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John Boe

The introductory part of the Eucharistic Prayer in the Mass. The imprecise early Roman designation preces and the later praefatio (6th century; in normal use in rubrics from the 8th century) are replaced elsewhere by illatio, immolatio or contestatio – the first in Spain, the others in Gaul, and the last also at Milan. The Preface, opening with the ancient dialogue between celebrant and worshippers, is followed by the Sanctus, after which the Eucharistic Prayer is resumed. Most prefaces dating from the 5th century to the 8th contain variable elements; otherwise a single Common preface served. The oldest Roman collections of Mass prayers, the Leonine and Old Gelasian sacramentaries, contain approximately 267 and 54 prefaces respectively. The number of Proper prefaces increased up to about the year 1000, but a tendency to limit their number is evident as early as the 8th century in the papal sacramentary sent to Charlemagne, the Hadrianum, which has only 14 different preface texts. Urban II prescribed ten Proper prefaces in his decree of ...


Mary Berry

In the Western Christian Church, the order of canons regular of Prémontré (O. Praem.). They are also known as ‘White Canons’, from the colour of their habit, or ‘Norbertines’, after the name of their founder, St Norbert (c 1080–1134). The name of Prémontré comes from the place near Laon where Norbert and his first disciples established themselves in 1120. The early Premonstratensian Statutes (1131–4), based on the Rule of St Augustine, were monastic and largely modelled on the carta caritatis of the Cistercians. A certain degree of centralization was also reminiscent of Cîteaux. As the order developed, the individual houses (‘canonries’) were grouped into ‘circaries’ according to regional or (later) linguistic affinities. The order suffered greatly during the Reformation and the French Revolution, and at the end of the 20th century there were fewer than 1500 members worldwide.

The Constitutions of 1971 stress community and pastoral activities, whereas previously the emphasis was on contemplation and the liturgy. The canons used to sing each day in choir the full daily Office and conventual Mass according to their own rite. This rite dates from the 12th century, but from the beginning had a constant struggle for existence. It was approved by Pope Alexander III in his bull ...


Michel Huglo

(from Lat. liber processionalis, processionale, processionarium)

A small portable liturgical book of the Western Church, containing the chants, rubrics and collects appropriate to liturgical processions. It is of particular musical interest since it contains antiphons, verses, rhymed Preces and even polyphonic chants that do not occur in other liturgical books. Like the pontifical, it was a comparatively late addition to the repertory of official liturgical books, originating in the 10th and 11th centuries; the processional antiphons are much older, and formerly occurred in the gradual.

Processions occur in most ancient religions. Essentially, they consist of a communal progress on foot for the purpose of petition, penitence or even protocol (as in the processions of the Byzantine court), and the singing of chants. The latter may be very diverse in style – syllabic, melismatic or in litany form (i.e. a series of invocations or petitions, to each of which the congregation makes a brief response).

The oldest known processionals (books containing the processional chants) date from the 12th century, although a book of the chants for the Rogationtide procession at Metz Cathedral (...


Christian Troelsgård

A chant sung in the Byzantine Divine Liturgy (see Divine Liturgy) and at the Offices of Hesperinos and Orthros. Prokeimena consist of a response, usually known as the prokeimenon, the text of which is taken from the psalms, and between two and four psalm verses, called stichoi. They are normally chanted before scriptural readings: in the Divine Liturgy, before the Epistle (corresponding to the position of the Roman gradual); at Hesperinos, before the Old Testament reading; and at Orthros, before the ‘Morning Gospel’. Two prokeimena, one for Marian feasts (Luke i.46–9) and one for the Holy Fathers of Nicea (Daniel iii.26–7), are based on canticles rather than psalms.

The earliest evidence for the singing of selected psalm verses as refrains in the liturgy dates from the 4th century. For example, Psalm cxvii.24, Hautē hē hēmera (‘This is the day’), was sung at Easter and Psalm cxvii.26, ...


(from Lat. Proprium [missae et officii])

Chants whose texts vary from day to day, as distinct from those whose texts remain constant (Ordinary chants). Strictly the term applies to chants from both Mass and Office, but it is customary to use the term chiefly to refer to Mass chants, owing to the need for terms that distinguish between those parts of the Mass most often set polyphonically from the second half of the 14th century onwards (the Ordinary), and those usually sung as plainchant. Nevertheless, there are settings of cycles of Proper chants by, for example, composers of the Notre Dame School (see Magnus liber), Isaac and Byrd.

