“Liturgical history is pure scholarship: painstakingly detailed, extremely technical, highly esoteric and compulsively fascinating. Its practitioners,
like the initiates of an ancient mystery cult, pour the fruits of their researches into learned journals with splendidly arcane titles like Ephemerides
Liturgicae and Sacris Erudiri. It is hard for a mere layman to penetrate these mysteries...”
-Jeffrey Richards, Consul of God: The Life and Times of Gregory the Great. London; Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980, p. 119.
The study of medieval liturgy has surely fallen upon hard times. It can hardly be encouraging for “its practitioners,” for instance, when even a
specialist of early medieval Rome like Jeffrey Richards can refer to them as initiates in a mystery cult. It may seem to some a supreme irony to
create a website to promote the study of a field that for many is archaic. Why apply modern technology to something out-of-date?
The reason we should care about medieval liturgy is that they did. The public worship of the Church was a part of the fundamental experience of
medieval people. The same people who were riding off into battle, writing theology, and plowing the fields all had their own, often intimate,
relationships to the liturgy. To understand their lives more perfectly, it is necessary to have some sense about what the liturgy was and what it
meant to them.
A huge amount of scholarly work remains to be done on the liturgy of the Middle Ages. To get an idea of this, it is only necessary to cite the
Austrian Jesuit Josef A. Jungmann’s authoritative work on the Mass, Missarum sollemnia... Even its fifth edition, which is substantially from the
period following World War II, is now nearly fifty year old. This is true despite the fact that it treats one of the most basic and popular liturgies in
medieval Europe. It is hard to imagine waiting fifty years for an authoritative work on hagiography in medieval Europe. Part of this disinterest is
cultural. Ever since the Second Vatican Council drew to a close and Latin worship ceased in the Roman Catholic Church, the familiarity with forms
of medieval liturgy and the impetus behind much previous research in medieval liturgy was at an end.
One of the reasons that the workers are so few in medieval liturgy is the daunting nature of the material. Many scholars today do not come from
a background that makes the knowledge of the liturgy a prerequisite – as, indeed, many of the greatest students of the liturgy were in fact priests
or ministers. Some publications in the field of liturgy seem almost to revel in technical detail. Others are more interested in drawing out
theological rather than historical lessons. Yet others study liturgical manuscripts, but do not discuss why the liturgies in them were relevant
outside of libraries.
With this website, I hope to make a small contribution to making the study of medieval liturgy easier. Its centerpiece is bibliographical in nature.
We do need new surveys about various themes in medieval liturgy, but such a project would be premature before more research is done. It is my
hope that by providing scholars with the tools, it will make them more likely to engage in liturgical scholarship. The more scholars who spell out the
manifold ways that the liturgy worked in the Middle Ages, the fewer scholars who will insist that the theme is somehow old-fashioned or irrelevant.
Shape of bibliography and selection criteria
The bibliography that now appears on MedievalLiturgy.com is only a beginning of the fuller bibliography I hope one day to complete. The first
urgent task, so it seemed to me, was simply to figure out what secondary literature existed. My starting point, as all those who study medieval
liturgy, was the bibliographies of Cyrille Vogel (Medieval Liturgy: An Introduction to the Sources. Trans. and Revised William G. Storey and Niels
Krogh Rasmussen. Washington, D.C.: The Pastoral Press, 1986) and Richard W. Pfaff (Medieval Latin Liturgy: A Select Bibliography. Toronto:
University of Toronto Press, 1982). These are still essential for medieval scholars, and those familiar with their work will rightly see them as the
model for my bibliography. Yet it is over twenty years since they have appeared, and no one is trying to compile more recent scholarship.
A bibliography like many other basic reference works finds its natural home on the Internet. This was a point made forcefully in Roger B. Ulrich’
s review article “Archaeological Reference Texts and the Information Age” in American Journal of Archaeology 99 (1995): 147-50. Writing over
ten years ago, Ulrich conceived of using CD-ROMs and only had an inkling of what could be accomplished through the Internet. But his essential
point was clear: it makes no sense for scholars of the twenty-first century to be using tools of the nineteenth century. A website is accessible to
anyone with a computer and Internet connection. It costs nothing for other scholars to access, and very little for me as well. There are no space
restrictions, which can be frustrating – for instance, R. W. Pfaff lamented that he was forced to cut articles less than ten pages, no matter how
significant, because of space limitations (p. xiv). Omissions can be easily remedied. If I have left out a significant work, I can always add it later.
There is no need to publish an errata section. If I make any mistakes, they can be easily corrected. Considering the magnitude of the task, I can
draw on the expertise of any scholar who examines my work and finds it lacking. Finally, published reference works are out-of-date as soon as
they issue forth from the presses. My bibliography can always be current, since new works can be added with little trouble.
The bibliography that now appears consists almost entirely of secondary literature. This will prove beneficial to the field of medieval liturgy. As
with Hervé Martin's book on medieval mentalities (Mentalités médiévales: XIe – XVe siècle. Second Edition. Paris: Presses universitaires de
France, 1998), it is a useful exercise to compile a bibliography of secondary work. This helps us to understand the shape of a field and helps us
to see what has been studied and what still remains to be done. But this is only the first bibliography I plan to post. What I would like to do is
create a series of parallel bibliographies listed by subject that will allow scholars to find what they are looking for. In the meantime, it is possible to
search through the list with keywords with Google's search mechanism. In addition, I will post a bibliography of the best editions of primary
sources. I thought it better to post what I already had and take advantage of the input of users rather than hold off on until it was more complete.
