29 Feb: Roman Martyrology

Here are shots of the pages from the 2005 Martyrologium Romanum concerning 29 February and Leap Year.

You can click these for large images.


You will have noticed the word The word bissextus.  The mighty Lewis & Short says that bisextus, is "an intercalary day; so called, since the 24th of February = VI. Cal. Mart., was doubled". 

In the Roman calendar the sixth day before the Kalends, or Calends, of March (24 February, counting back from the beginning of March) occurred twice in a leap year.  So, bisextus (from bis "twice" and sextus "sixth") "the sixth day for the second time".

Just to expand this a little, again we look at the Martyrologium Romanum for 24 and 25 February.

On 24 February we have the sixth day before the Kalends of March.

On 25 February, we have this:

"The fifth day before the Kalends of March; or on leap year: the sixth day before the Kalends of March".

Looked at this way, the real "leap day" for the ancient Romans was at 24/25 February, not the 29th!

Remember, the Romans made their dates by counting forward to fixed points, the Kalends (1st day of a month), the Nones, (the 5th or 7th, depending on the month) and the Ides (the 13th or 15th depending on the month).  There is a little verse to help us remember how this works:

In March, July, October, May
The Ides fall on the fifteenth day
The Nones the seventh; all besides
Have two days less for Nones and Ides.

Again, the Romans counted forward, rather than backward, like we do.  We today think in terms of the first day of the month, and then the 2nd day from the 1st, and the 3rd from the first: our reference point is backward.  The Romans counted forward to their days.  and they also counted inclusively, counting the days themselves rather then the days remaining until the Kalends, Nones or Ides.  Thus,

29 February = pridie Kalendas Martii – the day before the Kalends of March (which was the 1st day of the ancient Roman year for centuries!)
1 March = Kalendis martii – the Kalends of March
2 March = sexto Nonas martii – the sixth day before the Nones of March (which is 7 March)
3 March = quinto Nonas martii – the fifth day before the Nones of March
4 March = quarto Nonas martii – the fourth day before the Nones of March
5 March = tertio Nonas martii – the third day before the Nones of March
6 March = pridie Nonas martii – the day before the Nones of March
7 March = Nonis martii – the Nones of March

The Romans had abbreviations for dating.  For example: a.d. for ante diem = "days before" and prid. for pridie, "the day before".

It is possible that the month February is named for a thong of goatskin called a februa from the verb februo ("to purify, expiate").  On 15 February the ancient Romans had a festival called the Lupercalia. Lupercalia is from the name of the Lupercal ("she wolf") cave on the Palatine Hill, sacred to the Lycean Pan.  The Lupercal was recently rediscovered, btw., on October 2007, between the Temple of Apollo Palatinus and the Basilica of Santa Anastasia (where the Station of the 1st Mass of Christmas is).  They are still searching for the entrance to the grotto, but they got photos of the inside with a remote device.  Very cool stuff.

The Lupercalia were observed from 13-15 February.  It was a festival for purification of the city from bad spirits and to promote fertility.  At the beginning, two male goats and a dog were ritually slaughtered.  Then two patrician men who belongeds to special priestly colleges, smeared with  the blood wiped from the blade of the knife with wool soaked in milk.  They then had to laugh (which would be my first reaction, I can tell you).  After a feast, the two patricians, or luperci, cut thongs, februa, from the skins of the animals and put the bloody skins of the goats around their loins.  They then had to run around the walls encircling the Palatine Hill, striking the people who lined their course with the thongs.  This februatio was especially beneficial for girls and women, apparently, in promoting fertility.

It will be no surprise that these ancient rites were ended by Pope Gelasius (+496) of the Gelasian Sacramentary fame.  Gelasius even had fight with a senator named Andromachus who wanted to keep it going, telling him that if we wanted the Lupercalia to continue, then Andromachus should be the one to run nude around the Palatine with only a bloody goatskin around his waist.

