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Amalarius of Metzlocked

  • James W. McKinnon

(b nr Metz, c775; d ?Metz, c850). Writer on liturgy and chant. He was probably educated under Alcuin at the monastery of St Martin in Tours, and served as archbishop of Trier from 809 and 814. In 813 he travelled to Constantinople at the behest of Charlemagne, returning the next year, apparently by way of Rome. He then began his literary activity, probably at Aachen. His longest and most significant work, the Liber officialis, first appeared in about 823, with a second edition in about 830. In 831 Amalarius visited Rome and requested a copy of the Roman antiphoner from Pope Gregory IV, only to be informed that Abbot Wala of Corbie had secured all available copies on his visit of 825 and had returned with them to Corbie. Amalarius himself made the journey to Corbie, there to compare the Roman antiphoners with their Frankish counterparts. Like Helisachar before him, he was distressed at the great differences between the various books and set about compiling his own antiphoner. He described the process in his Prologus antiphonarii a se compositi, mentioning that he had indicated Roman chants by an ‘R’ in the margin, Frankish ones by an ‘M’ (for Metz) and his own contributions by ‘IC’, seeking the ‘indulgentia’ and ‘caritas’ of possible critics.

Amalarius was appointed to replace Agobard as archbishop in 835 when the latter fell out of favour with Louis the Pious. Amalarius himself was deposed (and Agobard reinstated) when accused of heresy at the Council of Quierzy in 838. The central charges against Amalarius marshalled by Agobard and his deacon Florus, concerned the pervasive use of allegorical exposition in his liturgical works, a trait that exercised a great influence on much subsequent liturgical commentary. Amalarius appears to have spent the remaining years of his life at Metz, completing a commentary on the antiphoner (Liber de ordine antiphonarii), as well as one (now lost) on the gradual.

Embedded in the allegorical exposition of Amalarius's two major works, the Liber officialis and the Liber de ordine antiphonarii, is a rich fund of information about the liturgy and chant of his time, both Roman and Frankish. His own antiphoner is lost but has been reconstructed by Hanssens (iii, 110–224); curiously it appears to be closer to the usage of Lyons than that of Metz (see Hesbert).


  • J.M. Hanssens, ed.: Amalarii episcopi opera liturgica omnia, Studi e testi, 138–140 (Rome, 1948–50)
  • A. Cabaniss: Amalarius of Metz (Amsterdam, 1954)
  • W. Lipphardt, ed.: Der karolingische Tonar von Metz (Münster, 1965)
  • R. Evans: Amalarius of Metz and the Singing of the Carolingian Offices (diss., CUNY, 1977)
  • M. Huglo: ‘Les remaniements de l'antiphonaire grégorien au IXe siècle: Hélisachar, Agobard, Amalaire’, Culto cristiano, politica imperiale carolingia: Todi 1977, 87–120
  • R.-J. Hesbert: ‘L'antiphonaire d'Amalaire’, Ephemerides liturgicae, 94 (1980), 176–94
  • D. Hiley: Western Plainchant: a Handbook (Oxford, 1993), 569–71

See also