Ambrosian Rite

The Ambrosian Rite, also called the Milanese Rite, is a Catholic Western liturgical rite. The rite is named after Saint Ambrose, a bishop of Milan in the fourth century. The Ambrosian Rite, which differs from the Roman Rite, is used by some five million Catholics in the greater part of the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy (excluding, notably, the areas of Monza, Treviglio, Trezzo sull'Adda and a few other parishes), in some parishes of the Diocese of Como, Bergamo, Novara, Lodi and in about fifty parishes of the Diocese of Lugano, in the Canton of Ticino, Switzerland.

Although the distinctive Ambrosian Rite has risked suppression at various points in its history, it survived and was reformed after the Second Vatican Council, partly because Pope Paul VI belonged to the Ambrosian Rite, having previously been Archbishop of Milan. In the 20th century, it also gained prominence and prestige from the attentions of two other scholarly Archbishops of Milan: Achille Ratti, later Pope Pius XI, and the Blessed Ildefonso Schuster, both of whom had been involved in studies and publications on the rite before their respective appointments.

Santa messa solenne in rito antico celebrata nella chiesa di S. Ambrogio
A solemn Mass celebrated in the Ambrosian Rite in the church of its patron, Saint Ambrose, Legnano


Rito Ambrosiano
Diffusion of the Ambrosian Rite

There is no direct evidence that the rite was the composition of St. Ambrose, but his name has been associated with it since the eighth century. It is possible that the Ambrose, who succeeded the Arian bishop Auxentius of Milan, may have removed material seen as unorthodox by the mainstream church and issued corrected service books which included the principal characteristics distinguishing it from other rites.[1]

According to St. Augustine (Confessones, IX, vii) and Paulinus the Deacon (Vita S. Ambrosii, § 13), St. Ambrose introduced innovations, not indeed into the Mass, but into what would seem to be the Divine Office, at the time of his contest with the Empress Justina for the Portian Basilica, which she claimed for the Arians. St. Ambrose filled the church with Catholics and kept them there night and day until the peril was past. And he arranged Psalms and hymns for them to sing, as St. Augustine says, "secundum morem orientalium partium ne populus mæroris tædio contabesceret" (after the manner of the Orientals, lest the people should languish in cheerless monotony); and of this Paulinus the deacon says: "Hoc in tempore primum antiphonæ, hymni. et vigiliæ in ecclesiâ Mediolanensi celebrari cœperunt, Cujus celebritatis devotio usque in hodiernum diem non solum in eadem ecclesia verum per omnes pæne Occidentis provincias manet" (Now for the first time antiphons, hymns, and vigils began to be part of the observance of the Church in Milan, which devout observance lasts to our day not only in that church but in nearly every province of the West).[1]

From the time of St. Ambrose, whose hymns are well-known and whose liturgical allusions may certainly be explained as referring to a rite which possessed the characteristics of that which is called by his name, until the period of Charlemagne (circ AD 800), there is a gap in the history of the Milanese Rite. However, St. Simplician, the successor of St. Ambrose, added much to the rite and St. Lazarus (438-451) introduced the three days of the litanies. (Cantù, Milano e il suo territorio, I, 116) The Church of Milan underwent various vicissitudes and for a period of some eighty years (570-649), during the Lombard conquests, the see was moved to Genoa in Liguria.[1]

In the eighth-century, manuscript evidence begins. In a short treatise on the various cursus entitled "Ratio de Cursus qui fuerunt ex auctores" (sic in Cott. Manuscripts, Nero A. II, in the British Museum), written about the middle of the eighth century, probably by an Irish monk in France, is found perhaps the earliest attribution of the Milan use to St. Ambrose, though it quotes the authority of St. Augustine, probably alluding to the passage already mentioned: "Est et alius cursus quem refert beatus augustinus episcopus quod beatus ambrosius propter hereticorum ordinem dissimilem composuit quem in italia antea de cantabatur" (There is yet another Cursus which the blessed Bishop Augustine says that the blessed Ambrose composed because of the existence of a different use of the heretics, which previously used to be sung in Italy).[1]

According to a narrative of Landulphus Senior, the eleventh-century chronicler of Milan, Charlemagne attempted to abolish the Ambrosian Rite, as he or his father, Pepin the Short, had abolished the Gallican Rite in France, in favour of a Gallicanized Roman Rite. He sent to Milan and caused to be destroyed or sent beyond the mountain, quasi in exilium (as if into exile), all the Ambrosian books which could be found. Eugenius the Bishop, (transmontane bishop, as Landulf calls him), begged him to reconsider his decision. After the manner of the time, an ordeal, which reminds one of the celebrated trials by fire and by battle in the case of Alfonso VI and the Mozarabic Rite, was determined on. Two books, Ambrosian and Roman, were laid closed upon the altar of St. Peter's Church in Rome and left for three days, and the one which was found open was to win. They were both found open, and it was resolved that as God had shown that one was as acceptable as the other, the Ambrosian Rite should continue. But the destruction had been so far effective that no Ambrosian books could be found, save one missal which a faithful priest had hidden for six weeks in a cave in the mountains. Therefore the Manuale was written out from memory by certain priests and clerks (Landulph, Chron., 10-13). Walafridus Strabo, who died Abbot of Reichenau in 849, and must therefore have been nearly, if not quite, contemporary with this incident, says nothing about it, but (De Rebus Ecclesiasticis, xxii), speaking of various forms of the Mass, says: "Ambrosius quoque Mediolanensis episcopus tam missæ quam cæterorum dispositionem officiorum suæ ecclesiæ et aliis Liguribus ordinavit, quæ et usque hodie in Mediolanensi tenentur ecclesia" (Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, also arranged a ceremonial for the Mass and other offices for his own church and for other parts of Liguria, which is still observed in the Milanese Church).[1]

