A Sequence in Times of Pestilence

Rorate caeli recently proffered the laudable idea to have recourse to an ancient Marian sequence athwart the plague. We here provide a translation of the Schola Sainte Cécile’s notes on the background of this interesting piece.

“The Peddler,” woodcut designed by Hans Holbein the Younger for the “Dance of Death” series, 1523–26; in the British Museum
“The Peddler,” woodcut designed by Hans Holbein the Younger for the “Dance of Death” series, 1523–26 (Source)
Stella cæli exstirpavit,
quæ lactavit Dominum,
mortis pestem, quam plantavit
primus parens hominum.
The Star of Heaven,
who gave suck to the Lord,
hath vanquished the plague of death,
planted by the first parent of men.
Ipsa stella nunc dignetur
sidera compescere,
quorum bella plebem cædunt
diræ mortis ulcere.
May this Star now deign
to restrain the heavenly bodies
whose battles slay the people
with the dreadful sore of death.
Piisima Stella maris,
a peste succurre nobis.
audi nos, Domina, nam filius tuus
nihil negans, te honorat.
O most loving Star of the sea,
succour us from pestilence.
Hearken unto us, Our Lady, for thy son,
denieth thee naught, and honoureth thee.
Salva nos, Jesu,
pro quibus Virgo Maria te orat.
Save us, O Jesu,
for whom thy Virgin Mother prayeth thee.
℣. Ora pro nobis, piissima Dei Genitrix.
℟. Quæ contrivisti caput serpentis, auxiliare nobis.
℣. Pray for us, most loving Mother of God.
℟. Thou who crushedst the head of the serpent, help us.
Oremus.
Deus misericordiæ, Deus pietatis, Deus indulgentiae, qui misertus es super afflictionem populi tui, et dixisti Angelo percutienti populum tuum: Contine manum tuam; ob amorem illius Stellæ gloriosæ, cujus ubera pretiosa contra venenum nostrorum delictorum dulciter suxisti: præsta auxilium gratiæ tuæ, ut intercedente beata Virgine Maria Matre tua et beato Bartholomæo apostolo tuo dilecto, ab omni peste et improvisa morte secure liberemur, et a totius perditionis incursu misericorditer salvemur. Per te, Jesu Christe, Rex gloriæ, qui cum Patre et Spiritu sancto vivis et regnas, Deus, in sæcula sæculorum. ℟. Amen.
Let us pray.
God of mercy, God of piety, God of pardon, who hath pity on the affliction of thy people, and saidst to the Angel that slew thy people: Hold thy hand; for the love of that glorious Star, whose precious paps thou didst sweetly suck against the venom of our trespasses: vouchsafe the help of thy grace, that by the intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary thy Mother and of blessed Bartholomew, thy belovèd apostle, we may be safely freed from all pestilence and unexpected death, and mercifully saved from every inroad of death and ruin. Through thee, Jesus Christ, King of glory, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost livest and reignest, God, world without end. ℟. Amen.

The verses of this prayer in times of pestilence are taken from a homily on Our Lord’s Nativity delivered in the 8th century by St Peter, bishop of Damascus. According to tradition, the text was written on a piece of paper given by St Batholomew in an apparitionto the Poor Clares of Coimbra in Portugal when that city was ravaged by the plague in 1317. The sisters duly prayed it, and their convent was spared. This monastery had been founded in 1314 by St Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal (1271-1336), who took the veil there after the death of her husband, King Denis, and died in the odour of sanctity. She was canonized by Pope Urban VIII in 1625.

