Procession of the Holy Name

In both cathedral and parish churches (indeed in all kinds of church), the principal services (Mass and daily Office) were conducted by the clergy in a designated, largely enclosed space in the eastern part of the church – in a cathedral known as the choir (or quire), and in parish churches as the chancel. Additional services (especially Masses) took place in chapels or at altars in other parts of the building. There were, however, ritual processions which followed defined routes within the building, around the outside, or even to another church. The notable characteristic of all these processions is that they began and ended in the same place: in the choir (or chancel). They did not go from one place to another: they always came back to the place from which they started.

In the Use of Salisbury, there were at least 120 processions during the year, of varying extent and routes – as can be seen from the summary sheet found here.

By far the most frequent and familiar was the Sunday Procession before Mass. This began with the Blessing of Salt and Water, and continued with Asperges – the ritual purification of the main altar and those present in the quire by the sprinkling of the blessed, salted water. Thereafter all in the quire processed clockwise around the cathedral, so that all the other altars could be sprinkled, ending before the great cross in the nave. Thereafter the procession moved back into the quire, and the Mass followed.

There were variant forms of this procession before Mass, notably on a Sunday which coincided with a great feast day, or on certain great feasts that fell on a day other than Sunday. Two variant forms of procession were enacted at Salisbury Cathedral and St Teilo’s Church, both as on the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (7 August). The procession at Salisbury Cathedral was as it might have been on a Sunday coinciding with the feast of the Holy Name; that at St Teilo’s was as it might have been when the feast of the Holy Name fell on a weekday.

Introductory video of the procession with commentary

Further details about the Procession of the Holy Name at St Teilo’s Church and at Salisbury Cathedral, with links to the full video recordings and texts, appear on the next pages.