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Liturgy at Salisbury

Salisbury Cathedral maintains a long history of liturgical excellence

The Liturgy of the Church—its shared, public acts of worship—is often described as “the work of the people of God.” In other words, it is the way in which we offer, on behalf of the world, praise and thanksgiving, as well as confession and prayer, to God. At Salisbury Cathedral we take the liturgical worship of the Church seriously. Our services are planned and crafted in the Department of Liturgy and Music but with lots of input from all sorts of people all across the Cathedral’s life.

In medieval England, many liturgical centres developed their own way of using the traditional liturgy and the Use of Salisbury became pre-eminent in the period before the Reformation. The Sarum Rite reaches back to the first Cathedral at Old Sarum and is associated with Osmund, first Bishop of the Diocese. Although the liturgical pattern was already set when the first Cathedral was dedicated in 1092, the Rite continued to develop and adapt when the Cathedral moved to New Sarum in the thirteenth century. It provided a complete liturgical framework of texts; musical chants; patterns of readings to ensure the whole bible became familiar; ways of shaping the liturgical year allowing the life of Christ to be recalled and the saints remembered; patterns of movement within the building; and detailed rubrics (or instructions) about the precise way in which the altars and other liturgical furniture were to be prepared for each service. Gradually, many other churches and cathedrals in England used this as a blueprint for their worship until the liturgical transformation of the sixteenth century, which introduced worship in English. The next hundred years saw many changes as the Church of England adapted to changing political events but the Restoration of the monarchy initiated a period of greater stability. The reinstatement of a revised Book of Common Prayer in 1662 shaped our worship for the next three hundred years and is still in use today, alongside the more recent texts of Common Worship, which appeared in 2000 after a long period of experimentation and revision.

Procession played a great role in the Sarum Rite, as it does in our worship today. So do colour, music, scripture, and use of light and darkness. As we trace the seasons and the festivals of the Christian year in our worship, the music, the texts and the appearance of the Cathedral’s interior itself change as we reflect on different aspects of the life of Jesus, and the journey of faith.

We seek to provide thoughtful and challenging preaching, great congregational hymns in which everyone can join, and a welcome which reflects something of the nature of the God we seek to worship here.

The Department of Liturgy and Music exists to co-ordinate the liturgical and musical life of the Cathedral, and its members are always keen to answer any questions you may have. To contact the department, click here.