ASK FATHER: Books on the history of the traditional Roman Rite

From a reader…


I am looking for a book which might be a sort of Cliffs Note version of Jungmann’s two-volume History of the Roman Rite. Would you know of and be able to recommend any such book?

Hmmm… there isn’t such a thing.  And you can do better than Jungmann, whose views were a little off on some points.

I highly recommend these two books:

The Traditional Mass: History, Form, and Theology of the Classical Roman Rite by Michael Fiedrowicz.


Nothing Superfluous: An Explanation of the Symbolism of the Rite of St. Gregory the Great by Fr. James W. Jackson


Those are essential reading.

By extension, so are these:

The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy (Revised and Expanded Edition) by Martin Mosebach


Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages by Peter Kwasniewski


And in the matter of liturgy and liturgical reform…

The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Ratzinger


The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background by Klaus Gamber


Turning Towards the Lord by Uwe Michael Lang




About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ProfKwasniewski says:

    The Fiedrowicz is awfully close to being a “CliffsNotes” Jungmann, in the sense that he summarizes the most certain understanding we have of the origins of the different parts and ceremonies of the Mass and explains their development over the centuries, along with their (original or accrued) symbolism.

    For someone who wants a brief but scholarly history and explanation of the TLM, Fiedrowicz is absolutely the gold standard now.

  2. Thank you for this list Father. After the previous time you had posted it, I purchased ‘The Traditional Mass: History, Form, and Theology of the Classical Roman Rite’ by Michael Fiedrowicz. It is excellent as is ‘Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages’ by Peter Kwasniewski, which I had already read.

  3. mysticalrose says:

    Monsignor Gamber’s book instantly converted me to the TLM.

  4. albinus1 says:

    I realize that this is older, and thus doesn’t deal with recent decades, but how is Fr Adrian Fortescue’s book on the history of the Roman Rite regarded these days?

  5. avus251 says:

    It’s long and scholarly and took me a couple of months to finish, but the best book I’ve read on the subject is Work of Human Hands by Fr. Anthony Cekada. I highly recommend it.

  6. Charles E Flynn says:

    Of related interest, the Grand Theft Liturgy:

    Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass, by Prof. Peter Kwasniewski

  7. tho says:

    A few years ago I was a sponsor for a convert, I gave him and his friend, also a convert, Treasure and Tradition by Lisa Bergman. They were both so happy with their book that I bought one for myself.
    It is published by St. Augustine Academy Press. I found out about it by using the ad on your blog. It is much more than Cliff notes, but probably not as detailed as the ones you mentioned.

  8. mibethda says:

    I believe that the closest book to answer the request as it is stated is probably Adrian Fortescue’s “The Mass” – it precedes Jungmann’s work (and is often cited in it) but its coverage is similar to Jungmann’s and it is less than half the length (do not confuse this with Fortescue’s widely used ceremonial, now in its 15th revised edition). Another work, set forth in the same manner as Jungmann, but only slightly shorter, is the classic two volume work of Nicholas Gihr, “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Dogmatically, Liturgically and Ascetically Explained” Several of the works by Archdale King and Abbot Fernand Cabrol (particularly “The Mass of the Western Rites”), if one can find a copy, may also answer. If he is interested in a rubrical analysis of each of the elements, he cannot do better than Canon O’Connell’s “Celebration of Mass”, which is still the standard.
    Incidentally, on just checking, I find each of these works included in the bibliography of Fiedrowicz’s work.

  9. Eric says:

    I just finished Fiedrowicz‘a book. I would definitely not call it a cliff notes version, it is both dense and concise, and I would recommend that as analogous to what you may be looking for. It also has a ton of footnotes that will point you to other great reads. Like some of the others commenting above, Gamber and Mosebach will then sending you running to the closest Mass of St Gregory the Great (got that from Fiedrowicz‘a book!).

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  11. Pingback: Worth-it ebook: “The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass”, by Peter Kwasniewski | Catholic eBooks Project

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