The Anglican Great Litany  

Posted by Joe Rawls in ,

Today being the First Sunday of Lent, many Anglican churches begin the liturgy with the Great Litany, often chanted in a procession winding about the worship space. Litanies are an ancient part of Christian worship, and remain of central importance in the various Eastern rites. The Great Litany was the first specifically Anglican form of public worship, being written by Archbishop Cranmer in 1544 and predating the first Book of Common Prayer, which was published in 1549. The always-outstanding Chantblog site contains this informative post, a bit of which I reproduce below. It also has several videos of both the Anglican and Orthodox versions of the Litany. To get some idea of a full-blown liturgical rendering of the Litany, check out the customary of Boston's Church of the Advent.


It was used as early as the fifth century in Rome. It was led by a deacon, with the collects led by a bishop or priest. The Litany was the first English language rite prepared by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. It was first published in 1544. Cranmer modified an earlier litany form by consolidating certain groups of petitions into single prayers with responses. The Litany's use in church processions was ordered by Henry VIII when England was at war with Scotland and France. It was printed as an appendix to the eucharist in the 1549 BCP. The Litany was used in each of the three ordination rites of the 1550 ordinal, with a special petition and concluding collect. The 1552 BCP called for use of the Litany after the fixed collects of Morning Prayer on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The 1928 BCP allowed the Litany to be used after the fixed collects of Morning or Evening Prayer, or before the Eucharist, or separately. The 1928 BCP included a short Litany for Ordinations as an alternative to the Litany. The 1979 BCP titled the Litany "The Great Litany" (p. 148), distinguishing it from other litanies in the Prayer Book.

This entry was posted on Sunday, March 13, 2011 at Sunday, March 13, 2011 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


I'm sure I have taken part in this somewhere. Grace-San Francisco maybe?

March 15, 2011 at 12:41 AM

Dear Joe,
thank you for writing about that great element of the Anglican - and simply Christian - tradition. We took the libery of reproducing a part of it on our blog.

March 15, 2011 at 4:51 PM

There is a wealth of good information on your site. Thanks for your faithfulness to the Lord and His Church! I enjoy reading your perspective.

March 20, 2011 at 3:38 PM

great devotion before compline on fridays too!

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