Liturgy of Empire: The Reception of the Mozarabic Rite in Early Modern Europe
A lecture by Susan L. Boynton, Resident Faculty Director
In the early sixteenth century, the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo, Francisco Jimenez de Cisneros, endowed a chapel in his cathedral for the celebration of the Mozarabic rite, a Latin liturgy that had nearly died out by the time he arrived in Toledo in 1495. In the same period, Cisneros ordered the Castilian conquest of the north African city of Oran, which was the subject of a wall painting he commissioned for the decoration of the Mozarabic Chapel in Toledo Cathedral. The founding of the Mozarabic Chapel and the conquest of Oran were frequently juxtaposed in historical accounts, creating a subtle but consistently evoked connection between the ancient liturgy and the idea of empire. The Mozarabic rite became known throughout Europe thanks to the editions that Cisneros had commissioned of the Mozarabic Missal (1500) and Breviary (1502). Copies of these editions were highly prized, rare, and valuable; functioning both as status symbols and as objects of study, they were acquired by diplomats and clergy, noblemen, kings and emperors, and even by Protestant theologians. The print reception of the Mozarabic rite through the circulation of these books was fundamental to the historical constructions of Spanish religious identity that emerged both inside and outside the Iberian peninsula during the early modern period.
Image: Engraving by Josephus Nava for the Missa Gothica (Puebla de Los Angeles, 1770)