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Karl-Heinz Schlager

Benedictine monastery on the island of the same name in Lake Constance. Founded in 724, it was a prominent centre of intellectual life until the 10th century. According to tradition, Charles Martel made the island over to the missionary Pirmin after defeating the Alemanni in 722. Charlemagne, another early patron, made the monastery independent of the diocese of Konstanz. In 815 Reichenau received the privilege of immunity and freedom to elect its own abbot. From 846 to 849 the connections of the monastery reached as far as St Denis, Corvey and Fulda in the north and Rome in the south; but by the mid-9th century Reichenau was already beginning to take second place to St Gallen.

The Reichenau monastery school, modelled on that of Tours, was set up under Abbot Waldo (786–806) in accordance with the aims of Carolingian educational reform. Of interest to historians of medieval music theory are a number of liturgical, mathematical and musical writings produced by men associated with this school, including Abbot ...


Gerda Wolfram

(Gk., from stichos: ‘verse’, ‘psalm verse’)

A hymn of the Byzantine rite sung between the verses of psalms by two choirs in alternation. Collections of stichēra are contained in the Stichērarion. Stichēra are poetic strophes that belong to the genre of troparia (see Troparion), the oldest part of the Byzantine repertory. Such troparia are preserved in the stichēraria for the Offices of Christmas and Epiphany, and for the Great Offices of Good Friday. Many stichēra in liturgical books of the 10th century onwards were probably written in the 8th century or even earlier.

At Hesperinos stichēra are inserted between the closing verses of the psalm complex kyrie ekekraxa (Psalms cxl, cxli, cxxix and cxvi). The evening hymn, Phōs hilaron, is followed by the stichēra aposticha, a selection of stichēra with a single psalm verse and concluding doxology. At Orthros stichēra are inserted into the final verses of hoi ainoi, the ‘Lauds’ psalms (Psalms cxlviii–cl). A ...


Richard L. Crocker

revised by David Hiley

Hymn of praise, sung in the Latin Mass directly after the Kyrie on festal occasions. Counted as part of the Ordinary of the Mass, the Gloria was provided with over 50 chant settings during the Middle Ages. The text is considered one of the great prose hymns of Christian literature, and the chant melodies are among the more important of medieval chant. The Liber usualis contains 15 of these chants in the Ordinary cycles plus four more among the ad libitum chants. (Throughout this article melodies are referred to by their Vatican number followed by their number in the Bosse catalogue, e.g. Gloria I/12.)

The text begins with the angelic hymn from the account of the Nativity in Luke ii.14, and continues with a series of disparate elements that includes reiterated praises (‘Laudamus te …’), acclamatory invocations (‘Domine Deus …’), petitions (‘… miserere nobis’) and a concluding doxology (‘Quoniam …’). The whole text is usually construed in three sections: first, praise to God the Father; second, a Christological section; third, the concluding Trinitarian clause. The nature of the text, however, makes several such constructions possible, and the various stages of development of the text up to the 9th century, as well as the varying structure of the chants, show that differing interpretations were made....


Christian Thodberg

[kondakion] (Gk.: ‘scroll’)

A liturgical poem sung mainly at Orthros in the Byzantine rite. One of the two most important poetic forms in medieval Byzantine religious poetry (the other being the kanōn), the kontakion most likely originated in Byzantium, although a strong Syrian influence is evident, particularly the poetry of Ephrem Syrus (cf Petersen, 1985). It is a kind of poetic homily whose narrative and dramatic content greatly influenced later Byzantine poetry. According to legend, the Blessed Virgin Mary gave to Romanos, a notable 6th-century hymn writer and composer, a scroll on which he wrote, by divine inspiration, a Christmas kontakion, Hē parthenos sēmeron (‘Today the Virgin’).

