Java Schematron library that supports XSLT and native application

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ph-schematron is a Java library that validates XML documents via ISO Schematron. It offers several different possibilities to perform this task where each solution offers its own advantages and disadvantages that are outlined below in more detail. ph-schematron only supports ISO Schematron and no other Schematron version. The most common way is to convert the source Schematron file to an XSLT script and apply this XSLT on the XML document to be validated. Alternatively ph-schematron offers a native implementation for the Schematron XPath binding which offers superior performance over the XSLT approach but has some other minor limitations.


It is assumed that you have a basic knowledge what Schematron is, and what Schematron can do for you. A good introduction can be found in Dave Pawsons Schematron tutorial at It is also assumed that you have basic knowledge of the Java language, so that you can understand the code examples, that you have at least basic understanding of XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) and that you have good knowledge of XML itself.

XML document validation

The goal of Schematron is to provide validation mechanisms for XML documents that are beyond DTD and XML Schema. DTD and XML Schema both purely test the structure and the data types of the content of an XML document whereas Schematron can check relations and structure of an XML document.

The most basic type of validation is to check, if an XML document confirms to a set of Schematron rules or not. So the output of the basic check is either "true" - meaning the XML document conforms to the Schematron rules - or "false" - meaning that the XML document does not conform to the Schematron rules. Additionally Schematron defines a result document type called "SVRL" which is short for "Schematron Validation Report Language". It is a more complex, XML-based result that outlines exactly what assertions failed and what reports succeeded. ph-schematron is capable of performing both types of validation.

Validation via XSLT

The proposed way to perform a Schematron validation is to apply a set of three pre-defined XSLT scripts onto a Schematron file. After these transformations the original Schematron rule set has been transformed into an XSLT script itself, which can then be applied onto XML documents for validation. The output of this validation is an SVRL document. Because the pre-compilation step from Schematron to XSLT is very time consuming (it can take many minutes for a mid-sized Schematron rule set), it is strongly suggested to cache the resulting XSLT script, as it can be applied to all XML documents to be validated. Please note that the created Schematron XSLT scripts differ when you choose a special Schematron phase!

ph-schematron ships with a special Apache Maven plugin called ph-schematron2xslt-maven-plugin that can be used to create the XSLT scripts from Schematron files during build time. It is described in more detail below.

Since v4.2.0 another Maven plugin for document validation was added as well: ph-schematron-maven-plugin. It can be used to validate arbitrary XML documents with arbitrary Schematron rules using all of the supported ph-schematron engines. See for details.

Validation via Pure Schematron

As an alternative to the XSLT-based approach, ph-schematron provides a pure Java implementation which will be referred to as "Pure Schematron" within this document. With Pure Schematron the same results can be achieved as with the XSLT approach: basic validity checks and SVRL output documents. The limitation of the pure approach is, that it works only with XPath expressions as test assertions but not with XSLT functions.

The advantage of Pure Schematron is that you don't need to apply the timely conversion to XSLT before you can start validating. The internal steps for validating an XML document with Pure Schematron are the following:

  1. Read the Schematron resource from a file or a URL or create it manually. When reading an existing Schematron resource, all Schematron includes are resolved, so that one large Schematron document is created.
  2. Determine the query binding to be used. ph-schematron ships with a standard XPath binding that will be used if none is specified.
  3. Now the Schematron needs to be pre-processed, to resolve abstract patterns, abstract rules and perform variable replacement.
  4. Finally the pre-processed Schematron must be "bound". In this step a Schematron phase can be selected which should be used. When the default query binding is used, all XPath expressions are pre-compiled so that they can be evaluated faster. When you supply your own query binding, you need to make sure to create an efficient representation to use as a bound schema.
  5. This created bound schema can now be used to validate arbitrary XML documents. Ideally it should also be cached like the XSLT script from above, because the XPath compilation is kind of costly, but by far not as costly as the XSLT creation.

Pure Schematron is designed for maximum extensibility, meaning that you can create your own query binding, configure the reading and pre-processing of Schematron objects etc. The drawbacks of Pure Schematron are currently:

  • Include handling, as it works only when you read a Schematron from a resource and not if you create your Schematron from scratch. If you have this in mind when creating your Schematron files it should not affect you much.
  • XML attributes and elements from other namespaces are read from an existing Schematron resource but they have no impact on the validation process itself when the default query binding is used. If you have an idea how this can be solved in a proper way, please drop me an email.

Additionally ph-schematron gives you the possibility to write a Schematron rule set easily to disk, it offers the possibility to check whether a Schematron is minified, preprocessed and valid. It also supports validating a Schematron resource against the RelaxNG Compact scheme with the additional library called ph-schematron-validator. This library was externalized because it is not used in any regular workflow and brings a lot of additional dependencies.