The prayer is in the form of a prose or sequence. Two choirs alternate each verse and come together to sing the last verse in unison, which is a trope: the music and text are also used in other prayers to Our Lady. The melody given by the Schola Sainte Cécile and reproduced below, is taken from the Cantuale Romano-Seraphicum (1951), with the original rhythm restored.

prose-stella-caeli-extirpavit-priere-pour-les-temps-d-epidemie

Another version, with a slightly different text, was published by Hermann Mott in Cologne in 1660:

mott.png

From Coimbra, the sequence spread throughout the West. In 1575, for example, the canons of the Collegiate Church of Sainte-Croix in Poligny decided to sing it every day before High Mass intimes of pestilence. The Ursulines of Nîmes sang it daily after Mass during the plague of 1640. It was generally sung with its versicle and collect, followed by antiphons, versicles, and collects in honour of St Roch and St Sebastian, the two main saintly patrons invoked against the plague. See, for instance, this 1781 breviary for the use of the confraternity of the White Penitents in Saint-Laurent-lès-Grenoble.

A version in Gregorian chant:

A beautiful polyphonic version, from the Jesuit missions in Paraguay:

Emicat meridies: A Sequence for St Scholastica

The proper Mass for St Scholastica Surge propera that appears in the Benedictine supplement to the Roman missal is of relatively late introduction, first appearing in the latter part of the 17th century. It is, however, graced with an elegant sequence in honour of the monastic patriarch’s peristeramorphic sister displaying all the unction one might expect from a truly mediæval production. 

Screen Shot 2020-02-09 at 18.34.46.png
The melody of the Sequence in Nivers’ Gradual.

In the Solesmes editions of the Gradual, the sequence is set to a first-mode melody redolent of the High Middle Ages. It replaced the melody one finds in the Gradual prepared in 1696 by Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers for the use of Benedictine nuns: a saccharine ditty typical of the infelicitous taste en vogue during that putatively enlightened age. 

emicat

Emicat meridies,
et beata requies
virgini Scholasticae.
Midday shines forth,
and blessed rest
upon the maiden Scholastica.
Intrat in cubicula:
Sponsi petit oscula,
quem amavit unice.
She entereth the Bridegroom’s chambers,
she seeketh his kisses,
whom alone she lovedst.
Quantis cum gemitibus,
cordis et ardoribus
haec Dilectum quaesiit!
With what groans,
and ardour of heart
she sought her Belovèd!
Movit caelos lacrimis,
imbribusque plurimis
pectus fratris mollit.
She movedst heaven with her tears,
and with heavy rains
softenedst her brother’s heart.
O grata colloquia,
cum caelorum gaudia
Benedictus explicat!
O happy conversation,
when the joys of heaven
Benedict explaineth!
Ardent desideria,
mentis et suspiria,
virgo, Sponsus excitat.
Desires burn,
and sighs of the heart,
O maiden, doth the Bridegroom arouse!
Veni formosissima,
sponsa dilectissima,
veni, coronaberis.
Come, most comely,
most belovèd bride,
come, thou shalt be crowned.
Dormies in liliis,
afflues deliciis,
et inebriaberis.
Thou shalt sleep among lilies,
thou shalt abound in delights,
and be inebriated.
O columba virginum,
quae de ripis fluminum
adis aulam gloriae.
O dove of maidens,
who from the stream banks
goest forth to the hall of glory.
Trahe nos odoribus,
pasce et uberibus
immortalis gratiae. Amen.
Draw us by thy scent,
and feed us with the paps
of grace everlasting. Amen.

incidents_in_the_life_of_saint_benedict2c_14092c_london_ng

A Sequence for St Charlemagne

During the Age of Faith, a number of churches in France and Germany kept the feast of the Most Serene and August Emperor Charles on 28 January, but his cultus always enjoyed its greatest popularity in his beloved city of Aachen. The city has long reciprocated Charlemagne’s unaccountable love for their fœtid hot water springs, and, with the approbation of the Holy See, has for centuries sung this admirable sequence at Mass in honour of its Cæsarian patron.

Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 15.53.15.png
The students of the University of Paris toast their patron St Charlemagne on his feast day.

The stanzas in italics are present in the earliest attested copy of this sequence (Aachen MS. G13), but not in the 1931 supplement to the Missal for the diocese of Aachen.