But I digress…


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  1. Bill says:

    The link for the first image is dead.

  2. It is also the reason why in the Dominican Rite–as well as, I believe, in the Extraordinary Form–the feast of St. Matthias was on February 25 this year, not February 24.

  3. Henry Edwards says:

    The mighty Lewis & Short says that bisextus, is “an intercalary day; so called, since the 24th of February = VI. Cal. Mart., was doubled”.

    Not only an arcane, but a truly archaic meaning? I believe “bisextus” has a totally different meaning in contemporary society.

  4. Joe says:

    It is amusing that one could consider a Latin word in a Latin context ‘arcane’ and ‘archaic’. I believe that anyone giving a ‘totally different meaning in contemporary society’ to ‘bisextus’ demonstrates ignorance of Latin (quite acceptable) and deficiency in English idiom (that pesky ‘t’, donchaknow?).

  5. Henry Edwards says:

    Goodness, Joe, I hoped my attempt at humor would seem at least somewhat droll. Didn’t get it?

  6. Joe says:

    a friend of mine was ordained a Priest in a Religious Order and it was announced that he was biritual in the Roman and Melkite rites, at which an older member of the community queried “why can’t our men discover this about themselves BEFORE they’re ordained?”

  7. Greg Smisek says:

    As Fr. Augustine Thompson points out, this illustrates yet another way in which the old and new calendars get out of sync. And the clash is further illustrated by the use of the modern names alongside the old Roman names in the new Martyrology.

    The name “Die 29 februarii” reflects the modern calendar’s insertion of the leap day immediately before 1 March (leap day = 29 February). And this reckoning was adopted by the 1969/1970 liturgical calendar and the new Roman Martyrology, thus governing the ordinary form of the Roman Rite.

    But the name “Pridie Kalendas martii” reflects the (old) Roman calendar‘s reckoning of dates, in which the leap day is inserted immediately before VI. Kalendas Martii, creating a second VI. Kal. Mart. in leap years, as Fr. Z explained (leap day = bissextus = (modern) 24 February). This reckoning was adopted in the Roman ecclesiastical calendar, which still governs the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.

    Where the leap day is inserted affects the date a given saint is remembered, and since the two calendars are back in sync as of 1 March, the temporal shift only affects 24-29 February. According to the old calendar, St. Matthias’ feast shifts from 24 Feb. to 25 Feb. (which is the primary VI. Kal. martii in leap years), and the remaining feasts and martyrology readings of February follow suit. The new General Roman Calendar moved St. Matthias out of this period altogether, but the new martyrology demonstrates how the saints who died on 24-29 Feb. stay put on these days, because they are now reckoned according to the modern calendar.

    And so, while the new martyrology includes the old Roman calendar names for the last days of February, it assigns the commemorations based on the modern calendar. If one were to update the Roman calendar naming to reflect the modern placement of the leap day, I think 29 Feb. would need to be called (bis) Kalendas Martii, not Pridie Kalendas Martii. But in any case, the word “bissextus” has come into English to mean “leap day,” regardless of when it falls.

    For comparison, see the old Martyrology for these days. (N.B. This is a pre-1955 martyrology, so it includes the liturgical day of the Vigil of St. Matthias, which was suppressed in 1955.) The placement of Pope St. Hilary (who died on the last day of February in the leap year 468) and “the commemoration of the holy priests, deacons, and many others, who, when a most deadly epidemic was raging, willingly met their death by ministering to the sick” domonstrates some of the basic differences between the two calendars.

