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What is the Mozarabic Rite and why is it important?

In the latter part of the sixth century, Visigoths who had been driven out of France, across the Pyreneans into the Iberian peninsula, began converting from an Arian tradition to the Latin-Catholic tradition. They nonetheless developed unique forms of Eucharistic liturgy.

In form and content it is was very close to ancient Celtic and Gallican rites in use at the time. It also seems to have been heavily influenced by Syriac rites of the Greek speaking Byzantine Empire. It would later come to be known as the Mozarabic Rite. The word Mozarabic applied to Christians who did not flee from Muslim invaders into northern part of the Spain with what was left of Visogothic kingdom. These Christians adopted Arab dress, language and customs and thus became known as the Mozarabs.

The Eucharistic form they developed has also been called the Visogothic Rite, the Toledan Rite, the Old Hispanic Rite and Isidorian Rite, the last because some scholars think its form was influenced by St. Isidore of Seville.

After  the reconquest of Toledo by Christians in 1085, a dispute arose about which rite should be used in that city: the Mozarabic Rite or the Latin rite used elsewhere in many parts of Europe.

To resolve the dispute both rites were subjected to an ordeal by fire. The book containing the Mozarabic Rite, written on heavy vellum survived the fire better than the book containing the Latin rite written on thinner paper. Thus it was decided that the in Toledo, despite attempts by Pope Gregory VII to stamp it out, to use the Mozarabic Rite.

 Today, the Mozarabic Rite is authorized for daily use in the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary of Toledo. Pope John Paul II celebrated the Eucharist with this form on two occasions.

It has also been adopted as the primary sacramental liturgy of the Anglican Communion’s Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church in Spain rather than the more common (and various) Anglican rites used in the Anglican Communion.

See the Eastertide Illatio


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