Topical Guide

This Topical Guide contains articles that explain and discuss various issues in the Sarum liturgy.  Entries are listed alphabetically.

Classification of Feasts, Sundays, Ferias, Octaves, Vigils, and Commemorations

(See Breviary Psalter: [909].

Observances are ranked in order of precedence.  Rankings also help to delineate the degree of solemnity that will be observed.


Principal Double

Major Double

Minor Double

Inferior (Lesser) Double

Simple with Triple Invitatory

Simple with Duple Invitatory

Simple with Single Invitatory







The principle of a commemoration is simple: the recitation of an office in honour of some saint or feast outside of the simple Kalendar.   However, the application and development of multiple commemorations leads to a highly complex result that has significant consequences for the Temporale and the Sanctorale.  The most ancient and most familiar commemoration is that of the Blessed Virgin (see Breviary, p [474], [483], [503]).  This Office ideally takes the place of the Saturday ferial office on a weekly basis from first vespers through to none.  A second weekly commemoration is that of the ‘festo loci’, the feast of the place, or of the local saint, the saint to whom the church is dedicated. This commemoration ideally takes place on Tuesday. In the case of Salisbury cathedral, the ‘festo loci’ was the Blessed Virgin, so this commemoration actually the same as the commemoration of the Blessed Virgin.  Where many churches had two weekly commemorations, Salisbury Cathedral and other churches dedicated to the Virgin had only one.  A third weekly commemoration was also instituted, the weekly commemoration of St. Thomas Becket, the great archbishop and martyr of Canterbury, who came to be looked upon as a patron of the Province of Canterbury and indeed of the entire realm.   This commemoration ideally takes place on Thursday.

A commemoration will normally begin with first vespers and conclude with none.  If first vespers is impeded by another feast, it will begin with matins and conclude with none.  A commemoration never has second vespers.  Nor will there be a memorial of the commemoration at that second vespers.

It appears that in the latter days of the Sarum Rite that after Bishop Osmund was canonized in 1457 a third commemoration, of St. Osmund, was established in the Cathedral (see Breviary {815}).

The Sarum Breviary 1531 includes Commemorations of St. Thomas, St. Chad, and St. Osmund.  A commemoration takes the psalms from the feria, but the antiphons, invitatory, hymns, versicles, responsories, and prayers from the proper of the saint or otherwise from the common of saints.  A commemoration will have only three lessons and three responsories at matins.  In the cases of Thomas, Chad, and Osmund, lessons are provided for the commemoration; otherwise lessons would be from the proper or else from the common.

In the Sarum Use all weekly commemorations are omitted throughout Lent.

The difficulty of including commemorations in the liturgy is one of priority.  The observance of any commemoration means the omission of the ‘regular’ office of that day, whether it be from the Temporale or the Sanctorale.  And it is the competition of these various priorities that leads to such difficulties.  Further, the combination of a plethora of saints days plus three weekly commemorations effectively reduces the observance of ferias to a mere handful of days outside of Lent.  On the other hand, there is no doubt that replacing saints days and ferias with weekly commemorations significantly reduces the burden of those singing the office, for the commemorations remain largely the same from week to week.  The Pica or Pie was intended as a convenient catalogue of these priorities throughout the year. The difficulty outlined above is one of the motivations of the sixteenth century reformers in developing the Book of Common Prayer.

For users of the Sarum Rite today, it may be appropriate to limit the use of weekly commemorations simply to the weekly Commemoration of Blessed Mary, or indeed to omit all the commemorations entirely.  Another option would be to omit the commemorations, but instead make memorials of them instead.  On a Saturday feria or simple feast one could include a Memorial of the Blessed Virgin, on a Tuesday feria or simple feast one could include a Memorial of the Saint of the Place, and on a Thursday one could include a Memorial of St. Thomas Becket.

