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By Brian Andrews, Archdiocese of Hobart Heritage Officer

Like his close friend Pugin, the great English architect and designer, our first Bishop William Willson had a strong commitment to the dignified performance of the liturgy and an interest in its historical development. In 1847 during a return visit to England he purchased an exceedingly rare Sarum Use missal, printed on 28 March 1527 at Antwerp by Christoffel van Ruremund for the London bookdealer Franz Birkman. Sarum is the Latin word for Salisbury, and the Sarum Use was a late-medieval variant—in non-essentials—of the Roman Rite used throughout the western church. Based on the liturgy of Salisbury Cathedral, it had spread by the beginning of the sixteenth century to many dioceses in England and Wales, as well as Scotland and Ireland. Bishop Willson had purchased this missal, not out of antiquarian interest but because he evidently intended to revive the Sarum Use in Tasmania, a hope shared by Pugin whose Tasmanian church designs incorporated uniquely Sarum Use furnishings.

One of only a handful of English missals to survive the wholesale destruction of Catholic liturgical books during the Protestant Reformation, it bears within its pages fascinating evidence of the progressive elimination of the old Faith under King Henry VIII and his successors, with the exception of Mary Tudor. All references to the Papacy, including popes who were saints, have been scored through, as has the feast of St Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr. We know that the latter was the result of Henry’s proclamation of 16 November 1538, an understandable action given that St Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, had been slain in 1170 for maintaining the right of appeal to Rome against certain claims of the then King Henry II. Interestingly, such scoring through is only light, and the text beneath can still be read. Many clergy did it this way so that whilst conforming to the letter of the Act, they had the possibility to use the texts in the hoped-for days when the storms of religious turbulence would have blown over and the old Faith could once more be openly practiced.

The accompanying illustration for the Feast of Pentecost shows the growing influence of Renaissance ideas in early sixteenth-century England.