Technical details

ph-schematron is an operating system independent Java 1.8 library (up to and including v3.0.1 the library was targeted for Java 1.6). As the underlying XPath Engine SaxonHE 9.x HE is used. Compared to Apache Xalan 2.7.1 it offers more XPath functions out of the box. ph-schematron also depends on the OSS library ph-commons.

As the determination of the XPath engine is triggered by JAXP also the debugging mechanisms of JAXP must be used, to determine which XPath engine is effectively used. The simplest way to do this is to set the system property jaxp.debug to true before starting to work with Schematron. In this case the console will contain log messages that show what XPathFactory was loaded.

ph-schematron is built as an OSGI bundle via the org.apache.felix:maven-bundle-plugin. The full code of the examples used in this document can be found in the file

Usage with Maven

ph-schematron is build with Apache Maven. If you want to build it from source, at least Maven 3.0.4 is required. The dependency for ph-schematron looks like this:


It transitively contains ph-commons, SLF4J and Saxon HE.

Common API

A common API for both XSLT and Pure Schematron approach is available via the com.helger.schematron.ISchematronResource interface. It is meant for Schematron that is read from a file or URL. It offers the possibility to check if the read Schematron is valid itself via the boolean isValidSchematron () method.

To check if an XML document simply matches a Schematron rule set the methods com.helger.commons.state.EValidity getSchematronValidity(…) are provided. These methods deliver either EValidity.VALID if the XML document matches the Schematron or EValidity.INVALID if the XML document does not match at least one Schematron rule. With this method you have no possibility to determine what the error exactly was. When using an XSLT based implementation this method does not offer any performance improvement, as the SVRL is fully created and analyzed afterwards. When using a Pure Schematron based implementation, the validation stops after the first error and does not continue to validate the supplied XML document.

Alternatively to the basic validation the interface also offers the possibility to create an SVRL result via the methods org.w3c.dom.Document applySchematronValidation(…) and org.oclc.purl.dsdl.svrl.SchematronOutputType applySchematronValidationToSVRL(…) . The first method type creates the SVRL only as an XML document node, where the second method type applies a JAXB binding, so that it is easier to access the information inside the SVRL. Internally these methods call each other depending on the concrete implementation, so they are ensured to deliver exactly the same result. The XSLT implementation is natively done in applySchematronValidation and then converted to a SchematronOutputType using the com.helger.schematron.svrl.SVRLMarshaller class. With Pure Schematron a SchematronOutputType object is directly created and then converted to an XML document node via the class com.helger.schematron.svrl.SVRLMarshaller .

The created SchematronOutputType contains the SVRL that contains the information about the failed assertions and the successful reports. Remember that both failed assertions as well as successful reports lead to an overall failure of validation. The easiest way to extract both information elements is to use the method ICommonsList <AbstractSVRLMessage> SVRLHelper::getAllFailedAssertionsAndSuccessfulReports (@Nullable SchematronOutputType). The abstract class AbstractSVRLMessage is the base class for SVRLFailedAssert and SVRLSuccessfulReport and contains the same set of fields.

Legacy: Prior to v5 there were classes called SVRLReader to read SVRL documents and SVRLWriter to write SVRL documents, but they only called SVRLMarshaller but didn't offer all the flexibility needed. So they were removed in v5. The classes SVRLReader and SVRLWriter can generically be used to read and write SVRL files in a structured way. Both classes validate the SVRL based on SVRL XML Schema contained in the library.

Validation via XSLT

As described above it is highly recommended to cache the XSLT script that is created from the source Schematron rule set. Nevertheless ph-schematron offers both possibilities to use Schematron.

The easiest way to start working is by starting from a Schematron file. com.helger.schematron.xslt.SchematronResourceSCH is the implementation of the ISchematronResource interface to be used for this. The constructor takes at the least the Schematron resource that contains the rules. When using this class it is possibly to specify an optional Schematron phase to be used for validation. Additionally some static factory methods are present that allow creating SchematronResourceSCH objects from a String path or a object.

If a precompiled XSLT script is present (e.g. via the schematron2xslt Maven plugin or via manual pre-processing) the implementation class com.helger.schematron.xslt.SchematronResourceXSLT should be instantiated. It offers the same constructors and factory methods as the SchematronResourceSCH class. Please recall that the chosen phase already affected the created XSLT script, so it is not possible to specify a phase when using this implementation.

