Gallican Rite

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The Gallican Rite refers in the first instance to the liturgy of ancient Gaul (France), and in the second to a family of non-Roman Western Rites which comprised the majority use of most of Western Europe for the greater part until being mostly displaced by the Roman rite beginning in the eighth century, but modifying the Roman rite in the process.

Various rites within the greater Gallican family have claimed various specific lineages, such as an origin from the Alexandrine rite of St. Mark for the Churches of Aquilea and Milan, or origins from the Ephesine rite of St. John the Divine for the Churches of Gaul, Iberia, and Brittania. The little evidence remaining for the rite of Ephesus comes from local councils in Asia Minor. There the Byzantine replaced the Ephesine, which seems to have simply been a local use of the wider Greco-Syriac "Antiochian" liturgy. The Ephesine theory had its major opponents among the Modernist school of the early 20th century, as the Catholic Encyclopedia states, "the Ephesine theory has now been given up by all serious liturgiologists." The development of the rite is such it did not likely originate before the fourth century. However, the origin of the rite remains very much an open question. That it does contain much of Antiochian influence has influenced contemporary liturgical scholars to revisit the Ephesine claim of the Cursus Gallorum, whereby the earliest Gallican liturgy would simply be the liturgy of Syria and Asia Minor, but in the Latin tongue.

Many Gallican texts survive, but the survival of the rite is primarily in the Toledan rite (also called Mozarabic, Isidorian, Old Spanish or Gothic by some liturgical scholars) , and secondarily in its influence upon the present Roman and Anglican rites (called Gallo-Roman), and as a component of the Ambrosian rite of Milan. It is due to the influence of the Gallican liturgy that the Roman Mass included the Gloria. The longest surviving Gallican rite was that of Toledo, Spain, which has been limited to a few chapels for the past few centuries. Both the Toledan and Milanese liturgies were modified by the Roman, accepting the Roman canon at fairly recent times in their development. Following the Second Vatican Council, both the Toledan Rite and the Milanese Rite were altered in a Novus Ordo style though both have been celebrated in their traditional forms by priests of the Western Rite Orthodox.

Whatever their origin, the Gallican rites were more given to ceremonial than the Roman. The surviving Gallican materials also have recognizable concordances with the Eastern and Oriental rites in the form of certain prayers and ceremonial, while sharing many other similarities with the Roman rite. The known elements of the Gallican liturgy are:

  • Introit
  • The Ajus (agios) sung in Greek and Latin. Following this, three boys sing Kyrie Eleison three times. This is followed by the Benedictus.
  • Collect
  • Old Testament reading
  • Epistle reading or Life of the Saint of the Day
  • The Benedicite and Ajus (agios) in Latin
  • Gospel reading
  • Sermon
  • Dismissal of catechumens
  • Intercessions
  • Great Entrance and the Offertory chant
  • Kiss of Peace
  • Sursum Corda, Preface, Sanctus, and Post-Sanctus Prayer
  • Roman (Gregorian) Eucharistic Prayer (not in the Gallican and Spanish liturgies, which had variable elements in the anaphora)
  • The Fraction (the host is divided into nine pieces, seven of which are then arranged into the shape of a cross)
  • Our Father
  • Blessing of the People
  • Communion of the People
  • Post-Communion Prayer

Outline of the Gallican Liturgy

The following is the order of the Gallican liturgy as it was celebrated in sixth century Paris, as described in the first letter of St Germanus of Paris, published as Expositio antiquae liturgiae gallicanae. Unlike the Roman and Milanese, the Gallican proper does not have a fixed anaphora, but instead uses variable texts before and after the institution narrative.

  • Preparation of the Offerings
  • Praelegendum (entrance psalm)
  • Call for silence and greeting
  • Trisagion (in Greek and Latin)
  • Kyrie
  • Benedictus
  • Reading from the Old Testament
  • Collect after the Old Testament reading
  • Responsory
  • Apostole
  • Canticle from Daniel
  • Thrice-Holy before the Gospel
  • Gospel
  • Sanctus after the Gospel
  • Homily
  • Preces
  • Collect after the Preces
  • Dismissal of the catechumens
  • Offertory
  • Preface to the faithful and collect
  • Diptychs and collect
  • Exchange of the Peace and collect
  • Anaphora: variable Contestatio/Immolatio, variable Vere Sanctus, institution narrative, variable post mysterium
  • Breaking of the Bread
  • Lord's Prayer
  • Episcopal blessing
  • Communion
  • Trecanum (post-communion hymn of thanksgiving to the Trinity)
  • Postcommunion collect
  • Dismissal

20th century history

In the early 20th century, the Russian emigré community in Paris included a number of clergy who were mindful of evangelization in the West. Among that number were a pair of brothers, Evgraph (later Bishop Jean-Nectaire of Saint-Denis) and Maxime Kovalevsky. The Kovalevskys restored the Gallican liturgy based upon the two letters concerning the liturgy whose authorship is ascribed to St Germanus, a sixth century bishop of Paris, as well as various Gallican and other non-Roman missals (Stowe, Bobbio, Gothic, Mozarab, Autun). The Divine Liturgy according to St Germanus of Paris is still in use with L'Eglise Orthodoxe de France as well as the "Union Actuelle Orthodoxe Catholique Francaise," elements of which joined the Patriarchate of Serbia. The rite has been used by communities under the Church of Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, the Church of Romania, the Church of Serbia, the Orthodox Church of the Gauls, and the Coptic Orthodox Church.


See also