In the eleventh century Pope Nicholas II, who in 1060 had tried to abolish the Mozarabic Rite, wished also to attack the Ambrosian, and was aided by St. Peter Damian, but he was unsuccessful, and Pope Alexander II, his successor, himself a Milanese, reversed his policy in this respect. St. Gregory VII made another attempt, and Le Brun (Explication de la Messe, III, art. I, § 8) conjectures that Landulf's miraculous narrative was written with a purpose about that time. Having weathered these storms, the Ambrosian Rite had peace for some three centuries and a half.[1]

In the first half of the fifteenth century Cardinal Branda da Castiglione, who died in 1448, was legate in Milan. As part of his plan for reconciling Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan, and the Holy See, he endeavoured to substitute the Roman Rite for the Ambrosian. The result was a serious riot, and the Cardinal's legateship came to an abrupt end. After that the Ambrosian Rite was safe until the Council of Trent. The Rule of that Council, that local uses which could show a prescription of two centuries might be retained, saved Milan, not without a struggle, from the loss of its Rite, and St. Charles Borromeo though he made some alterations in a Roman direction, was most careful not to destroy its characteristics. A small attempt made against it by a Governor of Milan who had obtained a permission from the Pope to have the Roman Mass said in any church which he might happen to attend, was defeated by St. Charles, and his own revisions were intended to do little more than was inevitable in a living rite.[1]

Since his time the temper of the Milan Church has been most conservative, and the only alterations in subsequent editions seem to have been slight improvements in the wording of rubrics and in the arrangement of the books. The district in which the Ambrosian Rite is used is nominally the old archiepiscopal province of Milan before the changes of 1515 and 1819, but actually it is not exclusively used even in the city of Milan itself. In parts of the Swiss Canton of Ticino it is used; in other parts the Roman Rite is so much preferred that it is said that when Cardinal Gaisruck tried to force the Ambrosian upon them the inhabitants declared that they would be either Roman or Lutheran. There are traces also of the use of the Ambrosian Rite beyond the limits of the Province of Milan. In 1132-34, two Augustinian canons of Ratisbon, Paul, said by Bäumer to be Paul of Bernried, and Gebehard, held a correspondence (printed by Mabillon in his "Musæum Italicum" from the originals in the Cathedral Library at Milan) with Anselm, Archbishop of Milan, and Martin, treasurer of St. Ambrose, with a view of obtaining copies of the books of the Ambrosian Rite, so that they might introduce it into their church. In the fourteenth century the Emperor Charles IV introduced the Rite into the Church of St. Ambrose at Prague. Traces of it, mixed with the Roman, are said by Hoeyinck (Geschichte der kirchl. Liturgie des Bisthums Augsburg) to have remained in the diocese of Augsburg down to its last breviary of 1584, and according to Catena (Cantù, Milano e il suo territorio, 118) the use of Capua in the time of St. Charles Borromeo had some resemblance to that of Milan.[1]

Recent history

Messa in rito ambrosiano antico alla Madonnina di Legnano
An Ambrosian Rite Mass being celebrated in the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Legnano

Important editions of the Ambrosian Missal were issued in 1475, 1594, 1609, 1902 and 1954. The last of these was the final edition in the form of the Ambrosian Rite that preceded the Second Vatican Council, and is now used mainly in the church of San Rocco al Gentilino in Milan.

Following the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council and the preliminary revisions of the Ordinary of the Mass of the Roman Rite, a new bilingual (Latin and Italian) edition of the Ambrosian Missal was issued in 1966, simplifying the 1955 missal, mainly in the prayers the priest said inaudibly and in the genuflections, and adding the Prayer of the Faithful. The eucharistic prayer continued to be said in Latin until 1967. The altars were moved to face the people.

When the Mass of Paul VI was issued in 1969, most Ambrosian-Rite priests began to use the new Roman Missal (only omitting the Agnus Dei), the Roman Lectionary, and the General Roman Calendar (with its four-week Advent). The Ambrosian form of administering the other sacraments was for the most part already identical with the Roman. This made it uncertain whether the Ambrosian Rite would survive. But in promulgating the documents of the 46th diocesan synod (1966–1973), Cardinal Archbishop Giovanni Colombo, supported by Pope Paul VI (a former Archbishop of Milan), finally decreed that the Ambrosian Rite, brought into line with the directives of the Second Vatican Council, should be preserved.

Work, still in progress, began on all the Ambrosian liturgical texts. On 11 April 1976 Cardinal Colombo published the new Ambrosian Missal, covering the whole liturgical year. Later in the same year an experimental Lectionary appeared, covering only some liturgical seasons, and still following the Roman-Rite Lectionary for the rest. Minor modifications of the Ambrosian Missal were implemented in 1978, restoring for example the place of the Creed in the Mass, and the new Ambrosian rite for funerals was issued.

The Ambrosian Missal also restored two early-medieval Ambrosian eucharistic prayers, unusual for placing the epiclesis after the Words of Institution, in line with Oriental use.

In 1984-1985 the new Ambrosian Liturgy of the Hours was published, and in 2006 the new Ambrosian rite of marriage. On 20 March 2008 the new Ambrosian Lectionary, superseding the 1976 experimental edition, and covering the whole liturgical year, was promulgated, coming into effect from the First Sunday of Advent 2008 (16 November 2008).[2] It is based on the ancient Ambrosian liturgical tradition, and contains in particular, a special rite of light ("lucernarium") and proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus, for use before the Saturday-evening celebration of the Mass of the Sunday, seen as the weekly Easter.[3] Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in Milan using the Ambrosian Rite in 1983, as did Pope Francis in 2017.


