Project Canterbury


On the Rite of Consecration of Churches, Especially in the Church of England.


A Lecture by John Wordsworth, Bishop of Salisbury


London: S.P.C.K., 1899.

New York: E.J.B. Young.


This Lecture was delivered at the Fourth Annual Meeting of the Church Historical Society, held at Sion College, on Thursday, 8 December, 1898.




My interest in the subject to which I have the privilege to call the attention of the Church Historical Society is naturally in great measure one of a practical character. Being called as a Bishop to consecrate Churches, some of them of considerable importance, and finding myself without authoritative direction as to the rite to be followed, I have almost inevitably had to consider what history might suggest on the subject. Two occasions especially have stimulated this inquiry, the consecration of Marlborough College Chapel, on Michaelmas Day, 1886, and that of the Collegiate Church of St. George at Jerusalem, on St. Luke’s Day, 1898, from which I have recently returned. Both opportunities have been used by me for the Revision of the current Form and Order which has come down to us from the beginning of the last century, the first revision for general Diocesan use being published in 1887, the second in the present year (1898). The latter, I may remark, was used for the first time a few weeks before my journey to Jerusalem, at the consecration of the beautiful new Church built by Viscount Portman at his Dorset home in the parish of Bryanston. Our Sarum form differs from all others that I have as yet seen in containing certain appropriate music, which I owe to the kindness of Precentor Carpenter and Mr. W. S. Bambridge, organist of Marlborough College, for which part of it was composed in 1886. In these revisions I have had the assistance of able liturgists, amongst whom I may especially name Dr. W. Bright, of Christ Church, Oxford, Mr. Brightman, of the Pusey House, Mr. Charles Druitt, Vicar of Whitchurch Canonicorum, and my brother, Christopher Wordsworth, now Rector of S. Peter’s, Marlborough. The final responsibility, however, has rested solely with myself.

It is mainly with the view of setting before you the principles on which this revision seems to me to rest, and of encouraging a like revision in other Dioceses (which may some day, I hope, lead to the adoption of a worthy and truly characteristic rite by the Church of England as a body) that I have gladly accepted the offer made to me through your Chairman. He has, I may remark, himself studied the subject, and given me assistance in preparing this lecture by communicating to me the contents of the important collection of consecration forms at Lambeth.


I. It is not easy to determine what were the first rites and ceremonies in use when buildings for Christian worship were set apart for the service of God. Nor even when we come to the important historical dedications of the reign of Constantine the Great, in the early part of the fourth century, are we able to discern much light in the vague and inflated descriptions of Eusebius. The probability seems to be that the only essentials were a transference of previous ownership on the part of the Founder, and an acceptance of the trust by the Bishop of the Diocese on behalf of the Church, followed by a solemn celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The part played by the Founder or Builder would in accordance with Jewish and heathen precedent be a considerable one; and Christian custom, acting in accordance with the principles of Roman law, would prescribe the dedication by solemn and ceremonial use. The “usurpatio juris” of the Christian Society in its new home could hardly be otherwise exemplified than by the Sacrament in which believers, gathered under the presidency of their chief pastor, came together to meet their Lord in His new house, to plead His sacrifice and to feast upon it. Of course, the mere celebration of Christian mysteries in a place could not consecrate it, as Synesius remarks in a letter (Ep. 67) quoted by Bingham; nor could a consecration take place except with the full consent, formally expressed, of the previous owner of the site and building. Hence we find S. Athanasius apologizing at length to the Emperor Constantius for using a church founded by him, before its consecration, owing to the press of worshippers, and expressing a hope that he would come and assist at the ceremony of its dedication (Apologia ad Constantium, 14-18, an important passage). But, supposing the necessary conditions, it would seem that the solemn Eucharist was the only essential ceremony. It is worth noting in this connexion that the words kuriakon and “Dominicum” are used both in Greek and Latin for the Lord’s House or Temple and the Lord’s Supper or Sacrifice.[1] The Eucharist is in fact the most distinctly Christian rite, that which proves a Church to be a Church. The Baptistery or Font may be and often is outside; but the holy Table can be no where but in the most prominent place of the Sanctuary.

I therefore agree in this point with that learned French professor, the Abbé Duchesne, whom I am glad to be able to count as a friend, who in his well-known book on the “origins of Christian worship” expresses himself to the following effect:—Towards the middle of the sixth century when Pope Vigilius wrote to Profuturus of Braga A.D. 538 “the Church of Rome had no ritual for the dedication of Churches. A Church was dedicated merely by the fact that Mass had been solemnly celebrated in it” (Origines du culte Chrétien, p. 389, 1889). A reminiscence of this ancient principle is found surely in the provision of Canon Law, attributed, no doubt falsely, to two different early popes, but probably embodying ancient tradition:—“Omnes basilicae cum missa debent semper consecrari.” “All basilicas (apparently churches of all kinds) must always be consecrated with the celebration of a mass” (see Burchardus, iii. decret. 27, 21, as from Evaristus A.D. 96 and Gratian de consecr. dist. i, c. 3, as from Hyginus A. D. 138). Of similar effect is the prohibition, adopted by various authorities, and sometimes ascribed to Pope Sylvester (A. D. 324) “Nullus Presbyter missas celebrare praesumat nisi in sacratis ab episcopo locis.”[2]

The ascription of these canons to early popes is mere guesswork, or worse; but they seem to represent the expressed principles of the Church as early as the ninth century, and probably go back in substance to a remote antiquity.