Both implementations use an internal cache that keeps the created pre-precompiled javax.xml.transform.Templates objects in memory while the application is running. The cache for SchematronResourceSCH is located in the class com.helger.schematron.xslt.SchematronResourceSCHCache whereas the cache for SchematronResourceXSLT is located in the class com.helger.schematron.xslt.SchematronResourceXSLTCache – big surprise :)

A simple example to validate an XML file (to true or false ) based on Schematron rules from a file looks like this:

public static boolean validateXMLViaXSLTSchematron (@Nonnull final File aSchematronFile, @Nonnull final File aXMLFile) throws Exception
  final ISchematronResource aResSCH = SchematronResourceSCH.fromFile (aSchematronFile);
  if (!aResSCH.isValidSchematron ())
    throw new IllegalArgumentException ("Invalid Schematron!");
  return aResSCH.getSchematronValidity (new StreamSource(aXMLFile)).isValid ();

The same example but creating a real SVRL output looks like this:

public static SchematronOutputType validateXMLViaXSLTSchematronFull (@Nonnull final File aSchematronFile, @Nonnull final File aXMLFile) throws Exception
  final ISchematronResource aResSCH = SchematronResourceSCH.fromFile (aSchematronFile);
  if (!aResSCH.isValidSchematron ())
    throw new IllegalArgumentException ("Invalid Schematron!");
  return aResSCH.applySchematronValidationToSVRL (new StreamSource (aXMLFile));

The difference to the simple example is that instead of the method getSchematronValidity the method applySchematronValidationToSVRL is invoked.

Validation via Pure Schematron

For Pure Schematron the implementation of the ISchematronResource interface resides in the class com.helger.schematron.pure.SchematronResourcePure . The constructor also takes at least the resource where to read the Schematron rules from. Additional a Schematron phase and a custom error handler can be supplied.

Be careful when using the validation methods that take a javax.xml.transform.Source object as parameter. Only DOMSource and StreamSource objects are supported at the moment!

A simple example to validate an XML file based on Schematron rules from a file looks like this:

public static boolean validateXMLViaPureSchematron (@Nonnull final File aSchematronFile, @Nonnull final File aXMLFile) throws Exception
  final ISchematronResource aResPure = SchematronResourcePure.fromFile (aSchematronFile);
  if (!aResPure.isValidSchematron ())
    throw new IllegalArgumentException ("Invalid Schematron!");
  return aResPure.getSchematronValidity(new StreamSource(aXMLFile)).isValid ();

As an alternative you can also validate via the internal API as well, in which case the code can look like this:

public static boolean validateXMLViaPureSchematron2 (@Nonnull final File aSchematronFile, @Nonnull final File aXMLFile) throws Exception
  // Read the schematron from file
  final PSSchema aSchema = new PSReader (new FileSystemResource (aSchematronFile)).readSchema ();
  if (!aSchema.isValid ())
    throw new IllegalArgumentException ("Invalid Schematron!");
  // Resolve the query binding to use
  final IPSQueryBinding aQueryBinding = PSQueryBindingRegistry.getQueryBindingOfNameOrThrow (aSchema.getQueryBinding ());
  // Pre-process schema
  final PSPreprocessor aPreprocessor = new PSPreprocessor (aQueryBinding);
  aPreprocessor.setKeepTitles (true);
  final PSSchema aPreprocessedSchema = aPreprocessor.getAsPreprocessedSchema (aSchema);
  // Bind the pre-processed schema
  final IPSBoundSchema aBoundSchema = aQueryBinding.bind (aPreprocessedSchema, null, null);
  // Read the XML file
  final Document aXMLNode = DOMReader.readXMLDOM (aXMLFile);
  if (aXMLNode == null)
    return false;
  // Perform the validation
  return aBoundSchema.validatePartially (aXMLNode).isValid ();

The code is clearly separated into the following steps:

  • Reading the Schematron file from a File (lines 04-06). This part contains the Schematron include resolution.
  • Determine the Schematron query binding to be used (line 08). The query binding is required to correctly pre-process the Schematron afterwards.
  • Pre-process the read Schematron file (line 10-12). This resolves all abstract rules and patterns.
  • Create the bound Schematron (line 14). This is the pre-compilation step, depending on the selected query binding. The second parameter that is null in the example is the name of the phase to use. When no phase is passed the defaultPhase attribute of the Schematron schema is checked and used. If no defaultPhase is present, all patterns are active.
  • Read the XML file to be validated via DOM (line 16-18). Technical note: this is the class com.helger.commons.xml.serialize.DOMReader which offers a simplified API to read XML files and is not be confused with a class with the same name in DOM4J.
  • Perform the Schematron validation of the read XML file (line 20).

It is important to note, that in the second case no caching is performed, and that the Schematron file is interpreted each time the method is called, which may not be as efficient as possible.

The most customization may be done to the pre-processor. The Schematron ISO standard defines a "Minimal Syntax" that is still compliant Schematron but among other with all includes resolved, all abstract patterns and abstract rules resolved. Because a Schematron that is minified has implications on the created SVRL document it was chosen to call the class PSPreprocessor and not PSMinifier. For example if all <report> elements are converted to <assert> elements, the SVRL would contain a <failed-assert> element instead of a <successful-report> element. By default the pre-processor creates a minimal Schematron but if offers the possibility to avoid certain minimizations.

