- Richard L. Crocker
Acclamation sung in the Latin Mass directly after the introit. The basic text, which is Greek, consists of ‘Kyrie eleison’ (three times), ‘Christe eleison’ (three times), ‘Kyrie eleison’ (three times): ‘Lord, have mercy … Christ, have mercy … Lord, have mercy …’. The expression ‘kyrie eleison’ was widely used as an acclamation in pagan civic and religious ceremonies under the Roman Empire, and continued in Christian usage, becoming fixed in various Christian liturgies from the 6th century onwards. Numerous musical settings are documented from the 10th century on. Since (in more recent practice at least) the text did not change from day to day, the Kyrie is counted a part of the Ordinary of the Mass.
Kyrie chants survive in manuscripts of the 10th century onwards; the earliest are from France and Germany, while those of the 11th and 12th centuries include large numbers from other European countries. The catalogue by Landwehr-Melnicki includes 226 items; even so, it is not complete. The whole repertory tends to divide itself between items that have large concordances, hence were widely known and used, and items whose isolated concordances show them to be purely local products. The earliest and best-known melodies – the repertory of the 10th and 11th centuries – are very well represented among the Ordinary chants included in the ...