Introduced into the Byzantine Hours during the 6th century, the kontakion was originally part of the Constantinopolitan ‘cathedral’ vigil that later came to be incorporated into Orthros (see Lingas). In its full form it consisted of an initial strophe – the prooimion or koukoulion – followed by some 18 to 30 strophes – the ...



Richard L. Crocker

revised by David Hiley

(Lat.; Eng. ‘Creed’)

Affirmation of Christian belief, sung as part of the Latin Mass between the Gospel and the Offertory. Three Latin Creeds have come down to us (‘Apostles'’, ‘Nicene’, ‘Athanasian’), but the history of the texts is complex; the one used at Mass is that usually called ‘Nicene’.

The original liturgical use of the Credo was at baptism, at a time when the articles of faith were delivered to the catechumens as part of their reception into the Church. (The use of the first person, ‘I believe’, is ascribed to these circumstances, for the phrase seems inappropriate to a communal affirmation at Mass.) The baptismal use of the Credo, or Symbolum as it was called in this function, lasted throughout the Middle Ages, and was incidentally responsible for the persistence of a Greek text in Latin manuscripts representing practices in northern France and Germany.

The Credo, in the so-called ‘Nicene’ (or ‘Nicea-Constantinople’) version (so called because it sums up the doctrines agreed at the Councils of Nicea, 325, and Constantinople, 381), was introduced into the eucharistic liturgy in the east early in the 6th century and soon afterwards into the Visigothic rite by the Council of Toledo (589). In both cases its introduction occurred in the wake of doctrinal controversies, and with the intent of clarifying the belief to be shared by all participating in the Eucharist. Furthermore, in neither case was the Credo placed at its received position after the Gospel; in the Visigothic rite it preceded the ...


James W. McKinnon

[Responsorium graduale]

Chant following the Epistle in the Roman Mass.

The gradual, a chant of great melodic elaboration, is so named because it was sung on one of the higher steps – gradus – of the ambo (the same step on which the subdeacon read the Epistle, one below that on which the deacon read the Gospel). It was sung at every Mass throughout the year except during Paschal Time (the Sunday after Easter to the Saturday after Pentecost), when it was replaced by an Alleluia (two alleluias were sung then rather than the more typical gradual and alleluia, the arrangement for the rest of the year; on penitential occasions the alleluia was omitted entirely).

The gradual is a responsorial chant, that is, it bears some resemblance in its manner of performance to a responsorial psalm, where the psalm verses are chanted by a soloist and answered by a choral response. The medieval gradual consisted of a response and single verse. In the later Middle Ages the response was intoned by a cantor until its final phrase, which was sung by the chorus. This is apparently not the original arrangement. It is widely believed that at first a fourfold pattern was observed: the singing of the response by a cantor; its repetition by the chorus; the singing of the verse by a cantor; and a final choral repetition of the reponse. Such a format is plausible in view of the exigencies of oral transmission and the workings of responsorial psalmody, but it is not given explicit support (neither is it denied) in the sources. The following passage from ...


James W. McKinnon and Christian Thodberg

(Latinized form of Heb. halleluyah: ‘praise God’; Gk. allēlouïa)

Chant of the Mass in the Western Church and of the Divine Liturgy in the Eastern Church.

James W. McKinnon

The alleluia of the Mass is a Proper chant sung during the Fore-Mass after the gradual (see Gradual) except on liturgical occasions associated with penitence and fasting (most notably during Lent), and on ones associated with sorrow (such as the Requiem Mass), when it may be replaced by the Tract. During Paschal Time, beginning with Low Sunday, the gradual is omitted and two alleluias are sung.

The alleluia is performed in a responsorial manner: first the word ‘alleluia’ is sung, concluding with an extended melismatic flourish – the Jubilus; then a verse (rarely, two or three verses) is chanted in a moderately elaborate setting; and finally the alleluia is repeated. Throughout much of the Middle Ages a cantor intoned the alleluia without its jubilus and the chorus answered with the entire alleluia; one or two cantors sang the verse and the chorus entered for the final word or two (usually concluding with a melisma echoing that of the jubilus); the chorus, finally, repeated the alleluia. Early sources fail to indicate such involvement by the chorus, but it might well be that the chorus performed at least the final repetition of the alleluia....


