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Antiphon of the Cross and Compline

On Saturdays from the end of Easter week up until All Saints’ Day (1 November), that is to say through the liturgical summer period, it was customary at Salisbury Cathedral for the canons, vicars choral and other members of the cathedral community to leave the quire at the end of Vespers. They processed into the nave and stood before the great Rood Cross placed on the beam across the width of the nave. There they sang an antiphon of the Holy Cross, followed by a versicle and collect. They then returned to the quire to sing Compline. The same rite was specified for other churches that followed the Use of Salisbury, as seems to have been the case in St Teilo’s in the late Middle Ages.

Here, the ritual begins at the very end of Vespers, with the versicle Benedicamus Domino. The priest and singers then leave the chancel, and process into the nave, where the people are gathering for the ritual antiphon of the Cross. After the versicle and collect, the priest and singers return to the chancel to sing Compline.

As with Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, discussed above, there are elements of exploration. First, the singers explored the possibility that the antiphon might both be sung to polyphony and in procession. In Compline, they sang from the double-sided lectern in the chancel, exploring the experience of sharing a single copy. They also experimented with singing from memory when facing east – as those in the Middle Ages who sang the almost unchanging Office of Compline must have been used to doing. Finally, as in Vespers, there was exploration of the use of voices and organ in alternation for the psalm antiphon, hymn and antiphon to Nunc dimittis.

View the complete recording of Antiphon of the Cross and Compline here [video_lightbox_vimeo5 video_id=”82191783″ width=”640″ height=”480″ anchor=”here”].

You can view, download, print and follow the main ‘performance’ text used by the participants for this enactment:

Service booklet for singers

The full sequence of text resources used in this enactment can be found here.