  8. Prof. Basto says:

    Below is the papal Bull Inter gravissimas , of Gregory XIII, that decreed the Gregorian Calendar, establishing that from then on the intercalated day would be on the 29th day of February, confirming that one in every four years would be a bisextille year (the year whose number is divisible by four), except that from then on the years divisible by one hundred (1700, 1800, 1900, etc), would not be bissextile, unless they were also divisible by four hundred (eg. 1600, 2000, etc – see item 9 of the Bull). The bull also decreed that October 4th, 1582 would be followed by October 15th, so as to correct the accumulated innacuracy of the previous, Julian calendar, and that accordingly debtors should be granted ten more days to pay their obligations

    Inter Gravissimas

    Kalendarii nuper restituti, pro festivitatibus S. R. E., suo tempore celebrandis divinisque ibidem officiis recitandis approbatio, et veteris kalendarii abolitio.
    Gregorius episcopus servus servorum Dei, ad perpetuam rei memoriam.

    INTER GRAVISSIMAS pastoralis officii nostri curas, ea postrema non est, ut quae a sacro Tridentino concilio Sedi Apostolicae reservata sunt, illa ad finem optatum, Deo adjutore, perducantur.
    1. Sane eiusdem concilii patres, cum ad reliquas cogitationes breviarii quoque curam adiungerent, tempore tamen exclusi, rem totam ex ipsius concilii decreto ad auctoritatem et iudicium Romani Pontificis retulerunt.

    2. Duo autem breviario praecipue continentur, quorum unum preces laudesque divinas festis profestisque diebus persolvendas complectitur, alterum pertinet ad annuos Paschae festorumque ex eo pendentium recursus, solis et lunae motu metiendos.

    3. Atque illud quidem felicis recordationis Pius V, praedecessor noster, absolvendum curavit atque edidit.

    4. Hoc vero, quod nimirum exigit legitimam kalendarii restitutionem, iamdiu a Romanis Pontificibus praedecessoribus nostris et saepius tentatum est; verum absolvi et ad exitum perduci ad hoc usque tempus non potuit, quod rationes emendandi kalendarii, quae a coelestium motuum peritis proponebantur, propter magnas et fere inextricabiles difficultates, quas huiusmodi emendatio semper habuit, neque perennes erant, neque antiquos ecclesiasticos ritus incolumes (quod in primis hac in re curandum erat) servabant.

    5. Dum itaque nos quoque, credita nobis licet indignis, a Deo dispensatione freti, in hac cogitatione curaque versaremur, allatus est nobis liber a dilecto filio Antonio Lilio, artium et medicinae doctore, quem quondam Aloysius eius germanus frater conscripserat, in quo per novum quemdam epactarum cyclum ab eo excogitatum, et ad certam ipsius aurei numeri normam directum, atque ad quamcumque anni solaris magnitudinem accommodatum, omnia quae in kalendario collapsa sunt, constanti ratione et saeculis omnibus duratura, sic restitui posse ostendit ut kalendarium ipsum nulli umquam mutationi in posterum expositum esse videatur. Novam hanc restituendi kalendarii rationem, exiguo volumine comprehensam, ad christianos principes celebrioresque universitates paucos ante annos misimus, ut res quae omnium communis est, communi etiam omnium consilio perficeretur; illi cum, quod maxime optabamus, concordes respondissent, eorum nos omnium consensione adducti, viros ad kalendarii emendationem adhibuimus in alma Urbe harum rerum peritissimos, quos longe ante ex primariis christiani orbis nationibus delegeramus. Ii cum multum temporis et diligentiae ad eam lucubrationem adhibuissent, et cyclos tam veterum quam recentiorum undique conquisitos ac diligentissime perpensos inter se contulissent, suo et doctorum hominum, qui de ea re scripserunt, iudicio, hunc, prae ceteris, elegerunt epactarum cyclum, cui nonnulla etiam adiecerunt, quae ex accurata circumspectione visa sunt ad kalendarii perfectionem maxime pertinere.

