The Impact of the Franciscans on the Roman Mass – A Short History of the Roman Rite of Mass: Part XII
Feb 20, 2022

The Impact of the Franciscans on the Roman Mass – A Short History of the Roman Rite of Mass: Part XII

The mendicant orders, such as the Franciscans and Dominicans, constituted a new type of religious life without a vow of stability, as taken by monks. With Latin as the common language of the Church, of higher education and culture, the friars enjoyed considerable mobility throughout Europe. It proved onerous for them to adapt to local liturgical variations and so the desire arose for a unified practice within the orders. After an initial period of diversity, the Dominicans adopted a proper use of the Roman Rite that was established in 1256 by the Master of the Order, Humbert de Romans.[1] The Franciscans accepted the liturgical books of the Roman Rite in the form used by the papal curia.

Indutus Planeta

A momentous step in the history of Roman Mass liturgy is the work of Haymo of Faversham, who served as Franciscan minister general from 1240 until his death in 1244. At the order’s chapter in Bologna in 1243, Haymo presented the ordinal known by its opening words Indutus planeta (“Wearing the chasuble…”), which describes itself as an “ordo agendorum et dicendorum,” that is, an order regulating the ceremonies to be carried out and the texts to be recited in the private Mass of a priest or the simple conventual Mass on a ferial day.[2] Indutus planeta was based on the use of the papal curia; it was adopted by the Friars Minor and helped to create a unified liturgy in the mendicant order.

For the introductory rites and the offertory rites (except for a few ceremonial details), the document set the pattern that was to become normative in the Roman Mass until the reforms of the 1960s. The priest’s physical postures and gestures are described with attention to detail, especially for the canon. The comprehensive instructions of Indutus planeta in turn influenced the liturgical practice of the papal curia and helped to shape the “Ordo missalis secundum consuetudinem Romane curie,” which was gradually incorporated into missals of local dioceses and religious orders throughout Europe. Thus, through the agency of the Franciscans, a unification of the ritual structure and shape of the Mass was achieved in the Latin Church to a degree that previous popes may have demanded but were never able to implement effectively. Needless to say, such standardization of the missal (and the breviary), for which the Franciscans acted as a catalyst, did not happen overnight, but through a long and complex process of manuscript transmission. Local variations remained, especially in the introductory, offertory, and concluding rites.

The Plenary Missal and the Expansion of Private Masses

Between the ninth and the 13th century, manuscripts compiled and arranged for distinct liturgical actors (sacramentary, lectionary, antiphoner) were gradually supplanted by manuscripts containing the complete texts of a particular ritual celebration (pontifical, missal, breviary). This process of transition was anything but uniform and needs to be considered separately for each genre of liturgical book.

The plenary missal (liber missalis, missale) came into being for largely practical reasons. Cathedrals, monastery, and collegiate churches could easily muster the human and material resources for the solemn celebration of the liturgy, including the set of books for distinct clerical functions. But as the network of parish churches was growing even in remote areas of northern and western Europe, Mass was frequently celebrated in modest circumstances that would only permit a simpler form of the rite. A single manuscript that contains all the texts of the Mass, which is first attested in the ninth century, proved to be pastorally useful. The popularity of the plenary missal was also facilitated by the growing practice of “private Masses,” which led to the concentration of liturgical roles in the person of the offering priest. However, Stephen van Dijk and Joan Hazelden Walker rightly caution that the relationship between the two phenomena is not as close or straightforward as is often assumed.[3] There is considerable variety in Mass books between the ninth and the 12th century: some sacramentaries are supplied with marginal notes to indicate the incipits of chants (presumably sung from memory); some manuscripts represent a full sacramentary-gradual, and in some cases a lectionary is added so that all the Mass texts are contained in one book, though in separate sections. The regular offering of votive Masses did not require a plenary missal with the full cycle of the liturgical year; a modest fascicle (libellus missarum) with the specific texts would be sufficient.

Small gatherings for the Eucharist are attested in the first three centuries, when Christian communities found themselves in a vulnerable position and subject to occasional persecutions. Such circumstances demanded a simplicity of external ritual, which continued in places where congregations were small and resources were limited. However, the private Mass of the early Medieval period is not simply defined by its simplicity of ritual. The novelty consisted in the celebration of Mass by a priest with only one or two assistants; unlike in conventual or parochial Masses, the participation of the lay faithful would be merely accidental. From the fourth century onwards, there is growing evidence for the frequent, even daily offering of the Eucharist in the Latin West, which is associated with the ascetical movement. The devout ideal of each priest celebrating Mass daily for the spiritual benefit of the living and the dead became prevalent, and it was probably the general rule in monasteries by the eighth century. Another important factor needs to be considered, namely, the laity’s growing desire to have Masses offered for specific intentions (vota), which had its roots in late antiquity. Of particular significance was the increasing demand for Masses for the dead, especially on fixed days for memorials.

