History of the use/rite of Braga (I)

After several years of existence we have finally gotten around to writing a summary of the history of the use of Braga. While the Schola de Sainte Cecile’s blog gives a decent outline of the rite’s history, it is in French and, thus, might not be readily accessible to non-francophones. It is also our intent to fill in the gaps of the aforementioned blog’s entry. This topic will take up several posts; once concluded it will all be located in a new blog page.
We culled two main sources for information: Liturgies of the Primatial Sees (King, Archdale); Pontifical de Luxo Bracaro-Romano (Carvalho, Joaquim Felix de). We are indebted to Andrew Klusman and Robert Nugent for making these resources readily available.



Province of Gallaecia

Braga, formerly known as Bracara Augusta in Roman times, was one of the three juridical divisions of Gallaecia, having been divided by Augustus. There is a tradition of 7 bishops sent by the Apostles Sts. Peter and Paul to evangelize Hispania, having introduced Mass as the Apostles would have celebrated. Saint Cyprian mentions, in 254, a bishop of Astorga, a town of lesser importance than Braga, so it is probable that Braga would have already have had a bishop at this time. The first historical evidence we have concerning the existence of the diocese is in 397, during I Council of Toledo. Saint Peter of Rates is the legendary first bishop of Braga; however, no printed mention of him exists prior to 1511. The first bishop with historical certainty is Paternus, who assisted at the aforementioned council in the year 400.


(St.???) Paternus

The Iberian peninsula was rife with heresy in the first centuries, most notably Arianism, Originism and Priscillianism. The Priscillianist heresy was of a Gnostic-Manichean origin, and by the 5th century the province of Gallaecia was aflame with it, bringing Braga into the spotlight. Priscillianism persisted from the 4th century up until the second half of the sixth. Bishop Paternus and four other bishops renounced the error at the Council of Toledo; the only bishop that had remained faithful to the Catholic faith was, at that time, in exile. Originism was introduced during the Suevic period.

Another prominent name from Braga is Orosius of Braga. He was, among other things, a priest, theologian, and historian. Orosius visited St. Augustine of Hippo and later went to Palestine to consult with St. Jerome, assisting also at the Council of Jerusalem (415).


Orosius of Braga

While Braga was the capital of the Suevic kingdom, it was not raised to metropolitan status before the 5th century; the elevation of the see came about in 433, with the descrtuction of Astorga by the Visigoths. Braga was sacked by the Visigoths between 448 and 456. Two years later an Arian bishop from Gaul converted king Remismund to Arianism; this royal apostasy would last 8 years.

It is in this context of rampant heterodoxy and heteropraxis (Priscillianism introduced a number of strange elements into the Mass) that Profuturus, metropolitan of Braga, in 537, appealed to the Apostolic See for the solution of more immediate questions, notably those pertaining to the form and method of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, as well as the date of Easter. Scholars posit that Profuturus’ appeal had two possible causes: orthodoxy on the one hand, and politics on the other (the Suevi sought Rome’s support against the neighboring Visigoths). The answer would come from Pope Vigilius. As pertains to Baptism, the Pope advised that the practice of triple immersion should be kept as it was held as an Apostolic Tradition (apparently Catholics in Gallaecia had opted for single immersion as a way to distinguish themselves from the Arians, who were practicing triple immersion); the date of Easter was to be computed according to the Alexandrian method, as was also the custom in Rome; as for the formula for consecrating the Eucharist, the Roman Canon with singula capitula (Hanc igitur, Communicantes, as well as the Propers of Easter) were sent. The Pope’s reply about the Canon seems to be in answer to the question of it being fixed or variable – the Hispanic praxis (this is the first Western historical document testifying the existence of the Roman Canon).

What exactly was the liturgical rite celebrated in Braga at the time? There is no certainty, but scholars say that it is safe to assume that is was the same as that practiced in the Iberian peninsula; claims that the Bragan use dates back to this period are untenable. We are not sure what Profuturus did with Virgilius’ reply. Did he immediately incorporate them into diocese’s liturgy? Did he archive them, not putting them into practice? We don’t know. This is, however, the first instance of an attempt to “import” the Roman liturgy in the Western world.

In the I Council of Braga the bishop Lucretius adopted Pope Vigilius’ formularies. This council aimed at stamping out the final vestiges of Priscillianism by imposing a liturgical uniformity of Roman inspiration on the Suevic kingdom. Five of the 25 canons dealt with liturgical uniformity: canons 4 & 5 prescribed the Roman formulas for Baptism and Mass; canon 12 prohibited extrabiblical hymns (faithful to the Roman conservative approach). The II Council of Braga, which took place under the presidency of St. Martin of Dume, took up the matter of liturgical reform once more. Saint Martin is a monumental figure of the early Bragan church, having brought about the conversion of the Suevi from Arianism; he disseminated the cult of St. Martin of Tour in the diocese; consolidated the diocese’s liturgical reform (he is also known for having given the Portuguese days their current names; Portugal is the only country in Western Europe that adopted the ecclesiastical names).


St. Martin of Dume

In 585 the Suevic kingdom came to an end, having been annexed to the Visigothic kingdom. The inclusion of the diocese of Braga into the Visigothic kingdom had significant liturgical repercussions for the diocese. The IV Council of Toledo (633) made the Mozarabic rite obligatory in the whole peninsula. Some of the canons, while not specifically aimed against Braga, most certainly had the diocese in mind as it was the main disseminator of Roman elements (cf. canons 12&18). Some of these canons aimed at: abolishing triple immersion and the Roman Canon; obligating the Gloria at Mass; introduction of hymns into the Divine Office. While the metropolitan of Braga and bishop of Dume present at the council did not object to this imposition, we suspect that it was not immediately or rigorously enforced as at the XI Council of Toledo (675) it was again insisted upon the unification of rites. In 681 the XII Council of Toledo gave Toledo’s bishop the rite to consecrate all the bishops of the peninsula, cementing even more the Mozarabic rite’s hegemony.


Cathedral of Toledo

Another prominent figure at this time in Braga was St. Fructuosus, who was appointed metropolitan in 656. This saint was well known for founding numerous monasteries and his two rules – Regula Monachorum and Regula Communis. His rule, which helped to form the Hispanic monastic Office and was adopted in all the monasteries he founded in Gallaecia, lasted for three centuries until the abolition of the Mozarabic rite quelled it.


St. Fructuosos, on the facade of the see of Braga

It is safe to assume that the liturgical rite used in Braga up until the 11th century was the Mozarabic, as a set of documents from 876 to 1058 testify to the donation of liturgical books to Braga, their titles presuming the Hispanic liturgy.




About Br. Gregory

Benedictine oblate, husband and father of 3, enamoured with the Liturgy, Fathers, and Sacred Scriptures. Trying to persevere through the "dura et aspera" while de Dei misericordia numquam desperare."
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