisdiction.

Figure 5.
The High altar of the Italian Cathedral of 
Saint Nicolas, Bari rests beneath
a twelfth century civory 
or canopy.
Behind the altar is the eleventh century
cathedra of the bishop : centrally located, 
but almost invisible to the faithful.
Instead, as Dom Emmanuel discusses, the priest celebrant recited the Kyrie, the Gloria and the Collect at or near to the altar and ad orientem. But there were examples where the celebrant might be seated during the lessons.  Similarly, a bishop who did not have jurisdiction occupied a seat on the right side of the altar, but read the above prayers from that position ad orientem (for example, the rites of Pontifical Mass at the faldstool according to the Extraordinary Form, namely the 1962 Missale Romanum).

Another important point might be made : most (but not all) examples of cathedra which have survived in this central position reveal that the chair of the bishop was not significantly elevated above the altar, which was built in front of it and upon its own steps.  Consequently, in this arrangement, the bishop's chair would not have been completely visible to the Faithful during the Liturgy.  The point of this is that the chair of the bishop was (more usually) not positioned centrally to facilitate communication with the Faithful, as has been suggested in recent decades.

What we would like to emphasise is that an entirely new concept was introduced into the 1970 Order of Mass, namely, the priest-celebrant as “Presider”. 

This seems nowhere more prominent in the New Order of Mass than in the
 Introductory Rite
: the arrangement of which is an innovation in the history of the Western liturgy. In the 1970 Order of Mass, the Introductory Rite included the Celebrant's Greeting, the Penitential Rite, the Gloria and the Collect.  This new-fashioned role of Presider is codified by the instruction on the placement of the celebrant’s chair within the sanctuary: namely at the head of the sanctuary in an apse; in short behind the altar:

The chair of the celebrant should indicate his role of presiding over the assembly and of leading the prayers.  Hence the most suitable position is at the head of the sanctuary facing the people, unless the construction of the building or other circumstances prevents this; for instance, if communication between the priest and the assembly of the faithful is made difficult because of too great a distance.  General Instruction on the Roman Missal no.271.

Figure 6.
This plate appeared in a children's Mass-book
from the late 1960s. It shews a priest
celebrating Low Mass and praying the
Collect at the sedilia, on the right
side of the sanctuary, not the altar.
See also plate 7.
This particular instruction represents not a revival of an ancient liturgical practice, but a misrepresentation of it.  Notably absent from the instruction is an obvious opportunity to emphasise that, with the chair placed behind the altar and the Faithful seated in front of the altar, both the Celebrant and the Faithful are turned towards the altar to pray.  Instead we find the word “communication”.

We would like to suggest that this particular break with Tradition has largely facilitated the widespread distortion where, from the very beginning of the Mass, the priest becomes more of a compere or emcee, rather than a celebrant.

The principle of the intelligibility of the Church's rites is the liturgical philosophy which underpins the 1970 Missale Romanum and was enunciated in the Vatican II constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium.  One of the great presuppositions made by the reformers in the 1960's was that the most important way during Mass for us to communicate with God and for God to communicate with us is by the spoken word. Happily, this presupposition is being challenged more and more.

The New Order of Mass or Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is very wordy.  This is not to say that the Extraordinary Form (1962 Missale Romanum) has fewer words, but it certainly has fewer words that are to be prayed aloud and intended as a form of “communication” with the gathered Faithful.  Whatever about more recent developments in the manner of celebrating the Ordinary Form, it was devised with the intention that it be for the most part - and usually spoken - not sung. (6)

Plate 7.
Part of the sanctuary of the church featured
in plate 6.  This unknown Belgian church,
built during the early 1960's, was intended
for the celebration of Mass versus populum. 
It is noteworthy, however, that Mass
could just as readily be offered ad orientem

because of the ample size of the
altar platform.
The setting is quite dignified in the modern
The principle of communication is most prominent in the Ordinary Form in what is termed The Introductory Rite.  Here, the predominance of dialogue between the “presider” and the “assembly” lays.  It is for this reason precisely that the incorporation of ad orientem  posture is desirable from the very beginning of the Order and not simply during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  It is desirable because it would have the effect of lessening the prevailing tendency that the Mass is a dialogue (which varies from place to place in degrees of formality) between those physically present in a particular church, rather than being the worship of the entire Church, Visible and Invisible.

