1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Procession

PROCESSION[1] (M. Eng., processioun, Fr., procession, Lat., processio, from procedere, to go forth, advance, proceed), in general, an organized body of people advancing in a formal or ceremonial manner. This definition covers a wide variety of such progresses: the medieval pageants, of which the Lord Mayor's show in London is the most conspicuous survival; the processions connected with royal coronations and with court ceremonies generally; the processions of friendly societies, so popular in Great Britain and America; processions organized as a demonstration of political or other opinions; processions forming part of the ceremonies of public worship. In a narrower sense of “going forth, proceeding, ” the term is used in the technical language of theology in the phrase “ Procession of the Holy Ghost, ” expressing the relation of the Third Person in the Triune Godhead to the Father and the Son.

Processions have in all peoples and at all times been a natural form of public celebration, as forming an orderly and impressive way in which a number of persons can take part in some ceremony. They are included in the celebraetions of many religions, Greek and Roman Processions.and in many countries, both in the East and West, they accompany such events as weddings and funerals. Religious and triumphal processions are abundantly illustrated by ancient monuments, e.g. the religious processions of Egypt, those illustrated by the rock-carvings of Boghaz-Keui (see Pteria), the many representations of processions in Greek art, culminating in the great Panathenaic procession of the Parthenon frieze, and Roman triumphal reliefs, such as those of the arch of Titus.

Processions played a prominent part in the great festivals of Greece, where they were always religious in character. The games were either opened or accompanied by more or less elaborate processions and sacrifices, while processions from the earliest times formed part of the worship of the old nature gods (ag. those connected with the cult of Dionysus, &c.), and later formed an essential part of the celebration of the great religious festivals (e.g. the processions of the Thesmophoria, and that of the Great Dionysia), and of the mysteries (e.g. the great procession from Athens to Eleusis, in connexion with the Eleusinia). Of the Roman processions, the most prominent was that of the Triumph, which had its origin in the return of the victorious army headed by the general, who proceeded in great pomp from the Campus to the Capitol to oiier sacrifice, accompanied by the army, captives, spoils, the chief magistrate, priests bearing the images of the gods, amidst strewing of flowers, burning of incense and the like (Ovid, Trist. iv. 2, 3 and 6). Connected with the triumph was the pompa circensis, or solemn procession which preceded the games in the circus; it first came into use at the ludi romani, when the games were preceded by a great procession from the Capitol to the Circus. The praetor or consul who appeared in the pompa circensis wore the robes of a triumphing general (see Mommsen, Staatsrecht I . 397 for the connexion of the triumph with the ludi). Thus, when it became customary for the consul to celebrate games at the opening of the consular year, he came, under the empire, to appear in triumphal robes in the process us consular is, or procession of the consul to the Capitol to sacrifice to Iupiter. After the establishment of Christianity, the consular processions in Constantinople retained their religious character, now proceeding to St Sophia, where prayers and offerings were made; but in Rome, where Christianity was not so widely spread among the upper classes, the tendency was to convert the procession into a purely civil function, omitting the pagan rites and prayers, without substituting Christian .ones (Dahremberg and Saglio, s.v. “ Consul ”). Besides these public processions, there were others connected with the primitive Worship of the country people, which remained unchanged, and were later to influence the worship of the Christian Church. Such were those of the Ambarvalia, Robigalia, &c., which were essentially rustic festivals, lust rations of the fields, consisting in a procession round the spot to be purified, leading the sacrificial victims with prayers, hymns and ceremonies, in order to protect the young crops from evil influences. (See Preller, Rom. Mythologie, pp. 370-372.)

