Three Introit Tropes for Whitsun

Gladdened by God’s good Ghost, let us sing forth His praises on this holy feast of Pentecost with three exuberant tropes on the day’s Introit Spiritus Domini.

Hodie Spiritus Sanctus


Hodie Spiritus Sanctus descendit super Apostolos omnemque terram replevit: eia! Dic, domne! Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, alleluia! Hodie Spiritus Sanctus Paraclitus totam replevit domum igne divino: et hoc quod continet omnia scientiam habet vocis. Gratias agamus sanctae Trinitati et unitati maiestatis semper: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Today the Holy Spirit hath descended upon the Apostles and hath filled all the earth: ho! Speak, my lord! The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world, alleluia! Today the Holy Spirit hath filled the whole house with divine fire: and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice. Let us give thanks to the holy Trinity and the unity of majesty for aye: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

Discipulis flammas infundens


Discipulis flammas infundens caelitus almas: Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, alleluia! omnigenis linguis reserans magnalia Christi: et hoc quod continet omnia, scientiam habet vocis, alleluia! Ipsi perspicuas dicamus vocibus odas: alleluia, alleluia! Pouring into the disciples propitious flames from heaven, the Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world, alleluia! revealing Christ’s mighty deeds in all manner of tongues: and that which containeth all things hath knowledge of the voice, alleluia! With our voices let us cry out limpid hymns to him: alleluia! 

Spiritus almus adest


Spiritus almus adest, cunctorum vivificator: Spiritus Domini replevit orbem terrarum, alleluia! Namque replet linguis, qui corda fidelia cunctis: et hoc quod continet omnia mirifico visu satiat: quod continet omne scientiam habet vocis. Ebria namque fides divo solamine cantat: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! The nourishing Spirit is here, who lives life to all things: the Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world, alleluia! Yea verily, he who filleth faithful hearts with every language, and that which containeth all things satisfieth: a wonder to behold: that which containeth all hath knowledge of the voice. Faith drunken—forsooth!—with divine solace singeth: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

These tropes were transcribed from the MSS. by Ferdinand Haberl, Tropi antiphonarum ad Introitum usui liturgicum accomodati, Rome, 1980. 

We also wanted to take the opportunity to introduce our readers to our new Music Library, which contains all the chant recordings made for this ’blog by our Notker Balbulus. 

Kyrie O Theos Krytis dicheos, eleison!: Two Kyrie Tropes

Kyrie ad lib. VI in the Vatican edition is an elaborate melody the mediæval manuscripts assign to the greatest feasts of the liturgical year, especially Easter. It bears a marked musical affinity to the Kyrie I, Lux et origo, the other usual Paschal setting, and Dom Pothier suggested it arose as an embellishment thereto. It is impossible to be certain of this conclusion, however, and in fact the earliest sources for Kyrie ad lib. VI date from the 10th century, whereas the earliest for Kyrie I date from the 11th.

Two roughly contemporary sets of tropes circulate with this Kyrie, both as exuberant as the melody itself. The Western Frankish manuscripts feature the following trope:

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We humbly beseech thee, Christ almighty king, that thou mightest deign to have mercy on us.

Thou alone are worthy of praise with ceaseless revel, by which we ask thee singing, have mercy.

O good king who sitteth above the stars, and lord who ruleth all, have mercy.

Thy devout people implore thee ceaselessly that thou thou mightest deign to have mercy on them.

O holy God, our life-giving redeemer, save us, have mercy.

We sing before thee, look favourably on our prayers, and do thou have mercy always.

Our assembly now crieth unceasingly and sayeth, have mercy.

Have mercy on us, son of the living God, have mercy.

Great glory be to God on high, to the eternal Father who redeemed us by his own blood to save us from death, let us all say unendingly together, have mercy.

The Eastern Frankish sources provide a trope with even more Greek elements: Κύριε ὦ θέος, κρίτις δίκαιος ἰσχυρός καὶ ἀθάνατος ὑμᾶς ἐλεῖσον.

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Lord God, Just, Mighty and Immortal, have mercy on us.

Loving Father, enthroned above the wings of the Cherubim and Seraphim, look with tenderness and mercy upon the sins of thy servants.

Thou alone art worthy of hymn, melody, song, harmony, and praise (αἴνεσις), the voice of all manner of tongues.