Extensibility of Pure Schematron


Pure Schematron can be extended in several ways. The reading itself is not very customizable, but after reading you have the possibility to modify the created Schematron object of type com.helger.schematron.pure.model.PSSchema . It offers getter and setter for all elements. The object hierarchy of PSSchema is very similar to the XML hierarchy of Schematron in general so it should not be too hard to handle. E.g. a PSSchema has a list of PSPattern objects, which in turn each have a list of PSRule elements. Via the method IMicroElement getAsMicroElement () each Schematron object can easily be converted to an XML structure which can than easily be serialized to disk. The following example reads a Schematron file from disc, sets a <title> element and writes the document back to the source file:

public static boolean readModifyAndWrite (@Nonnull final File aSchematronFile) throws Exception
  final PSSchema aSchema = new PSReader (new FileSystemResource (aSchematronFile)).readSchema ();
  final PSTitle aTitle = new PSTitle ();
  aTitle.addText ("Created by ph-schematron");
  aSchema.setTitle (aTitle);
  return MicroWriter.writeToFile (aSchema.getAsMicroElement (), aSchematronFile).isSuccess ();

New Query Binding

It is also possible to implement your own query binding that is different from the default XPath-based query binding. Therefore a class implementing the interface com.helger.schematron.pure.binding.IPSQueryBinding must be present. This implementation class must then be registered in the com.helger.schematron.pure.binding.PSQueryBindingRegistry via the static method registerQueryBinding . It is not possible to replace an existing query binding. The predefined XPath-based query binding is registered to the names xslt and xslt2 as well as to the default (meaning unspecified) query binding. Implementing your own query binding is kind of time consuming as you need to implement at least the interfaces com.helger.schematron.pure.binding.IPSQueryBinding and com.helger.schematron.pure.bound.IPSBoundSchema .

Modify Existing Query Binding

Additionally you may alter the existing Schematron processing by either using the Pure Schematron API as outlined in the example above or you may subclass com.helger.schematron.pure.bound.PSBoundSchemaCacheKey which offers a set of protected methods for easy customization when using SchematronResourcePure . In case you have a customized implementation, you need to use the special SchematronResourcePure constructor taking the Schematron IReadableResource and the PSBoundSchemaCacheKey implementation. See the documentation in the code for details on overriding PSBoundSchemaCacheKey .


As I had no time to do a real benchmark here are at least my unofficial findings. The pure validation is about 40-50% faster when the same Schematron is applied on the same XML over and over again. As both the XSLT and the Pure Schematron solutions internally use a cache, I assume that this will hold true when validating different XML files with the same rule set.

Known issues

Element order inconsistency

I recently discovered an inconsistency between the Pure and the XSLT based version. The Schematron is the following:

<sch:schema xmlns:sch="" xml:lang="de">
  <sch:title>Example of Multi-Lingual Schema</sch:title>
    <sch:rule context="dog">
      <sch:assert test="bone" diagnostics="d1 d2"> A dog should have a bone.</sch:assert>
    <sch:diagnostic id="d1" xml:lang="en"> A dog should have a bone.</sch:diagnostic>
    <sch:diagnostic id="d2" xml:lang="de"> Das  Hund muss ein Bein haben.</sch:diagnostic>

The respective XML file to validate is

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<dog xml:lang="de">

When using Pure Schematron, the output is

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<schematron-output title="Example of Multi-Lingual Schema" xmlns="">
  <fired-rule context="//dog"/>
  <failed-assert test="bone" location="//dog[0]">
    <diagnostic-reference diagnostic="d1">
      <text> A dog should have a bone. </text>
    <diagnostic-reference diagnostic="d2">
      <text> Das Hund muss ein Bein haben. </text>
    <text> A dog should have a bone. </text>

Whereas when using the XSLT based version, the (formatted) output is

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<svrl:schematron-output schemaVersion="" 
  title="Example of Multi-Lingual Schema"
  <svrl:active-pattern document="...\ph-schematron\src\test\resources\issues\6\issue6.xml" />
  <svrl:fired-rule context="dog" />
  <svrl:failed-assert location="/dog" test="bone">
    <svrl:text> A dog should have a bone. </svrl:text>
    <svrl:diagnostic-reference diagnostic="d1" xml:lang="en">
      A dog should have a bone.
    <svrl:diagnostic-reference diagnostic="d2" xml:lang="de">
      Das Hund muss ein Bein haben.

and it’s easy to see that the order of text and diagnostic-reference within the failed-assert is different. According to the SVRL RNC ( the order created by the Pure version is imho correct:

# only failed assertions are reported
failed-assert = element failed-assert {


So when using the XSLT based version together with diagnostic references the created SVRL does not necessarily comply to the SVRL-XSD file contained in ph-schematron.