    6. Considerantes igitur nos, ad rectam paschalis festi celebrationem iuxta sanctorum Patrum ac veterum Romanorum Pontificum, praesertim Pii et Victoris primorum, necnon magni illius oecumenici concilii Nicaeni et aliorum sanctiones, tria necessaria coniungenda et statuenda esse; primum, certam verni aequinoctii sedem; deinde rectam positionem XIV lunae primi mensis, quae vel in ipsum aequinoctii diem incidit, vel ei proxime succedit; postremo primum quemque diem dominicum, qui eamdem XIV lunam sequitur; curavimus non solum aequinoctium vernum in pristinam sedem, a qua iam a concilio Nicaeno decem circiter diebus recessit, restituendum, et XIV paschalem suo in loco, a quo quatuor et eo amplius dies hoc tempore distat, reponendam, sed viam quoque tradendam et rationem, qua cavetur, ut in posterum aequinoctium et XIV luna a propriis sedibus nunquam dimoveantur.

    7. Quo igitur vernum aequinoctium, quod a patribus concilii Nicaeni ad XII kalendas aprilis fuit constitutum, ad eamdem sedem restituatur, praecipimus et mandamus ut de mense octobris anni MDLXXXII decem dies inclusive a tertia nonarum usque ad pridie idus eximantur, et dies, qui festum S. Francisci IV nonas celebrari solitum sequitur, dicatur idus octobris, atque in eo celebretur festum Ss. Dionysii, Rustici et Eleutherii martyrum, cum commemoratione S. Marci Papae et confessoris, et Ss. Sergii, Bacchi, Marcelli et Apulei martyrum; septimodecimo vero kalendas novembris, qui dies proxime sequitur, celebretur festum S. Callisti Papae et martyris; deinde XVI kalendas novembris fiat officium et missa de dominica XVIII post Pentecostem, mutata littera dominicali G in C; quintodecimo denique kalendas novembris dies festus agatur S. Lucae evangelistae, a quo reliqui deinceps agantur festi dies, prout sunt in kalendario descripti.

    8. Ne vero ex hac nostra decem dierum subtractione, alicui, quod ad annuas vel menstruas praestationes pertinet, praeiudicium fiat, partes iudicum erunt in controversis, quae super hoc exortae fuerint, dictae subtractionis rationem habere, addendo alios X dies in fine cuiuslibet praestationis.

    9. Deinde, ne in posterum a XII kalendas aprilis aequinoctium recedat, statuimus bissextum quarto quoque anno (uti mos est) continuari debere, praeterquam in centesimis annis; qui, quamvis bissextiles antea semper fuerint, qualem etiam esse volumus annum MDC, post eum tamen qui deinceps consequentur centesimi non omnes bissextiles sint, sed in quadringentis quibusque annis primi quique tres centesimi sine bissexto transigantur, quartus vero quisque centesimus bissextilis sit, ita ut annus MDCC, MDCCC, MDCCCC bissextiles non sint. Anno vero MM, more consueto dies bissextus intercaletur, februario dies XXIX continente, idemque ordo intermittendi intercalandique bissextum diem in quadringentis quibusque annis perpetuo conservetur.

    10. Quo item XIV paschalis recte inveniatur, itemque dies lunae, iuxta antiquum Ecclesiae morem ex Martyrologio singulis diebus ediscendi, fideli populo vere proponantur, statuimus ut, amoto aureo numero de kalendario, in eius locum substituatur cyclus epactarum; qui ad certam (uti diximus) aurei numeri normam directus, efficit ut novilunium et XIV paschalis vera loca semper retineant. Idque manifeste apparet ex nostri explicatione kalendarii, in quo descriptae sunt etiam tabulae paschales secundum priscum Ecclesiae ritum, quo certius et facilius sacrosanctum Pascha inveniri possit.

    11. Postremo, quoniam partim ob decem dies de mense octobris anni MDLXXXII (qui correctionis annus recte dici debet) exemptos, partim ob ternos etiam dies quolibet quadringentorum annorum spatio minime intercalandos, interrumpatur necesse est cyclus litterarum dominicalium XXVIII annorum ad hanc usque diem usitatus in Ecclesia Romana, volumus in eius locum substitui eumdem cyclum XXVIII annorum, ab eodem Lilio, tum ad dictam intercalandi bissexti in centesimis annis rationem, tum ad quamcumque anni solaris magnitudinem, accommodatum; ex quo littera dominicalis beneficio cycli solaris, aeque facile ac prius, ut in proprio canone explicatur, reperiri possit in perpetuum.