Terence Bailey

[Milanese chant].

A chant repertory associated with Milan and one of only two musical repertories of the Latin Church to have been transmitted integrally in pitch-accurate notation. All the others were supplanted by ‘Gregorian’ chant before being adequately recorded. The survival of the Ambrosian music is due to the enduring importance of Milan, which the Byzantine historian Procopius described as ‘the first city in the West, after Rome’.

For some centuries Ambrosian chant has been confined to Milan, its suburbs, and to certain dependent parishes mainly between the city and Lakes Como and Maggiore to the north. The rite attributed to St Ambrose was centred on Milan, but it was formerly very widely disseminated: according to an Irish monk writing in France in 767, its domain was ‘Italia’, a region that in Ambrose’s day included all 17 Roman provinces of the northern Italian peninsula. There is evidence that the chant was even sung in southern Italy, in regions conquered in the 6th century by the Ostragoths and the Lombards (whose heartland was northern Italy, in Ambrosian territory). Because of the wide distribution of the rite and its associated chant, the term ‘Ambrosian’ is perhaps preferable to ‘Milanese’, even though the role of St Ambrose in the formation of the liturgy bearing his name is no better documented than the part played by St Gregory in ‘Gregorian’ chant....


Helmut Hucke

revised by Joseph Dyer

Old Roman chant is a liturgical repertory of melodies that survives in certain manuscripts dating from between the 11th and 13th centuries, but it must have existed in some form or other centuries before. Because of the nature of the source material, musical and historical, most scholarly discussions of Old Roman chant have related the repertory to the better-known Gregorian chant. Recognising that both are ‘dialects’ of the same textual and liturgical tradition, it has been proposed to call the chant sung in Rome up until the 13th century simply ‘Roman’ and coin a term like ‘romano-frankish’ for the music of the Gregorian tradition.

Three graduals and two antiphoners survive: one gradual from the church of S Cecilia in Trastevere in Rome written in 1071 ( CH-CObodmer C 74); one gradual perhaps from S Giovanni in Laterano, Rome, from the 11th or 12th century ( I-Rvat lat.5319); one gradual from S Pietro in Rome from the 13th century (...


Richard L. Crocker, John Caldwell, and Alejandro Enrique Planchart

(Lat. sequentia)

A category of medieval Latin chant (also called Prosa or ‘prose’) which flourished from about 850 to 1150. Throughout that period both its musical and literary importance were great; and from about 850 to 1000, when the large repertories were firmly established, the sequence represented one of the most important kinds of music produced in the West – important because of its intrinsic musical values as well as its historical significance for the development of style in general.

Richard L. Crocker

Since the sequence itself underwent profound structural modifications in its development, it is not possible to give a simple definition of its form that holds for the entire period; with that reservation, the sequence can be described as a piece of sacred chant of ample dimensions, in length as well as melodic range, set syllabically with a Latin text. The text consisted mostly of a series of couplets each having two isosyllabic lines sung to the same melody; each couplet was different from the preceding couplet in melody and usually in length. In earlier sequences the text was not governed by regular accent patterns or by end-rhyme, hence was indeed ‘prose’. After 1000 the texts scanned and rhymed to an increasing degree, finally becoming verse....


Michel Huglo

revised by David Hiley

[grail](from Lat. gradale, graduale, liber gradualis)

Liturgical book of the Western Church containing the chants for the Proper of the Mass and, secondarily, in more recent times, those of the Ordinary (i.e. those of the kyriale).