Whatever be the origin of these rules, there is no doubt that when Bishops of the Church of England began again to consecrate churches in the reign of King James I, they generally accepted the pre-reformation tradition on this point by making a celebration of Holy Communion an integral part of the rite. We find it in the forms used by Bishop Barlow of Lincoln in 1610, Bishop Andrewes in 1620, Bishop George Monteigne of London in 1622, Bishop William Laud of London on several occasions, 1630-1632, Bishop White of Ely at Peterhouse, 1632, Bishop Theophilus Field of Hereford at Abbey Dore in 1634, Archbishop Neile of York at Leeds, 1634, Bishop Cosin of Durham after the Restoration 1665, and the Irish form of 1666 onwards. It is clearly implied in the forms which were drawn up but left unfinished by Convocation in 1712 and 1715, and which, of course, never received Royal Assent, but have more currency than any others. The only seeming exceptions known to me in the seventeenth century are two rather obscure cases of consecrations by Bishop King of London and Bishop More ton of Chester in 1615 and 1616, very shortly described by Collier (Hist. ii. 709). He gives only the Consecration prayer, and says: “After this a Psalm was sung and the Bishop dismissed the Congregation with his blessing.” The prayer might come at the end of a celebration, or, what is still more probable, the Bishop dismissed the mass of the people with an intermediate blessing, and then went on with the communion for those who remained. Bishop King’s register contains notes of the consecrations of St. Olave’s, Silver Street, in 1610 and of the Chapel of Lord Bridgwater in Willoughby House in 1620, but (according to Dr. J. Wickham Legg, who has kindly made the search for me) no liturgical forms are given. There is a form of consecrating St. Sepulchre’s Churchyard in 1612.

As regards opinion on the point of the celebration of the Eucharist the only one known to me is that of Bishop Gibson in his Codex (p. 189), who after quoting the maxim of the Canon Law: “Omnes basilicae cum missa debent semper consecrari,” adds: “The gloss makes a doubt whether this is not de substantia Consecrationis: but be that as it will, it is certainly very decent.” Had he inquired a little more deeply into the matter he could perhaps have spoken even more strongly. His own form, used in 1729 at Christ Church, in the Parish of St. Dunstan, Stepney, may be seen, with a number of others, in Oughton’s Ordo Judiciorum (2 p. 256 foll.), which shows that he followed the form of 1715 in this point. See also his Codex, ii. 1459-62.

I have examined a number of the Registers of my predecessors in the Diocese of Salisbury, and find the same usage on the point in question, though I cannot claim to have exhausted every instance. Nor can I venture to state when it became a matter of question whether the administration of the Lord’s Supper should take place or not. But, I think, I may say with confidence that when the change was made in any diocese it was first made in the form of the half measure of stopping after the sermon or after the prayer for the Church. The special Collect, Epistle, and Gospel were always used. This process is illustrated by the form of Consecration adopted by the Church of the United States of America, the first branch of our communion to make such a form authoritative, which it did in 1799. The form is nearly that of 1715, but with some slight alterations, and the addition of a post-communion collect from the form of 1712. But it treats the celebration as uncertain: The Sermon being ended the Bishop shall proceed in the service for the Communion, if it is to be administered at that time. It is interesting, however, to note that the rubrics dealing with this contingency have been removed at the last revision of the American Prayer Book in 1886, and, as the service now stands, the Communion is taken for granted. The opening rubric simply is: The Bishop shall then proceed to the Communion service, and at the end, For the last collect immediately before the final Blessing, the Bishop shall say this Prayer: Blessed be Thy Name, &c.

The procedure of the modern Irish Church is even more explicit. The rubric is as follows:—Communion service. The Bishop shall read the service, and the Holy Communion shall be administered, and then follow special Collect, Epistle, and Gospel, and two final or post-communion Collects.

The uncertainty with regard to the celebration is reflected in the reprint of the current Form, edited by the much-respected Archdeacon of Oxford, Rev. C. C. Clerke, in 1833, and often reprinted afterwards, in the following rubric: The sermon being ended, if there be no Communion, the Prayer for the Church militant shall be read. It was, however, the practice of Bishop Samuel Wilberforce to have the celebration, as I learn from his son, the present Bishop of Chichester; and it is prescribed in the Diocesan Form of 1864.

It was not strange that in the early part of this century, and in quarters where ritual matters were not much attended to, there should have been sometimes a resort to this half-measure; but it is, I think, somewhat surprising to find that in some cases at the close of this nineteenth century the celebration is wholly dropped, or is made a prelude to the service of consecration by being taken at an early hour. The best motive for this practice is one which I know has weighed with some of my brethren, namely, the desire to have as large a congregation as possible at an evening service. I venture to think that this would be quite admissible provided that the celebration did not precede but followed the consecration at an early hour the next morning. This in fact would have something primitive about it, and would be in harmony with the usage of the Greek Church, especially if the consecration were continued by vigils, carried on by relays of worshippers through the night. The Bishop, however, who consecrated the Church should certainly be the celebrant, the first celebrant, in the new Church next morning. If there is any principle worth fighting for in an Episcopal Church it is that of Diocesan Unity; and this cannot be upheld with distinctness unless the Bishop visibly asserts, on so important an occasion in the life of a parish as the consecration of anew church, that he is the ordinary minister of its spiritual life, and not merely a distant functionary called in to perform duties which the incumbent cannot do. I make this clear to all incumbents at their Institution by using the formula “Accipe curam meam ac tuam;” but that act of Institution is not always performed before their people. What is needed is to show to them that each Church is the Church of the Bishop, though for the sake of convenience, and indeed out of physical necessity, he is obliged to delegate his daily duties to it to a presbyter under certain canonical rules and safeguards, and in subservience to a system which, of course, practically binds him not to interfere too often or too curiously with the ordinary management of the Church services.