Daily Schedule

The daily schedule is demanding.  It varies with the days and seasons.  (It should be remembered, however, that it is more normal for a feria or feast to run from first vespers through to none, rather than from matins through to second vespers.)

The canonical hours and  high mass are the most important parts of the schedule, but in addition to this basic schedule are normally added the daily Office of the blessed Virgin, and the daily Vigils of the Dead.  Certain votive elements are also added, as indicated below.

– Canonical Matins followed immediately by Lauds

– Matins and lauds of St. Mary.

– Vigils of the Dead (Matins and Lauds)

– Prime followed by Chapter

– Terce

– Sext

– Mass normally comes after Terce or Sext

– None

– Prime, Terce, Sext and None of St. Mary (in chapel before the Mass of St. Mary).

– Mass of St.Mary (in chapel)

– Vespers

– Vespers of St. Mary

– Vigils of the Dead (Vespers –an Matins if not said on the morrow)

– Compline

– For the peace of the church.

– Compline of Saint Mary

It must be understood, however, that at times there were simultaneous liturgies going on in different parts of the cathedral.


Apostles and Evangelists

Minor Double: John, Peter and Paul

Inferior Double: Andrew, Thomas, Matthias, Mark, Philip and James, James, Bartholomew, Matthew, Luke, Simon and Jude

Simple, nine lessons: Conversion of Paul, Peter’s Chair, Barnabas, Commemoration of Paul, Octave of Peter and Paul, Peter in chains

Simple, three lessons: Octave of Andrew, Octave of John, John at the Latin Gate

(Paul and Barnabas were not among the twelve apostles; Luke and Mark were evangelists, not apostles.)


A Memorial is a remembrance of a particular feast or saint, or season.  Memorials may be sung at the conclusion of vespers and lauds of the Sunday, feast, feria, or commemoration, and at the conclusion of vespers and lauds of the daily Office of the Virgin.

Each memorial consists of an antiphon, a versicle, and a prayer.  The normal selection would be the antiphon to the Magnificat, the versicle following the hymn, and the prayer of the  office that would have been sung at vespers or matins of the office in question.

On higher grade feasts memorials are omitted, or shifted on to the daily office of the virgin.


An Octave is an eight-days celebration of an important feast.  The following are octaves in the Sarum Rite:

Temporale: Christmas, St. Stephen, St. John, Holy Innocents, St. Thomas the Martyr, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity, Corpus Christi, Dedication.

Sanctorale: St. Andrew, the Nativity of John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, the Visitation, the Feast of Relics, the Most Sweet Name of Jesus, St. Lawrence, the Assumption, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, St. Martin, and the Feast of the Place (St. Osmund at Salisbury).

The Epiphany and Easter provide the most complete octaves, during which no kalendar variations interfere with the celebration of the octaves.

The octaves of Christmas, St. Stephen, St. John, The Holy Innocents, and St. Thomas the Martyr fall on successive days, giving rise to many memorials at vespers, lauds and mass.

The octaves of the Nativity of John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Visitation intersect with one another, giving rise to a complex observance.

The Feast of Relics is recognized as an octave only in a daily memorial at vespers, lauds and mass.

The octave of St. Lawrence, which overlaps with the Assumption is observed only partially in the older kalendar, and even less so with the introduction of the octave of the Most Sweet Name of Jesus.

The Second Feast of St. Agnes, falling on the eighth day of the first feast, is related to the octaves, but is not technically considered as such.

Processions at Vespers

On Easter Sunday at the conclusion of second vespers a procession is made first to the font and then ‘ante crucem’–before the Rood.  Like processions are made daily throughout this week.

On the remaining Sundays of Eastertide until Ascension Day a procession is made to the Rood at the conclusion of first vespers.

From the First Sunday after Trinity until the final Sunday before Advent a procession is made to the Rood at the conclusion of first vespers.