Urbs Aquensis, urbs regalis,
regni sedes principalis,
prima regum curia.
Regi regum pange laudes,
quae de magni regis gaudes
Karoli præsentia.
City of Aachen! Royal city!
Foremost seat of the foremost kingdom!
Chief court of kings!
Sing praises to the king of kings,
thou who rejoicest in the presence
of the great king Charles.
Iste cœtus psallat laetus,
psallat chorus hic sonorus
vocali concordia.
At dum manus operatur
bonum, quod cor meditatur,
dulcis est psalmodia.
Let this glad assembly sing!
Let this melodious quire sing
with harmonious voices!
But when the hand effects
the good that the heart doth meditate,
sweet is the psalmody!
Hac in die, die festa,
magni regis magna gesta
recolat Ecclesia.
Reges terrae, et omnes populi,
omnes simul plaudant
et singuli celebri lætitia.
On this day, this festive day,
the great deeds of a great king
let the Church recall.
Let the kings of the earth and all the people,
each and all applaud
with a joyful celebration.
Hic est Christi miles fortis,
hic invictae dux cohortis,
ducum sternit milia.
Terram purgat lolio,
atque metit gladio
ex messe zizania.
He is the mighty knight of Christ,
he the commander of an army unvanquished:
he casteth down a thousand chieftains.
He weedeth the earth of its tares,
and with his sword cutteth away
the cockle from the harvest.
Hic est magnus imperator,
boni fructus bonus sator
et prudens agricola.
Infideles hic convertit,
fana,[1] deos hic evertit
et confringit idola.
He is the great emperor,
the good sower of good fruit,
and a wise husbandman.
He converteth the heathen,
he overturneth their temples and gods,
and shattereth their idols.
Hic superbos domat reges,
hic regnare sacras leges
facit cum justitia,
quam tuetur eo fine,
ut et justus sed nec sine
sit misericordia.
He subdueth haughty kings,
he upholdeth hallowed laws
with justice,
which he protecteth in order
that he mayest be just,
but not without mercy.
Oleo laetitiae
unctus dono gratiae
ceteris prae regibus.
Cum corona gloriae,
majestatis regiae
insignitur fascibus.
With the oil of gladness
he is anointed, and with the gift of grace,
afore all other kings.
With the crown of glory
he is bedecked, and with the
fasces of kingly majesty.
O rex, mundi triumphator,
Jesu Christi conregnator,
sis pro nobis exorator,
sancte pater Karole,
emundati a peccatis,
ut in regno claritatis,
nos, plebs tua, cum beatis
cæli simus incolæ.
O king! Conqueror of the world!
Who reignest together with Jesus Christ!
Be for us a suppliant,
O holy father Charles!
That cleansed from our sins,
in the heavenly kingdom,
we, thy people, might with the blessed
be dwellers of heaven.
Stella maris, o Maria,
mundi salus, vitae via,
vacillantum rege gressus
et ad regem des accessus
in perenni gloria.
Star of the sea! O Mary!
Salvation of the world! Way of life!
Guide our faltering steps
and grant us audience with the king
in glory everlasting.
Christe, splendor Dei Patris,
incorruptae fili matris,
per hunc sanctum, cujus festa
celebramus, nobis praesta
sempiterna gaudia. Amen.
Christ, splendour of God the Father,
Son of an inviolate mother,
by this saint, whose feast
we celebrate, vouchsafe to us
eternal joy. Amen.
Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 9.26.00 AM
Charles IV reading the seventh Lesson at Christmas Matins, Cambrai, 1377 (BN MS 2813, fol 467v)

 

NOTE:

[1] Phanos in MS. G13

New Years’ with the Canons of Sens (4): Mass and Second Vespers

We have been examining the riches of the Feast of the Circumcision as celebrated by the illustrious cathedral chapter of Sens, based on a MS. written under the auspices of the Lord Archbishop Peter of Corbeil. See the previous posts in this series: Introduction and First Vespers; Compline; Mattins, Lauds, & the Little Hours. This post will describe interesting elements in the Mass and Second Vespers of the feast.

Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 17.46.32.png

After Terce, the canons prepared for Mass, singing a carol while the celebrant readied himself. This jocund conductus ad presbyterum is a bit of a grammar lesson, for each stanza begins begins with the word dies in a different case: dies (nominative), diei (genitive), diei (dative), diem (accusative), dies (vocative), die (accusative). 