The Proper chants of the Mass are the introit, gradual, alleluia, tract, offertory and communion. The sequence, sung throughout the Middle Ages on important feast days, may also be included in this category, as may also tropes, adjuncts to the above group of chants, which were always Proper to a particular feast. The principle of varying chants for reasons of liturgical propriety also affects the unvarying texts of the Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria etc.) in that they may be sung to a small corpus of different melodies, each one for use on a different occasion (double feasts, single feasts, feasts of the BVM etc.)....



(from Lat. Proprium de tempore, Temporale)

The collective name for the annual cycle of liturgical observances of the Western Church that are determined by the date of Easter. The Proper of the Time also includes Christmas, feasts of the Lord, and (exceptionally) sanctoral observances in the week following Christmas. See Liturgy and liturgical books, §II, 1.


Richard Sherr

Lessons from the Books of the Prophets, replacing the Epistle at Mass at various times during the year such as Epiphany and the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, and used above all on Holy Saturday, whose liturgy includes a set of nine (formerly 12) readings (not all from the Books of the Prophets, however). A further group of ancient writings, the Sibylline Oracles, was widely regarded in the Middle Ages and Renaissance as prophetic of Christ, even though it was non-canonical and not admitted to the liturgy. Music concerned with the Sibyls includes Lassus’s ...



Richard L. Crocker


A text for a sequence ( see Sequence ). The term was sometimes used loosely in medieval sources to apply to texts of other kinds of chants, for example Kyries, or to text underlay for melismas (a phenomenon better referred to as Prosula ).

A prosa in the restricted sense is a Latin text constructed largely in ‘couplets’: two lines of text set syllabically to the same phrase of music, hence having the same (or almost the same) syllable count. Successive couplets are of varying lengths, however, so that the line structure of the whole is not regular, like verse, but rather irregular. In the early repertory (written c 850–1000) prosae neither scanned nor rhymed, but later they did both, becoming almost indistinguishable from verse.

Frequently a number of prosae were written to one sequence melody, but (in the early repertory, at least) any given prosa could be sung to only one melody. ...


Thomas J. Mathiesen

A song accompanying the movement of the celebrants in a religious procession. Proclus states in Useful Knowledge: ‘It is said to be a prosodion when they process to the altars or temples, and in processing, it was sung to the accompaniment of the aulos. But the hymn, properly speaking, was sung to the accompaniment of the kithara while they stood’. The inscription preceding the second Delphic paean ( see Hymn §I 3. ) confirms this association between the prosodion and the hymn or paean, which it may normally have followed. In the paean itself, the prosodion occupies lines 33–40 structured in eight-syllable cola, each of which could easily be subdivided into four groups of two. The emphasis on long syllables gives the prosodion a stately character. The text is devoted to a prayer to Apollo, Artemis and Leto; this accords with Pollux's Onomasticon (i.38), which characterizes a prosodion as a composition particularly devoted to Apollo and Artemis....



Ruth Steiner

revised by Keith Falconer

A prosula is a text created to fit a melisma in Gregorian chant. Alternative terms similarly employed in the medieval manuscripts include ‘prosa’, ‘tropus’ and ‘verba’ ( see Prosa and Trope ).

There are prosulas for chants of both the Mass and the Office, and, within the Mass, for both the Ordinary and the Proper. Best known are those for the Kyrie eleison; but more numerous than these in 10th- and 11th-century sources are those for offertory verses and alleluias. The prosula is nearly always in strictly syllabic style, with one syllable for each note of the melisma. As a rule, the contours, phrasing and articulation of the melody were carefully observed by the prosula writer, so that the phrases of text match those of the melody and accented syllables fall on appropriate notes. The beginnings and endings of words in the text often coincide with the beginnings and endings of neumes in the melisma....



Christian Troelsgård, John Arthur Smith, Terence Bailey, Paul Doe, Alejandro Enrique Planchart and Malcolm Boyd

(Lat. psalmusGk. psalmos)

An ancient Near Eastern or ancient Egyptian sacred poem exhibiting the following main characteristics: a theocentric subject, short bifurcated units of literary construction and parallelism of clauses (parallelismus membrorum, ‘thought rhyme’); or a setting of such a poem to music. The Greek word itself, used in the Septuagint and the New Testament for the book of Psalms, referred properly to a song with plucked string accompaniment (elsewhere in antiquity it referred also to the movement of the fingers in plucking strings, or to the sound of string instruments). In later usage, the word referred loosely to a metrical or non-metrical sacred poem or song.