The former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Cardinal Sarah spoke about this very matter in a 2015 interview reproduced in the L'Osservatore Romano :

Contrary to what has at times been sustained, and in conformity with the Conciliar Constitution, it is absolutely fitting that during the Penitential Rite, the singing of the Gloria, the orations and Eucharistic Prayer, for everyone – the priest and the congregation alike – to face ad orientem together, expressing their will to participate in the work of worship and redemption accomplished by Christ.  This way of doing things could be fittingly carried out in the cathedrals where the liturgical life must be exemplary. (7)

Various proposals (8) that the celebration of the Ordinary Form of Mass may be divided into being partly ad orientem (for the Liturgy of the Eucharist) and partly versus populum (for the Liturgy of the Word) are not an adequate solution or compromise.

Already, some pastors through the catechesis of their flocks, have introduced the celebration of the Ordinary Form ad orientem and have been doing so for some time.  But not every pastor of souls is in a position to do this.  Leaving aside the issue of prudence, the sanctuaries of some churches are not readily suited to this arrangement, namely that the celebrant offers the Liturgy of the Eucharist at the altar facing towards the apse.  For these two reasons, suppose the focus were not on the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but on a partly ad orientem Liturgy of the Word?

What might be done, to recapture the Church's tradition at this point in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite Mass?  In many places, this has begun already to happen, where priests have felt uncomfortable with the prominence of their (often elevated) chairs, and have opted to place the chair at the side of the sanctuary in front of the altar, in the manner of sedilia.  We have also read where some priests with chairs in the position just described, have turned slightly toward the altar (rather than toward the congregation) for the Penitential riteGloria and Collect.  All of this would seem to be able to take place within the current framework of the Ordinary Form.  It also does not exclude the celebrant giving a brief introduction to the Mass, but it might be hoped that this is quite distinct from the prayers of the Rite itself.

Plate 8.
Recitation of the Creed during the
celebration of Mass according to
The Anglican Use of the Roman Rite.
Late in 2015, the new Missal for the Personal Ordinariates Anglicanorum Coetibus was published.  It is titled Divine Worship : The Missal.  This Missal was prepared with the full approbation of various Roman dicasteries, so that it is an approved usage of the Roman Rite.  Some have called it the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite.  At its heart is a very different form of the Order of Mass, a composition which in part is the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, in part the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite and in part certain prayers found in the Book of Common Prayer and other Service Books published within the Anglican Communion in the 20th century.  Not only are the prayers of its Order of Mass different from that of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, but so are its ritual actions.  Ad orientem celebrations of its Order of Mass are designated as the normative form.  In time, this Anglican Use Order of Mass will have its effect on celebrations of the Roman Rite, even unofficially so.

Let us consider what such an effect on the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite might be:
  • Instead of praying the Penitential Rite at the chair, the celebrant might conduct the Penitential Rite ad orientem “at the foot of the altar”, and then go up to stand at the altar for the Kyrie, Gloria and the Collect
  • Then the celebrant could go to the sedilia and sit down for the reading of the Scripture. He would bless the deacon (and incense, if it used) at the altar, not the sedilia.
  •  After the Gospel, the celebrant might return to the altar and pray the Creed followed by the General Intercessions (both ad orientem).
It is quite important to note that these ceremonial adjustments might be used even if the Liturgy of the Eucharist continued to be celebrated versus populum. Might this be a gradual and pastorally-considerate way of re-introducing ad orientem to the entire Ordinary Form Roman Mass?