    12. Nos igitur, ut quod proprium Pontificis Maximi esse solet exequamur, kalendarium immensa Dei erga Ecclesiam suam benignitate iam correctum atque absolutum hoc nostro decreto probamus, et Romae una cum martyrologio imprimi, impressumque divulgari iussimus.

    13. Ut vero utrumque ubique terrarum incorruptum ac mendis et erroribus purgatum servetur, omnibus in nostro et S. R. E. dominio mediate vel immediate subiecto commorantibus impressoribus, sub amissionis librorum ac centum ducatorum auri Camerae Apostolicae ipso facto applicandorum; aliis vero, in quacumque orbis parte consistentibus, sub excommunicationis latae sententiae ac aliis arbitrii nostri poenis, ne sine nostra licentia kalendarium aut martyrologium, simul vel separatim, imprimere vel proponere, aut recipere ullo modo audeant vel praesumant, prohibemus.

    14. Tollimus autem et abolemus omnino vetus kalendarium, volumusque ut omnes patriarchae, primates, archiepiscopi, episcopi, abbates et ceteri ecclesiarum praesides novum kalendarium (ad quod etiam accomodata est ratio martyrologii), pro divinis officiis recitandis et festis celebrandis, in suas quisque ecclesias, monasteria, conventus, ordines, militias et dioeceses introducant, et eo solo utantur, tam ipsi quam ceteri omnes presbyteri et clerici saeculares et regulares utriusque sexus, necnon milites et omnes christifideles, cuius usus incipiet post decem illos dies ex mense octobri anni MDLXXXII exemptos. Iis vero, qui adeo longinquas incolunt regiones, ut ante praescriptum a nobis tempus harum litterarum notitiam habere non possint, liceat, eodem tamen octobri mense insequentis anni MDLXXXIII vel alterius, cum primum scilicet ad eos hae nostrae litterae pervenerint, modo a nobis paulo ante tradito, eiusmodi mutationem facere, ut copiosius in nostro kalendario anni correctionis explicabitur.

    15. Pro data autem nobis a Domino auctoritate hortamur et rogamus carissimum in Christo filium nostrum Rodulphum Romanorum regem illustrem, in imperatorem electum, ceterosque reges, principes ac respublicas, iisdemque mandamus ut quo studio illi a nobis contenderunt, ut hoc tam praeclarum opus perficeremus, eodem, immo etiam maiore, ad conservandam in celebrandis festivitatibus inter christianas nationes concordiam, nostrum hoc kalendarium et ipsi suscipiant, et a cunctis sibi subiectis populis religiose suscipiendum inviolateque observandum curent.

    16. Verum, quia difficile foret praesentes litteras ad universa christiani orbis loca deferri, illas ad basilicae Principis Apostolorum et Cancellariae Apostolicae valvas, et in acie Campi Florae publicari et affigi; et earumdem litterarum exemplis, etiam impressis, et voluminibus kalendarii et martyrologii insertis et praepositis, sive manu tabellionis publici subscriptis, necnon sigillo personae in dignitate ecclesiastica constitutae obsignatis, eamdem prorsus indubitatam fidem ubique gentium et locorum haberi praecipimus, quae originalibus litteris exhibitis omnino haberetur.

    17. Nulli ergo omnino hominum liceat hanc paginam nostrorum praeceptorum, mandatorum, statutorum, voluntatis, probationis, prohibitionis, sublationis, abolitionis, hortationis et rogationis infringere, vel ei auso temerario contraire. Si quis autem hoc attentare praesumpserit, indignationem omnipotentis Dei ac beatorum Petri et Pauli apostolorum eius se noverit incursurum.

