Sarum Use

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The Sarum Use was the local use of the Roman rite associated with the diocese of Salisbury, England. It is also called the Use of Salisbury or, less correctly, as the Sarum Rite. It was adopted by some Western Rite Orthodox beginning in the twentieth century.


Early Rites - Gallican, Celtic, British, Roman

The origins of the rite are with the ancient local usages of the Insular Churches, ie those of Great Britain and Ireland. The earliest rites of those regions belonged to the family of rites called Gallican Rite.

With the coming of St. Augustine of Canterbury to England in AD 597, a new rite was introduced into Britain: that of the Church of Rome. St. Augustine had been directed by Pope St. Gregory the Great (also called St. Gregory the Dialogist) to respect the Gallican customs that were already in place. Beginning with this period, and later with the rule of Charlemagne on the Continent, the Gallican and Roman rites were mixed. In England, the Second Council of Cloveshoe in 747 under St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne included the canon that the rite of those "speaking the English tongue" would be the Roman rite. During the period of the Celtic and Saxon churches, there developed several related local variants or Uses of the Roman Rite, called Gallo-Roman to distinguish from the old Roman rite. The rites used in France, northern Spain, Portugal, the Low Countries, Germany, and Scandinavia were similar.

Rise of the Sarum Use

In 1066, the Normans invaded England. There were some abortive attempts at changing entirely to the related uses of northern France. However, monasteries particularly in the western parts of the island (especially Sherbourne Abbey and Glastonbury Abbey) proved intransigent. The Norman bishop of Sarum, Osmund, arranged the services for his new cathedral according to the practices that he saw around him—both Norman and Saxon/Celtic.

The Sarum rite as known was probably arranged by Richard Le Poore, who moved the See from Old Sarum to New Sarum (Salisbury) in the 13th c. From this period, the Sarum enjoyed the sterling reputation as being the best liturgy anywhere in the West, and thus had influence on the liturgy of other local churches in the Isles and the Continent (notable among them being Rouen, Braga in Portugal and Nidaros/Trondheim in Norway). Other related local uses continued as well, such as York, Bangor, Hereford, and Durham.

Reformation Era

The Sarum Use was one of the first to be published on the new printing presses in the early days of the Reformation. The complete service books for the whole rite survive. The rite was legislated as the sole use of the English Church by the Convocation of Canterbury in 1544 and after the reversion to the papacy, it was commanded for the whole realm of England during the reign of Queen Mary. It was also the primary source text for the first edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1549) of the Church of England . After Elizabeth I took the throne, the Recusant Roman Catholics continued using Sarum in their chapels until the restoration of the Roman hierarchy in the nineteenth century.

19th Century Non-Orthodox Revival

The rite was revived particularly by the orthodox party of the Anglo-Catholic or Tractarian movement in the 19th c. Church of England. In the mid-19th c., the services were translated into English by such as G. H. Palmer, and became either the preferred liturgy or preferred liturgical model for the non-Romanizing part of the Anglo-Catholic movement (also called Orthodox Anglo-Catholic or Prayer Book Catholic). The ceremonial and customs of the rite were the major influence in the development of the English Use, partly through the efforts of Percy Dearmer, author of The Parson's Handbook. The old English Catholic Clergy Brotherhood also maintained a tradition of Sarum Use through the period of Catholic persecution in England.

Attempts to revive the Sarum rite amongst non-Orthodox groups have resulted in Roman Catholic proponents such as A. W. N. Pugin and Bishop Willson of Hobart. The Sarum rite was suggested, but rejected, for use in the new Westminster Cathedral in 1903. It is used by the "Milan Synod" in some parishes and has been used on several occasions in RCC churches and cathedrals in England and Scotland in recent years.

Modern Orthodox Usage

The St Petroc Monastery Western Rite of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia has published the Saint Colman Prayer Book which includes The Divine Liturgy (Sarum) Usus Cascadae—the full Sarum Rite in English used in monasteries and missions in Australia, the Americas, and Europe. This Sarum use liturgy has also been translated into Spanish and French.

Among Old Calendarists, the Sarum rite has been used in approximately a dozen American parishes of the Holy Synod of Milan, which has published Sarum translations in English and Serbian since 1993. Two versions of the complete Sarum text were published. The first, and still surviving, translation, is the Sarum series published by St Gregory's Press under the auspices of the The Abbey of the Holy Name (West Milford, New Jersey), comprising approximately 30 volumes, including the Medieval Monastic Psalter. The second is the Orthodox Prayers of Old England series, which comprises about eight volumes, including the Old Sarum Rite Missal, and was originally published by St Hilarion Press, now St John Cassian press. The usage was also the official use for the Western American diocese (the first series being the usage of the Eastern) for a number of years.

The Sarum was was also the basis of an "Old English Liturgy" prepared by Dom Augustine (Whitfield) of Mount Royal monastery.

Differences between the Texts

While there is considerable debate over which is the best text, the actual Sarum translations are substantially in agreement, whether from ROCOR or either of the Old Calendarist editions. Certain other liturgies, which are not actual Sarum usages, but hybrid rites do have substantial differences, leading to confusion.

In 2004, one writer, thinking the "English Liturgy" of ROCOR to be native Sarum, pointed out over two dozen differences between the texts of the Old Sarum Rite Missal, leading the translator to point out that the "English Liturgy" was not a Sarum text, but a compilation of different texts, a fact the translator of the different texts has pointed out-- and that the two versions of the Sarum were substantially the same text.


External link

  • The Sarum Missal, Done into English. 2nd ed., Revised and Expanded. Transl. by Albert Harford Pearson. London, The Church Printing Co., 1884. Original from Oxford University. (Google. Digitized Jun 8, 2006; 18.5MB download - PDF format). The altar missal that forms the base document for the ROCOR Sarum.
"The present translation has been made from the best existing editions of the Sarum Missal, chiefly as collated in the recent reprint issued from the Pitsligo Press;[1] use having been made of such further light as is thrown upon the Sarum liturgy by the Gradual and Manual, and by the “Consuetudinary of the Church of Sarum,” which is preserved at the end of Mr. Chambers’s magnificent Sarum Psalter.[2] The Calendar is given from the Breviary, eight or ten MS. copies of which, together with several printed ones, exist in the Harleian, Cottonian, and Old Royal Libraries in the British Museum." (pp. 6-7).


  1. Missale ad usum insignis et praeclarae Ecclesiae Sarum. Pars Prima: Temporale. Londini; Veneunt apud C.J. Stewart, 1861.
  2. The Psalter, or Seven Ordinary Hours of Prayer, according to the use of the illustrious and excellent Church of Sarum ; with explanatory notes and comments. London : J. Masters, 1852.