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date: 30 March 2020

Mass (Lat. missa; Fr. messe; Ger. Messe; It. messa; Sp. misa)locked

  • James W. McKinnon,
  • Theodor Göllner,
  • Maricarmen Gómez,
  • Lewis Lockwood,
  • Andrew Kirkman,
  • Denis Arnold
  •  and John Harper


(Lat. missa; Fr. messe; Ger. Messe; It. messa; Sp. misa)

The term most commonly used to describe the early Christian and medieval Latin eucharistic service. It has been retained within Catholicism during modern times. The plainchant of the medieval Mass, and the polyphonic music of the Mass between the 12th and 16th centuries, are central to the history of Western music. The polyphonic Mass Ordinary of the Renaissance is one of the more important genres of European art music.

This article focusses on the musical development of the Mass, dealing with liturgical history to the extent necessary to create a context for this emphasis. It thus concentrates on the ‘High’ or ‘Solemn’ Mass, in which virtually all the texts are sung, as opposed to the ‘Low Mass’, in which they are simply read. Subspecies of the Mass include the Chorale mass, which uses German hymns as cantus firmi; Missa brevis, a type of ‘short Mass’; Missa dominicalis, in which polyphonic settings are based on chants ‘in dominicis infra annum’; ...

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