    Datum Tusculi, anno Incarnationis dominicae millesimo quingentesimo octuagesimo secundo, sexto kalendas martii, pontificatus nostri anno X.

  9. Liam says:

    The bissextile day was inserted after the pagan Roman feast of the Terminalia, which occurred on what we call February 23 and was the end of the Roman festal year (though it did not refer to the end as such but was a time for marking boundaries like old Rogation activities once did in the British Isles at Rogationtide). One very memorable Terminalia was celebrated by the martyrdom in Smyrna of St Polycarp, disciple of St JOhn the Evangelist – the first historiated saint’s day, 23 February AD 156. 147 years later, the emperor Diocletian marked Terminalia in Nicomedia by commencing the last great Roman persecution of Christians. So those are other ways to remember the bissextile day, by what preceded it.

  10. Greg Smisek says:

    Prof. Basto:

    Perhaps I am mistaken, but I think “Anno vero MM, more consueto dies bissextus intercaletur, februario dies XXIX continente” says that February 2000 will contain 29 days, not that the intercalated day is 29 February.

  11. Prof. Basto: What you wrote reminds me of a piece I did in my weekly column some years ago about Christopher Clavius, SJ.

    you have heard perhaps of Christopher Clavius, S.J. (+1612).  One of my favorites Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590, Felice Peretti) said: “Had the Jesuit order produced nothing more than this Clavius, on this account alone the order should be praised”.  Clavius was an incredible mathematician who solved some of the most difficult problems of his day and who produced the essential textbooks of the era.  Even the way we all learned Euclidian geometry when we were children is due mostly to the presentations of Clavius.  His works were translated into Chinese by Matteo Ricci and others so that missionaries could connect with scholars in that far away land and thus bring them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

    At the time of this writing I am in Rome, and coming up swiftly on the feast of the great Carmelite mystic and doctor of the Church St. Teresa of Avila.  Not too far from where I am, there is a church called San Salvatore “in Lauro”. [Where, incidently, the “musical rosary” took place last week, which John Sonnen memorialized with some photos.] When you direct yourself to the left of the façade you discover, probably partly hidden by tightly packed parked cars, a cute little fountain with (what’s left of) a lamb carved from some stone much abused by the centuries.  Over the fountain there is an inscription which inter alia speaks of a draco or “dragon” who, dutiful (pius), masters the whole globe or the world (draco qui toti pius imperat orbi). This is reference to Pope Gregory XIII (1572–1585, Ugo Boncompagni) whose coat of arms bore a dragon with wings outstretched.  Let’s now go back for a moment to the 1500’s, a time of theological upheaval and renewal and a blossoming of Catholic art, music, architecture and astounding scientific advances.  It was the era of Galileo and St. Robert Bellarmine… and Clavius.

    For centuries scholars knew that Easter was being celebrated on the wrong day, sometimes even a month late.  It was gradually becoming a summer feast.  For 800 years there were problems with the ancient Julian calendar, which by its inaccuracies was pushing the counting of days off from solar time, the actual position of the earth relative to the sun.  (This sounds a little like our translation problems, no?  But I digress….)  The problem with the Julian calendar was partly astronomical and partly arithmetic. A year is shorter now than it was in 45 B.C. when the Julian calendar was adopted (it is named after Gaius Julius Caesar).  Then the transit-time of the earth around the sun was then 365.2422 days. It is 365.2419 days now. These numbers are not integers.  If we divide up a year into a number of equal days, there could therefore be no 23rd day of the year. Instead it would be the 23.4368th day of the year, a fact rather distressing for calendar printers. The greatest mathematical mind of his day, Clavius was commissioned by Gregory XIII to correct the shift.  This was an incredible task considering the resources and tools of the time.  This was before even the common use of the decimal point… another of Clavius’ own innovations!  Using a decimal would have been the equivalent of post-graduate level math.  No one knows how he did it, but Clavius found the real date for Easter.  He said that 97 days needed to be integrated into the calendar every 400 years.  Because of the way Clavius worked the problem we will not have to add a full day to the calendar year until 4317.  Because of Christopher Clavius we celebrate Christmas on 25 December rather than 12 December (in solar time).  Alas, as in many things, including authentic liturgical reform and development of good translations implementation of Clavius’ schema was not universally applied. Think about how slowly we are adjusting to the metric system in the USA.  The change confused whole populaces of European cities.  The Jesuits were blamed for the changes and they were physically attacked
    across Europe.  The Orthodox resented this as a Roman intrusion (which it exactly what it was) and Protestants regions resisted a decree from a Roman Pope. England did not adopt Clavius’ calendar until 1751.  Russia would not change to the new Julian-Gregorian calendar until after subjugation of the Orthodox Church in the Bolshevik revolution in the 20th century.

