A look at an early 16th century Bragan nuptial rite

Today’s post will be a bit different than usual. We will be looking at the Bragan nuptial rite as found in an early 16th century rituale. The current post will limit itself to describing the rite and prayers contained therein; commentary on it may come in a future post.

The Nuptial rite, according to the Rituale Romanum, as it currently exists, is very stark in comparison to its non-Roman counterparts (might one be inclined to qualify its starkness as “noble simplicity”?). Yet we know that this was not always so. In a 9th century letter from Pope Nicholas I to Boris I of Bulgaria, in which the latter had inquired of the Pope on several subjects, we find that there were more elements to the nuptial rite [emphasis mine]:

“We shall strive, while avoiding a wordy style, to show you that the custom, which you say the Greeks maintain in their marital unions, recalls in small ways the custom which the Roman Church received in antiquity and still maintains in unions of this sort. Now then, our men and women do not wear upon their heads a band of gold, silver, or some other metal when they contract a marriage pact. Instead, after the betrothal is celebrated — which is the promised pact of future marriage made with the consent of both those who contract the pact and those under whose power they are — the betrothed man joins the bride to himself with vows through the finger marked by him with the ring of faith and the betrothed man hands over to her a dowry (dos) pleasing to both people along with a document containing this agreement in the presence of those invited by both parties. Then, either soon after or at an appropriate time, namely in order that no such thing be presumed to be done before the time defined by law, both are brought to the wedding. First, they are stationed by the hand of the priest in the church of the Lord along with offerings which they should offer to God and so at last they receive the blessing and the celestial veil, on the model, namely, of the Lord who, after placing the first people in paradise, said to them: Increase and multiply, etc. [Gen.1:38] Tobias, before he had come together with his wife, is also described as having prayed to God with this same prayer.[cf.Tobit 8:4] The person who passes into a second marriage, however, does not receive this veil. When they leave the church after this, they wear crowns on their heads, which are always kept by custom in the church. And so, after the wedding is celebrated, they are directed to lead their own life with God disposing over the rest. These are the wedding vows, these are the solemn agreements of married people, as well as those which at present do not come to mind. But we do not claim that it is a sin if all of these things do not occur in a marriage agreement, as you say the Greeks told you, especially since so great a lack of wealth usually oppresses people that it offers them no help in preparing these things. And for this reason, according to the laws, the consent alone of those whose union is at issue, is enough [to make a marriage]. Yet if this consent alone is perchance lacking in the wedding, all the rest, even if it is consummated with intercourse itself, is in vain, as the great teacher John Chrysostom attests, who says: Not intercourse but will makes marriage.”

Chapter III, The Responses of Pope Nicholas I to the Questions of the Bulgars A.D. 866

In this letter we see five elements: ring; dowry; blessing; veil; crowns. Currently, only the ring and the blessing survives in the Roman rite.

The medieval Latin church was one of liturgical pluralism (even if at times there was a fraught relationship between rites/uses), with each primatial see having their own use/rite, not to mention religious orders. This liturgical plurality continued to exist well after the issue of the bull Quod Primum, though certain uses began to die out for reasons that do not concern us here. Of the elements mentioned in Pope Nicholas’ letter we find at least four of them in a number of medieval uses, particularly those of Salisbury, Braga, and some French dioceses; Spain maintained them as well, via influence from the Mozarabic rite.

In the present post we will be taking a look at the Nuptial rite as it existed in the use of Braga in the early 16th century. The rite can be found in a rituale published in 1517, available online here.

The rubrics begun thus:

The bride and groom are to be blessed by the priest with prayers and oblations, betrothed and instructed; they are to be kept by the parents, and to be received publicly and solemnly. The parents should keep the bride and groom apart for a period of two or three days, instructing them that they are to keep chastity between themselves. They are not to wed during certain periods prescribed by the Church, that they may be begotten intentionally, and not out of impulse. On the day groom and bride are to be bound, they are to come to the Church at the hour of Terce, and the priest is to vest himself in sacred vestments, boldly enquiring about their relation by kinship, and if there is love between them. If, indeed, there is, they are to be joined together and the priest first blesses the ring (the blessing of which is similar to that found in the Roman):

Benedic domine hunc anulum […]1.

Afterwards the dowry agreement is first read and then given to the bride. If she is a maiden, her hand will be covered/gloved; if a widow, ungloved. First the priest imposes the ring on the thumb, while saying: In nomine Patris, que mundum creavit; on the forefinger, saying: et Filius, que mundum redemit.; on the middle finger, while saying: et Spiritu Sancti, que totum mundum illuminavit. The groom then says to the bride: De isto annulo te sponso, et de isto auro et de ista dote te doto. That being done, let the priest bless the arrhae, while saying the Collect:

Domine Deus, Pater omnipotents, qui in similitudine sancti connubii Isaac cum Rebecca […]2

Followed by another prayer:

Benedic domine has arras quas hodie tradet famulus tuos N […]3

Having blessed the arrhae, then follows Mass, which can be either of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Ghost, or the Nuptial Mass, the propers of which are very similar to those found in the Roman missal, with minor variations in the wording:

Introit: Dominus Deus Israel sit vobiscum, […] V./ Det vobis dominus suam benedictionem […].

Collect: nearly identical to the Roman, …officio poscimus, tua benedictione impleatur.

Epistle 1 Cor 6,15-20

Gradual: Beati omnes qui timent dominum, […]. V./ Labores manuum tuarum manducabis,[…].

Alleluia: Ecce sic benedicetur homo qui […] Alleluia Sit nomen domini benedictum […].

Gospel: Mt 19:1-6

Offertory: Benedic anima mea dominum et omnia […]

Secret: same as Roman

Preface: Common or ad hoc: Que federa nuptiarum blando concordie iugo […]4

Hanc igitur: oblationem famulorum tuorum quam tibi […]

Before the Pax the priest calls the groom and bride before the altar. Her parents hand her to the priest, who hands her to the groom. Prostrate upon the ground, both of them are to be covered in a linen, and the groom places his own right hand upon the bride . The priest then says the Collects given below:

Propitiare domine suplicationibus nostris, et institutis tuis quibus propagationem […]5

Omnipotentem deum qui ad multiplicandam humani generis prolem […]6

Deus, a quo benedictionis origo descendit […]7

Then follows another Preface (with the introductory dialogue):

Deus qui potestate virtutis tuae de nihilo […]8

The second Preface is followed by the Pax.

Communion: Ecce sic benedictur omnis […]

Post-communion: […] instituta providentiae tue pio amore comitare […]

The couple receives two final blessings at the end of Mass:

Deus Abraham, Deus Isaac et Deus Iacob, , emitte benedictionem super nubentes istos […]9

Benedictio Dei Patris et Filii[…]10

1 The prayer is the same as found in the Ambrosian rite[?]

4 Found in some French uses

5 Said in the Roman rite after the Pater

6 Apparently referred to in the Missale Vicensis

7 A very similar worded prayer is in the Mozarabic rite

9 Found in some French uses

10 Found in some French uses

We thank Mr. Jesson Allerite and “The Rad Trad” for their help with the rubrics.

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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