What Was Catholic Mass Like In The Middle Ages? This Video Re-Enactment Is Like Stepping In A Time Machine

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What would it be like to step into a time machine and travel back to October 4, 1450 and attend Catholic Mass?

This video is a scholarly reconstruction of a Roman Rite mass as it would have been celebrated on October 4, 1450, 18th Sunday after Pentecost.

It is interesting to note that it is very similar to the traditional Tridentine Mass. Watch the video below:

Comments

27 COMMENTS

  1. “It is interesting to note that it is very similar to the traditional Tridentine Mass.”

    And that’s because up until the Second Vatican Council, the liturgy grew organically….

    • Somewhat true but actually it was after Trent that a lot of these local forms were banned. A few (like the Ambrosian) were allowed but the rest were locked into what we now call the Extraordinary form of the Mass.

      • The differences between those local forms banned by Trent would be completely unnoticeable to a modern audience. If a person from, say, Salisbury in the 15th century were to be transported into our time and attend a “extraordinary form” Mass, maybe he would notice the difference but no one else would. Liturgical experts can quibble all they like, but for all actual practical applications, this is what you see at an “extraordinary form” Mass. I was able to follow it very easily.

  2. After watching through it, there’s really no major differences between the Mass shown and a current celebration using the 1962 Missal (the Extraordinary Form). There are minor things, like one extra dialogue at the asperges and a different tone being used there, but all in all, it’s more or less the same. It’s not different in any real way to a sung Mass which I attend weekly.

    That’s organic growth…It’s sad we abandoned so much of our liturgical tradition as Catholics.

    • I couldn’t agree more Ben, in fact. since the modernising of the Mass. it would appear that it has lost some of it’s mysticism..don’t know if that’s the right word. but I think you will get my meaning.. I remember when I went to Midnight Mass. our Cathedral was packed. and a good third of those attending we’re. Non Catholics.. because they loved the Latin Christmas Sung Mass.

  3. This video was made together with the Parrish, Kristi Lekamens Katolska församling i Visby, and sung in one of the medival churches of the Island of Gotland. Anders Piltz, the Priest is a proffesor of latin in Lunds University and also a Catholic Priest. The Cantor is Mattias Östborn also Cantor at the Catholic church of Visby. Al this happend some years ago.

  4. Wow..that is why I attend and pray at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass(Extraordinary form). It is my connection with the faithful of the past as I pray with the faithful of today in the hope of the future. I currently attend Mass at the Church of the Little Flower in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, MO.

  5. One difference is that the Gospel (Matt. 22:34-46) occurs in the Roman lectionary on the previous Sunday. Also note the absence of genuflexions and the cruciform posture at the Unde et memores, as in the Sarum Use; the Offertory rite, however, seems closer to the Tridentine.

    Would it have been normal to have incense at a Mass without deacon and subdeacon?

    • I’m not 100% positive but I believe it wasn’t common for lay people to receive communion regularly, in part because they took the requirement of “being in a state of graced” much more seriously than we do today. Lay people would instead take “Panis Benedictus” – Bread that was blessed but not considered to be the body of Christ.

  6. Pretty dry and austere. Don’t think most people could tolerate an hour of this every week. Also the congregation is utterly passive; they’re merely observers as they watch–never say anything–from their fenced off quarters.

    No, it was not common for lay people to receive communion in the medieval church. So pervasive was the belief that people were unworthy to receive communion that, apart from Easter and possibly Christmas, they almost never did–maybe at their own wedding. I don’t agree that it was because they took the requirement of being in a state of grace more seriously. The medieval practice of refusing communion to the people was an outright abuse that grew up over several centuries, overturning the ancient practice of frequent communion by all. One of the aims of the 16th century reformation was to reverse this practice and restore weekly communion to the people. They didn’t succeed at this, unfortunately; the medieval fear of being unworthy proved to be too deeply ingrained.

    • “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”
      – Pope Benedict XVI, Letter to the Bishops Accompanying the Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum”

    • “Pretty dry and austere. Don’t think most people could tolerate an hour of this every week. Also the congregation is utterly passive; they’re merely observers as they watch–never say anything–from their fenced off quarters.”

      I’m sure you meant “contemplative, serene and sublime”. And yes, “most people” certainly did “tolerate” it and for quite a bit more than an hour a week. In fact, they treasured the Mass and when it was taken from them in England they rebelled and had to be forced to give it up with unspeakable brutality. The participation of the congregation is prayer, their attention and intentions, as the congregation has always done. An “active participation” that means the laity climbing all over the sanctuary and blaring into microphones, strumming guitars and doling out Communion, was never envisioned by any council in the history of the Church. The Mass isn’t an entertainment, nor is it a social hour. Worship directed to God, participated in by the prayers, attention and intentions of the congregation has been what Catholic worship was for through 1965 years of our history.

      The reluctance of the laity to receive Communion is something that has waxed and waned throughout the history of the Church. You will see documents from every period from bishops and popes correcting both the too-easy reception and the too reluctant, depending on which way the pendulum was swinging at the time.

      And as for the “reformation” you should read what Luther had to say about the Holy Eucharist.

    • I do go to daily Tridentine mass and on Sunday I go to two masses. And can’t have enough of this beauty and reverence, especially I love the contemplative silence, it’s so profound!! For modernists like you that like the noise, I can understand that you are not able to appreciate this. Most people have been dumbed down by the culture and can not appreciate true beauty and majesty. Today people worship uglyness in every regard.

  7. It’s not that different from the Mass I attended every school day and every Sunday when I was a child. I sort of understood most of it but I was very happy to have the Mass in English and where I could actually see the actions of the priest that I had only been told about before.

  8. After looking at the reenactment, I wonder if the priest and the faithful too, really chew the wafer after reception. This is so different of what we were taught about the Holy Communion! The chancel as well has called my attention, but this I suppose wasn’t a general tract in every church, maybe just in northern Europe or so. Thank you very much for the work.

    • If you mean the full wall separating the laity from the sanctuary, this was the ancient practice. It is retained in the East but reduced to a railing in the West (and now nothing).

  9. But, was it a general practice, Paul? I know about the East and iconostasis, but I’m doing some search about a quite ancient Temple (The Daimliag or “cathedral” in Clonmacnois, around XII Cent.) and I understood that Tansubstantiation Theology outdated this kind of separation between sacred/laity. The Daimliag had a chancel (archaelogy probes), but it dissapeared about the end of XII Cent. Of course, today even in visigothic (mozarabic) rites there aren’t chancels or courtains, contrary to its origin.

    • Yes, it was. One of the great crimes of the rebellion we call the “reformation” was the iconoclastic destruction of the “rood screens”, very few of which survive in England intact. This separation of the laity from the priestly work of the altar is one of the theological points that most enraged the Protestants, and the destruction of the same separation in our own time with the tearing out of altar rails in the 1960s can be traced to exactly the same ideological hatred of Catholic cosmology.

      • If you travel in Italy you will sometimes find very old churches where this separation is made very clear indeed, and the meaning of it, that there is a hierarchy in heaven and earth, and that heavenly things are elevated above those of earth, is made immediately clear. These are churches in which the sanctuary is raised above the level of the nave of the Church by a good 20 or 30 feet, accessible by a stair case, down which the priest (or deacon) must descend to distribute Holy Communion to the congregation. This was an even more obvious sign that what was going on “up there” was directed at heaven and that the purpose of the whole business was to raise up our prayers to God.

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