The origin of the Ambrosian Rite is still under discussion, and at least two conflicting theories are held by leading liturgiologists. The decision is not made easier by the absence of any direct evidence as to the nature of the Rite before about the ninth century. There are, it is true, allusions to various services of the Milanese Church in the writings of St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, and in the anonymous treatise "De Sacramentis", which used to be attributed to the latter, but is not his; but these allusions are naturally enough insufficient for more than vague conjecture, and have been used with perhaps equal justification in support of either side of the controversy. Even if the rather improbable story of Landulf is not to be believed, the existing manuscripts, which only take us back at the earliest to the period of Charlemagne, leave the question of his influence open.[1]

This much we may confidently affirm: that although both the Missal and the Breviary have been subjected from time to time to various modifications, often, as might be expected, in a Roman direction, the changes are singularly few and unimportant, and the Ambrosian Rite of today is substantially the same as that represented in the early Manuscripts. Indeed, since some of these documents come from places in the Alpine valleys, such as Biasca, Lodrino, Venegono and elsewhere, while the modern rite is that of the metropolitan cathedral and the churches of the city of Milan, some proportion of the differences may well turn out to be local rather than chronological developments. The arguments of the two principal theories are necessarily derived in a great measure from the internal evidence of the books themselves, and at present the end of the controversy is not in sight.[1]

The question resolves itself into this: Is the Ambrosian Rite archaic Roman, or a much Romanized form of the Gallican Rite? And this question is mixed with that of the provenance of the Gallican Rite itself. Some liturgiologists of a past generation, notably J. M. Neale and others from the Anglican tradition, referred the Hispano-Gallican and Celtic family of liturgies to an original imported into Provence from Ephesus in Asia Minor by St. Irenæus, who had received it through St. Polycarp from St. John the Divine. The name Ephesine was applied to this liturgy, and it was sometimes called the Liturgy of St. John. The idea was not modern. Colman, at the Synod of Whitby in 664, attributed the Celtic rule of Easter to St. John, and in the curious little eighth-century treatise already mentioned (in Cott. Manuscript Nero A. II) one finds: "Johannes Evangelista primum cursus gallorum decantavit. Inde postea beatus policarpus discipulus sci iohannis. Inde postea hiereneus qui fuit eps Lugdunensis Gallei. Tertius ipse ipsum cursum decantauerunt [sic] in galleis." The author is not speaking of the Liturgy, but of the Divine Office, but that does not affect the question, and the theory, which had its obvious controversial value, was at one time very popular with Anglicans. Neale considered that the Ambrosian Rite was a Romanized form of this Hispano-Gallican - or Ephesine Rite; he never brought much evidence for this view, being generally contented with stating it and giving a certain number of not very convincing comparisons with the Mozarabic Rite (Essays on Liturgiology, ed. 1867, 171-197). But Neale greatly exaggerated the Romanizing effected by St. Charles Borromeo, and his essay on the Ambrosian Liturgy is somewhat out of date, though much of it is of great value as an analysis of the existing Rite. W. C. Bishop, in his article on the Ambrosian Breviary (Church Q., Oct., 1886), takes up the same line as Neale in claiming a Gallican origin for the Ambrosian Divine Office.[1]

But Louis Duchesne in his "Origines du culte chrétien" put forward a theory of origin which works out very clearly, though it is almost all founded on conjecture and a priori reasoning. He rejects entirely the Ephesine supposition, and considers that the Orientalisms which he recognizes in the Hispano-Gallican Rite are of much later origin than the period of St. Irenæus, and that it was from Milan as a centre that a rite, imported or modified from the East, perhaps by the Cappadocian Arian Bishop Auxentius (355-374), the predecessor of St. Ambrose, gradually spread to Gaul, Spain, and Britain. He lays great stress on the important position of Milan as a northern metropolis, and on the intercourse with the East by way of Aquileia and Illyria, as well as on the eastern nationality of many of the Bishops of Milan. In his analysis of the Gallican Mass, Duchesne assumes that the seventh-century Bobbio Sacramentary (Bibl. Nat., 13,246), though not actually Milanese, is to be counted as a guide to early Ambrosian usages, and makes use of it in the reconstruction of the primitive Rite before, according to his theory, it was so extensively Romanized as it appears in the earliest undeniably Ambrosian documents. He also appears to assume that the usages mentioned in the Letter of St. Innocent I to Decentius of Eugubium as differing from those of Rome were necessarily common to Milan and Gubbio. Paul Lejay has adopted this theory in his article in the "Revue d'histoire et littérature religeuses" (II, 173) and in Dom Cabrol's Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie" [s. v. Ambrosien (Rit)].[1]

The other theory, of which Antonio Maria Ceriani and Magistretti are the most distinguished exponents, maintains that the Ambrosian Rite has preserved the pre-Gelasian and pre-Gregorian form of the Roman Rite. Ceriani (Notitia Liturgiæ Ambrosianæ) supports his contention by many references to early writers and by comparisons of early forms of the Roman Ordinary with the Ambrosian. Both sides admit the self-evident fact that the Canon in the present Ambrosian Mass is a variety of the Roman Canon. Neither has explained satisfactorily how and when it got there. The borrowings from the Greek service books have been ably discussed by Cagin (Paléographie musicale, V), but there are Greek loans in the Roman books also, though, if Duchesne's theory of origin is correct, some of them may have travelled by way of the Milanese-Gallican Rite at the time of the Charlemagne revision. There are evident Gallicanisms in the Ambrosian Rite, but so there are in the present Roman, and the main outlines of the process by which they arrived in the latter are sufficiently certain, though the dates are not. The presence of a very definite Post-Sanctus of undoubted Hispano-Gallican form in the Ambrosian Mass of Easter Eve requires more explanation than it has received, and the whole question of provenance is further complicated by a theory, into which Ceriani does not enter, of a Roman origin of all the Latin liturgical rites: Gallican, Celtic, Mozarabic, and Ambrosian alike. There are indications in his liturgical note to the "Book of Cerne" and in "The Genius of the Roman Rite" that Mr. Edmund Bishop, who, as far as he has spoken at all, prefers the conclusions, though not so much the arguments, of Ceriani to either the arguments or conclusions of Duchesne, may eventually have something to say which will put the subject on a more solid basis.[1]

Differences from the Roman Rite

Some features of the Ambrosian Rite distinguish it from the Roman Rite liturgy.