II. As regards the ancient peculiar rites of consecration they may be described as extensions of two conceptions:—(I) a formal taking over the place in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a dedicating of it to Him with rites in a great measure parallel to those by which the living Christian is dedicated in baptism and confirmation; (2) a translation and burial of relics of martyrs, by which the altar becomes the covering of a tomb.

Under the first head may be grouped solemn processions, exorcisms, lustrations, washings, cuttings or paintings of crosses, anointings with various mixtures, especially of chrism, burning of many lights, incense and the like. These, though much more elaborate in the west than the east, are in a degree common to both. But in some later western sacramentaries appears a peculiar rite, which has no position in Greek service-books, which certainly was not ancient Roman, and may be Milanese, Gallican, Celtic, or Spanish, viz. the drawing of a cross formed by the letters of an alphabet twice repeated on the floor of the nave. It is found, for example, in the ninth century Milan Pontifical, in the Egbert, Jumieges, and Dunstan Pontificals (not Leofric A), and in the old Irish use described in the Spotted Book (Leabhar Breac, ed. Rev. T. Olden, St. Paul’s Ecclesi. Soc. iv. 102), which gives a rite probably in use as late as the first half of the twelfth century and probably derived from ancient times. I will speak first of this latter ceremony, which occurs comparatively early in the order, and is, in my opinion, really antecedent to the whole service. In trying to solve the mystery which attaches to it the Abbé Duchesne quotes an interesting article by the great Roman archaeologist, Commendatore G. Rossi, contained in his Bullettino di Archeologia Cristiana for 1881, pp. 140-195, which I have examined. De Rossi connects the alphabetic cross with the cross drawn by the Roman augurs in laying out a templum, and by the agrimensores in measuring land for a colony, &c. The Bishop draws with the point of his pastoral staff a St. Andrew’s cross, connecting the four angles of the body of the church, on ashes or sand previously spread upon the floor, consisting of the Greek Alphabet along one line and then the Latin Alphabet along the other. This is the present rite; though from some early Sacramentaries it would seem that the Latin alphabet was twice written. Mention is also made of the Hebrew alphabet as being occasionally used (in Menard’s notes to the Gregorian Sacramentary). The difficulty, however, of directly connecting this procedure with the surveyor’s art, from which De Rossi derives it, is very considerable. The cross made by them was one of four right angles, and was composed of two lines forming the minor and the major axis of the templum, one the “cardo maximus” running north and south, the other the “decumanus limes” running east and west—or perhaps more correctly west to east. If, therefore, the rite had been directly borrowed, from the agrimensores the form of it would not have been a St. Andrew’s cross uniting the four corners, but a true cross, like the St. George’s cross on our flags, cutting the four sides into equal portions. I have not carefully studied the orientation of churches, but I imagine it is pretty certain that it followed the orientation of heathen temples, whether a heathen temple were converted into a church, like the Temple of Jupiter, at Baalbek, or a new church were built like the Basilica of Constantine at Jerusalem and the Vatican at Rome. Early basilicas mostly had the altar at the west end: see G. G. Scott, History of E. Ch. Architecture, p. 14 foll. But all ran on the same lines.

It is true that, as De Rossi observes, the alphabet plays a great part in the writings of the agrimensores (libri gromatici). He mentions one use of it, the “casae litterarum,” which, with all deference, I hardly think that he quite understands. He might also have mentioned two others. The surveyors used the alphabet, just as Euclid did, to help them to identify lines and angles in their plans. They used it also as a series of symbols for certain measures of length, so many feet or “podismi.” The “casae litterarum,” however, in which both the Latin and Greek alphabets were used, were symbols referring to certain typical plans, one of an Italian, the other of a foreign settlement. Each letter represented a particular farm or spot on the map with certain peculiarities attaching to it, and the pupils were expected to know by heart what each of these letters signified. I do not, however, find that these letters were attached to the cardo and decumanus of the surveyors, indeed they seem to have been scattered all about the plans.

While, therefore, it is possible that there may be some relation between the laying out of a heathen temple and the “abecedarium,” as it is technically called, in the dedication of a church, the latter can hardly have been directly derived from the former. The peculiar Christian rite may have been adopted from a vague memory of a method of which the true tradition was lost. De Rossi, however, suggests a second explanation, which to myself appears more full of meaning, viz. that the St. Andrew’s cross, or Chi, is the initial of the name of Christ in Greek, as also in Latin MSS, which write the name in three letters, XPS. To me the alphabet seems to be also another symbol of Christ as the word of God, not only Alpha and Omega, but all that lies between, every element, in fact, of human speech.

If this be so it is a very natural part of a service, the main thought of which is to take the place to be consecrated into the keeping of a new Master. To write His name upon, it would be a very fitting mark of His ownership. I conjecture also that the ceremony belonged to the laying out of the first sketch or foundation of the building rather than to the actual consecration, and that (as usual), in process of time, diverse ceremonies were heaped together without much regard to their congruity. It would answer to the staurophgion of the Greeks and to the laying of a foundation stone among ourselves. This, of course, would agree quite as well with De Rossi’s theory as with that which I think more probable. In fact, he notices in confirmation of this suggestion, that antiphons having reference to Christ as a foundation were sung at the same time (p. 143). I presume this refers to the antiphon “Fundamentum aliud nemo potest ponere praeter illud denique quod positum est a Christo Domino,” followed by the psalm “Fundamenta eius,” which I find in Jumieges, Dunstan, De Bernham, and elsewhere.