Proses (prosae)

Proses appear at the following Feasts:
St. Andrew: at second vespers: O morum doctor egregie.
St. Nicholas: at first vespers: Oportet devota mente.
St. Nicholas: at matins: Sospitati dedit egros.
The Nativity: in procession after terce or sext: Felix Maria. and Te laudant alme rex.
St. Stephen: procession after second vespers of the nativity (or at matins of St. Stephen if there were no procession); at Salisbury, and other cathedrals and collegiate churches, at both vespers procession and at matins : Te mundi climata.
St. John: procession after second vespers of the St. Stephen (or at matins of St. John if there were no procession); at Salisbury, and other cathedrals and collegiate churches, at both vespers procession and at matins : Nascitur ex patre Zebedeo.
Holy Innocents: procession after second vespers of St. John (or at matins of the holy Innocents if there were no procession); at Salisbury, and other cathedrals and collegiate churches, at both vespers procession and at matins : Sedentem in superne.
St. Thomas: procession after second vespers of the the Holy Innocents (or at matins of St. Thomas if there were no procession): Clangat pastor.
The Circumcision: procession before mass: Quem ethera et terra.
The Purification: at second vespers: Inviolata integra.
Easter Day: procession after sext and aspersion: Salve festa dies . . . Qua Deus infernum.
Ascension Day: procession before mass: Salve festa dies . . . Qua Deus in celum.
Invention of the Cross: at first vespers: Crux fidelis.
Pentecost: procession after aspersion, before terce: Salva festa dies . . . Qua nova.
Corpus Christi: procession before mass: Salve festa dies . . . Qua caro.
The Visitation: at the procession: Salve festa dies . . . Qua Christi.
The Name of Jesus: at the procession: Salve festa dies . . . Qua Jesus.
St. Katherine: at first vespers: Eterne virgo memorie.
Dedication of the Church: at the procession: Salve festa dies . . . Qua sponso.

Proses sung not in procession are sung in the eastern half of the quire (in the place of the boys): two principal rulers in the middle of the quire, facing east; tho secondary rulers at the quire step facing west; three clerks who will sing the verses in the midst between the rulers.

Proses are generally sung as extensions and continuations of responsories.  They are similar to sequences, but they usually include melismatic (textless) repetitions of each phrase. Felix Maria at the nativity is a special case: it is embedded within the responsory (more like a trope–it is in fact identified as a trope in CANTUS).

In the case of Salve festa dies, the prose stands on its own, and, takes a different form on account of the refrain.  Salve festa dies is sometimes considered a hymn: but even so it is comprised of unrhymed hexameter-pentameter couplets (distichs), rather than metered and rhymed stanzas.  Compare Gloria laus et honor, at the procession on Palm Sunday, which has the same structure–but in the Sarum processionals it is identified neither as a prose nor a hymn, but as an antiphon with verses.


The ‘Laudate’ Psalms

Psalms 112, 116, 145, 146, and 147 may be called the ‘Laudate Psalms’ (John Hackney).  These are five of the six psalms that begin with ‘Laudate’ or ‘Lauda’, other than Pss. 148-150 which have their place at Lauds.  (Ps. 134 also begins ‘Laudate’, but its length makes it less suitable for vespers.)

The ‘Laudate Psalms’ are appointed at first vespers of the Nativity, Trinity, the Assumption and the Nativity of Mary, the Feast of Relics, and All Saints.  Interestingly, they are not appointed for first vespers of the Purification or the Annunciation.

Psalms of the Apostles

Psalms 109, 112, 115, 125, and 138 are called ‘psalmi de apostolis’ in several sources.  They are appointed for second vespers of feasts of apostles and evangelists and during the octave of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Psalms of St. Mary

Pss. 109, 110, 111, 129, and 131 are called ‘psalmi de sancta Maria’ in several Sarum sources.  They are used for second vespers of her feasts (and their octaves, when observed) and for Tuesday vespers of her daily office.  They are also appointed for all vespers from second vespers of the Nativity to the octave of the Epiphany; thus they were sometimes called the ‘Nativity Psalms’.  They are also appointed for first vespers of the Purification; this is the only occurrence of these psalms at first vespers in the Use of Sarum.