Perhaps the suggestions above might be too radical for some, not sufficiently covered by existing permissions and customs or not desirable for pastoral reasons at present.  Perhaps the time is not yet here for such modifications, but they might at least be pondered.  Suppose, however, that just one moment ad orientem, were considered opportune for the Liturgy of the Word … just one, which does not cause too much consternation or nervousness.

If the Creed were sung or recited by the celebrant and the congregation together, the celebrant standing ad orientem at the centre of the altar or at the base of the steps leading to the altar : suppose that were to be introduced?  It would surely not be so very controversial, in addition to being a powerful symbol.

Whilst it may well be argued that many priests and congregations would not welcome ad orientem celebrations of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, surely fewer would object to parts of the Liturgy of the Word being celebrated ad orientem, particularly if such a practice were introduced slowly and in stages and with appropriate catechesis. 

Plate 9.
A Conventual Mass according to the New Missal
in the Abbey-Church of Sant'Antimo, Tuscany.
As a principle, prayers addressed to God during the Liturgy of the Word of the Ordinary Form might be offered ad orientem and preferably at the altar or its foot, in order to clarify that such prayers are not a dialogue between the celebrant and the faithful present.  gradual introduction of this principle could (over a period of years) lead to the celebration of the Ordinary Form of Mass being entirely (or mostly) ad orientem.  Already a variant of the Roman Rite exists which puts into effect this principle, namely the Order of Mass prepared for the use of the Personal Ordinariates Anglicanorum Coetibus in the United Kingdom, the USA/Canada and Australia. 

Under the Copyright of 
The Saint Bede Studio
November 2017


(1)  The blog Dominus Mihi Adjutor
(2) The New Order of Mass was authorised for use from 1st Sunday of Advent, 1969.  The first typical edition of the Missale Romanum was published in 1970.  Although some approved translations of the Propers of the New Missal in English existed from 1972, it was not until late 1974 that the entire Roman Missal in English was printed by various publishing houses.
(3) We leave to one side here the obvious point that within the Patriarchal Roman basilicas the celebration of Mass was traditionally versus populum because the altars within these basilicas were free-standing and faced eastward down the nave, not towards the apse.
(4) Canon A. Croegart, The Mass: A Liturgical Commentary (vol. 1), 1958, pp. 4-5.
(5) The veneration and administration of the Eucharist : the proceedings of the second international colloquium on the Roman Catholic liturgy organised by the Centre International d'Etudes Liturgiques. Translated and edited by members of CIEL UK.  The Saint Austin Press, Southampton, 1997.
(6) After the Introduction of the New Order of Mass in November 1969, Pope Paul seems not to have “sung” Mass again.  Typically (but not always), the Preface and Lord’s Prayer were sung at the Papal Mass, but the celebrant’s parts of the Liturgy of the Word, the Canon, the Collect, Secret and Postcommunion prayers were all spoken.  The same applied to Paul’s Successors, with the exception of the Pope Benedict.
(7) The Blog Rorate Caeli
(8) Website of The Catholic Herald

This paper, first published on the weblog of the Saint Bede Studio in 2017, is presented again in the earnest desire to contribute something positive to the movement for the Reform of the Roman Liturgy.

That in all things, God may be glorified.

Sunday 3 July 2022

Priestly Ordinations 2022 : 2

The Saint Bede Studio
In this post, we are pleased to describe a set of vestments in the Saint Bede Studio's Saint Benet style, which was commissioned by an ordinand from the Diocese of Camden (New Jersey) USA.

The Saint Benet style of chasuble is based upon that shape of chasuble revived by AWN Pugin in the 1840s.

These Gothic Revival vestments were made from a brocade in a bright white, and ornamented with one of the Studio's unique braids.  The braid illustrated is called Saint George. The lining of these vestments was formed from a deeper red shade of taffeta.

Please pray for all newly-ordained priests.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : This page. 

Gothic Revival vestments

Festal vestments

Festal vestments