If, therefore, we were inclined to adopt this alphabet ceremony in any form among ourselves, it should be at the laying of the foundation stone of the church, rather than at its dedication. I may remark, in passing, that the introduction of ashes on which to write looks very like a later artifice to enable the Bishop to do something which at first he would have been able to do without difficulty. Speaking generally, the St. Andrew’s cross traced on the bare earth or sand would be the simplest way possible of giving the dimensions of the nave and taking possession of the whole space to be consecrated in the name of Christ. The surveyor’s cross would require something in the nature of a rule and compasses to complete the outline exactly: but the St. Andrew’s cross, given the four corners, would only need to have them joined by a piece of cord or twine. In practice, I suppose, the four corners would be represented by angle stones. I can conceive it a very reasonable part of the ceremony of the foundation of a church, that these four stones should bear the Alpha and Omega and the A and Z of the Greek and Latin alphabets in their proper respective positions, and that the Bishop with his staff should trace a Chi cross connecting them. Or, if the principle were adopted, the first and last letters of the Hebrew and Greek alphabets respectively might be inscribed on the stones in order to symbolize the union of the Jewish and Gentile Churches. It is not absolutely certain whether the drawing began from the eastern or the western part of the nave. The evidence, however, of the oldest books I have had access to is in favour of beginning at the east. This is the usage described in the Gregorian Sacramentary, the Spotted Book and the Egbert, Jumièges, Dunstan, Milan, De Bernham, and so-called York Pontificals.

Nearly all bid us to begin from the “left-hand eastern corner.” The Spotted Book says more explicitly: “The first alphabet begins from the south-east angle and is finished at the north-west angle. The second alphabet begins at the north-east angle and is finished at the south-west angle, so that the two O’s meet in the middle of the floor.” Nothing, I may remark, is here said as to sprinkling sand or ashes. Of course, “left” and “right” are ambiguous terms, as we know is the case in regard to the parts of the altar, and I think that all these uses may be intended to commence at the south-east. On the other hand the modern Roman Pontifical bids the Bishop begin from the corner on his left as he enters, which in a church entered by a west door would, of course, be the north-west. This would, however, so far agree with the Spotted Book as to make the first alphabet traced by the diagonal running north-west and southeast. I venture, therefore, to suggest the following arrangement of angle stones, whether the full alphabet be traced or not.



III. Besides this “Abecedarium” the main group of ceremonies, i. e. those really proper to consecration, contains some that simply signify taking possession, especially the processional circuit, and others more explicitly dedicatory, analogous to baptism and confirmation, including those for the expulsion of evil spirits. The procession taking possession of the church-site has precedents in the Old Testament, as well as in the innocent ceremonial of heathen religion. It seems, indeed, to be well worthy of being revived among us, and we have, therefore, restored it in our Diocesan form, though restricting it to one instead of three circuits. We have naturally omitted the ceremonies of lustration and purification which imply that the place has previously been the abode of evil spirits, and have changed a preliminary Latin collect, which suggested it, for a simpler Greek one which prays that the holy angels may enter as fellow servants in our worship. The driving out of evil spirits might not be out of place when a heathen temple was taken over for God’s service, as was frequently the case in early days. But it does not seem appropriate in a country long Christian, and a new building made of God’s good creatures of wood, stone, iron, and the rest. We have, however, restored the simple and expressive ceremony of knocking at the door with the butt of the pastoral staff, with the old antiphon and response, Lift up your heads, &c., after which follows the entrance and the new symbolic action of taking possession in the delivery of the keys to the Bishop as representative head of the Christian family which is to inhabit and use the house. The Bishop then says a triple word of peace, adapted from the antiphon given in Maskell’s copy, which he calls the Sarum use, and not, as far as I am aware, found in others. This may be considered as the ceremony in the Anglican rite, which is analogous to Baptism, in the name of the Blessed Trinity. We then say the antiphon Lift up your heads with Response, and then the twenty-fourth Psalm, which is found in nearly all ritual books, the antiphon being repeated by all at the conclusion. On arriving at the sanctuary the Bishop solemnly presents the keys on the table that is to be hallowed, with a prayer addressed to our Lord in His attributes as the beginning and the ending of all things, the first and the last, who has the key of the house of David, who openeth and no man shutteth, who shutteth and no man openeth—as described in Isaiah and the Apocalypse—asking that the Church now opened for His service may ever be filled with His presence and remain a refuge for His faithful people.

Then follows the hymn, Veni Creator, which may be considered the Anglican analogue to the ceremonies borrowed from the rite of confirmation in the western service-books.

Then I have recently introduced two features borrowed from the Greek Euchologion, viz. the Litany, or Ectene, and a special long consecration prayer, which latter appears to me more beautiful and suitable than any Latin prayer or any already in use in our own current forms. I draw attention to these features because they should be subject to criticism if any criticism is to be made, either to-day or on a future occasion. The Litany is that generally familiar, beginning “Stretch out thy hand upon us O Lord and save us, pity us, raise us up, and defend us,” with the response, “O Lord have mercy,” and containing special reference to the work in hand and the name to be given to the Church. The long prayer refers to God’s instructions to Moses, Bezaleel, Solomon, and the Apostles, and contains petitions for those who perform the work of consecration, describing the offices to be performed in the building, and its general character as “a haven for the tempest-tossed, a place of healing for sufferers, a refuge for the sick, a defence against evil spirits.” In this also the name is mentioned.