As to the antiquity of processions as part of the ritual of the Christian Church, there is no absolute proof of their existence before the 4th century, but as we know that in the catacombs stations were held at the tombs of the martyrs on the anniversary of their death, for the celebration of the Eucharist, it is quite probable that the faithful proceeded to the appointed spot in some kind of procession, though there is no satisfactory evidence that this was the case. There are, indeed, Processions in the Christian Church. early instances of the use of the word processio by Christian writers, but it does not in any case appear to have the modern meaning “procession.” Tertullian (znd century) uses procession and procedure in the Sense of “ to go out, appear in public,[2] and, as applied to a church function, procession was first used in the same way as collecta, as the equivalent of the Greek σύνάξεσι, i.e. for the assembly of the people in the church (Du Cange, s.v.). In this sense it appears to be used by Pope Leo I. (Ep. IX. ad Diosc. episc. c. 445: “qui nostris processionibus et ordinationibus frequenter interfuit”), while in the version by Dionysius Exiguus of the 17th canon of the Council of Laodicaea σονάξεσι, is translated by processionibus (Smith, Dic. of Chr. Antiq. s.v. “Procession”).

For the processions that formed part of the ritual of the Eucharist, those of the introit, the gospel and the oblation, the earliest records date from the 6th century and even later (see Duchesne, Origines, 2nd ed., pp. 77, 154, 181; 78, 194), but they evidently were established at a much earlier date. As to public processions, these seem to have come into rapid vogue after the recognition of Christianity as the religion of the empire. Those at Terusalem would seem to have been long established when described by the authoress of the Peregrinatio Silviae towards the end of the 4th century (see Palm Sunday, for the procession of palms).

Very early were the processions accompanied by hymns and prayers, known as litaniae (Gr. λιτανεῖα, from λιτή, prayer), rogationes or supplicationes (see Litany). It is to such a procession that reference appears to be made in a letter[3] of St BasilLitanies or Rogations. (c. 375), which would thus be the first recorded mention of a public Christian procession. The first mention for the Western Church occurs in St Ambrose (c. 388, Ep. 40 § 16, Ad Theodos. “monachos . . qui . . . psalmos canentes ex consuetudine usuque veteri pergebant ad celebritatem Machabaeorum martyrum ”). In both these cases the litanies are stated to have been long in use. There is also mention of a procession accompanied by hymns, organized at Constantinople by St John Chrysostom (c. 390–400) in opposition to a procession of Arians, in Sozomen, Hist. eccl. viii. 8.[4] In times of calamity litanies were held, in which the people walked in robes of penitence, fasting, barefooted, and, in later times, frequently dressed in black (litaniae nigrae). The cross was carried at the head of the procession and often the gospel and the relics of the saint were carried. Gregory of Tours gives numerous instances of such litanies in time of calamity; thus he describes (Vita S. Remig. I.) a procession of the clergy and people round the city, in which relics of St Remigius were carried and litanies chanted in order to avert the plague. So, too, Gregory the Great (Ep. xi. 57) writes to the Sicilian bishops to hold processions in order to prevent a threatened invasion of Sicily. A famous instance of these penitential litanies is the litania septiformis ordered by Gregory the Great in the year 590, when Rome had been inundated and pestilence had followed.

In this litany seven processions, of clergy, laymen, monks, nuns, matrons, the poor, and children respectively, starting from seven different churches, proceeding to hear mass at Sta Maria Maggiore (see Greg. of Tours, Hist. Fr. x.1, and Johann. Diac. Vito Greg. Magn. i. 42). This litany has often been confused with the litania major, introduced at Rome in 598 (vide supra), but is quite distinct from it.1 .

Funeral processions, accompanied with singing and the carrying of lighted tapers, were very early customary (see LIGHTS, CEREMONIAL USE or), and akin to these, also very early, were the processions connected with the translation of the relics of martyrs from their original burying place to the church where they were to be enshrined (see e.g. St Ambrose, Ep. 2Q and St Augustine, De civitate Dei, xxii. 8 and Conf. viii. 7, for the finding and translation of the relics of Saints Gervasius and Protasius). From the time of the emperor Constantine I. these processions were of great magnificence?

Some liturgists maintain that the early Church in its processions followed Old Testament precedents, quoting such cases 0, -ggi, of as the procession of the ark round the walls of Cbriflifm Jericho (]osh. vi.), the procession of David with the P"°°'”'°“" ark (2 Sam. vi.), the processions of thanksgiving on the return from captivity, &c. The liturgy of the early Church as Duchesne shows (Origines, ch. i.) was influenced by that of the Jewish synagogue, but the theory that the Church adopted the Old Testament ritual is of quite late growth. What is certain is that certain festivals involving processions were adopted by the Christian Church from the pagan calendar of Rome. Here we need only mention the litanioe majores et mirzores, which are stated by Usener (“ Alte Bittgiinge, " in Zeller, Philosophische Aufsiilze, p. 278 seq.) to have been first instituted by Pope Liberius (352-366). It is generally acknowledged that they are the equivalent of the Christian Church of the Roman lust rations of the crops in spring, the Ambarvalia, &c. The litania major, or great procession on St Mark's day (April 25) is shown to coincide both in date and ritual with the Roman Robigalia, which took place a.d. Kal. M ai., and consisted in a procession leaving Rome by the F laminian gate, and proceeding by way of the Milvian bridge to a~ sanctuary at the 5th milestone of the Via Claudia, where the jlamen quiriualis sacrificed a dog and a sheep to avert blight (robigo) from the crops (Fasli praerzestini, C.T.L.T., p. 317). The Zitania major followed the same route as far as the Milvian bridge, when it turned off and returned to St Peter's, where mass was celebrated. This was already established as an annual festival by 598, as is shown by a document of Gregory the Great (Regist. ii.) which inculcates the duty of celebrating litoriiam, quae major ab omnibus appellatur. The lilaniae minores or rotations, held on the three days preceding Ascension Day, were first introduced into Gaul by Bishop Mamertus of Vienne (c. 470), and made binding for all Gaul by the 1st Council of Orleans (511), The litaniae minores were also adopted for these three days in Rome by Leo III. (c. 800). A description of the institution and character of the Ascensiontide rotations is given by Sidonius Apollinaris (Ep. v. I4). “ The solemnity of these, ” he says, “ was first established by Mamertus. Hitherto they had been erratic, lukewarm and poorly attended (1/agae, teperztes, irzfrequenlesque); those which he instituted were characterized by fasting, prayers, psalms and tears.” In the Ambrosian rite the rotations take place after Ascensiontide, and in the Spanish on the Thursday to Saturday after Whitsuntide, and in November (Synod of Girona, 517).

  • Litanies, owing to the fact that they were sung in procession

were in En land sometimes themselves called “ processions.” Thus we reag in the “Order of making Knights of the Bath for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth ”: “the parson of the said church knelynge said the procession in Englysche and all that were there answered the parson ” (B. M. Add. MSS. 4712, p. 51, printed in Anstis's Observations, p. 53).

2 See Martigny, Dfict. des antiquités ehr. s.'v. “ Processions ” 7

“ Stations, " “ Translations " for details of processions under Constantine, and Du Cange, s.v. Processzo for various processions in the middle ages.

It is impossible to describe in detail the vast development of processions during the middle ages. The most processions important and characteristic of these still have a 1” 'he place in the ritual of the Roman Catholic Church. $3225 The rules governing them are laid down in the (;g¢1,0|1¢ Rituale Romanum (Tit. iX.), and they are classified Chumbin the following way 1-(1)

Processiorzes gerzerales, in which the whole body of the cler takes part. (2) Processiones ordinariae, on yearly festivals, will as the feast of the Purification of the Virgin (Candlemass, q.v.), the procession on Palm Sunday (q.v.), the I/ilaniae majores and minores, the feast of Corpus Christi (q.'v.), and on other days, according to the custom of the churches. (3) Processiones extraordirzariae, or processions ordered on special occasions, e.g. to pray for rain or fine weather, in time of storm, famine, plague, war, or, in guacungue tribulation, processions of thanksgiving, translation of relics, the dedication of a church or cemetery. There are also processions of honour, for instance to meet a royal personage, or the bishop on his first entry into his diocese (Pormf. rom. iii.). Those taking part in processions are to walk bare-headed (weather permitting), two and two, in decent costume, and with reverent mien; clergy and laity, men and women, are to walk separately. The cross is carried at the head of the procession, and banners embroidered with sacred pictures in places where this is customary; these banners must not be of military or triangular shape. Violet is the colour prescribed for processions, except on the Feast of Corpus Christi, or on a day when some other colour is prescribed. The officiating priest wears a cope, or at least a surplice with a violet stole, the other priests and clergy wear surplices. Where the host is carried in procession it is covered always by a canopy, and accompanied by lights. At the lilaniae majores and minores and other penitential processions, joyful hymns are not allowed, but the litanies are sung, and, if the length of the procession requires, the penitential and gradual psalms. As to the discipline regarding processions the bishop, according to the Council of Trent (Sass. 25 de reg. cap. 6), appoints and regulates processions and public prayers outside the churches. The observance or variation of the discipline belongs to the Congregation of Rites; in pontifical processions, which are regulated by the masters of the ceremonies (magfistri ceremorziarum pormyicalium), these points are decided by the chief cardinal deacon. As to processions within the churches, some difference of opinion having arisen as to the regulating authority, the Congregation of Rites has decided that the bishop must ask, though not necessarily follow, the advice 'of the chapter in their regulation. 1 ~ Reformed Churches.-The Reformation abolished in all Protestant countries those processions associated with the doctrine of transubstantiation (Corpus Christi); “ the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, ” according to the 28th Article of Religion of the Church of England “ was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.” It also abolished those associated with the cult of the Blessed Virgin and the saints. The stern simplicity of Calvinism, indeed, would not tolerate religious processions of any kind, and from the “ Reformed” Churches they vanished altogether. The more conservative temper of the Anglican and Lutheran communions, however, suffered the retention of such processions as did not conflict with the reformed doctrines, though even in these Churches they met with opposition and tended after a while to fall into disuse. The Lutheran practice has varied at different times and in different countries. Thus, according to the Württemberg Kirchenordnung of 1553, a funeral procession was prescribed, the bier being followed by the congrega- Elfzlxgfn tion singing hymns; the Brandenburg Kirclzenardmmg (1540) directed a cross-bearer to precede the procession and lighted candles to be carried, and this was prescribed' also by the Waldeck Kirchenordmmg of 1556. At present funeral processions survive in general only in the country districts; the processional cross or crucifix is still carried. In some provinces also the Lutheran Church has retained the ancient rogation processions in the week before Whitsuntide and, in some cases, in the month of May or on special occasions (e.g. days of humiliation, Busstage), processions about the fields to ask a blessing on the crops. On these occasions the ancient litanies are still used.

In England “ the perambulations of the circuits of the parishes used heretofore in the days of rotations ” were ordered to be observed by the Injunctions of Queen Elizabeth in 1559; and for these processions certain “ psalms, prayers and homilies ” were prescribed. The Puritans, who aimed at setting up the model, objected; and the visitation articles of the Genevan bishops in Charles I’s time make frequent inquisition into the neglect of the clergy to obey the law in this matter.Church of England. With “ the profane, ungodly, presumptuous multitude ” (to quote Baxter's Saint's Rest, 1650, pp. 344, 345), however, these “processions and perambulations” appear to have been very popular, though “ only the traditions of their fathers.” However this may be, the Commonwealth made an end of them, and they seem never to have been revived; Sparrow, in his Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer (London, 1668), speaks of “the service formerly appointed in the Rogation days of Procession.”

Among the processions that survived the Reformation in the English Church was that of the sovereign and the Knights of the Garter on St George's day. This was until Charles II.'s time a regular rogation, the choristers in surplices, the gentlemen of the royal chapel in copes, and the canons and other clergy in copes preceding the knights and singing the litany. In 1661, after the Restoration, by order of the sovereign and knights companions in chapter “ that supplicational procession” was “ converted into a hymn of thanksgiving.” Akin to this procession also are the others connected with royal functions; coronations, funerals. These retained, and retain, many pre-Reformation features elsewhere fallen obsolete. Thus at the funeral of George II. (1760) the body was received at the door of the Abbey by the dean and prebendaries in their copes, attended by the choir, all carrying lighted tapers, who preceded it up the church, singing.

The only procession formerly prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer is that in the order of the burial of the dead, where the rubric directs that “ the priest and clerks meeting the corpse at the entrance of the churchyard, and going before it, either into the church, or towards the grave, shall say, or sing ” certain verses of Scripture. Tapers seem to have been carried, not only at royal funerals, until well into the 18th century (see LIGHTS, CEREMONIAL). Processions, with singing of the litany or of hymns, appear also to have been always usual on such occasions as the consecration of churches and churchyards and the solemn reception of a visiting bishop. Under the influence of the Catholic revival, associated with the Oxford T ractarians, processions have become increasingly popular in the English Church, pre-Reformation usages having in some churches been revived without any legal sanction. The most common forms, however, are the processional litanies, and the solemn entry of clergy and choir into the church, which on festivals is accompanied by the singing of a processional hymn, their exit being similarly accompanied by the chanting of the Nunc Dimittis. In this connexion the use of the processional cross, banners and lights has been largely revived.

See the article “Bittgänge,” by M. Herold, in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie, iii. 248 (3rd ed., Leipzig, 1897); Wetzer und Welte, Kirchenlexikon, s.v. “Prozession, Bittgänge Litanei” and Smith’s Dictionary of Christian Antiquities s.v. “Procession.” For the early ritual see Duchesne, Origines du culte ohrétien (3rd ed., Paris, 1903). See also G. Catalani, Rituale rornanum perpetuis commentaries exornatum (1760); N. Serarius, Sacri peripatetic de sanris ecolesiae fatholicae processionibus (2 vols., Cologne, 1607); ]ac. Gretser, De ecclesiae rornanae processionibus (2 vols., Ingolstadt, 1606); Jac. Eveillon, De proressionibus ecclesiae (Paris, 1641); Edw. Martene, De antiquis ecelesiae ritibus (3 vols., Antwerp, 1763), &c. For the past usage of the Church of England, Hierurgia anglicana, ed. Vernon Staley, p. ii pp. 3-22 (London, 1903).

  1. In classical Latin the word generally used for a procession was pompa, a formal march or progress of persons to some particular spot, to celebrate some event, or for some public or religious purpose. Processio is used by Cicero in the sense of “a marching forward, an advance,” any public progress, such as the formal entrance of the consul upon his office (Du Cange, s.v. Processio), or the public appearance of the emperor. In Late Latin processio is generally used of a religious procession, the word having come to be used of the body of persons advancing or proceeding.
  2. See De praescr. adv. haer. C. xliii., “ Ubi metus in Deum, ibi gravitas honesta . . . et subjection religiosa, et apparition devota, et procession modesta, et Ecclesia unita et Dei omnia, " where it would seem to mean “ a modest bearing in public; " also De cultu foem. ii., xi., “Vobis autem nulla procedendi caussa tetrica; aut imbecillus aliquis ex fratribus visitandus, aut sacrificium ofiertur, aut Dei verbum administrator, " which shows.that procedefe was not used only of going to church. The passage ad uxorem, ii. 4, which is sometimes quoted to prove the existence of processions at this date, appears to use procedure in the same way as the above passages; “ . . . si procedendum erit, nunquam magis familiae occupation obveniat. Quis enim sinat conjugem suam visitandorum fratrum gratia vicatim aliena ac quidem pauperiora quaeque tuguria circuire? quis denique solemnibus Paschae abnoctantem securus sustinebit? "
  3. Ep. 207 ad Neocaes: "A)}' mix in/, da-ofrl, -raiiro. é7l't roi) [.LE'Y¢iXOU I'pe')/opiou. 'A))' 0053- ai AL-ral/e'EaL, ds if/.Leis 1/UV é1rL5e6e-re K. 'r. A.
  4. Brawls having arisen with the Catholics, who began singing their hymns in opposition, the emperor prohibited the Arian meetings.