Christ, the Father’s only Son, foster thy nature in us,

For whom thou borest the tree of the Cross (σταυρός), shedding thy blood in a purple gush.

Thou Holy Spirit, deign to mingle in our odes most fittingly;

Who joinest the living and the dying, who createst little man.

Have mercy thou on his weakness by blotting out his offenses.

All together with full voices we praise three, Three and One, whose Godhead livest and reignest together and equal in the Trinity, now, and for endless ages and ages, amen, for aye!

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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.

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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). 


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. 

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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.

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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:

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 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.

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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]


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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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


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

New Years’ with the Canons of Sens (2): Compline

We now continue our discussion of the Feast of the Circumcision as it was celebrated by the canons of the illustrious Cathedral of Sens in the High Middle Ages. The rich euchological and musical variety we have seen at First Vespers sets the tone for the rest of the office’s cursus. 

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Ivory panels covering Pierre Corbeil’s Office for the Circumcision, sometimes misunderstood to be a Feast of Fools



At Compline, the canons sang the psalms to the antiphon Magnum nomen Domini Emmanuel, which, with the variant incipit Ecce nomen Domini, is attested from the 8th century. The jaunty melody of this antiphon proved so popular among the layfolk it was sung outside its liturgical context as a Christmas carol well into the 19th century. 

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The carol Magnum nomen Domini in the Manuale cantorum published in Liège in 1810.

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The versicle Custodi nos is farced into a short hymn, and the Candlemas processional responsory Responsum accepit Symeon is cleverly adapted into an antiphon for the Nunc dimittis. Normally the conclusion of the office would follow, but here festivity overcomes sleepiness, and the canons sing on. Perhaps unexpectedly, however, these additions to the usual course of Compline are based on the penitential preces added to Compline during Septuagesima and Lent, although enlivened with festive melodies and tropes. 

Immediately after Simeon’s canticle, the canons intone the prolix antiphon Media vita, attributed to Bl. Notker the Stammerer. In Sens and other places, this was also sung at the end of Compline on the Saturday before Lent, and elsewhere it features in offices and processions during Lent (it was not received by the Tridentine Office). 

On Saturday before Lent, this was followed by the Kyrie eleison cum precibus and then the Pater noster. On the Circumcision, the Kyrie was sung to a melody borrowed from Mass (XII of the Vatican ed.) with the trope Pater cuncta, and then two subdeacons alternately sung a farced Pater noster, one of only about 20 such tropes to survive. 

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The melody of this version of the Lord’s prayer is a strikingly odd and not entirely felicitous patchwork of quotations, as it were, from other Gregorian pieces, and so it jarringly meanders through different modes. For instance, the first trope line, Fidem auge, is set to the tune of the first and three invocations to Christ of the Kyrie Clemens rector, which this MS. in fact assigns to the Mass to be celebrated the next morning. Later on, the lines Panem nostrum are set to the melody of the line Domine Deus from Gloria II (Vat. ed.), and when it comes to the words Et dimitte nobis, the melody reverts to that for the conclusion of the Pater noster at Mass. Finally, the concluding trope line is set to a popular eighth-mode melisma, also found, e.g., for the Benedicamus Domino at II Vespers of solemnities in Solesmes’ 1934 Antiphonale Monasticum.  

The canons then took up the responsory In pace, which was also sung at Compline of Saturday before Lent in Sens, and at the little hours during Lent in other dioceses.

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This is followed by a piece of singular interest: the sole attested musical setting of the Apostle’s Creed, and, moreover, it is troped (it is found in a few other sources, e.g., Laon BM 263). The Creed itself is set to a simple recitation tone, but the tropes are set, like the preceding Pater noster, to tunes from other, presumably well-known, pieces. As with the Pater noster, the Creed is sung alternately, with one cleric (in this case, a priest) singing the words of the Symbol and the other the tropes. 

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The sources for the tropes of the farced Apostles’ Creed (from Western Plainchant: A Handbook by David Hiley.)

After these preces, the office concludes with its usual collect and a Benedicamus Domino troped into a hymn.

See the other posts in this series:

1. A Feast of Fools?: First Vespers
3. Mattins, Lauds, and the Little Hours
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