VIDEO 1950 – Pontifical Mass in Westminster Cathedral

A reader sent me a link to some 1950 Pathé film of a Pontifical Mass in Westminster Cathedral, London.

Check out the TWO cappa recessional at about 5:15.

It skips around a lot and there are patches with no audio, but you get a sense of the event.  Also, you see what we don’t do in these USA, because there are no chapters of canons here.  Too bad.

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  1. PCali says:

    Excuse my ignorance, but what exactly is a chapter of canons?

    Also, is there any sort of resource that could explain the huge number of moving pieces (people) in the ceremony, and what they’re doing? I’ve seen pictures and videos of pontifical high Masses before, but never one with so many clerics, servers, etc..

    As well, did mine ears deceive me, or was there music playing during the consecration? If that was dubbed in I would understand, but isn’t that a no no during the consecration itself? Not trying to nitpick, but more surprised. My apologies for the long comment, by the way.

  2. kbf says:

    A Chapter of Canons is a normal feature of cathedrals both Catholic and Anglican in the UK. Canons date back to monastic times and it was originally referred to in the context of clerics living in a community. “Secular Canons” as they are called now are appointed by the Bishop to advise and oversee the running of the Cathedral and in some cases parts of the Curia of the Diocese. Originally Westminster Cathedral was going to be a Benedictine foundation, but when that didn’t happen the Chapter developed with a very monastic feel to it. It is one of the reasons why the singing of the office takes on such a prominent role in the life of the Cathedral and all of the resident clergy become minor Canons for the duration of their apointment in addition to the appointed Canons from accross the diocese that meet to sing the office on a regular basis.

    The Pathe clip may not be in strict order as it looks as if it’s snippets of footage taken for a report and put togther in their archive. It doesn’t say what the mass was in honour/aid of as there were no significant milestones for either the Cathedral or ArchBp, but Card Griffin would have been the celebrant.

    Fr Z will be much clearer on the rubrics than I, but in a lot of polyphonic settings the mass the Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei and Dona Nobis Pacem are split into 4 musical movements of approximately equal length and would be sung while the priest said the prayers of consecration.

  3. kbf says:

    Actually, looking at the video again, I think that this mass may have been the enthronement of ArchBp Godfrey as he appears to be the main celebrant, which would date the film at 1956 and not 1950.

    The clues (apart from the prelates sitting in choir) are:

    at 5 min 42 the Charmelengo (Gentleman at Arms to the ArchBp) accompanies a cleric who appears to be a Msgr who is holding a tube, which could well be the Papal Bull announcing the appointment;

    At 7min 14 the Chapter are gathered around the Cathedra during the mass

    I also think the footage comprises both mass and vespers given the use of the Faldstool in front of the high altar.

  4. Sieber says:

    I believe that I see Cardinal Spellman of New York.

  5. MAJ Tony says:

    @kbf: I suppose you meant “Camerlengo” (Chamberlain in English).

  6. JBS says:

    Why is the missal in the center of the altar?

  7. JBS says: Why is the missal in the center of the altar?

    During a Pontifical Mass a Pontifical Canon is also used. It is a different book. It is placed in the center at times.

  8. JBS says:

    Thanks, Fr. Z.

  9. FrGriffin says:

    This is not just any old Pontifical Mass, it is the Pontifical Mass for the centenary of the restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy in England and Wales , celebrated by Archbishop Godfrey, then Apostolic Delegate (we did not have a Nuncio before Archbishop Bruno Heim), with Cardinal Griffin (then Archbishop of Westminster) at the Throne as Papal Legate, the rolled up scroll being the Papal Bull appointing him Papal Legate for the centenary celebrations which included a series of masses, a Centenary Conference and an open-air rally at Wembley Stadium. There are at least four other Cardinals in choir (yes, including Cardinal Spellman), and the MCs have a high old time making sure the trains of the Cappae Magnae don’t get tangled up. The sequence is a bit muddled because there was more than one camera and the editor clearly did not know his way around the mass (though even the most assiduous student of Fortescue & O’Connell might be excused for not understanding the ritual and ceremonial complexities of the occasion).

  10. Matt R says:

    It would seem it is from the Mass for the 100th anniversary of the restoration of the hierarchy in England and Wales in 1950.

  11. acardnal says:

    “Birettiquette” is in eminent use in the video!

  12. off2 says:

    5, count em, 5 cappas magnas, cappae magnae, or.

    What a spectacle! My old Fortescue, which lives in the bookcase by the bed, is quivering. Glorious!

  13. Inigo says:

    Watching this video only one thing came to mind:

    Now I totally understand why all council fathers were for a liturgical reform and a much much more simple liturgy.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the traditional forms, I myself am an MC, but I personally think, this much ceremony is a little bit too much. I mean, I can’t imagine how anyone could focus on the Sacrifice, when so much ceremony, ettiquette have to be observed and this much servers have to be moved around. Look at the MCs, they are not even trying to move around in a dignified manner, the prelates and bishops have no clue whatsoever about their tasks, the sacred ministers are turning their heads left and right most of the time looking for an MC to guide them. And meanwhile as a footnote, mass is happening. Imagine how time consuming it had to be, to incesne every prelate, canon, server, one by one. Imagine the kiss of peace! I think by the time they were finished with the kissing, the celebrant would already be reciting the communion…

    I think that in this case the “less is more” principle applies.

    If a pope (future or present) were to celebrate a mass in the extraordinary form, I think he should not even try to use the old papal form of mass, but simply use the “solemn pontifical mass at the throne” form that diocesian bishops use, with as few honorary/ornamental servers and assistants as possible.

  14. pelerin says:

    Interesting to learn that the Mass was for the centenary of the restoration of the hierarchy in England and Wales. I don’t remember there being a similar celebration for the 150th in the year 2000 or did I miss it?

  15. FrGriffin says:

    The 150th anniversary celebration is described at
    Cardinal Daneels was the Papal Legate on this occasion.

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