The Rationale Divinorum Officiorum of William Durand of Mende

The Rationale Divinorum Officiorum of William Durand of Mende: A New Translation of the Prologue and Book One

TIMOTHY M. THIBODEAU
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 168
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/thib14180
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  • Book Info
    The Rationale Divinorum Officiorum of William Durand of Mende
    Book Description:

    The Rationale Divinorum Officiorum is arguably the most important medieval treatise on the symbolism of church architecture and rituals of worship. Written by the French bishop William Durand of Mende (1230-1296), the treatise is ranked with the Bible as one of the most frequently copied and disseminated texts in all of medieval Christianity. It served as an encyclopedic compendium and textbook for liturgists and remains an indispensable guide for understanding the significance of medieval ecclesiastical art and worship ceremonies.

    This book marks the first English translation of the prologue and book one of the Rationale in almost two centuries. Timothy M. Thibodeau begins with a brief biography of William Durand and a discussion of the importance of the work during its time. Thibodeau compares previous translations of the Rationale in the medieval period and afterward. Then he presents his translation of the prologue and book one. The prologue discusses the principles of allegorical interpretation of the liturgy, while book one features detailed descriptions of the various parts of the church and its ecclesiastical ornaments. It also features extensive commentary on cemeteries, various rites of consecration and dedication, and a discussion of the sacraments.

    Thibodeau is a well-respected historian who has published extensively on the history of Christianity and the liturgy of the medieval Church. He is also coeditor of the critical edition of the Rationale in Latin. His translation is an indispensable guide for both scholars and general readers who hope to gain a richer understanding of medieval art, architecture, and culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51221-3
    Subjects: Religion, Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xvii-xxx)

    William Durand¹ the Elder (c. 1230–1 Nov. 1296), bishop of Mende, France, was unquestionably the most renowned liturgical scholar of the later Middle Ages.² His variegated career path and impressive literary output are very much a reflection of the clerical, university culture of the thirteenth-century Roman Church. He was born in the village of Puimisson (c. 1230–31),³ but we know virtually nothing about Durand’s family or early life before he received clerical orders (c. 1250–55). His formal education began in the cathedral schools of Provence, and his academic program ended with a doctoral degree in canon law...

  6. Prologue ON THE CHURCH BUILDING AND ECCLESIASTICAL PROPERTY AND FURNISHINGS; ON CONSECRATIONS AND THE SACRAMENTS
    (pp. 1-8)

    1. Whatever belongs to the liturgical offices, objects, and furnishings of the Church is full of signs of the divine and the sacred mysteries, and each of them overflows with a celestial sweetness when it is encountered by a diligent observer who can extract honey from rock and oil from the stoniest ground [Deut 32:13]. Who knows the order of the heavens and can apply its rules to the earth [Job 38:33]? Certainly, he who would attempt to investigate the majesty of heaven would be overwhelmed by its glory. It is, in fact, a deep well from which I cannot...

  7. BOOK 1. ON THE CHURCH BUILDING AND ECCLESIASTICAL PROPERTY AND FURNISHINGS; ON CONSECRATIONS AND THE SACRAMENTS
    • 1 ON THE CHURCH BUILDING AND ITS PARTS
      (pp. 11-25)

      In the first part of this work we have decided to treat certain topics in general, namely: the church¹ and its parts; the altar; pictures, images, and ecclesiastical ornaments; bells; the cemetery, and other sacred and religious places; the consecration of a church; the consecration of an altar; consecrations and anointings; the ecclesiastical sacraments.

      1. The first thing we shall consider is the church building and its parts. It should be noted that concerning churchly things, some items pertain to the physical structure in which the divine offices are celebrated; others are spiritual, that is, they apply to the community...

    • 2 ON THE ALTAR
      (pp. 26-31)

      1. There are three reasons why there is an altar in a church, as will be noted in the discussion of its dedication. It should be known, as it is written, that first Noah, then Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob built altars; these are understood to be nothing more than stones that were piled up, upon which they slaughtered the sacrifices and burnt them by placing fire on them. Moses also made an altar of shittim wood, and this was made into an altar of incense that he furnished with the purest gold, as can be read in Exodus chapters 25,...