The York Use has the Psalms of St. Mary regularly at both vespers of the blessed virgin.  The Hereford Use follows Sarum.

The Roman Use has Pss. 109, 112. 121. 126, and 147 at both vespers of the blessed virgin.  This series also appears in the Sarum breviary at the more recently added feasts of the Visitation and the Presentation of the Virgin, suggesting a later importation from Roman Use.  It may therefore be more in keeping with the Sarum tradition to use the Sarum series instead.

The Dominican Use follows the Sarum order at first vespers but the Roman order at second vespers.

Psalms in the Common of Saints
Throughout the common of saints, psalms at first vespers are of the feria. At second vespers psalms are also of the feria, except on feasts of apostles, where the series is 109, 112, 115, 125, and 138. Psalms at lauds are always the Sunday psalms. Psalms at matins vary with the type of feast:
Apostles: 18, 23, 44; 46, 60, 73; 74, 96, 98
One Martyr: 1, 2, 3; 4, 5, 8; 10, 14, 20
Many Martyrs: 1, 2, 10; 14, 15, 23; 32, 33, 78
One Confessor: 1, 2, 3; 4, 5, 8; 14, 20, 23
Many Confessors: 1, 2, 4; 5, 14, 15; 23, 32, 83
One or Many Virgins: 8, 18, 23; 44, 45, 86; 95, 96, 97

It will be noted that the series for one martyr and for one confessor are very similar.

Penitential Psalms

Seven psalms are designated Penitential Psalms.  They are 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, and 142.

On Ash Wednesday all seven psalms are said after Sext. (Breviary: Psalter: [417].)

Daily during Lent the penitential psalms are recited within the hours at the preces:

Lauds: 6

Prime: 31

Terce : 37

Sext: 66 (instead of 50, seeing that 50 is already appointed within the preces)

None: 101

Vespers: 129

Compline: 142

Times and seasons

Eastertide can refer to the period from Easter to Ascension, or from Easter to Pentecost.  ‘Extra tempus paschale’ typically refers to the period outside of Easter to Pentecost.


Vespers is the principal service each evening.  Canonical vespers is normally the first office of the evening series.

On Maundy Thursday vespers is integrated into the mass: vespers begins directly after the Communion chant.  The concluding prayer of vespers is also the postcommunion prayer of the mass, following which both vespers and mass concluded together with ‘Benedicamus Domino’ or ‘Ite missa est’.

On Good Friday canonical vespers is again integrated into the mass.  It said in community but privately (in a very soft voice).

On Holy Saturday, the Vigil of Easter, vespers is again integrated into the mass.  It is sung after the ‘Peace’, and concludes with the postcommunion. and Ite missa est.


Vigils of the Dead

Vigils of the Dead (Breviary: Psalter: [445-474]) comprises vespers (Placebo), matins (Dirige), and lauds (Exultabunt).  Vigils of the Dead is recited recto tono, except when Solemn Vigils of the Dead is sung.  Between All Souls’ Day and Easter vespers and matins of the dead are sung on the eve, and lauds of the dead on the day, but in summer lauds of the dead is also sung on the eve.

It would appear that during Lent vespers of the dead was sung before vespers of the day.  (See Breviary: Temporale: 892.)

Vigils of the Dead is the Canonical Office on All Souls’ Day, November 2.

Vigils of the Dead is also said as part of the Funeral Rites, on the day of death, on the trental, and on the anniversary.

Besides the Vigils of the Dead is the Mass of the Dead and the Commendation of Souls.  The Commendation of Souls is said after Prime of the day, before the Mass for the Dead.

Detailed rubrics for Vigils of the Dead appear at the end of the First Sunday of Advent. (Breviary: Temporale: 89.)