The majority of graduals have no title; some ancient graduals, however, bear the title Incipit antefonarius ordinatus a Sancto Gregorio ( B-Br 10127–44, 8th century; see Hesbert, 1935, p.2; see also Antiphoner, §1). The term ‘antiphonale’ is here (and in some other instances) applied to a book containing only chants for the Mass, but at this early date it could refer equally well to the antiphons of the Divine Office. In the ‘antiphonaries’ of the non-Roman liturgies (Milan and Spain) and in the Lucca fragments ( I-Lc 490, 8th century) the chants for the Mass alternate Sunday by Sunday or feast by feast with those of the Office. According to Amalarius of Metz (see edn. with commentary by Hucke, ‘Graduale’, ...


Kenneth Levy

revised by Christian Troelsgård

Music of the liturgical rite of the Christian Roman Empire of the East from the time of the establishment of Constantinople (at the site of ancient Byzantium) in the early 4th century and persisting beyond the interruption of the Eastern imperial succession by the Ottoman conquest in 1453. The rite is still practised by tens of millions of Eastern Orthodox Christians whose native language, or liturgical language, is Greek. Through translation into Syriac, Coptic, Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Church Slavonic, and other languages, it has remained the dominant liturgy of the Christian East during the past 1500 years. Its influence at various times has spread as far west as Spain (in the 6th century), and to north-east and south Italy (where isolated pockets still exist). It has prevailed in north-east Africa (Patriarchate of Alexandria), throughout Greece and Palestine (Patriarchate of Jerusalem), through most of the Christian Near East (Patriarchate of Antioch), all Russia, other Slavonic nations, and Romania. The main focus of the following discussion is the music of the Greek rite before the fall of Constantinople. The Byzantine chant continued, however, to flourish after this event, specifically in monasteries throughout the former empire and at the patriarchal see of Constantinople. Almost all the medieval chant repertory survives in manuscript sources with musical notation, and in this respect Byzantine chant is comparable to the repertories of the Roman and Ambrosian (Milanese) Churches in the West....



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’; ...


Heinrich Husmann

revised by Peter Jeffery

There are essentially four ancient Christian liturgical traditions that can be counted as Syrian, but the practitioners of these traditions belong to a bewildering variety of religious denominations, with diverse theological, historical and organizational loyalties. They share in common the Syriac language, an allegiance to the See of Antioch, the Syriac Bible and Syriac hymns and theological literature.

Syriac is a North-West Semitic tongue, closer to Hebrew than to Arabic, that developed in the city of Edessa (now Urfa, Turkey). As a dialect of Aramaic (the official language of the ancient Assyrian empire to 200 ce), Syriac is related to the Palestinian Jewish Aramaic that was the mother tongue of Jesus and the first disciples as well as of many rabbinic authorities of the Talmudic period. For this reason modern Syrian Christians frequently call Syriac ‘Aramaic’; Western scholars before modern times often called it ‘Chaldean’.

Only a minority of Syrian Christians can still speak Syriac; for most it is a theological and liturgical language, like Latin in the West. The major vernaculars are now Arabic (in the Near East), Malayalam (in India) and English (in India and North America), all three of which are increasingly replacing Syriac in liturgical services....



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 ...


Anne Walters Robertson

Benedictine monastery north of Paris. It was the burial-place of the French kings, and the first abbey to display elements of Gothic architecture. Over the centuries, St Denis forged a ritual, based on an embroidered history of the saint for whom it is named, that reflected both the royalist politics of the monks and the particular needs of the successive church buildings.

St Denis (Sanctus Dionysius) was a 3rd-century missionary, sent from Rome to serve as first bishop of Paris and martyred in the city in about 250. A basilica built over his tomb to the north of Paris in about 475 housed the first pre-monastic establishment. Merovingian kings adopted St Denis as their patron early on, and in the Carolingian era, King Louis the Pious asked Abbot Hilduin (814–41) to write an official life of the saint. The primary source on St Denis was the 6th-century account of Gregory of Tours, but Hilduin drew on other works instead. Among these were the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius, the 5th-century Syrian author of four Neoplatonic metaphysical treatises in Greek (ed. and trans. C. Luibheid and P. Rorem, Mahwah, NJ, ...


