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Dispersion of the Apostles

The Dispersion of the Apostles (Latin, Divisio Apostolorum) was a liturgical feast celebrated in some places in commemoration of the missionary work of the Christian Apostles credited with having established the Apostolic Sees. In those places it was celebrated as a major double on 15 July.

The first vestige of this feast appears in the undoubtedly authentic sequence composed for it by a certain Godescalc (d. 1098) while a monk of Limburg on the Haardt; he also introduced this feast at Aachen, when provost of the Church of Our Lady. Godescalc was a follower of Henry IV and it is probable that he introduced this feast in the Church of Our Lady as a means of propaganda against Pope Gregory VII, with whom Henry stood in direct rivalry during the Investiture Controversy.[1]

It is next mentioned by William Durandus, Bishop of Mende (Rationale Div. Off. 7.15) in the second half of the 13th century. Under the title, "Dimissio", "Dispersio", or "Divisio Apostolorum" it was celebrated during the Middle Ages in Spain and Italy. The object of the feast (so Godescalcus) was to commemorate the departure (dispersion) of the Apostles from Jerusalem to various parts of the world, perhaps some fourteen years after the Ascension of Jesus, presumably following the Great Commission (Mark 16:14-20, Matthew 28:18-20). According to Durandus, some of his contemporaries honoured on this feast of the "Divisio Apostolorum" the (apocryphal) division of the relics (bodies) of St. Peter and St. Paul by St. Sylvester.

In 1909, according to the article by Frederick Holweck published in that year in volume 5 of the Catholic Encyclopedia, the feast was still kept with solemnity by some missionary societies, in Germany and Poland, also in some English and French dioceses and in the United States by the ecclesiastical provinces of St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Dubuque, and Santa Fé.

The feast was not included in the Tridentine Calendar or in any later revision of the General Roman Calendar.

See also


  1. ^ McGrade, Michael (1996). "Gottschalk of Aachen, the Investiture Controversy, and Music for the Feast of the "Divisio apostolorum"". Journal of the American Musicological Society 49 (3): 351–408. doi:10.1525/jams.1996.49.3.03a00020.