The main differences in the Mass are:[4]

  • The principal celebrant blesses all the readers, not only the deacon.
  • The Gospel is followed by a short antiphon.
  • The General Intercessions or "Prayers of the Faithful" immediately follow the homily
  • The Rite of Peace comes at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, before the Offertory (Presentation of the Gifts)
  • The Creed follows the Offertory, before the Prayer over the Gifts
  • There are some differences between the First Eucharistic Prayer of the Ambrosian Missal and the Roman Canon, the first in the Roman Missal; but its Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV are the same as in the Roman Rite. In addition, the Ambrosian Rite has two proper Eucharistic Prayers, used mainly on Easter and Holy Thursday.
  • The priest breaks the Host and places a piece in the main chalice before the Lord's Prayer, while an antiphon (the Confractorium) is sung or recited.
  • The Agnus Dei is not said.
  • Before the final blessing, the people say Kyrie, eleison ("Lord have mercy") three times.
  • At the end of the Mass, instead of saying "The Mass is ended, go in peace" the priest says simply "Go in peace", to which the people respond "In the name of Christ".
  • The Ambrosian Rite has its own cycle of readings at Mass.
  • Many of the prayers said by the priest during Mass are peculiar to the Ambrosian Rite, which has a particularly rich variety of prefaces.

Liturgical year

The main differences in the liturgical year are:

  • Advent has six weeks, not four.
  • Lent starts four days later than in the Roman Rite, so that Ash Wednesday is postponed to a week later than in the Roman Rite, and Carnival continues until "sabato grasso" ("Fat Saturday" in Italian), corresponding to Shrove Tuesday (called "mardi gras", i.e. "Fat Tuesday", in French) in areas where the Roman Rite is used.
  • On Fridays in Lent, Mass is not celebrated and, with a few exceptions, Communion is not distributed.
  • Red, rather than the green used in the Roman Rite, is the standard colour of vestments from Pentecost to the third Sunday of October, and there are other differences in liturgical colours throughout the year.


Other differences are that:

  • The Liturgy of the Hours (also known as the Divine Office or Breviary) is different in structure and in various features.[5][6]
  • The liturgical rites of Holy Week are quite different.
  • The rite of funerals is different.
  • Baptism of infants is done by triple immersion of the head.
  • The thurible has no top cover, and is swung clockwise before the censing of a person or object.[7]
  • Ambrosian deacons wear the stole over the dalmatic and not under it.
  • The Ambrosian cassock, buttoned with only five buttons below the neck, is held with a fascia at the waist, and is worn with a round white collar.
  • Ambrosian chant is distinct from Gregorian chant.
  • Some senior priests (notably Provosts and certain Canons) are entitled to wear vestments commonly associated with bishops, including the mitre.
  • The liturgical burning of the faro (a large cotton sphere suspended in the air, inside the church) on feasts of martyrs.[8]

Early manuscripts

The early manuscripts of the Ambrosian Rite are generally found in the following forms:[1]

  • The "Sacramentary" contains the Orationes super Populum, Prophecies, Epistles, Gospels, Orationes super Sindonem, and Orationes super Oblata, the Prefaces and Post-Communions throughout the year, with the variable forms of the Communicantes and Hanc igitur, when they occur, and the solitary Post Sanctus of Easter Eve, besides the ceremonies of Holy Week, etc., and the Ordinary and Canon of the Mass. There are often also occasional offices usually found in a modern ritual, such as Baptism, the Visitation and Unction of the Sick, the Burial of the Dead, and various benedictions. It is essentially a priest's book, like the Euchologion of the Greeks.
  • The "Psalter" contains the Psalms and Canticles. It is sometimes included with the "Manual".
  • The "Manual" is nearly the complement of the "Sacramentary" and the "Psalter" as regards both the Mass and the Divine Office. It contains: For the Divine Office; the Lucernaria, Antiphons, Responsoria, Psallenda, Completoria, Capitula, Hymns, and other changeable parts, except the Lessons, which are found separately. For the Mass: the Ingressœ, Psalmellœ, Versus, Cantus, Antiphonœ ante and post Evangelium, Offertoria, Confractoria, and Transitoria. The "Manual" often also contains occasional services such as are now usually found in a Ritual.
  • The "Antiphoner" is a Manual noted.
  • The "Rituale" and "Pontificale" have contents similar to those of Roman books of the same name, though of course the early Manuscripts are less ample.

Sacramentaries and missals

The following are some of the most noted Manuscripts of the rite:[1]

  • The "Biasca Sacramentary"; Bibl. Ambros., A. 24, bis inf., late ninth or early tenth century. Described by Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXXI, edited by Ceriani in his "Monumenta Sacra et Profana", VIII, the Ordinary is analyzed and the Canon given in full in Ceriani's "Notitia Lit. Ambr".
  • The "Lodrino Sacramentary"; Bibl. Ambr., A. 24, inf., eleventh century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXXII.
  • The "Sacramentary of San Satiro", Milan; treasury of Milan Cathedral; eleventh century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXXIII.
  • Sacramentary; treasury of Milan Cathedral; eleventh century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXXIV.
  • The "Sacramentary of Armio", near the Lago Maggiore; treasury of Milan Cathedral; eleventh century. Delisle, 'Anc. Sacr.", LXXV.
  • Sacramentary belonging to the Marchese Trotti; eleventh century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXXVI.
  • Sacramentary; Bibl. Ambros., CXX, sup., eleventh century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXXVII.
  • The "Bergamo Sacramentary"; library of Sant' Alessandro in Colonna, Bergamo; tenth or eleventh century. Published by the Benedictines of Solesmes, "Auctarium Solesmense" (to Migne's Patrologia), "Series Liturgica", I.
  • Sacramentary; treasury of Monza Cathedral; tenth century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXV.
  • "Sacramentary of San Michele di Venegono inferiore" (near Varese); treasury of Monza Cathedral; eleventh century. Delisle, "Anc. Sacr.", LXVIII. These two of Monza Cathedral are more fully described in Frisi's "Memorie storiche di Monza", III,75-77, 82-84.
  • "Missale Ambrosianum", of Bedero (near Luino); Bibl. Ambr., D., 87 inf.; twelfth century. Noted by Magistretti in "Della nuova edizione tipica del messale Ambrosiano".


