Reading the West Frankish Coronation Liturgy, no. 4: The Ordo of Seven Forms

[From MSS BCE]

1. An Ordo for how a king should be ordained.

2. “O Eternal God Almighty, creator of all, emperor of the angels, king of those who rule and lord of those who lord, Who caused thy servant Abraham to triumph over his foes, gave many-fold victories unto Moses and Joshua, who were set above thy people; and elevated thy humble child David to the peak of the realm, and enriched Solomon with the ineffable gift of wisdom and peace, hear our humble prayers we beseech thee, and upon this man thy servant N., whom we elect as king with lowly devotion, multiply the gifts of thy blessings upon him, and cover him always and everywhere with the hand of thy power, so that he, firm in the faithfulness of the aforesaid Abraham, trusting in the mildness of Moses, defended with the fortitude of Joshua, exalted with the humility of David, ornamented with the wisdom of Solomon, might please thee in everything, and walk ever on the path of justice with uninterrupted steps, and so nourish and teach, defend and instruct thy Church and the people joined to it, and powerfully and regally administer the government of thy virtue for it against all enemies visible and invisible, and restore their souls to the concord of true faith and peace by thy grant, that he, supported by the due subjection of the people, might be glorified with worthy love, and, by thy mercy, merit to decently ascend to the throne of his fathers; and, defended by the helmet of thy protection and constantly protected by an unconquerable shield and girded with celestial arms, faithful and happily gain the triumph of a desirable victory, and inflict the terror of his power upon the unfaithful, and joyfully carry back peace for those soldiering for thee, through our Lord, who destroyed Tartarus with the Cross’ virtue, and, having overcome the Devil’s realm, ascended to Heaven, in whom all power and the victory of kings dwells, who is the glory of the humble and the life and salvation of the people, who lives and reigns with thee, God in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”

3. Unction by sacred chrism.

“May God, the son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was anointed by the Father with the oil of exaltation before his partakers, through the present infusion of the sacred oil of the paraclete Spirit upon thy head, pour out a blessing and cause it to penetrate thy innermost heart, so that thou might merit through this visible and tangible gift to take up invisible gifts, and by pursuing just government in this worldly kingdom to reign eternally with Him, Who alone is without sin, king of kings, and lives and is glorified with God the Father, God in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.”

4. The royal coronation.

“Take the crown of the realm, which is placed upon thy head by the hands, though unworthy, of bishops. Know that it is a clear sign of the glorious and honour of sanctity and the work of fortitude and do not be unaware that through it thou art a participant in our ministry, such that, just as we know ourselves to be pastors and rulers of souls in inner matters, thou also might always appear as a true worshipper of God, and a vigorous defender of the Church of Christ against all adversity, and a useful executor of the realm given to thee by God and through the office of our blessing, committed to thy governance on behalf of the apostles and all the saints, and a beneficial ruler, so that, decorated with the jewels of virtue amongst the glorious athletes and crowned with the prize of eternal happiness, thou might glory with Jesus Christ the saviour and redeemer, whose name and position thou art entrusted to bear, without end. He lives and rules, God with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.”

5. The handing-over of the sceptre.

“Take the rod of virtue and equity, by which thou might know to delight the pious and terrify the reprobate, to lay out a path for the erring, to reach out a hand to the lapsed; destroy the proud and raise the humble; and may Jesus Christ our Lord open to thee the door, who said of himself, ‘I am the door, if any man enter in, he shall be saved’. And he, who is the key of David and the scepter of the house of Israel, ‘he that openeth and no man shutteth, that shutteth and no man openeth’, may he be to thee a supporter, who ‘brings out the prisoners from the prison, and those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death’, that thou might merit to follow in everything him of whom the prophet David sang, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom’. And by imitating him, ‘You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, wherefore God, your God, has anointed you’, after the example of him who was anointed before the world, ‘with the oil of gladness beyond your companions’, Jesus Christ our lord, who lives and reigns.”

6. The handing over of the ring.

“Take the ring of royal dignity, and know a sign of catholic faith in thyself through it, because, as today thou art ordained the head and prince of realm and people, thus too should thou endure an ongoing supporter and stabiliser of Christianity and the Christian faith, that, happy in deeds, wealthy in faith, thou might be glorified with the king of kings forever, ‘to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever’, amen.”

7. The handing-over of the sword.

“Take the sword, royally imposed on thee through the hands, although unworthy, of bishops, yet consecrated on behalf and by the authority of the holy apostles, and divinely ordained in defence of the holy Church of God by the office of our blessing, and be mindful of what the Psalmist prophesied, saying ‘Gird the sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty’, so that in this, through the same, you might exercise the might of equity, powerfully destroy the mass of iniquity, and fight for and protect the holy Church of God and His faithful, and no less execrate and destroy those false in faith, who are enemies of the Christian name, clemently help and defend widows and orphans, restored what is desolate, conserve what is restored, avenge injustice, confirm what is rightly done, so that in enacting this triumph of virtue, glorious, an outstanding cultivator of justice, thou might merit to reign without end with the saviour of the World, whose type thou bearest in name, who lives and reigns with Father and Holy Spirit.”

8. The designation of royal status.

“Stand firm and hold fast henceforth this place, which thou hast held thus far delegated to thee in hereditary right by paternal succession, through the authority of God Almighty and our present gift, to wit, of all the bishops, and the other servants of God; and as much as thou see the clergy to be closer to the sacred altars, by that much more take care to give them greater honour; so that the mediator between God and Man might confirm thee as a mediator between clergy and people in the throne of the realm, and make thee to reign with him in the kingdom eternal, Jesus Christ our lord, king of kings and lord of lords, who is with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.”

[Rites for queen-making snipped.]

The coronation of an emperor from the Bamberg Apocalypse. OK, it’s a stretch, but at least there’s an East Frankish link here… (source)

Another Friday, another anonymous, undated ordo. This one, moreover, is the subject of a bit of terminological confusion. It’s most often known as the Ordo of Seven Forms, but also as the Ordo of Eleven Forms and the Stavelot Ordo. It’s preserved in one thirteenth-century manuscript from Stavelot in the form I’ve translated it, although there are other variant versions in other contexts.

The date of the Ordo of Seven Forms is generally accepted as being the first half of the tenth century. Jinty Nelson has argued that the queen-making rites, which I’ve not included, were used to crown the West Frankish queen Gerberga in 939, which is interesting, and suggests that the king-making rites may have been used for her husband King Louis IV in 936. Something of this may be suggested to the changes the author has made to the Erdmann Ordo, particularly the references to ‘paternal throne’ and ‘hereditary right’ which are actually new elements and make sense in a context where you’re importing an untried sixteen-year-old who probably doesn’t speak the language very well because of who his dad was, something in itself making a bit of a break with earlier practice.

In terms of its actual content, Walter Ullmann back in the ‘60s and ‘70s got very excited about the exalted role of the bishop in this ordo, and, y’know, he’s got a point. The emphasis of the bishop’s role in handing over the sword and the crown and indeed in making the king (note heading 8) is tremendous. Note also that whereas in previous ordines we’ve had references to the people helping in the royal ministerium, here the king becomes a participant in episcopal ministerium.

What this reminds me of more than anything else, especially in light of all the references to the king as a type of Christ (i.e. a Christus, an ‘annointed one’) is the 916 Council of Hohenaltheim, which does basically the same thing. This would repay further thought – I may well get back to you on this…

Next Friday: The Ratold Ordo.

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