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A tale of two cities: Rome and Canterbury

[ by Charles Cameron — on the ceremonial installations of the 266th Pope in Rome, and the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, together with a brief excursus on getting through doors ]

This particular pairing of photographs is a light-hearted offering, showing the Pope being quietly and graciously assisted down the steps of St Peter’s to the open air altar, while the Archbishop of Canterbury must pretty much force his way into his own cathedral with three strong blows from his pastoral staff… both ceremonies having taken place over the last few days.


The gesture of beating on the church door, requesting permission to enter, is in fact an old one. Here is video of the same ceremony, as enacted on the death of the Archduke Otto von Hapsburg, when the body of that exalted aristocrat and devout Catholic was brought the Capuchin Cloister to be buried:

The text of the ceremony proceeds in a beautifully constructed threefold fashion. First, the Archduke begs admission to the church under his hereditary stiles and titles:

Prior: Who desires entry?

MC: Otto of Austria; once Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary; Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia, of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and the Bukowina; Grand Prince of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Guastalla, of O?wi?cim and Zator, Teschen, Friaul, Dubrovnik and Zadar; Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trent and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenburg etc.; Lord of Trieste, Kotor and Windic March, Grand Voivod of the Voivodeship of Serbia etc. etc.

It is not enough:

Prior: We do not know him.

On the second occasion, he presents himself in terms of his own accomplishments and honors:

(The MC knocks thrice)

Prior: Who desires entry?

MC: Dr. Otto von Habsburg, President and Honorary President of the Paneuropean Union, Member and quondam President of the European Parliament, honorary doctor of many universities, honorary citizen of many cities in Central Europe, member of numerous venerable academies and institutes, recipient of high civil and ecclesiastical honours, awards, and medals, which were given him in recognition of his decades-long struggle for the freedom of peoples for justice and right.

And again it is not enough, it is not simple enough:

Prior: We do not know him.

(The MC knocks thrice)

This third and final time, the appeal is simple and all too human:

Prior: Who desires entry?

MC: Otto, a mortal and sinful man.

Prior: Then let him come in.

And thus, ceremonially, neither his high position nor his accomplishments suffice the man to enter the church, whose threshold requires humility…


I am, I suppose, at the antipodes from many of my fellows these days — a futurist who nonetheless glories in ceremonial and tradition, believing that gestures such as the knocking on the door just described carry a symbolic impact which can move us deeply.

Accordingly, I am going to append here the two booklets containing the respective orders of service in Canterbury and Rome these last few days:

First in temporal sequence, the Mass for the inauguration of the Pontificate of Pope Francis, March 19, 2013. including his installation in the chair of St Peter in Rome.

Second, the Inauguration of the Ministry of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Portal Welby, including his enthronement in the seat of his predecessor, St Augustine.


The entire ceremony of the installation of Pope Francis has been made available on YouTube, and while I do not expect many Zenpundit readers to watch it in its 4-hour entirety, I am first posting here a single excerpt, the Te Deum by Tomás Luis de Victoria sung at the conclusion of the Mass of Inauguration:

Here, for those who may be interested, and for the record, is the telecast in full:


I have only been able to find a severely edited BBC version of the enthronement ceremony in Canterbury, which gives little sense of the majesty of the English ritual and choral music —

There was also some African drumming, as can be seen in this (far shorter) Telegraph video:


By way of comparison, here is a surviving video of the coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II in London, about sixty years ago:

I would like on some other occasion to walk you through one or more such great rituals as these, exploring the depths and symbolic meanings of such things as the red coloration of a cardinal’s robes, signifying a sworn willingness to die for the faith, and the anointing and robing of a British monarch, symbolizing her (or his) quasi-priestly function as Supreme Governor of the church…

The details of such rituals — strong statements uttered in a moment of high purpose, such as “Be so merciful that you be not too remiss, so execute justice that you forget not mercy” in the English coronation rite — can shape a lifetime, and a people.

4 Responses to “A tale of two cities: Rome and Canterbury”

  1. Lexington Green Says:

    The ceremony preceding the burial of the last Habsburg is beautiful, intensely Catholic, and a milestone in the dissolution of the West.  The Habsburgs were the last Holy Roman Emperors, their rule had inhering in it some of the prestige of the heirship of the Caesars. The burial of the last human vestige of the ancient political unity of the West brings twelve centuries to an end, that began with the coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas day, Anno Domini 800.  In the book The Phoenix Land by Miklos Banffy, there is a depiction of the same ceremony in 1916, when Franz Joseph was buried, in the midst of the tragic war that was destroying his empire, almost a century ago.  Modernity destroys and consumers things it cannot replace, then wonders why amidst its material triumphs, for so many people, life is empty, or politics or money-seeking frantically invade the spaces reserved for better things, by relentless activity to drown out the signal that it does not want to hear, that if the modern premises are true, then all is nullity, sensation followed by nullity.  The only country I have ever felt patriotism for besides my own is the Dual Monarchy.  It would have been worth fighting for.  Too bad, at the end, it was led by imbeciles.   

  2. zen Says:

    The Hapsburgs were undone by an inability to provide a unifying rationale to modernize their diverse realms and the sheer complexity – which under Charles V encompassed the geographic vastness of the Holy Roman, Spanish and Portuguese empires. They did represent the dream of Western unification – it is no accident that Napoleon at the peak of his power and ruling most of Europe directly, by proxy or holding states as clients, chose to wed a Hapsburg, the oldest and most prestigious imperial line in Europe after the end of the Byzantines

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    I’m just home after a two-day 800 mile trip and a bit wiped out — but just wanted to say I’m glad someone else among my friends found the Hapsburg requiem and funeral inspiring.  I managed to swipe ten videos from YouTube, including the liturgy with Michael Haydn mass and a very sweet Salve Regina.

  4. L. C. Rees Says:

    I shed no tears for the Habsburg state.

    My great-great grandfather Thomas Biesinger was a Swabian from the Black Forest region of Wurttemberg. He was baptized a member of my church in 1862. GGG Thomas emigrated to Utah 3 years later.

    In 1883, GGG Thomas was called on a mission to Austria-Hungary. He was the first LDS missionary to preach the Good News in Bohemia. For his efforts, he was imprisoned for 68 days in a dismal Prague jail. After being convicted of violating an ordinance he was unaware of, he agreed to plead guilty but only on the “firm condition that they [the judges] understood that he had delivered his message from God to their city and nation for their salvation and that the responsibility for Prague’s rejection of the gospel rested on the authorities of the nation”. He shared his cell with a socialist and a murderer. The socialist was better company.

    After his release, hounded by police and media, he was unable to make more headway. GGG Thomas was, however, blessed to become the first LDS missionary to preach the Good News in Hungary and baptized both of his two accusers before leaving the empire for America.

    He prayed for another chance to preach the Good News in Bohemia. And he was so blessed. I retain copies of newspaper clippings from fall 1918 kept by the family as a memento of Providence wiping the Habsburg state from the earth. GGG Thomas was called in 1928 to open a new mission in the new Republic of Czechoslovakia. He won permission to preach the Good News from the Czech authorities. At 83, he was the oldest proselyting missionary my church had called to serve up to that time.

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