  • Antiphoner: "Antiphonarium Ambrosianum"; British Museum, Add. Manuscripts, 34,209; twelfth century; published by the Benedictines of Solesmes, with a complete facsimile and 200 pages of introduction by Dom Paul Cagin, in "Paléographie musicale", V, VI.


  • "Manual of Lodrino;" Bibl. Ambr., SH. IV, 44; tenth or eleventh century. Imperfect. Described by Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 18.
  • "Manuale Ambrosianum" belonging to the Marchese Trotti; tenth or eleventh century. Imperfect. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 19.
  • "Manuale Ambrosianum"; Bibl. Ambr., CIII, sup.; tenth or eleventh century. Imperfect. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 20.
  • "Manuale Ambrosianum"; from the Church of Cernusco (between Monza and Lecco); Bibl. Ambr., I, 55, sup.; eleventh century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 28.
  • "Manuale Ambrosianum"; from the Church of San Vittore al Teatro, Milan; Bibl. Ambr., A, 1, inf.; twelfth century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 22.
  • "Manuale Ambrosianum"; from the Church of Brivio (near the Lecco end of the Lake of Como); Bibl. Ambr., I, 27, sup.; twelfth century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 30.


  • "Liber Monachorum S. Ambrosii"; Bibl. Ambr., XCVI, sup.; eleventh century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 33, 79-93.
  • "Rituale Ambrosianum", from the Church of S. Laurentiolus in Porta Vercellina, Milan; Sacrar. Metrop., H. 62; thirteenth century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", II, 37, 143-171.
  • Beroldus Novus"; Chapter Library, Milan; thirteenth century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", 17, 94-142.
  • "Asti Ritual"; Bibl, Mazarine, 525; tenth century. Described by Gastoué in "Rassegna Gregoriana", 1903. This, though from the old province of Milan, is not Ambrosian, but has bearings on the subject.
  • Ceremonial: "Calendarium et Ordines Ecclesiæ Ambrosianæ"; Beroldus; Bibl, Ambr., I, 158, inf. twelfth century. Published by Magistretti, 1894.


  • "Pontificale Mediolanensis Ecclesiæ"; Chapter Library, Milan; ninth century. Printed by Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", I
  • "Pontificale Mediolanensis Ecclesiæ"; Chapter Library, Milan; eleventh century. Magistretti, "Mon. Vet. Lit. Amb.", 1, 27.
  • "Ordo Ambrosianus ad Consecrandam Ecclesiam et Altare;" Chapter Library, Lucca; eleventh century. Printed by Mercati, "Studi e testi" (of the Vatican Library), 7.

Ambrosian service-books

Some editions of the printed Ambrosian service-books:

  • Missals: (Pre-Borromean) 1475, 1482, 1486, 1488, 1494, 1499, 1505, 1515, 1522, 1548, 1560; (St. Charles Borromeo) 1594; (F. Borromeo) 1609-18; (Monti) 1640; (Litta) 1669; (Fed. Visconti) 1692; (Archinti) 1712; (Pozzobonelli) 1751, 1768; (Fil. Visconti) 1795; (Gaisruck) 1831; (Ferrari) 1902.
  • Breviaries: (Pre-Borromean) 1475, 1487, 1490, 1492, 1507, 1513, 1522, and many others; (St. Charles Borromeo), 1582, 1588; (Pozzobonelli) 1760; (Galsruck) 1841; (Romilli) 1857; (Ferrari) 1896, 1902. Rituals: n. d. circ., 1475 (a copy in Bodlwian), 1645, 1736, 1885.
  • Psalters: 1486, 1555.
  • Ceremonials: 1619, 1831.
  • Lectionary: 1660
  • Litanies: 1494, 1546, 1667.

The editions of the Missals, 1475, 1751, and 1902; Breviaries, 1582 and 1902; Ritual, 1645; both Psalters, both Ceremonials, the Lectionary, and Litanies are in the British Museum.[1]

English translations

  • We Give You Thanks and Praise. The Ambrosian Eucharistic Prefaces. translated by Alan Griffiths, first published by The Canterbury Press, Norwich, (a publishing imprint of Hymn Ancient & Modern Limited, a registered charity) St. Mary's Woods, St. Mary Plain, Norwich, Norfolk. This is an English translation of the two hundred proper prefaces at present used with the Eucharistic prayers of the Ambrosian Rite.
  • The Revised Divine Liturgy According to Our Holy Father Ambrose of Milan (Vols 1 and 2). by Bishop Michael Scotto-Daniello and published by Createspace/Amazon. This is a Missalette and a book of Prefaces for the Ambrosian Rite.
  • The Divine Liturgy of St. Ambrose, as authorized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Jenner 1907
  2. ^ Il Segno: La Parola ogni giorno dell'anno.
  3. ^ "Video of the rite". Archived from the original on 2008-10-06. Retrieved 2008-10-15.
  4. ^ Ambrosian Rite Ordinary of the Mass (in Italian)
  5. ^ Enciclopedia cattolica: Liturgia delle ore
  6. ^ Breviarium Ambrosianum
  7. ^ The form of the thurible and the manner in which it is swung can be seen in this video Archived 2008-10-06 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Shawn Tribe. "The Lighting of the "Faro" in the Ambrosian Rite". Novus Motus Liturgicus. Retrieved 26 December 2018.