Mass

At Mass, as one might expect, each part of the Ordinary (Kyrie Clemens rector, Gloria II, Sanctus IV, Agnus Dei IV) was farced, even the Credo, whereof this is the sole attested example. The Gloria and Credo are troped in the style of the Pater noster and Apostles’ Creed at Compline and Prime, i.e. the text and music of each trope-line is a quotation, textual and musical from another liturgical piece. 

Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 17.47.18.png

With respect to the musical propers, however, only the Gradual includes a short trope in the form of a prose; the Sequence Laetabundus follows the Alleluia. 

While the subdeacon prepares to read the epistle, the rest of the canons sang the famous carol Lux optata, and the epistle itself, sung to a special melody, alternates with a trope, most probably intoned by another cleric. The tropes are, like those of the the Gloria and Credo, textually and musically centonized.

Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 18.09.00.png

While the deacon readies himself to sing the gospel, the canons again sing a conductus, and although the gospel is not farced, it is sung to special tone:

Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 17.51.09.pngScreen Shot 2020-01-17 at 17.51.25.png

 Second Vespers

The canons were surely quite exhausted when time came for second Vespers, and so, after the solemn Deus, in adjutorium sung to the same melody as in First Vespers, they sang the hymn (curiously placed at the beginning), antiphons, and psalms without any tropes. Gaude Maria Virgo was the responsory sung after chapter, and here they did sing all the verses of this particularly prolix piece, concluding with the Marian prose Inviolata, which was extremely popular in the Middle Ages. A short sequence replaced the versicle, as at the other hours.

For the Magnificat, withal, the canons exerted one last effort, for it is set to four different antiphons! O beata infantia, they began, and followed with the first verse of Our Lady’s canticle. Then they sang the antiphon O gratissimi, followed by the second verse; then the antiphon O felices panni, followed by the third first; and then O presepe, with a long melisma of the O, and the fourth verse. They repeated each of these four antiphons after each verse until the Sicut erat, after which they rejoiced with a melismatic Alleluia.

Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 18.05.45.pngScreen Shot 2020-01-17 at 18.28.14.png

The MS. then provides three additional conductus, one to be sung while the bacularius (the head cantor, so-called because he held a staff, baculus) prepared himself for an office; one to be sung at an apéritif; and one for lunch. 

At the end of the MS. is an appendix containing special troped melodies for the epistles of the Masses of St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents, all of them centonized. 

See the other posts in this series:

1. A Feast of Fools?: First Vespers
2. Compline
3. Mattins, Lauds, and the Little Hours
5. Why the Office of Peter of Corbeil was Suppressed
6. A New Years’ Apéritif with the Canons of Sens

New Years’ with the Canons of Sens (3): Mattins, Lauds, and the Little Hours

Our previous posts describing First Vespers and Compline of the Feast of the Circumcision at the Cathedral of Sens, as codified by the Lord Archbishop Peter of Corbeil, have, we hope, helped our readers picture the centrality of liturgical celebration in mediæval communities. Long offices were no burden; to the contrary, they were much loved. After all, in the Age of Faith the church was “the common refuge of all, where all of social life resorted. A man prayed there, the town council met there, and the clock was the voice of the city.” Let us recall that

As impressive as Catholic ceremonies remain, they have lost much of their former magnificence. The influence of the Reformation in the 16th century, which gave rise to a religion reduced to its most simple expression, contributed to the impoverishment of the Catholic religion that strove against it, even while permitting an aesthetic element that addressed the soul by way of the senses. In the Middle Ages, everyone believed humbly. Everyone understood and loved the religious ceremonies, which were never too long or too magnificent for their taste. […] Feast days, which were much more numerous than today, were for the poor souls of this world… days of rest whose coming they welcomed with enthusiasm…What a joy to visit the neighboring abbey for a whole day of leisure, to contemplate the splendors of a worship that was at once prayer, teaching, and spectacle! How earnestly they wished these feasts to be many, and the offices to be long![1]