In the Greek rite the Prayer is said by the Bishop kneeling on a cushion at the doors of the screen, the Litany by the Deacon, with a common Doxology. I have directed that the Litany should be said as an introduction to the Prayer, and that the Bishop should stand.

IV. Then follows the actual consecration of the Church, which may be considered as analogous to the rite of Ordination, as the preliminary part is to the rites of Baptism and Confirmation. In the western rituals this centres specially upon the altar, although there are numerous processions about the church, within and without, scattering water upon the walls and the pavement, and finally a marking of twelve crosses with chrism upon the walls on places indicated, some of which still remain visible in Salisbury Cathedral and elsewhere. It is said that the English use differed from the foreign in having crosses both within and without. The Irish use shows its primitive character in ordering the crosses to be cut with a knife, no doubt on wooden posts, &c. But there is generally in these old forms no definite recognition of the other sacramental rites and devotional uses of the church besides the great Sacrament of the altar.[3] Just, therefore, as the English ordinal for the Priesthood differs from the Roman in its emphasis on all the duties of the ministry of the word and sacraments, while the Roman tends to exalt the ministry of the altar into excessive prominence, it is fitting that the Anglican rite of consecration of churches should be of a like broad and yet explicit character.

We owe it mainly to the genius and liturgical instinct of Bishop Andrewes that this conception already exists in services current among us. He seems to have been the first among us to introduce a procession to different spots in the Church connected with different rites. Bishop William Barlow, of Lincoln, indeed, in 1610, had consecrated the font, but no mention seems to be made of his dedicating the holy table or any other object. Bishop Andrewes’ practice was much fuller. All that we have done is to follow his leadership, and to make the procession, which he prescribes, to different parts of the Church a little more solemn and particular, adding to it appropriate passages of holy Scripture to be chanted before the prayers said at the respective places. Andrewes’ places are the font, pulpit, reading desk, holy table, place of marriage, and pavement, with reference specially to the dead, who may hereafter be buried under it—possibly a kind of concession to the instinct for communion with the departed, which in some of the pre-reformation services raised the burial of relics into such exaggerated prominence.

Laud, in consecrating the Church of Stanmore Magna, followed the same order in this particular, except that he seems to have omitted the blessing of the reading desk (Harington, p. 198). Field, of Hereford, follows Bishop Andrewes exactly in this matter, and also makes provision[4] (as Andrewes seems to have done) for the actual performance of the ceremonies of baptism, marriage, and churching, when desired at the same service. Archbishop Neile (in the same year, 1634) seems also to have been content with Andrewes’ practice (Russell’s Abbey Dore, p. 38). On the other hand, Monteigne’s service, as Bishop of London (1622), seems to have been, on the whole, much simpler, and after the type, I presume, of King’s, consisting chiefly of one long consecration prayer. As he was almost the immediate predecessor of Laud, it was perhaps natural that the latter’s procedure should be more severely criticized.

Bishop Cosin, after the Restoration, has the same idea of a procession to different places, but his series varies slightly from Andrewes’. It consists of “the Font,” “the place where the Lessons are read,” “the place where Morning and Evening Prayer is made,” “the pulpitt,” “the pavement,” “the Table of the Lord,” thus adding one (the place of Morning and Evening Prayer) and omitting one (viz. the place of Marriage). Another even more interesting form is that printed in several of the Irish Prayer-books from 1666 onwards, and which possibly received some Convocational, as well as considerable Archiepiscopal and Episcopal authority. It was reprinted by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1893, with a learned introduction from the pen of Bishop William Reeves of Down and Connor. It is long, and has long prayers, apparently original, and probably on account of the quaintness of some of these it may have fallen into disuse. Bishop Reeves, from a detached note, appears finally to have supposed it to be the compilation of Archbishop King of Dublin, but this must be a mistake, as King was born in 1650 and did not become Archbishop till 1688. There are special lessons and prayers to be said at font and pulpit and at the “altar or communion table,” as well as a prayer at the offering of the sacred vessels, books, utensils, &c. There are various traces of Greek influence, especially a prayer from the end of St. Clement’s Epistle, and a Psalm called “the Anathematism” (from Psalms 79, 83, 129), followed by an “Euphemism” from Psalms 150, 68, 87, 99, too. Morning Prayer is to be said and Confirmation (if possible) administered, and Communion is to follow.

It is characteristic of the staid and reserved attitude of the religion of the eighteenth century, that prayers answering to the prayers said in different places, are directed to be said by the Bishop “continuing where he is,” i.e. without anything of a procession, in the form of 1712. These words were omitted in the last draft of the service of 1715 (which was, as is well known, never completed by Convocation, though generally agreed to), but the rest of the rubric remains, which bids him say them standing up “turning his face toward the congregation,” and therefore implies that he is to remain where he is. The prayers then accepted—and continued more or less in use to the present day—add a reference to confirmation and to those who come to return thanks for mercies received. The chief addition of importance that they have received is in the Irish Prayer-book, where to the series is joined a collect for those “who shall be admitted here to any office in the Sacred Ministry” of God’s Church. The prayer about returning thanks has also been dropped by the Irish.

Few, I imagine, and perhaps no one here, will doubt that Bishop Andrewes’ method of saying such prayers at the appropriate places is much more impressive than the repetition of them in a series. I am certain that our Diocesan Form, first used at Marlborough in 1886, was not the first to set the very obvious example of this return to seventeenth-century usage, but I should be glad of explicit information on the subject.[5] What we may more probably claim as our contribution, is the choice of appropriate passages of Scripture which, as I have said, are sung before each prayer. Our series of places is Font, Chancel Step (for memorials of marriage and confirmation vows), Lectern, Pulpit, Stalls of the Clergy, Choir Seats, Sanctuary Steps, including a blessing of the Lord’s Table, of Ornaments and Vessels, and a prayer for communicants. The matter contained in these prayers is partly old, partly new.