  • Dizionario di Liturgia Ambrosiana (Marco Navoni ed.). Milan. 1996. ISBN 88-7023-219-0.
  • Griffiths, Alan (1999). We Give You Thanks and Praise. Canterbury Press. ISBN 1-58051-069-8.
  • A. Ratti / M. Magistretti, Missale Ambrosianum Duplex, Mediolani 1913
  • Missale Ambrosianum iuxta ritum Sanctae Ecclesiae Mediolanensis, ex decreto Sacrosancto OEcumenici Concilii Vaticani II instauratum, auctoritate Ioannis Colombo Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Presbyter Cardinalis Archiepiscopi Mediolanensis promulgatum, Mediolani 1981
  • Messale Ambrosiano secondo il rito della santa Chiese di Milano. Riformato a norma dei decreti del Concilio Vaticano II. Promulgato dal Signor Cardinale Giovanno Colombo, arcivescovo di Milano, Milano 1976
  • Messale ambrosiano festivo. Piemme. 1986. ISBN 88-384-1421-1.
  • The Revised Divine Liturgy According to Our Holy Father Ambrose of Milan, Volume I.(2014) Createspace/Amazon ISBN 978-1497509573
  • The Revised Divine Liturgy According to Our Holy Father Ambrose of Milan, Volume II. (2014) Createspace/Amazon ISBN 978-1499652451

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainJenner, Henry (1907). "Ambrosian Liturgy and Rite" . In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 1. New York: Robert Appleton.

External links

Ambrosian chant

Ambrosian chant (also known as Milanese chant) is the liturgical plainchant repertory of the Ambrosian rite of the Roman Catholic Church, related to but distinct from Gregorian chant. It is primarily associated with the Archdiocese of Milan, and named after St. Ambrose much as Gregorian chant is named after Gregory the Great. It is the only surviving plainchant tradition besides the Gregorian to maintain the official sanction of the Roman Catholic Church.

Ambrosian hymns

The Ambrosian hymns are a collection of early hymns of the Latin rite.

They surround a core of genuine hymns composed by Saint Ambrose in the 4th century.

The Old Hymnal, a collection of the order of fifteen hymns, were spread from the Ambrosian Rite of Milan throughout Lombard Italy, Visigothic Spain, Anglo-Saxon England and the Frankish Empire during the early medieval period (6th to 8th centuries). The term "Ambrosian" does not imply authorship by Ambrose himself, to whom only four hymns are attributed with certainty, but includes all Latin hymns composed in the style of the Old Hymnal.

The Frankish Hymnal, and to a lesser extent the "Mozarabic (Spanish) Hymnal" represent a reorganisation of the Old Hymnal undertaken in the 8th century. In the 9th century, the Frankish Hymnal was in turn re-organised and expanded, resulting in the

high medieval New Hymnal of the Benedictine order, which spread rapidly throughout Europe in the 10th century, containing of the order of 150 hymns in total.

Apostolic Throne

In Christianity, the concept of an Apostolic Throne refers to one of the historic Patriarchates that was associated with a specific apostle. Saint James the Just is associated with the Apostolic Throne of Jerusalem. Both the Roman Catholic Pope and the Patriarchs of Antioch consider themselves as occupying the Apostolic Throne of St. Peter, as Peter presided over the early church from those locations. The Coptic and Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria (also known as the Pope of Alexandria) consider themselves as occupying the throne of St. Mark the Evangelist, who founded the Alexandrian church. The Malankara Metropolitan of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church is occupying the Apostolic Throne of St.Thomas. Catholicos of Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East consider themselves also as successors of St.Thomas, a view also held by Syriac Orthodox, the Maphrian.Saint John was himself associated with the apostolic throne of Ephesus, although this Apostolic See has been canonically vacant since 1922.

The See of Milan claimed the Apostle Barnabas as its founder, but this was disputed. Nonetheless, this Apostolic Throne was later occupied by the highly important Bishop St. Ambrose, who was the mentor of St. Augustine of Hippo (not to be confused with St. Augustine of Canterbury) presided over the See of Milan, which follows a distinctive rite, the Ambrosian Rite, with a liturgy somewhat different from that of Latin Rite Catholicism.The Archbishop of Canterbury is crowned atop St. Augustine's Chair, referring to the first holder of that office, St. Augustine of Canterbury, not to be confused with the earlier theologian St. Augustine of Hippo.Not all of the apostles are associated with specific "Thrones"; in general, the phrase applies to Apostles that presided over a specific geographic church. Notably, there is no apostolic throne associated with St. Paul, who along with St. Peter was present, at different times, in both Antioch and Rome (where both Peter and Paul were crucified. The phrase is also somewhat interchangeable with "Apostolic See."

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday is a Christian holy day of prayer and fasting. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and falls on the first day of Lent, the six weeks of penitence before Easter. Ash Wednesday is traditionally observed by Western Christians. Most Latin Rite Roman Catholics observe it, as do some Protestants like Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, some Reformed churches, Baptists, Nazarenes and Independent Catholics.

As it is the first day of Lent, Christians begin Ash Wednesday by marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and abstaining from a luxury that they will not partake of until Eastertide arrives.Ash Wednesday derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants to either the words "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or the dictum "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." The ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebrations.

Beneventan chant

Beneventan chant is a liturgical plainchant repertory of the Roman Catholic Church, used primarily in the orbit of the southern Italian ecclesiastical centers of Benevento and Monte Cassino distinct from Gregorian chant and related to Ambrosian chant. It was officially supplanted by the Gregorian chant of the Roman rite in the 11th century, although a few Beneventan chants of local interest remained in use.

Capiago Intimiano

Capiago (Comasco: Capiagh e Intimian [kaˈpjɑːk e ĩtiˈmjãː]) is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Como in the Italian region Lombardy, located about 35 kilometres (22 mi) north of Milan and about 6 kilometres (4 mi) southeast of Como. As of 31 December 2004, it had a population of 5,196 and an area of 5.7 square kilometres (2.2 sq mi).Capiago observes the Roman Rite while Intimiano observes the Ambrosian Rite.

The municipality of Capiago contains the frazioni (subdivisions, mainly villages and hamlets) olmeda and intimiano.

Capiago borders the following municipalities: Cantù, Como, Lipomo, Montorfano, Orsenigo, Senna Comasco.

Caterina Moriggi

Blessed Caterina Moriggi (1437 - 6 April 1478) was an Italian Roman Catholic who became a professed religious and adhered to the teachings and traditions of Saint Augustine of Hippo. She lived in contemplation in the Italian mountains before establishing a religious group - dubbed Ordine di Sant'Ambrogio ad Nemus - in order to follow the Augustinian principles. Moriggi became known as "Catherine of Pallanza" when she became a religious and was noted for her austere model of living and for her deep personal holiness.Moriggi was beatified on 16 September 1769 after Pope Clement XIV recognized her long-standing cult in the northern Italian cities. Moriggi is also commemorated in the Ambrosian Rite that is celebrated in north Italian dioceses.