Mattins

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 13.24.34.pngScreen Shot 2020-01-15 at 13.25.36.png

The canons bestirred themselves right early the next morning in eager anticipation for the day’s liturgical festivities. The Night Office began as usual with the words Domine, labia mea aperies, but rather than the usual reciting tone, it is sung to the melody of an antiphon with the same words borrowed from Lauds of the Second Sunday of Lent. Similarly, the next verse, Deus, in adjutorium, is sung to the melody of the beginning of the Introit of the 12th Sunday after Pentecost, which is set to these same words. The Gloria Patri is sung to the Paschal tone of the Invitatory Psalm 94, although transposed from the sixth to the seventh mode to match the preceding.

It is remarkable that each of the three Nocturns begins with a proper Invitatory. Some 18th-century liturgists such as Jean Lebeuf surmised that this was an atavism, recalling the time when each Nocturn was sung separately. There is, however, no indication in this MS. that the Nocturns were separated, and the plethora of Invitatories is more likely meant to add solemnity rather than recall an archaic practice. Each of these Invitatories is followed by a hymn, all of which are actually sequences borrowed from Mass, presumably because the ancient repertoire had no proper hymns for the Feast of the Circumcision itself. As at First Vespers, sequences from Mass are also substituted for the versicles in each Nocturn. 

The nine responsories are mostly the same as in the Tridentine breviary, with some variations also found in other French uses. 

In the MS., a conductus ad ludos follows Mattins. This was a charming Christmas carol sung by the canons as they made their way to the performance of a musical play on a Scriptural subject. No more information exists on what was performed in Sens, but in the Cathedral of Beauvais in the 13th century, the Ludus Danielis was performed after Matins of the Circumcision. The chanting of the Te Deum concluded this liturgical drama.

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 13.27.14.png
Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 13.27.32.png

Lauds and the Little Hours

The rest of the Offices proceeded on similar lines. At Lauds, the antiphons and psalms are as in the Tridentine breviary, but, as in Mattins, the hymn and versicle are replaced by sequences. A jolly Benedicamus Domino hymn finishes off the hour.

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 13.28.29.png

Prime begins with the Deus, in adjutorium set to the melody of the same Introit as at Mattins, but from Domine, ad adjuvandum, a recitation tone takes over, curiously on the first mode transposed, even though the Introit melody is of the seventh mode; the result is not too felicitous. The Alleluia is a short melisma. 

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 13.29.00.png

Then two clerics standing in front of the altar intone the epicletic sequence Veni, sancte Spiritus, at the words Ignem accende the choir joins in with a spectacular melisma interspersed into the sequence’s original melody. This melogenic trope was otherwise used at Sens to enhance responsories on solemnities. Only after this sequence is the usual hymn of Prime sung, troped with the exultatory words Fulget dies! Fulget dies ista!

As at Compline, the words of the usual versicle for Prime are used as the basis for a short hymn, and the same festive preces—farced Kyrie, farced Pater, farced Apostles’ Creed —follow. The canons held their chapter office after Prime as usual.

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 13.30.27.png

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 13.30.54.png
Trope of a trope: The “versicle” at Terce is a prose-trope on the verse Regnum tuum solidum permanebit in aeternum, itself a trope on the Gloria. This prose was often sung at Childermass; in the cathedral of Salisbury, for instance, it was sung during the boy-bishop ceremony on the eve of the feast.

Terce, Sext, and None all feature a short sequence replacing the usual versicle and a Benedicamus hymn at the end. They are otherwise as in the Tridentine breviary.

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 13.47.17.png
The Benedicamus hymn at the end of None.

See the other posts in this series:

1. A Feast of Fools?: First Vespers
2. Compline
4. Mass and Second Vespers
5. Why the Office of Peter of Corbeil was Suppressed
6. A New Years’ Apéritif with the Canons of Sens


NOTE:

[1] Marius Sepet, Le drame chrétien au moyen age, Paris, Didier, 1878, p. 21 et seq.