Then follow in our form the Antiphons “Christ hath reconciled us unto God in one body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby. Surely the Lord is in this place. This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven,” and then the final series of short prayers, especially for the worshippers, which come originally also from Andrewes, but are omitted in the Convocation Forms and by the Irish and Americans. Then follow the Antiphons “Behold a ladder set up on the earth,” &c. and “Surely the Lord is in this place,” &c., and then the sentence of consecration, after which follows the Communion service without Morning Prayer.

The form used in Sarum Diocese has largely influenced that put out by the late Bishop How of Wakefield, which, being printed and sold by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, has obtained a certain currency and influence. I cannot honestly say that I think the result is as satisfactory as it might have been if he had adopted our service as it stood. The Bishop of Winchester has adopted another plan, which is very natural under the circumstances, viz. a reprint, with some modifications, of Bishop Andrewes’ form. The most interesting of the other forms known to me are that of Cumbrae, consecrated as a Cathedral by Bishop George Mackarness in 1876, that of Truro Cathedral in 1887, and that now used in the Diocese of Edinburgh.

V. As regards the second conception on which pre-reformation rites of consecration rest, viz. the translation and burial of relics of martyrs, by which the altar becomes a tomb, I may refer you to the excellent sketch given by the Abbé Duchesne in his Origines. The Church owes him a debt for showing how these rites grew from rare occasions of real burials or translations in cemetery chapels to formalities prescribed for nearly all churches. The process is clearly part of the exaggerated and unhealthy cultus of the saints which developed very rapidly in the fourth century, and which since that time has been hanging like a cloud on the edge of every church movement in nearly every century, ready to encumber it and confuse men’s minds. Fourth-century Christians of an older type, with devotional instincts in excess of their understanding, felt a profound but unbalanced reverence for their fathers in the faith, whose struggles and victories had led up to their own assured peace. Christians also of the new type, taken over in masses from heathenism with very insufficient convictions, were glad to find a series of minor sacred personages with whose cultus they could associate the thoughts previously connected with the local and inferior deities of their old religion. Relic burial may even have been in some degree a survival of the barbarous “foundation-sacrifice” of paganism. The strength of this instinct is seen not only in popular Christianity, but in popular Judaism and Mahomedanism, where tombs of saints and patriarchs take to a great extent the place of heathen shrines.

At first, as Duchesne reminds us, the relics were actual bodies of martyrs, either buried in cemetery chapels, which were rebuilt in a more splendid form when the Church became dominant, or translated and deposited in them. Then came the stage of imitation, when the popularity of such cemetery chapels, and the abuses connected with them, led active churchmen to wish to establish other shrines in the cities under better control. Such a case was that of the Ambrosian Basilica at Milan in 386, when St. Ambrose opportunely discovered the supposed remains of two gigantic martyrs, Gervasius and Protasius, who had suffered over 300 years before. His enthusiasm on this occasion gave a great impetus to the practice. In course of time it became usual to have relics in all churches, if not actual fragments of bodies, yet something which had touched or been connected with a saint. It might be a scrap of a garment or of a covering of his tomb, a handkerchief bathed in blood, or a phial of oil from the lamp of his sanctuary. With this all the formalities of a burial service were gone through just as if it had been a body. Or if even this could not be obtained, then fragments of the Gospels were solemnly buried, or the consecrated Eucharist. The latter custom was disapproved by Pope Innocent IV (A.D. 1243-1254) and is now out of use. But it was once very common.[6]

How far the ceremony of relic burial was an essential or even a common circumstance of the consecration of churches in England has not as yet been fully discussed, though Mr. Dewick and Mr. Olden have made valuable contributions to a study of the question.

No doubt it was the general policy of the Roman Church to promote the custom, and this is evident in the letter of Gregory the Great to Mellitus (Bede, E. H. i. 30, Greg. Ep. xi. 76, &c.), withdrawing the advice that he had given to Ethelbert to destroy idol temples, and advising Augustine to destroy the idols, sprinkle holy water on the temples, to construct altars, and deposit relics. In agreement with this advice we find Gregory in his Dialogues referring to the rededication of an Arian Church at Rome with the relics of St. Sebastian and St. Agatha (Dial. iii. 30). It is also the case that in the earliest type of Pontifical we possess, that of Egbert, the use of relics is provided for in the consecration of churches (ed. Greenwell, Surtees Soc. p. 45 foil. 1853).

On the other hand there is negative evidence, extending to the sixteenth century, that the use of actual relics was not insisted upon, and that it was an Anglican usage to dispense with them.

The first and, if I am not mistaken, the only canon of the Church of England describing the consecration of a Church runs as follows, as far as the very ungrammatical Latin admits of translation: “Where Churches are built they are to be hallowed by the Bishop of their own Diocese. Let the water be blessed by himself [and] let it be sprinkled, and so let it be finished as it is contained in the Ministerial book. Afterwards let the Eucharist, which is consecrated by the Bishop in the same service, be enclosed in a little box with other relics and preserved in the same Basilica. And, if he is not able to insert other relics, yet this by itself can especially avail, because it is the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Or (seu) we further enjoin to each Bishop that he have painted on the wall of the Oratory or on a board, or even on the altars, to what saints both of them (nave and chancel?) are dedicated” (Council of Celchyth, chap. ii). It is no unfair inference from this canon that the use of relics in England was by no means universal, and perhaps was even uncommon in the ninth century. The words “Postea Eucharistia . . . quae per eodem (sic!) ministerium consecratur” seem to mean that after the Mass, which followed the actual Dedication, was finished, there was to be a deposition of the Eucharist and relics, or of the Eucharist without relics, the deposition in neither case being an integral part of the service.