Julius of Novara

Julius of Novara (Italian Giulio di Orta), also Julius of Aegina (died 401 AD) was a missionary priest to northern Italy.

His cult is centered at Lake Orta in the Novarese highlands, and in particular on the island which has been named for him since at least the eighth century, Isola San Giulio, and where his presumed relics are preserved in the crypt, called scurolo, of a basilica dedicated to him.

Few facts are known about his career. In the earliest Vita, which dates from no earlier than the eighth century and is of a character as much legendary as historical, the account of his life is interlaced with that of his brother Julian (Giuliano), a deacon whose name is similar enough to suggest that they may have been the same person, but now we know (thanks to recent archaeological finds in Gozzano's previous parish church, S. Lorenzo) that they both existed. The Roman Martyrology commemorates only Julius. It has been said the Julius' name was recited as part of the Ambrosian Rite during the fifth and sixth centuries; however, it has also been claimed that this Julius referred to Pope Julius I.

Julius and Julian may have been Greeks who came to Rome before establishing themselves at Lake Orta. Their legend states that they were educated in the Christian faith by their parents. They are said to have been ordered by Theodosius I to destroy pagan altars and sacred woods and to build Christian churches. They built one hundred churches, according to their tradition. The ninety-ninth church is said to have been built at Gozzano, and dedicated to Saint Lawrence. Julian was buried there. The hundredth church was built by Julius on the island that bears his name; he dedicated it to Saints Peter and Paul.

Latin Mass

A Latin Mass is a Roman Catholic Mass celebrated in Ecclesiastical Latin.

Latin liturgical rites

Latin liturgical rites, or Western liturgical rites, are Latin tradition Catholic liturgical rites employed by the Latin Church, the largest particular church sui iuris of the Catholic Church, that originated in Europe where the Latin language once dominated. Its language is now known as Ecclesiastical Latin. The most used rite is the Roman Rite.

The Latin rites were for many centuries no less numerous than the liturgical rites of the Eastern autonomous particular Churches. Their number is now much reduced. In the aftermath of the Council of Trent, in 1568 and 1570 Pope Pius V suppressed the Breviaries and Missals that could not be shown to have an antiquity of at least two centuries (see Tridentine Mass and Roman Missal). Many local rites that remained legitimate even after this decree were abandoned voluntarily, especially in the 19th century. In the second half of the 20th century, most of the religious orders that had a distinct liturgical rite chose to adopt in its place the Roman Rite as revised in accordance with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council (see Mass of Paul VI). A few such liturgical rites persist today for the celebration of Mass, since 1965-1970 in revised forms, but the distinct liturgical rites for celebrating the other sacraments have been almost completely abandoned.

Mozarabic chant

Mozarabic chant (also known as Hispanic chant, Old Hispanic chant, Old Spanish chant, or Visigothic chant) is the liturgical plainchant repertory of the Visigothic/Mozarabic rite of the Catholic Church, related to the Gregorian chant. It is primarily associated with Hispania under Visigothic rule (mainly in what was to become modern Spain) and with the Catholic Visigoths/Mozarabs living under Islamic rule, and was soon replaced by the chant of the Roman rite following the Christian Reconquest. Although its original medieval form is largely lost, a few chants have survived with readable musical notation, and the chanted rite was later revived in altered form and continues to be used in a few isolated locations in Spain, primarily in Toledo.

Nativity Fast

The Nativity Fast is a period of abstinence and penance practiced by the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Churches, in preparation for the Nativity of Jesus (December 25). The corresponding Western season of preparation for Christmas, which also has been called the Nativity Fast and St. Martin's Lent, has taken the name of Advent. The Eastern fast runs for 40 days instead of four (Roman rite) or six weeks (Ambrosian rite) and thematically focuses on proclamation and glorification of the Incarnation of God, whereas the Western Advent focuses on the two comings (or advents) of Jesus Christ: his birth and his Second Coming or Parousia.

The Byzantine fast is observed from November 15 to December 24, inclusively. These dates apply to those Orthodox Churches which use the Revised Julian calendar, which currently matches the Gregorian calendar. For those Eastern Orthodox Churches which still follow the Julian calendar (Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Russian Orthodox Church, Serbian Orthodox Church, Polish Orthodox Church, Georgian Orthodox Church, Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Macedonian Orthodox Church, and Mount Athos), the Winter Lent does not begin until November 28 (Gregorian) which coincides with November 15 on the Julian calendar. The Ancient Church of the East fasts dawn til dusk from the 1st December until the 25th of December on the Gregorian calendar.

Sometimes the fast is called Philip's Fast (or the Philippian Fast), as it traditionally begins on the day following the Feast of St. Philip the Apostle (November 14). Some churches, such as the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, have abbreviated the fast to start on December 10, following the Feast of the Conception by Saint Anne of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Oblates of Saints Ambrose and Charles

The Oblates of Saints Ambrose and Charles (Latin: Congregatio Oblatorum Sanctorum Ambrosii et Caroli) is an Ambrosian association of lay people and secular clergy in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milan. Its members use the suffix 'O.SS.C.A'. It was originally based in San Sepolcro, Milan but in 1928 moved to its present base on via Settala.

Their spirituality does not belong to any particular school, but has strong elements of the Ignatian - part of their charism is to maintain a spirituality whose marks are belonging to the diocesan clergy, obedience to the bishop and safeguarding elements of the Ambrosian Rite.


A rite is an established, ceremonial, usually religious, act. Rites in this sense fall into three major categories:

rites of passage, generally changing an individual's social status, such as marriage, adoption, baptism, coming of age, graduation, or inauguration;

communal rites, whether of worship, where a community comes together to worship, such as Jewish synagogue or Mass, or of another character, such as fertility rites and certain non-religious festivals;

rites of personal devotion, where an individual worships, including prayer and pilgrimages such as the Muslim Hajj, pledges of allegiance, or promises to wed someone.