    So it was, that in 1582, the ancient Julian calendar (still observed by many Orthodox Christians) officially was terminated on Thursday 4 October by the command of Gregory XIII via the papal bull Inter gravissimas.  At midnight of 3-4 October the calendar skipped automatically to a day named Friday 15 October.  Clavius chose October because it had the fewest feast days.  St. Teresa of Avila died on the very night on which His Holiness had commanded that the calendar shift from 4 October to 15 October, which is why her feast is celebrated on the 15th rather than the 3rd or 4th.

    Here is the inscription on the fountain, for those of you who want to take a crack at it.  You will need to know that virginea here refers to a famous Roman water source, called Acqua Vergine (which flows over the coins in the Fontana Trevi) and the lupus (“wolf”) and leo (“lion”) refer to other fountains, now lost, which were part of a set, this fountain being the “lamb”.








    Going across the river to San Pietro in Vaticano, we search in the right side aisle for the tomb of Pope Gregory XIII and the interesting relief on his tomb. 

    It portrays the moment he was so proud of in his pontificate: when Clavius gave him the plans for the new calendar. 


    One of the things you must learn to do in Rome is pay attention to details, which are really rather funny at times.  These people had a wonderful sense of humor.


    What is interesting is the style of spectacles from that time, and that the sculptor included it.  I haven’t gotten to the bottom of who this fellow might have been.  The sculptor himself?  The biographer of Gregory?  Who knows? 

  12. Liam: Very interesting! Thanks for posting that!

  13. techno_aesthete says:

    5 March = tertio Nonas martii – the third day before the Nones of March
    6 March = pridie Nonas martii – the day before the Nones of March

    What about ______ Nonas martii – the second day before the Nones of March?

  14. Joshua says:

    Fr Z wrote: “Then the transit-time of the earth around the sun was then 365.2422 days. It is 365.2419 days now.”

    Some slight confusion here! The earth is not spiralling inwards faster and faster till it shall be immolated in the Sun! (Prescinding from the Parousia, it will probably be burnt up as the sun expands to a red giant in about 7 billion years, but that is a different issue.)

    The Gregorian calendar year of 365.2425 days is almost matched to the equinoctial year of approx. 365.2422 days, so as to keep the seasons in their accustomed places. The average tropical year is of length 365.24219 days. (Owing to their different definitions, and all the minor long-term variations of the earth’s orbit, these ‘years’ gradually fluctuate in length by small amounts.)

    The Iranian solar calendar, attributed to the famous poet Omar Khayyam and friends, is an even better approximation to the equinoctial year: 365 + 8/33 = 365.2424 recurring; apparently some thought was given to adopting a like approximation at the time of Clavius. How annoying that the Shi’ites of all people have a better calendar than ourselves! Finally, Johann von Mädler proposed an even more accurate system to Tsar Nicholas II, but he rejected it, and suffered the judgement of Providence on this… ;-)

  15. By the way, on a truly minor note, it is a common misconception that certain vigils and octaves were abolished in 1955.