My bibliographies on this site will necessarily be selective. It would be nearly impossible to be completely comprehensive, and what is more, this
approach would defeat the purpose of the site. What I want is a website that is a resource to scholars, not a lengthy list of past liturgical
scholarship. With this goal in mind, I have been adding works to the bibliography incrementally, as I have the opportunity to examine them. The
core group of works was drawn from the bibliography of my dissertation. As I work through other books and articles, a few selection criteria have
guided me. It will be useful to be explicit about them here:
- Since there is no comprehensive bibliography with works on medieval liturgy after C. Vogel and R. W. Pfaff, this bibliography is especially
designed to include scholarship produced in the past twenty-five years.
- Most of the scholarship I give here focuses on Western Europe. There are some cases in which I have ignored this rule. Any bibliography
of medieval liturgy should include Robert Taft, even though his work is almost exclusively on Eastern Orthodox liturgy. He has much to
teach those who do the West. I have understood the West to include the transplanted versions of Western European society, including for
instance Crusader states (and thus, for instance, Amnon Linder’s Raising Arms...).
- My chronology for the bibliography is ca. 500 to ca. 1500, but I have not been dogmatic about these boundaries. I have included several
works that lie outside these bounds, both as a helpful background to medieval practices and an idea of the later developments that
followed. This is by no means a bibliography of ancient or early modern liturgy, which is beyond my scope here.
- While I generally have selected books and articles based upon their usefulness, I have also included several classics of the fields. This
includes, for example, Louis Duchesne’s Origines du culte chrétien. With many of these, later scholars have had some basic
disagreements, but some books are too important to be neglected. Often, their methodology and insights have been useful even when their
specific arguments have been questioned.
- I have at times included works of past scholars with significant theories or debates, even if it turns out that their ideas were flawed.
Scholarship proceeds by failure, and some fallacious arguments have taught us to do our work better. This includes, for instance, Anton
Baumstark’s theory about a mistake in the translation of the Mass from Greek to Latin (“Ein Übersetzungsfehler im Messkanon.” Studia
catholica 5 (1929): 378-82.).
- My current bibliography is fundamentally one of secondary literature, and my bibliography of primary sources will follow. But I do include
some editions that contain considerable methodological advances (e.g., Michel Andrieu’s Les Ordines romani... and Theodor Klauser’s Das
römische Capitulare evangeliorum...). Also included are editions that include secondary contributions after editions (e.g., L’Ordinaire de la
- Attentive readers will see that I have included scholarship in related fields that comments upon liturgical scholarship. Since much of the
work on liturgy or that can help our understanding of it is today in cognate fields, this seemed to be fitting and necessary. These fields
include magic (e.g., R. Kieckhefer), ritual (e.g., P. Buc), and ritual theory (e.g., C. Bell and D. Kertzer). I have only chosen a few significant
works that I have found most useful, since there was no way I could be comprehensive. I have almost entirely omitted works that are
anthropological in nature, since I could in no way do justice to them.
- Much of liturgical scholarship in the past consisted of very focused work on individual manuscripts. I have tended to leave off many of these
from my bibliography. This is not because they are insubstantial, but because they tend to be of little use to a scholar wading into the field
for the first time, whereas those who are more intensively researching a topic will be able to find them readily enough. This reflects a
philosophical difference as well: I am seeking research that reflects the historical and social background of worship rather than an exclusive
focus on the manuscripts and their testimony, however important.
- I am an historian, and in my own scholarship, I tend to care about establishing the relationship between liturgy and the society that produced
it. But I have not restricted myself to articles written in the field of history. Much of the best work being done about the liturgy today is in art,
architecture, and music. A sizeable amount of past liturgical scholarship was theological in nature. My bibliography reflects this tradition to
some extent, but I have tended away from works that offer little historical background, but instead are theological reflections on past liturgy.
These kinds of works have their place, but it is not my focus here.
A few conventions of the bibliography should also be mentioned here:
- I have cited collected volumes by their title, not by the name of editors.
- I generally list the most recent edition of books, since they are generally updated and improved in later editions.
- My tendency is to list the original language in which books have been published. There are two exceptions to this rule. In some cases – I
think of C. Vogel’s Medieval Liturgy and A. Baumstark’s Comparative Liturgy – the translation has become the standard work. In a limited
number of cases in which I have not been able to get my hands on the original, I have listed the translation rather than recommend a book
that I had not personally seen.
- I have seen little point in including abbreviations on this site that sometimes can make bibliographies difficult to use, seeing as there are no
- I list place names according to current English-language usage.
A final point should be stressed here. I am truly hoping that this will be a collaborative project. I have already had other scholars email me with
references to add to the list, and I am hoping that more will write. In addition, I would be happy to accept advice on the shape the bibliography is
taking or what would be helpful resources for the future. You can email these to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. After all, a twenty-first scholar
does not lock himself off from his colleagues in formulating new research. He recognizes his own limitations and depends upon their input in
improving his work.
Introduction to MedievalLiturgy.com Bibliography