    • 3 ON THE PICTURES, CURTAINS, AND ORNAMENTS OF THE CHURCH
      (pp. 32-48)

      1. The pictures and ornaments in the church are the readings and scriptures of the laity; thus Gregory says: “It is one thing to worship a picture, another thing to learn, by means of the picture, the story that should be adored; for what texts supply to those who read, the picture shows to the illiterate viewers, for in the picture the ignorant see what they ought to follow, and the unlettered, by looking at it, read.”¹ It is a fact that the Chaldeans worship fire and compel others to do the same, while burning other idols. The pagans worship...

    • 4 ON THE BELLS
      (pp. 49-53)

      1. Bells [campanae] are bronze vessels first invented in Nola, a city in Campania; therefore the larger of these are called “campanae,” from the region of Campania, while the smaller ones are called “nolae,” from the city of Nola.

      2. The church bell is rung and blessed so that through its effect and sound, the faithful are summoned, one after the other, to the eternal prize, and the devotion to their faith increases in them; also that the crops, minds, and bodies of those same believers are preserved; that hostile armies and all wicked enemies be repelled far away from...

    • 5 ON THE CEMETERY AND OTHER SACRED AND RELIGIOUS PLACES
      (pp. 54-59)

      1. Now we shall speak about the cemetery and other sacred or religious places.¹ Some venerable places are fittingly designed out of human necessity, while others are dedicated to prayer. Places arising from human necessity are a hostel, a hospital (which is the same thing), a pharmacy, an elder hostel, an orphanage, and a place for wounded soldiers. For the holy fathers and the religious rulers established places of this sort in which the poor, the pilgrims, the old, orphans, infants, hermits, the sick, the feeble, and the wounded could be received and cared for. And note that the Greek...

    • 6 ON THE DEDICATION OF A CHURCH
      (pp. 60-76)

      Since, in previous chapters, mention has already been made of the church and the altar, it follows that we should add other things concerning their dedication, discussing first, where the consecration of a church originated; second, by whom it is consecrated; third, why; fourth, how a church should be dedicated and what the dedication and each of its individual details signifies. In the seventh part, the Office for the Feast of the Dedication of a Church will be discussed.¹

      1. First, it should be stated where the dedication of a church originated, about which it should be noted that Moses,...

    • 7 ON THE DEDICATION OF THE ALTAR
      (pp. 77-88)

      1. Not only is the church consecrated, but also the altar, and this is done for three reasons.¹ First, for the offering of sacrifices to God there, Genesis, chapter 8: Noah built an altar for the Lord, and taking every clean bird and cattle, offered them on the altar [Gen 8:20]. This sacrament (of the altar) is the Body and Blood of Christ which we immolate, in memory of His Passion, according to what is written: Do this is in remembrance of me [Lk 22:19].

      2. Second, to invoke the name of God, as Genesis, chapter 12, says: Abraham built...

    • 8 ON CONSECRATIONS AND UNCTIONS
      (pp. 89-99)

      1. We read [cf. Ex 30:22–29] that the Lord commanded Moses to make a chrism with which he would anoint the Tabernacle as well as the Ark of the Covenant, the table, and the vessels, on the day of dedication, and with which he could also anoint the priests and kings.¹

      2. We do not read, however, that Moses himself was anointed, as was Christ, unless we mean a spiritual anointing. Still, Christ wished for us to be anointed with a material unction so that we could attain the spiritual unction that is attached to the material; therefore, our...

    • 9 ON THE ECCLESIASTICAL SACRAMENTS
      (pp. 100-106)

      1. With regard to the ecclesiastical sacraments, it should be noted that according to Gregory: “A sacrament exists when a thing is done in some solemn celebration that is a sign of something else that we receive; something that must be received reverently, that is, worthily.”¹ We understand a mystery to be what is done in a hidden or invisible manner by the Holy Spirit, in such a way that He intimates Himself through His work, and He blesses as He sanctifies.

      2. A mystery exists in the sacraments, while a ministry is in the ecclesiastical ornaments. And, according to...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 107-122)
  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 123-126)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 127-132)