    I have the 1956 Vatican Press totum breviary, which has a July 19, 1956 publication date. While it includes such new things as Joseph the Worker and Holy Week modifications, it also includes such things as the Vigil of Matthias and the other apostles, and the traditional octaves, simple feasts, semidoubles, etc.

  16. Mark Polo says:

    In the current (2000) Latin Breviary, it states pretty clearly that even in the Ordinary Form (at least in the Hours), Leap Year Day is the repeated 24th of the month.

    “Anni bissextiles autem duplici littera dominicali insigniuntur, quarum prior dies dominicas indicat ab initio anni usque ad diem 24 februarii, altera vero a die 25 usque ad finem anni: bis enim dicitur sexto calendas martii, id est diebus 24 et 25 februarii, atque iteratur littera f, quae bis servit diebus 24 et 25.”

    As the General Roman Calendar doesn’t have any feast days of any rank on the affected days, so for the most part the question would seem to be moot. However, living in Germany, St. Matthias is normally celebrated on the 24th, which would almost make an excuse to have celebrated him on last Monday… But the Directorium says that the feast was to be omitted this year.

  17. Greg Smisek says:

    Dr. Fratantuono’s breviary notwithstanding, the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued the general decree De rubricis ad simpliciorem formam redigendis, dated 23 March 1955, effective 1 January 1956, which, among other changes, suppressed the semi-double rite, most vigils, and all but three octaves.


    1. The semiduplex rank and rite is suppressed [supprimitur].

    2. Liturgical days, which until now have been in the calendars as semiduplex rite, are to be celebrated as simplex rite, except the vigil of Pentecost which is elevated to a duplex rite.

    a) Concerning Sundays

    b) Concerning Vigils

    8. Privileged vigils are: the vigil of Christmas and the vigil of Pentecost.

    9. Common vigils are: the vigils of the feasts of the Ascension of our Lord; the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; St. John the Baptist; Sts. Peter and Paul and St. Lawrence. All other vigils, even those listed in particular calendars, are suppressed [supprimuntur].

    10. Common vigils, occurring on Sunday, are not anticipated but are omitted.

    c) Concerning Octaves

    11. The only octaves celebrated are those of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. All others are suppressed [suppressis omnibus aliis], whether they occur in the universal calendar or in particular calendars.

    12. Days within the octaves of Easter and Pentecost are elevated to a duplex rite, and they have precedence over all feasts nor do they allow of commemorations.

    13. Days within the octave of Christmas, although elevated to a duplex rite, are celebrated as they are now.

    14. The days from January 2nd to 5th are of the occurring day and are simplex rite, unless some feast occurs….

    15. The days from January 7th to 12th, since the octave of Epiphany is suppressed [suppressa octava Epiphaniae], become ferial days of the year and of simplex rite….

    16. On January 13th there is a commemoration of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, of duplex major rite….

    17. The days from the feast of the Ascension of our Lord up to the vigil of Pentecost (exclusively) become ferials of Paschal time, of simplex rite….

    18. Days of the suppressed octave of Corpus Christi and the suppressed octave of the Sacred Heart become ferial days of the year.

    19. On Sundays previously within the octaves of Ascension, Corpus Christi and the Sacred Heart, the Office is said as previously.

    d) Concerning the Feasts of the Saints

    20. The feasts of the saints, until now celebrated as semiduplex rite, are to become simplex feasts.

    21. The feasts of saints, until now celebrate as simplex rite, are reduced to a commemoration, without any historical lesson.

    22. On ferial days of Lent and Passion time, from Ash Wednesday until Saturday before Palm Sunday, when some feast occurs which is not of the first or second class, both the Office (in private recitation) and the Mass can be said either of the ferial or of the feast.

    Translation: Very Rev. Aidan M. Carr, O.F.M Conv, Complete Translation of Decretum Generale, New York: Wagner, reprinted from The Homiletic and Pastoral Review, July 1955.

    Latin text: AAS 47(1955) 218-224.

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