Post-classical history

Liturgy of Outremer

The liturgy of Outremer is only partially known: few of its liturgical books survived and even fewer are available in critical editions. What does survive documents the liturgy of Jerusalem and, in particular, that of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, rather than Outremer as a whole. It is reasonable to assume that one can make deductions about the liturgy practiced elsewhere in Outremer, but this assumption has not yet been proven. Frankish rule in Jerusalem was commonly perceived in reference to liturgy, that is, in its ability to secure for Christians freedom of worship in thecity and to restore the old glory of Christian Jerusalem with its magnificent churches, its often-imitated cultic practices, and its congregation comprising both locals and pilgrims. An ambitious program of church building was started immediately after the crusader conquest of 1099, and by the middle of the twelfth century Jerusalem boasted some of the finest churches in Latin Christianity.

The Franks were neither clear nor consistent as to the type of cultic practices they wished to restore. They rejected the Greek liturgical calendar that they found in place, perhaps because it reflected the long history of Jerusalem as a Greek Orthodox city and see, with its commemorations of Byzantine saints, rulers, ecclesiastics, relics, and events. The Franks wiped the slate clean and introduced the Roman calendar, which was practically universal and almost free of local accessions prior to 1099. They added the commemoration of a group of six early bishops of Jerusalem (four from the second century and two from the third), borrowed from the Martyrology of Usuardus, and adopted one local commemoration, the feast of St. Sabas. More importantly, they added several new feast days: the Liberation of Jerusalem and the Dedication of the Holy Sepulchre (15 July), the Transfiguration (6 August), and, following the discovery of relics in Hebron in 1119, the Feast of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (6 October).

The stational liturgy was restored, however, to its original extensive format. After three centuries of steady contraction under Muslim persecution, Christian Jerusalem celebrated its major feasts once more in a mobile program that covered the city and its environs. It was richer than its fifth- century model: whereas the old program was centered on the Holy Sepulchre and avoided the Temple Mount, the Frankish stational liturgy moved around two foci, the Holy Sepulchre and the Temple of the Lord. Public processions escorted the patriarch to and from the church that was designated for the principal service of the day, delimiting the liturgical space of Jerusalem and highlighting the authority of the patriarch over such major churches as the Temple of the Lord, Mount Zion, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The public cult had two principal seasons: the winter season, comprising Christmas (25 December), Epiphany (6 January), and the Feast of the Purification (2 February), and the spring season, consisting of the Annunciation (25 March), Holy Week with Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. The Palm Sunday procession and the Holy Fire miracle on the Paschal Vigil were especially popular with pilgrims.

It was a highly historicist liturgy, which concentrated on the correct reenactment of the events it commemorated. Its calendar set great store on exact historical dates, for example, those of Noah’s entrance into and exit from the Ark (20 May and 27 April, respectively) and that of the Resurrection (27 March); on the exact identification of the sites of commemorated events; and on the adaptation of the common liturgy to reflect this unique verity. These practices included, for example, the insertion of the words in hoc loco (in this place) to the common prayer said on the Feast of St. Peter in Chains, celebrated in the crypt of the church dedicated to that event, as well as the pointing to the Sepulchre and insertion of the word hoc into the Resurrection prayer (“the Lord has risen up from [this] sepulchre”) in the Resurrection Mass celebrated in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. His- toricism accounted for a more comprehensive view of sacred history and the rites that depended on it as a two-leveled complex, integrating the prefigurative level of the Old Testament with the upper level of the New Dispensation in the New Testament and its Apocrypha. Many churches and memorials were dedicated to one level only; others combined the two. The Temple of the Lord, for example, an original Frankish church with no Christian antecedents, commemorated a rich sequence of events from the creation to the apostles, among them many of the central events of both testaments.

Direct, mimetic participation of the worshipper in public cult rites such as the Palm Sunday procession was one way of realizing the potential of historicism, and it was further enhanced under the influence of pilgrims, massively present in all public cult events in the city of Jerusalem. The public cult in the city offered them numerous opportunities to follow in Christ’s footsteps. By taking part in the Holy Week program, for example, they followed Christ in the last days of his life. But formal, public rituals could not entirely satisfy the average pilgrim’s needs and preferences. The Latin Church responded, first, by making some formal services more easily accessible and personalized, and, second, by generating (and tolerating) a complementary set of rites that were geared to the pilgrims’ demand for a more intense communing with the holy, mainly through additional mimetic and declarative practices (such as immersion in the Jordan or stoning the tomb of Jezebel in Jezreel) and sensory contact with relics, usually by gazing adoringly at an exhibited relic, but also by touching and kissing relics. The same disposition incited pilgrims to acquire relics, or at least second- order relics, such as blessed water and oil and souvenirs of all sorts; in the pilgrims’ home countries these were considered as proofs of an accomplished vow and carriers of prophylactic and medicinal powers. Historicism also underlay the pilgrim’s quest for the sources of Christian liturgy in Holy Land sanctuaries, a case of liturgy celebrating liturgy. Melchizedek was believed to perform occasionally the Sacrament of the Eucharist on Mount Tabor; the origin of the Magnificat and the Benedictus was ascribed to the great church in Ain-Karim, and the two canticles were chanted there for pilgrims; and the supposed autograph text of the Lord’s Prayer was treasured in the Church of Pater Noster on the Mount of Olives, where pilgrims kissed the full text inscribed under the altar.

An important place was given in liturgical ceremonies to the relic of the True Cross. It was often brought forth in situations of grave danger to the kingdom: between its discovery in 1099 and its disappearance in 1187, it was carried on no fewer than thirty-one military expeditions. Even the choice of day for doing battle had liturgical implications: in 1105 King Baldwin I delayed battle until a Sunday to allow time for the patriarch to arrive with the relic from Jerusalem and thus to maximize the profit from its use on the day of the Resurrection. The True Cross also figured in rites of conquest and religious conversion or rites of triumphal homecoming. The first type consisted of a solemn procession that took possession of conquered territory, as after the capture of Ascalon (mod. Tel Ashqelon, Israel) in 1153, when the victorious army of Jerusalem entered the city with the True Cross at its head, made for the principal mosque (already converted into a church) singing hymns and canticles, and attended Mass. Triumph-like processions of the second type took place in Jerusalem: the returning army was met outside the city gates by the cheering populace, made its way to the Holy Sepulchre, and returned the True Cross amid chants of Te Deum laudamus.

Diversity was a distinctive feature of liturgy in Jerusalem. Christian worship was practiced there openly in a variety of languages and creeds to an extent unknown in Latin Europe. It was a unique phenomenon, for it involved not only toleration of heterodoxies formally condemned by the Latin Church but also their acceptance within Latin churches, and it allowed European pilgrims to compare competing traditions and rites. Visitors from the West did not fail to notice it: John of Würzburg, apart from being left undecided about the conflicting claims of the Latins and the Syrian Orthodox concerning Mary Magdalene and the sites dedicated to her in Jerusalem, enumerated twenty-one nations and languages all possessing churches and worshipping in twelfth-century Jerusalem. The full import of this diversity is appreciated when one takes into account the relative tolerance shown toward the religious practices of Muslims and Jews, and the occasional ritual convergence between Christians, Muslims, and Jews in sanctuaries common to the three faiths.

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