Pope Gregory the Great and Liturgical Reform 

John the Deacon wrote that Pope Gregory I made a general revision of the liturgy of the Pre-Tridentine Mass , “removing many things, changing a few, adding some”. In letters, Gregory remarks that he moved the Pater Noster (Our Father) to immediately after the Roman Canon and immediately before the Fraction . This position is still maintained today in the Roman Liturgy. The pre-Gregorian position is evident in the Ambrosian Rite. Gregory added material to the Hanc Igitur of the Roman Canon and established the nine Kyries (a vestigial remnant of the litany which was originally at that place) at the beginning of Mass. He also reduced the role of deacons in the Roman Liturgy.

Sacramentaries directly influenced by Gregorian reforms are referred to as Sacrementaria Gregoriana . Roman and other Western liturgies since this era have a number of prayers that change to reflect the feast or liturgical season; these variations are visible in the collects and prefaces as well as in the Roman Canon itself.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches , Gregory is credited as the primary influence in constructing the Divine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts , a fully separate form of the Liturgy adapted to the needs of the season of Great Lent.

Gregorian chants

Gregorian chant is the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic , unaccompanied sacred song of the western Roman Catholic Church . Gregorian chant developed mainly in western and central Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries, with later additions and redactions. Although popular legend credits Pope St. Gregory the Great with inventing Gregorian chant, scholars believe that it arose from a later Carolingian synthesis of Roman chant and Gallican chant .

Gregorian chants were organized initially into four, then eight, and finally 12 modes . Typical melodic features include a characteristic ambitus , and also characteristic intervallic patterns relative to a referential mode final , incipits and cadences , the use of reciting tones at a particular distance from the final, around which the other notes of the melody revolve, and a vocabulary of musical motifs woven together through a process called centonization to create families of related chants. The scale patterns are organized against a background pattern formed of conjunct and disjunct tetrachords , producing a larger pitch system called the gamut . The chants can be sung by using six- note patterns called hexachords . Gregorian melodies are traditionally written using neumes , an early form of musical notation from which the modern four-line and five-line staff developed.

 Multi-voice elaborations of Gregorian chant, known as organum , were an early stage in the development of Western polyphony .

Gregorian chant was traditionally sung by choirs of men and boys in churches, or by men and women of religious orders in their chapels. It is the music of the Roman Rite , performed in the Mass and the monastic Office . Although Gregorian chant supplanted or marginalized the other indigenous plainchant traditions of the Christian West to become the official music of the Christian liturgy, Ambrosian chant still continues in use in Milan, and there are musicologists exploring both that and the Mozarabic chant of Christian Spain. Although Gregorian chant is no longer obligatory, the Roman Catholic Church still officially considers it the music most suitable for worship. During the 20th century, Gregorian chant underwent a musicological and popular resurgence.

History Development of earlier plainchant

Singing has been part of the Christian liturgy since the earliest days of the Church. Until the mid-1990s, it was widely accepted that the psalmody of ancient Jewish worship significantly influenced and contributed to early Christian ritual and chant. This view is no longer generally accepted by scholars, due to analysis that shows that most early Christian hymns did not have Psalms for texts, and that the Psalms were not sung in synagogues for centuries after the Destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70. However, early Christian rites did incorporate elements of Jewish worship that survived in later chant tradition. Canonical hours have their roots in Jewish prayer hours. ” Amen ” and “alleluia ” come from Hebrew, and the threefold “sanctus ” derives from the threefold “kadosh” of the Kedushah.

The New Testament mentions singing hymns during the

Last Supper : “When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives ” Matthew 26.30 . Other ancient witnesses such as Pope Clement I , Tertullian , St. Athanasius , and Egeria confirm the practice,  although in poetic or obscure ways that shed little light on how music sounded during this period. The 3rd-century Greek ” Oxyrhynchus hymn ” survived with musical notation, but the connection between this hymn and the plainchant tradition is uncertain.

Musical elements that would later be used in the Roman Rite began to appear in the 3rd century. The Apostolic Tradition , attributed to the theologian Hippolytus, attests the singing of Hallel psalms with Alleluia as the refrain in early Christian agape feasts . Chants of the Office, sung during the canonical hours, have their roots in the early 4th century, when desert monks following St. Anthony introduced the practice of continuous psalmody, singing the complete cycle of 150 psalms each week. Around 375, antiphonal psalmody became popular in the Christian East; in 386, St. Ambrose introduced this practice to the West. In the fifth century, a singing school, the Schola Cantorum, was founded at Rome to provide training in church musicianship.

Scholars are still debating how plainchant developed during the 5th through the 9th centuries, as information from this period is scarce. Around 410, St. Augustine described the responsorial singing of a Gradual psalm at Mass. At ca. 520, Benedict of Nursia established what is called the rule of St. Benedict, in which the protocol of the Divine Office for monastic use was laid down. Around 678, Roman chant was taught at York. Distinctive regional traditions of Western plainchant arose during this period, notably in the British Isles ( Celtic chant ), Spain (Mozarabic), Gaul (Gallican), and Italy ( Old Roman , Ambrosian and Beneventan ). These traditions may have evolved from a hypothetical year-round repertory of 5th-century plainchant after the western Roman Empire collapsed.

John the Deacon, biographer (c. 872) of Pope Gregory I , modestly claimed that the saint “compiled a patchwork antiphonary”, unsurprisingly, given his considerable work with liturgical development. He reorganized the Schola Cantorum and established a more uniform standard in church services, gathering chants from among the regional traditions as widely as he could manage. Of those, he retained what he could, revised where necessary, and assigned particular chants to the various services. According to Grout, his goal was to organize the bodies of chants from diverse traditions into a uniform and orderly whole for use by the entire western region of the Church.  His renowned love for music was recorded only 34 years after his death; the epitaph of Honorius testified that comparison to Gregory was already considered the highest praise for a music-loving pope. While later legends magnified his real achievements, these significant steps may account for why his name came to be attached to Gregorian chant.