Rito della Nivola

The Rite of the Nivola (in Italian Rito della Nivola) is a Catholic liturgical rite (part of the Ambrosian Rite) as well as a historical reenactment that is celebrated yearly in the Duomo (Cathedral) of Milan, Italy; the tradition dates back to the 16th century and was initiated by Carlo Borromeo. It is a celebration of the "Santo Chiodo" (Holy Nail), purportedly a nail from the True Cross, which is regarded as the most important relic owned by the Archdiocese of Milan. The relic is also known as the "Santo Morso" (Holy Bridle), as it is in fact shaped in a way that may resemble a part of a bridle. It is preserved in the apse of the Cathedral, in a case inside a tabernacle, about 45 m above the ground.

By chance, the rite is not named after the relic; rather, it owes its name to the Nivola (/'ni-ula/, Lombard for "cloud"), a sort of lift shaped like a cloud, that is used during the rite by the Archbishop to reach the tabernacle of the Holy Nail. This Nivola itself dates back at least to the 16th century, and its design or realization are sometimes credited to Leonardo da Vinci. It is composed of a large basket, 3 m long and about as wide, weighing about 800 kg, and lifted by hoists. The decorations of the lift, comprising drapes and paintings of angels and cherubs, were added over time; the paintings, in particular, were reportedly created in 1612 by the Milanese painter Paolo Camillo Landriani. In origin, the Nivola was operated by two dozens of men from the roof of the Duomo; nowadays, it has been mechanized.

The Rite of the Nivola is traditionally celebrated once a year. The tradition was established by Carlo Borromeo, who chose to celebrate the rite on May 3 (feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross), a date that was kept until the mid 20th century; it was later changed to September 14 after Pope John XXIII abolished the May 3 holiday.The rite is open to the public but a reservation is needed, to be acquired from the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo offices. There are two days a year when the Nivola can be seen in action; when the Holy Nail is retrieved from its case, on September 14, and when it is put back, about two weeks later.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milan

The Archdiocese of Milan (Italian: Arcidiocesi di Milano; Latin: Archidioecesis Mediolanensis) is a metropolitan see of the Catholic Church in Italy which covers the areas of Milan, Monza, Lecco and Varese. It has long maintained its own Latin liturgical rite, the Ambrosian rite, which is still used in the greater part of the diocesan territory. Among its past archbishops, the better known are Saint Ambrose, Saint Charles Borromeo, Pope Pius XI and Saint Pope Paul VI.

The Archdiocese of Milan is the metropolitan see of the ecclesiastical province of Milan, which includes the suffragan dioceses of Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Crema, Cremona, Lodi, Mantova, Pavia, and Vigevano.Milan's Archdiocese is the largest in Europe, and the one having more priests in the world, with 2,648 priests living in the diocese, among which 1,861 secular priests.


A thurible (via Old French from Medieval Latin turibulum) is a metal censer suspended from chains, in which incense is burned during worship services. It is used in Christian churches including the Roman Catholic, Maronite Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Oriental Orthodox, as well as in some Lutheran, Old Catholic, United Methodist, Reformed, Presbyterian Church USA, Anglican churches (with its use almost universal amongst Anglo Catholic Anglican churches). In Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican churches, the altar server who carries the thurible is called the thurifer. The practice is rooted in the earlier traditions of Judaism in the time of the Second Jewish Temple.Beyond its ecclesiastical use, the thurible is also employed in various other spiritual or ceremonial traditions, including some Gnostic Churches, Freemasonry (especially in the consecration of new lodges), and in Co-Freemasonry. Thuribles are sometimes employed in the practice of ceremonial magic.The workings of a thurible are quite simple. Each thurible consists of a censer section, chains (typically three or four, although single-chain thuribles also exist), a metal ring around the chains (used to lock the lid of the censer section in place), and usually (although not always) a removable metal crucible in which the burning charcoals are placed. Many thuribles are supplied with a stand, allowing the thurible to be hung safely when still hot, but not in use. Burning charcoal is placed inside the metal censer, either directly into the bowl section, or into a removable crucible if supplied, and incense (of which there are many different varieties) is placed upon the charcoal, where it melts to produce a sweet smelling smoke. This may be done several times during the service as the incense burns quite quickly. Once the incense has been placed on the charcoal the thurible is then closed and used for censing.A famous thurible is the huge Botafumeiro in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, SpainThe word "thurible" comes from the Old French thurible, which in turn is derived from the Latin term thuribulum. The Latin thuribulum is further formed from the root thus, meaning incense. Thus is an alteration of the Greek word θύος (thuos), which is derived from θύειν (thuein) "to sacrifice".Due to the ceremonial use of incense, its cultural importance in western Catholicism can be seen e.g. in the introduction of a incense smelling fragrance "Avignon" in 2002. Avignon was created for Comme des Garçons as a part of their incense series by Bertrand Duchaufour. Thus the introduction of incense in Christian worship here and there within various denominations is paralleled by wider cultural interest turning again back from the oriental mysticism also to western use of incense.

Traditional Ambrosian Rite

This article is about the form of the Ambrosian Rite used before Vatican II; for an explanation of the history and of the current form of this Rite, see Ambrosian Rite.The Ambrosian Rite is a Latin Catholic liturgical Western Rite used in the area of Milan. The Traditional Ambrosian Rite is the form of this rite as it was used before the changes that followed the Second Vatican Council.

Nowadays the Traditional Ambrosian Rite is mainly used on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation in the church of Santa Maria della Consolazione in Milan, using the Ambrosian Missal of 1954, as permitted by Cardinal Archbishop of Milan Carlo Maria Martini on 31 July 1985. Another celebration on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation was authorized from 18 October 2008 onward in the town of Legnano. The Traditional Ambrosian Rite Mass may be said according to the Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum" thus any permissions allowing the above-mentioned Masses should be considered obsolete for such permissions from the bishop are no longer required.

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