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The Sarum Rite, or Use of Sarum, of the Western Church developed through the period 1075-1558, and was used throughout much of Great Britain and parts of North-Western Europe. While a great deal of the texts and music of the Sarum Rite are commonly found in the Latin Church of the west, approximately ten percent of the material is either unique to the Sarum tradition, or is to be found only in isolated sources. While the music itself lies firmly within the Franco-Roman traditions of the west and is for the most part readily identifiable as belonging to the Gregorian tradition, there are numerous stylistic details throughout the corpus that distinguish Sarum chant from the generally received ‘Roman’ or Solesmes forms.

The Sarum Rite is first and foremost the liturgy of the Cathedral Church of Salisbury, but it also represents the liturgy as performed in other collegiate and parish churches within the diocese that would have replicated the cathedral liturgy to a greater or lesser extent depending upon their resources, as well as adding special liturgies in honour of the local saint.  Further, the Sarum Rite represents the Use of other dioceses within England (excepting Hereford and York which had their own identifiable Uses), adapted as appropriate to the local contexts.  The Sarum Rite was also used to a considerable extent by the quasi-monastic orders such as the Augustinians.  The Sarum Rite was also widely used in Scotland and Ireland.  Thus the Sarum Rite embodies within itself a degree of variability, as is evident even within the rubrics of the 1531 printed breviary.

A most helpful overview of medieval worship in Britain, with particular emphasis on the Sarum tradition is found in Frank L. Harrison, Music in Medieval Britain (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1958).

The Forms and Orders of Western Liturgy by John Harper (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991) contains a most lucid exposition of the structure of medieval liturgy, with particular reference to the Use of Sarum.

An excellent introduction to the intricacies of medieval worship in England is found in William Smith, The Use of Hereford: The Sources of a Medieval English Diocesan Rite (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2015):17-44. Matthew Cheung Salisbury, The Secular Liturgical Office in Late Medieval England (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015) is a fine comparative study on the nature of the Sarum Use and its sister-rites, the York Use and the Hereford Use.

Sources for the Sarum Rite exist in a considerable number of medieval manuscripts as well as a large number of printed editions dating from the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Under the rule of Elizabeth I, the Latin Sarum Rite was finally abolished and replaced (in Britain) by the English Book of Common Prayer.

The Gregorian Institute of Canada is in the process of publishing The Sarum Rite, containing the full text and music for the Breviary Office, for the Processional, and for the Missal. The intention is to create a complete edition, including the Manuale (Sacramentary), Pontificale, and Hours of the Virgin.  This edition is being published serially in PDF format. Publication began in January 2006. New instalments are published every six months.

Since 2010 The Sarum Rite is also being published in an English edition. The English Performing Edition conforms to the text-style of the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible. This Performing Edition facilitates performance by streamlining the rubrics and by reorganizing the material where appropriate. The English Scholarly Edition conforms to the text-style of the Challoner-Douay-Rheims Bible and the Roman Catholic Missal 1962, which follow the Vulgate, and follows the same order as the Latin edition.

Beginning in 2019 The Sarum Rite is also being published in book-form, suitable for study and performance.  As of 2021 twelve volumes are available.

This project aims to be both historical as well as practical. Its connection with the living traditions of the Church can be to a great extent understood through the perspectives presented by László Dobszay in The Bugnini Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform (2003), and in his recent book, The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite, London: T & T Clark, 2010. See also László Dobszay, ‘The Proprium Missae of the Roman Rite’, Uwe Michael Lang, ed., The Genius of the Roman Rite (Chicago: Hillenbrand Books, 2010): 83-118.

Note 1: It is occasionally asserted that the Sarum Liturgy is not a ‘Rite’ but a ‘Use’.  In the sense that the Roman Liturgy is ‘the Use of Rome’, the Dominican Liturgy is ‘the Dominican Use’, the Sarum Liturgy is indeed ‘the Use of Sarum’; all such ‘Uses’ are species of the ‘Western’ or ‘Latin Rite’.  Nevertheless the term ‘Rite’ is used here in order to distinguish it from the Roman Rite as codified in the Tridentine reform of the 16th century, which became overwhelmingly dominant in the west.  Furthermore, on occasion the Sarum sources themselves refer to the ‘Rite of Sarum’ rather than the ‘Use of Sarum’.  Finally, to many people the meaning of ‘use’ is vague whereas ‘rite’ has unmistakable liturgical connotations.  ‘The Roman rite is that which emerges in the uniformity of the organic temporal and coherent spatial variety of its daughter liturgies.’, Laszlo Dobszay, The Bugnini-Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform (Virginia : Front Royal, 2003):151.

Note 2 (January 2019): within the last year Wikipedia has changed the title of the entry from ‘Sarum Rite’ to ‘Use of Sarum’.

Note 3 (January 2019): In forthcoming published books in our series the style will be The Use of Sarum, commonly called the Sarum Rite.

The Gregorian Institute of Canada, affiliated with McMaster University School of the Arts, is grateful for the support of two advisory boards which comprise scholars and musicians of international reputation:
For the Latin Edition (from 2006-)
Dr. Terence Bailey, Professor Emeritus, University of Western Ontario, former director of CANTUS chant database
Dr. Susan Boynton, Professor of Music, Columbia University
Dr. Giles Bryant, Past President, the Gregorian Association of Canada, Organist Emeritus of St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto, and St. James’ Cathedral, Toronto
Dr. Margot Fassler, Professor of Music, Notre Dame University
Dr. Bryan Gillingham, Professor of Music (retired) Carleton University, Director, Institute of Medieval Music
Dr. Helene La Rue, Director, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University. (2006-07)
Rev. Aidan Keller, St. John Cassian Press. (2008-)
John Hackney III, Atlanta GA. (2008-)
Fr. Innocent Smith, O.P., St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore MD (2014-)

For the English Edition (from 2010-)
Rev. Anthony Chadwick, Anglican Catholic Chaplaincy of Saint Mary the Virgin, Normandy, France
Andrew Dunning, Curator, Bodleian Library, Oxford (2020-)
Dr. Joseph Dyer, Professor (retired), University of Massachusetts, Boston
Professor John Harper, Director, International Centre for Sacred Music Studies, Bangor University, North Wales
Michael LaRue, K.M., S.T.M., M.S., Philadelphia, PA
Dr. William Mahrt, Professor of Music, Stanford University
Fr. Boniface Ramsey, O.P. Saint Joseph’s, Yorkville, NYC
Rev. Canon Robert J. Wright, St. Mark’s Professor of Ecclesiastical History, General Theological Seminary, NYC
Brandon Wild (2019-)

For Metadata concerning this collection visit MacSphere, McMaster University Institutional Repository.

Please help to support the development and publication of The Sarum Rite by making a donation. To donate please use the link below.  All donations are gratefully received.


To donate by cheque please make the cheque out to Gregorian institute of Canada and mail it to
The Gregorian Institute of Canada
c/o School of the Arts, McMaster University
1280 Main Street West,
Hamilton ON Canada L8S 4L8