Secular priests followed the monastic example and began to offer Mass more often, sometimes even several times a day, to fulfil particular Mass intentions (for which it was customary to receive a stipend). This practice was repeatedly censured in ecclesiastical legislation, until Innocent III in 1206 definitely limited the number of Masses a priest could offer to one a day, except on Christmas Day (where the Roman tradition lists three papal Masses in different stational churches), and in case of necessity. In the ninth and 10th centuries, bishops and synods also repeatedly prohibited the missa solitaria, that is, the priest’s offering of Mass with no attendants at all. Even a private Mass should be celebrated with the assistance of one or two clerics in minor orders (in accordance with the plural form of the liturgical salutation “Dominus vobiscum”).[4]

In the private celebration of Mass, the parts assigned in its solemn form to distinct liturgical ministries were recited by the priest himself, and they were increasingly spoken rather than chanted. As the space on side altars was smaller, the ceremonial was reduced and eventually the lessons were read by the priest at the altar. The ascendancy of private Masses seems gradually to have given rise to the custom that in the solemn Mass the celebrant would recite in a low voice the ordinary and proper chants that were sung by the schola, as well as the readings proclaimed by the subdeacon and deacon.

While deploring this development, which separates the priest from the schola cantorum and facilitates the secularization of church music, Josef Andreas Jungmann caustically remarks that there is some progress in the fact that the priest, instead of filling every available moment with lengthy apologiae, actually recites the biblical texts of the Mass propers.[5] In fact, the new practice might have been motivated by the desire to curb the priest’s private prayers and to align them with the official liturgical texts. Notwithstanding the strong impact of the private Mass, the solemn Mass (missa solemnis) with the assistance of deacon and subdeacon remained the normative form of the rite. Thirteenth-century theological treatises on the liturgy, including the writings of St Thomas Aquinas,[6] naturally comment on the solemn Mass.

In the next installment, I will look at the flourishing of Eucharistic devotion and its impact on the celebration of Mass.

For previous instalments of Father Lang’s Short History of the Roman Rite of Mass series, see:


  1. See the still valid work of William R. Bonniwell, A History of the Dominican Liturgy 1215–1945, 2nd ed. revised and enlarged (New York: Joseph F. Wagner, 1945).

  2. A critical edition of Indutus planeta is included in Sources of the Modern Roman Liturgy: The Ordinals by Haymo of Faversham and Related Documents, 1243–1307, ed. Stephen J. P. van Dijk, 2 vol., Studia et documenta franciscana 1­–2 (Leiden: Brill, 1963), vol. II, 1-14.

  3. See See Stephen J. P. van Dijk, O.F.M. and Joan Hazelden Walker, The Origins of the Modern Roman Liturgy: The Liturgy of the Papal Court and the Franciscan Order in the Thirteenth Century (Westminster, MD – London: The Newman Press – Darton, Longman & Todd, 1960), 57-66.

  4. See Andreas Amiet, “Die liturgische Gesetzgebung der deutschen Reichskirche in der Zeit der sächsischen Kaiser 922–1023”, in Zeitschrift für schweizerische Kirchengeschichte 70 (1976), 1–106 and 209–307, at 21-24.

  5. See Josef A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development (Missarum Sollemnia), trans. Francis A. Brunner, 2 vol. (New York: Benziger, 1951-1955), vol. I, 106-107.

  6. Thomas Aquinas, Super Sent., lib. 4, d. 8, q. 2, a. 4, qc. 3 expos.; Summa Theologiae, III, q. 83, a. 4 co.

Photo Credit: AB/Lawrence OP on Flickr

Father Uwe Michael Lang

Father Uwe Michael Lang, a native of Nuremberg, Germany, is a priest of the Oratory of St Philip Neri in London. He holds a doctorate in theology from the University of Oxford, and teaches Church History at Mater Ecclesiae College, St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and Allen Hall Seminary, London. He is an associate staff member at the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, and on the Visiting Faculty of the Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, IL. He is a Corresponding Member of the Neuer Schülerkreis Joseph Ratzinger / Papst Benedikt XVI, a Member of the Council of the Henry Bradshaw Society, a Board Member of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, and the Editor of Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal.