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Abstract

As archbishop of Toledo from 1495 to 1517, Francisco Ximénez de Cisneros carried out a multifaceted campaign of support for the Mozarabic rite, which had been preserved in the Middle Ages by Christians living in Toledo under Muslim rule. Although the Roman rite was introduced into the cathedral in 1086, the Toledan Mozarabs had continued to follow their ancient liturgy in their parishes. By the end of the Middle Ages, however, the rite was rarely celebrated. Fearing that it might become obsolete, in 1501 Cisneros endowed a chapel in his cathedral for the Mozarabic rite and established a clergy of thirteen chaplains to celebrate the Mass and Office regularly. Furthermore, he oversaw a committee that assisted a canon of the cathedral, Alfonso Ortiz, in preparing editions of the Mozarabic missal and breviary that were published in 1500 and 1502, respectively. Despite the contemporary descriptions of these actions as a restoration of a partly lapsed practice, the editions produced under Cisneros’s patronage and the choirbooks he had created for the chapel were as much a reinvention of the rite as a renewal of it. The resulting rite, which is more accurately termed “neo-Mozarabic,” gradually became an important component of Spanish national identity, and in this sense can be considered an instance of the “invention of tradition” as described by Hobsbawm and Ranger.

This article focuses on the reception history of Cisneros’s liturgical project in the early modern period, analyzing descriptions of the creation of the neo-Mozarabic rite. The earliest narrative sources are the prefaces to the editions of the Mozarabic missal and breviary, with their nearly identical colophons. Other sources used here include the early sixteenth-century account by Juan de Vallejo, the midcentury biography of Cisneros by Gómez de Castro, the early seventeenth-century biography by Eugenio de Robles, and other writings from the seventeenth and eighteenth century. What began as a philological project in the spirit of the humanist improvement of corrupted texts soon took on other associations. In 1509, a year after the use of the Mozarabic rite in the cathedral was approved by Pope Julius II, Cisneros led the conquest of Oran, which was part of a new crusade to North Africa to convert Muslims as an extension of the idea of Christian reconquest encouraged by the Catholic monarchs. It remains open to question whether the Cisneros “restoration” of the rite was inherently nationalist in inspiration, but it is certain that he commissioned a representation of the conquest of Oran for the ceiling decoration of the Mozarabic Chapel, and the juxtaposition was noted by every writer in the early modern period. By the eighteenth century, the medieval Mozarabic liturgy had become a national symbol. When the Archbishop of Mexico (and future archbishop of Toledo), Francisco Antonio Lorenzana (1722–1804), published an edition of Mozarabic mass for Saint James in Puebla (1770), he showed himself to be a true follower of Cisneros, who had effectively reinvented the rite and ensured its future status.

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