Peter Jeffery

(Gk.: ‘eightfold sound’)

The system of the eight ‘church modes’ (the ‘musical’ oktōēchos) in the medieval Latin, Byzantine, Slavonic, Syrian, Armenian and Georgian repertories of Christian liturgical chant. Also, by association, the practice of grouping chants by mode (the ‘calendric’ oktōēchos) so that they can be sung in numerical order over a period of time, usually one mode per week, proceeding to the next higher number each Sunday and beginning with the 1st mode again when the 8th is completed. And a book (the ‘liturgical’ oktōēchos) in which the chant texts are grouped by mode in numerical order to facilitate performance according to the calendric oktōēchos (see Liturgy and liturgical books, §IV, 3, (viii)); books also exist in which chants are arranged according to mode but without regard to a calendar, notably the Western Tonary and the Byzantine Heirmologion).

Although many theories regarding the origins of the eight-mode system have been proposed, the earliest genuine evidence of the musical ...


Alejandro Enrique Planchart

(Gk. tropos: ‘turn’, ‘turn of phrase’; Lat. tropus)

Name given from the 9th century onwards to a number of closely related genres consisting essentially of additions to pre-existing chants. Three types of addition are found: (1) that of a musical phrase, a melisma without text (unlabelled or called trope in the sources); (2) that of a text to a pre-existing melisma (most frequently called prosula, prosa, verba or versus, though sometimes also trope, in the sources); (3) that of a new verse or verses, consisting of text and music (most frequently called trope, but also laudes, versus and in certain specific cases farsa, in the sources).

The medieval terminology was far from consistent (Odelman, C1975), and scholars in the late 19th and early 20th centuries expanded it (thus compounding the problem) to include even the sequence and its proses, the conductus, verse songs that sometimes replaced the Benedicamus Domino, and the upper voices of early Ars Antiqua motets. Despite efforts by Crocker (...


Kenneth Levy, John A. Emerson, Jane Bellingham, David Hiley, and Bennett Mitchell Zon

[plainsong] (from Lat. cantus planus; Fr. plainchant; Ger. Choral; It. canto plano)

The official monophonic unison chant (originally unaccompanied) of the Christian liturgies. The term, though general, is used to refer particularly to the chant repertories with Latin texts – that is, those of the five major Western Christian liturgies – or in a more restricted sense to the repertory of Franco-Roman chant (Gregorian chant). A third meaning refers to a style of measured ecclesiastical music, often accompanied by a bassoon, serpent or organ, cultivated in Roman Catholic France during the 17th to 19th centuries (see Plain-chant musical). This article is concerned with the chant of the Roman and derived rites considered historically, including its place within Christian chant as a whole and its relationship to the liturgy that it serves.

Kenneth Levy

The roots of the liturgical chant of the Christian Churches lie partly in established Jewish Synagogue practice of the apostolic period, partly in new developments within early Christianity itself and partly in pagan music at the diverse centres where the first churches were established (...


Lewis Lockwood, Noel O’Regan, and Jessie Ann Owens


(b probably at Palestrina, almost certainly between Feb 3, 1525 and Feb 2, 1526; d Rome, Feb 2, 1594). Italian composer. He ranks with Lassus and Byrd as one of the towering figures in the music of the late 16th century. He was primarily a prolific composer of masses and motets but was also an important madrigalist. Among the native Italian musicians of the 16th century who sought to assimilate the richly developed polyphonic techniques of their French and Flemish predecessors, none mastered these techniques more completely or subordinated them more effectively to the requirements of musical cogency. His success in reconciling the functional and aesthetic aims of Catholic church music in the post-Tridentine period earned him an enduring reputation as the ideal Catholic composer, as well as giving his style (or, more precisely, later generations’ selective view of it) an iconic stature as a model of perfect achievement....