Origins of mature plainchant

A dove representing the Holy Spirit sitting on Pope Gregory I ‘s shoulder symbolizes Divine Inspiration

The Gregorian repertory was further systematized for use in the Roman Rite , and scholars weigh the relative influences of Roman and Carolingian practices upon the development of plainchant. The late 8th century saw a steadily increasing influence of the Carolingian monarchs over the popes. During a visit to Gaul in 752–753, Pope Stephen II celebrated Mass using Roman chant. According to Charlemagne , his father Pepin abolished the local Gallican Rites in favor of the Roman use, in order to strengthen ties with Rome. [14] Thirty years later (785–786), at Charlemagne’s request, Pope Adrian I sent a papal sacramentary with Roman chants to the Carolingian court. According to James McKinnon , over a brief period in the 8th century, a project overseen by Chrodegang of Metz in the favorable atmosphere of the Carolingian monarchs also compiled the core liturgy of the Roman Mass and promoted its use in Francia and throughout Gaul.

Willi Apel and Robert Snow assert a scholarly consensus that Gregorian chant developed around 750 from a synthesis of Roman and Gallican chants, and was commissioned by the Carolingian rulers in France. Andreas Pfisterer and Peter Jeffery have shown that older melodic essentials from Roman chant are clear in the synthesized chant repertory. But the developments were abundant as well. Chants were modified, influenced by local styles and Gallican chant, and fitted into the theory of the ancient Greek octoechos system of modes in a manner that created what later came to be known as the western system of the eight church modes . The Metz project also invented an innovative

musical notation, using freeform neumes to show the shape of a remembered melody. This notation was further developed over time, culminating in the introduction of staff lines (attributed to Guido d’Arezzo ) in the early 11th century, what we know today as plainchant notation. The whole body of Frankish-Roman Carolingian chant, augmented with new chants to complete the liturgical year, coalesced into a single body of chant that was called “Gregorian.”

The changes made in the new system of chants were so significant that they have led some scholars to speculate that it was named in honor of the contemporary Pope Gregory II . Nevertheless, the lore surrounding Pope Gregory I was sufficient to culminate in his portrayal as the actual author of Gregorian Chant. He was often depicted as receiving the dictation of plainchant from a dove representing the

Holy Spirit , thus giving Gregorian chant the stamp of being divinely inspired. Scholars agree that the melodic content of much Gregorian Chant did not exist in that form in Gregory I’s day. In addition, it is known definitively that the familiar neumatic system for notating plainchant had not been established in his time.

Nevertheless, Gregory’s authorship is popularly accepted by some as fact to this day.

Dissemination and hegemony

Gregorian chant appeared in a remarkably uniform state across Europe within a short time. Charlemagne , once elevated to Holy Roman Emperor , aggressively spread Gregorian chant throughout his empire to consolidate religious and secular power, requiring the clergy to use the new repertory on pain of death. From English and German sources, Gregorian chant spread north to

Scandinavia , Iceland and Finland . In 885, Pope Stephen V banned the Slavonic liturgy, leading to the ascendancy of Gregorian chant in Eastern Catholic lands including Poland , Moravia, Slovakia , and Austria .


The other plainchant repertories of the Christian West faced severe competition from the new Gregorian chant. Charlemagne continued his father’s policy of favoring the Roman Rite over the local Gallican traditions. By the 9th century the Gallican rite and chant had effectively been eliminated, although not without local resistance. The Gregorian chant of the Sarum Rite displaced Celtic chant . Gregorian coexisted with Beneventan chant for over a century before Beneventan chant was abolished by papal decree (1058). Mozarabic chant survived the influx of the Visigoths and Moors, but not the Roman-backed prelates newly installed in Spain during the

Reconquista . Restricted to a handful of dedicated chapels, modern Mozarabic chant is highly Gregorianized and bears no musical resemblance to its original form. Ambrosian chant alone survived to the present day, preserved in Milan due to the musical reputation and ecclesiastical authority of St. Ambrose.

Gregorian chant eventually replaced the local chant tradition of Rome itself, which is now known as Old Roman chant. In the 10th century, virtually no musical manuscripts were being notated in Italy. Instead, Roman Popes imported Gregorian chant from (German) Holy Roman Emperors during the 10th and 11th centuries. For example, the Credo was added to the Roman Rite at the behest of the Emperor Henry II in 1014. Reinforced by the legend of Pope Gregory, Gregorian chant was taken to be the authentic, original chant of Rome, a misconception that continues to this day. By the 12th and 13th centuries, Gregorian chant had supplanted or marginalized all the other Western plainchant traditions.

Later sources of these other chant traditions show an increasing Gregorian influence, such as occasional efforts to categorize their chants into the Gregorian modes . Similarly, the Gregorian repertory incorporated elements of these lost plainchant traditions, which can be identified by careful stylistic and historical analysis. For example, the Improperia of Good Friday are believed to be a remnant of the Gallican repertory.

The mainstream form of Western plainchant , standardized in the late 9th century, was attributed to Pope Gregory I and so took the name of Gregorian chant. The earliest such attribution is in John the Deacon’s 873 biography of Gregory, almost three centuries after the pope’s death, and the chant that bears his name “is the result of the fusion of Roman and Frankish elements which took place in the Franco-German empire under Pepin , Charlemagne and their successors”. 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s