Further, notwithstanding the general current in favour of the cultus of the saints, there was a tendency in some parts of the Church to observe the dangers connected with this veneration, a danger apparently noticed by St. Athanasius, who records that St. Antony would not allow his body to be kept, but desired that it should be buried, and its place concealed (vit. Anton. 91), and who himself bricked up relics given to him (Rufinus, H.E. ii. 28).[7] The Emperors Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius forbade the trade in relics in A. D. 386 (cod. Theod. ix. 17, 7). In agreement with this feeling of the greatest Egyptian theologian, the Coptic Church has no ceremony of the burial of relics in its consecration service, as I learn from Mr. G. Horner, who has kindly analyzed the MS. recently given to me by the Coptic Patriarch.[8] The same omission is observed in the old Irish form, described in a section of the Spotted Book recently published by Mr. Olden. And, according to Mr. E. S. Bewick,[9] “in many English Pontificals there is no mention of the enclosing of the relics of saints in the sepulchre of the altar. When the enclosing of relics is noticed it is said to be done ‘in the Roman manner’ (more Romano), when no relics are enclosed the dedication is performed after the Anglican custom (more Anglicano).” Mr. Olden, commenting on the Spotted Book, suggests that the absence of the custom is due to the fact that the early British and Irish Churches only dedicated their churches to living saints. This is probably not so much the truth of the matter as that Celtic buildings were called after the Saint of the Monastery, living or dead, to which the land on which they stood belonged. The Roman idea was that a saint possessed the Church through being wholly or partly buried in it; the Celtic, if I rightly understand it, that it actually belonged to him or to his family or clan, i. e. his monks.[10]

But over and above this distinction our forefathers, whether Celtic or Saxon or Norman, were intelligent enough to see the weak side of such a practice, and I should expect to find that the mos Anglicanus was one of the good customs which made the work of the Reformation easier in this country.

Certainly there is no mention of relics in the Pontifical office printed by Maskell, and ascribed by him to the Sarum Diocese, but perhaps rather belonging to Lincoln: and in the xiiith century Pontifical which belonged to Archbishop Bainbridge the only reference is in a rubric which precedes a prayer in which the name of the Saint of the Church is recited. The rubric runs as follows: Sequitur aratio dicenda sive reliquiae [fuerint] sive non (ed. Henderson for Surtees Soc., p. 74. Bainbridge’s date is A.D. 1508-1514). This is important as showing that up to the eve of the Reformation, the use of relics was optional, and perhaps more often neglected than not.

The place in which relics were buried when they were used in such a service, seems to have varied. It is sometimes described as “in confessione,” that is, strictly speaking, in the crypt or vault under the altar (e. g. Pont. of Egbert, p. 46 and Sacramentary of Drogo of Metz, ap. Duchesne, p. 467). Sometimes it is simply “in ipso altario” (Sacr. of Angoulême, ib. 464). Sometimes relics, enclosed in a box, were inserted into holes cut in the surface of the slab of the altar. There is a picture of this in B. M. Lansdowne 451. But generally the idea was that the body of the martyr was “under the altar,” a thought brought into symbolic connexion with the passage of the Apocalypse which speaks of souls in that position praying for Christ’s second coming to judgement (Apoc. vi. 9, cp. xvi. 7). In connexion with this the Antiphon was generally sung: “Sub altare Domini sedes accepistis: intercedite pro nobis apud quem gloriari meruistis.” This is found in the Egbert Pontifical (p. 46) and in the ninth-century Sacramentary of Metz. No doubt to popular devotion the body and the soul were both together in the relic: and to visit a shrine and give a gift to it was actually to visit the saint and present him with something valuable. Scholars may remember the lines written by our countryman Ceolfrid when he took the great Bible written in a Northumbrian monastery to the shrine of St. Peter at Rome. He evidently felt that he was making a gift to the prince of the Apostles himself. Indeed the false position to which the Church of Rome has grown in Christendom is to a considerable extent owing to its possessing the sepulchres, and we may presume the bodies, of St. Peter and St. Paul. To visit the “limina apostolorum’’ is a duty enjoined by oath on Bishops of the Roman obedience to the present day, and “limen” in this sense is a technical term, meaning the chapel in which a martyr is buried; see Ducange, s. v.

Architects and antiquaries no doubt can supply instances of such relics or receptacles for relics still existing in England. Their comparative rarity is not due, I think, only to Reformation zeal, but to the fact that they were not so common here as elsewhere. I have learnt that at St. Phillack in Cornwall is a little recess grooved in the centre of the wall beneath the east window, which still contains a phial half-full of blood or some similar substance. At another Cornish Chapel (St. Clether or St. Cleer) there is a recess or ambry which appears to have held relics, under the stone altar belonging to a church older than the existing one which dates from the fifteenth century. At Madron Chapel near Penzance, there is a hole about four inches square in the centre of the altar slab. There are also recesses, presumably for relics, in the masonry on which the altar slab once rested in one of the Eastern Chapels of Castle Acre Priory in Norfolk.[11] These and similar instances are historically interesting. I trust, however, that nothing which I have said may tend in any measure or degree to a practical revival among us of the ceremonies of relic burial. They were at first introduced in parish churches, with not the best or most adequate motives, and the belief which they tend to encourage is often of a very material and, I may add, selfish kind. They are in no degree necessary to the full purpose of the consecration of a Church nor are they strictly English.