This article discusses the music associated with the biblical Psalms and other psalmodic texts such as the biblical canticles, in ancient Judaism, early Christianity and the traditions springing from Eastern and Western Christianity. No detailed account is given here of the various independent musical forms of the Christian liturgy that originated ultimately in psalmody, even though these often retained psalmodic texts; for these ...


Joseph Dyer

The term applied to a psalter whose arrangement reflects the distribution of the 150 psalms according to the daily and weekly cycle of the Divine Office. It may also signify the Latin text form of the psalms used in a particular medieval rite (Roman, Gallican, Ambrosian). All of these Latin text forms were translations of the Septuagint, itself a Greek translation (3rd century bce) of the original Hebrew text. The earliest Latin translations of the psalms originated in Africa during the 2nd century ce. These ‘Old Latin’ translations, dependent on the private initiative of individual Christians, generated a wide array of variant readings, manuscript evidence for which survives from the 5th century to the 8th.

In about 383, partly to resolve the confusion of these multiple renderings, Jerome undertook a revision and correction of the psalter text. Although this revision has been lost, it was for a long time erroneously identified with the ‘Roman’ psalter. The Roman psalter remained in use for the Divine Office in the city of Rome and its environs throughout the Middle Ages. In England, evangelized by Augustine at the behest of Pope Gregory I (pontificate 590–604), the Roman psalter was the favoured liturgical text until the Norman Conquest. It is the main source from which the Mass chants of the Roman liturgy were derived....


Dimitri Conomos

(Gk.: ‘the art of chanting’)

A theory of chanting that first developed in the 14th-century Byzantine Church with the appearance of the Akolouthiai manuscripts. It taught liturgical singers how to expand traditional melodies through techniques of vocal ornamentation and improvisation. New notational symbols and hypostaseis (non-diastematic neumes) indicated the use of the standard embellishments of the ...



Adriana Şirli

Monastery in the former Romanian principality of Moldavia (Moldova). Founded in 1466 by Stephen the Great, prince of Moldavia (1457–1504), it quickly became a renowned cultural centre on account of its school of liturgical chant, its scriptorium for illuminated manuscripts and its embroidery workshops. The following musical manuscripts, each the work of a different scribe, originated in Putna and are characteristic of its scriptorium: (1) The songbook of Evstatie of Putna (1511), RUS-Mim Shchiukin 350 and SPan 13.3.16; (2, 3) RO-Putna monastery, 56/576/544, A: ff.1–84 (? first decade of 16th century) and B: ff.85–160 (? last quarter of 15th century); (4) RO-J I–26 (1545); (5) RO-Dragomirna monastery, 52/1886; (6) RO-Ba sl.283 (c1550); (7) Ba sl.284 (3rd quarter of 16th century); (8) BG-Sofia, Nacionalen Čarkoven Istoriko-Archeologičeski Muzej, 816 (?mid-15th century); (9) D-LEu sl.12 (3rd quarter of 16th century); (10) ...







Kenneth Levy

With Milan and Aquileia, Ravenna was a major ecclesiastical centre of northern Italy during the last centuries of the western Empire and the period immediately following. Ravenna is approximately 160 km south of Venice, a short distance inland from the coast; it came into prominence with its selection as the imperial capital by Honorius in 402. It fell successively to the Goths in 493, the Byzantine Empire in 540, the Lombards in 751 and the Franks in 754; Pepin bestowed it upon Pope Stephen III and thus founded the temporal power of the papacy.

Ravenna reached the heights of its political power and artistic eminence during the 5th and 6th centuries: these are stunningly reflected in combinations of builder's stone and mosaic tile which include the mausoleum of Galla Placidia (d 450), the Orthodox and Arian baptisteries, the archiepiscopal chapel, the tomb of Theodoric and the churches of S Vitale, S Apollinare at the nearby town of Classe, and S Apollinare Nuovo....


James W. McKinnon

In the medieval liturgy very little was spoken or read in the manner known today. Texts that were not set to the kind of melodies employed in antiphons and responsories were generally recited using recitation formulae of varying elaboration. Most of these formulae consisted of a single fixed pitch that carried the burden of the text, with inflections of one or more pitches occurring at key points, for example, the beginning of a phrase or period, or, more often, its end. The formulae, particularly the more simple ones, were not at first notated: presumably the monks and clergy that used them were familiar with the prevailing conventions. It may also be assumed that before they became standardized there was a degree of variety in their execution.

Among the most simple formulae were those employed for the orations and readings of Mass and Office; more elaborate tones were used by the priest for the Preface and the ...