At the same time we have preserved the solemn naming of a church, and cannot be wrong in laying from time to time special stress both in prayer and sermon on the memory and good example which it brings home to us, and the fuller sense of the living reality of the communion of saints.[12] The Church of England does not call upon the saints and martyrs to pray for us individually, but it does not doubt that they join in our prayers for the whole Church. It does not ascribe a glory and a complete felicity to the martyrs for which it has no warrant in holy Scripture, but it calls upon the spirits and souls of the righteous to bless the Lord, with us, and to praise and magnify Him for ever.

[1] See Suicer s. v. kuriakon for instances of both. S. Athanasius, writing to Constantius, speaks of his new Church at Alexandria, and takes for granted that he would wish the people to pray for him, en tw epwnumw sou typw on hdh, mallon de kai ama tw qemeliw kuriakon panteV onomazousin. For “Dominicum” in both senses see S. Cyprian, de op. et eleem. 15, cp. Ep. 63, 16.

[2] Gratian, 1. c. cap. 15; cp. cap. 13.

[3] The Benedictio fontis is mentioned in the Leofric Missal (ed. Warren p, 219 a). This part was written in Loraine, where Leofric himself was trained.

[4] Cp. Harington, 160, Pergitur in Liturgia, &c.

[5] The first case actually known to me is that of Cumbrae (1876) which has prayers at Font, Chancel Steps (Confirmation, Marriage, Confession), Altar Steps (Communion, Ordination), Altar. Earlier supposed cases such as St. Ninian’s Cathedral, Perth, by Bishop A. P. Forbes in 1850, and St. Barnabas, Pimlico, by Bishop Blomfield, in the same year, are not described with sufficient clearness.

[6] See esp. Scudamore, Notitia Eucharistica, ed. 2, 916-9, and the second chapter of the Council of Celchyth or Chelsea, A. D. 816, in Haddan and Stubbs, ii. p. 583, or Wilkins, Concilia, i. p. 169, and Lyndwood, Provinciale (A. D. 1446), p. 249, note m, Oxon., 1679.

[7] The motive is not quite clear. In the case of Athanasius it might partly be to preserve the relics, in that of Antony we seem to discern something of the old Egyptian desire to keep the body perfect. On Athanasius, again, and others the polemic attacks of Julian might have some influence, and that a very proper one. See S. Cyril contra Jul. vi. p. 204, ed. Span., and J., Misopogon, p. 361 B.

[8] This paper has been printed in the Proc. Bibl. Arch. Soc., vol. xxi. pp. 86-107 (1899), and the MS. its?lf, I hope, will be printed by the Henry Bradshaw Society.

[9] See his paper On a MS. Pontifical of a Bishop of Metz of the Fourteenth Century (reprinted from Archæologia, vol. liv. pp. 411-424), p. 6, note, London, 1895. Mr. Bewick writes (30 Jan. 1899):—“I have looked at the note in my paper on the Metz Pontifical, and I could wish that I had added a few words. The statement should be:—‘In many English Pontificals there is no mention of the eaclosing of the relics of saints in the sepulchre of the altar, as an essential part of the service, and in one or two there is no mention of relics at all.’ In treating of English use there is no need to consider Leofric, for the part referring to the dedication of a church is found in Leofric A, which came from Lotharingia (see Warren’s Introduction, p. xxvii). The Pontificals of the tenth and eleventh centuries seem to regard the burial of relics as a separate service, and distinctly Roman. Thus Dunstan’s Pontifical (from which Martene has taken his Ordo IV in De Ant. Eccl. Rit. ii. 257, Venetiis, 1783) has the relics in a separate section, ‘Incipit ordo quomodo in sacra Romana ecclesia reliquiae condantur.’ The expression si sunt autem reliquiae implies that they were not always used. Martene’s Ordo III, which has also been printed by John Gage in Archæologia, vol. xxv. p. 235, supplies similar evidence. The MS. in Cambridge University Library, Mm. iii. 21, used by Maskell in his Monumenta Ritualia, has no notice of the burial of relics in the portion printed by him. Lacy’s Pontifical (ed. Barnes, p. 32) has a separate section on Reconditio Reliquiarum, but the words Quando reliquiæ ponende sunt seem to imply that it was not essential. But Brit. Mus. MS. Lansdowne 451 (a London Pontifical of the end of the fourteenth cent.) gives the clearest evidence, for it provides two alternative services, one, mos Anglicanus without relics, the other, mos Romanus with relics; and it is expressly added ‘licet istis tenaporibus hoc raro fiat propter reliquiarum paucitatem et novorum sanctorum raram canonizationem.’”

[10] I think Mr. J. Willis Bund is probably right when he says:—“If a Church was called by the name of a saint it did not imply, as has been assumed, that the saint had founded it, or that it was dedicated to him by the founder. It merely implied that the church was built on land that had become by grant or otherwise the property of the monastery to which the saint belonged.” Celtic Church in Wales, p. 322, 1897.

[11] I owe the knowledge of these instances to the diligence of Professor Collins. There is a slab, not now, if ever, an altar, at Tarrant Rushton, Dorset, which has holes on its surface that have sometimes been supposed to have contained relics.

[12] See a good section on this subject in Hooker, E. P. v. 13.