Mono- and Polyphonic Liturgical Chants in Honour of the Holy Cross
The cult of the Holy Cross is the cult of the One who was crucified. As Thomas Aquinas explains, the honour, love and devotion which the Church bore toward the one who died on the cross was, as it were, transferred to the tree on which his blood was spilt, then secondarily to the various representations of the cross. In other words, contemplation of the crucifix aroused and deepened in believers honour, love and devotion for the Saviour; the cross in its material aspect aided the spirit of worship.
This theological progression from the person and the event to the object is also historically true. The starting point was devotion and thanksgiving to the one who was crucified. At the beginning of the fourth century Constantine the Great erected a basilica on the site where Jesus was crucified, and where, at the bidding of the emperor’s mother Helena the cross itself was found. From this time on Jerusalemite Christians and pilgrims approached the relic of the cross with veneration, and expressed their gratitude for redemption by kissing it.
In the seventh century Khosrau King of Persia stole the cross, but the Roman Emperor Heraclius, defeating him, retrieved it and had it taken to the basilica built on Calvary. Later many local churches requested and received small splinters of the cross, first Constantinople (which acquired the largest). Veneration of the Cross disseminated through the eastern and western churches: believers approached it with wonder and love, and asked for its protection. The liturgical celebration of the Cross was first and foremost linked to Good Friday, but later the Cross was given two feastdays of its own: first on 14 September (the Exaltation of the Cross) and later on 3 May (the Invention of the Cross).
The different eras of veneration of the Cross are clearly reflected in the feastday chants. The oldest chants address Christ, giving thanks for redemption and praising the cross as the tool of redemption. Another group tells the story of Constantine the Great who, the night before the decisive battle with his co-emperor, had a vision telling him “in this sign will you be victorious”. The emperor had cross-shaped military insignia made and did indeed win the battle. The chants also include the story of how three crosses were found on Calvary; which of the three was Christ’s became clear when, touched by one of them, a dead man rose to life. According to a later legend Jerusalemites hid the relic, and their leader (called Judas) would only show the hiding place on the order of Queen Helena. A third group of chants praises the sign of the cross, and asks for its protection.
Veneration of the Holy Cross influenced music history in its entirety. This thematic disc is thus a kind of cross-section of the history of liturgical chant. Chants praising it can be found in the old liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox church, while in the west they first appeared in the Good Friday rituals. The Old Latin rites (Beneventan, Old Roman, and Milanese) link these texts with archaic melodies (for instance tracks 1–3 on this disc). In the Beneventan Rite the same chants are sung in Greek and in Latin.
The second group of movements is drawn from the old mass movements for the feast of the Holy Cross. In some French sources the Introitus was embellished with tropes of commentary (track 5), and almost everywhere the alleluia was enriched with rhyming sequences typical of the local church (track 6). The Offertory was extended with long twelfth- and thirteenth-century verses thus forming the longest genre in the entire mass (track 8).
The third group of movements is a medieval curiosity. At variance with the custom of the Roman church (perhaps in the Celtic churches), some mass movements were set to texts drawn not from Biblical sources, but from legends. In the Introitus even the verse of the psalm is replaced by such an excerpt; the Offertory is notable for its extreme length and its melodic style, which contrasts with Gregorian chant (track 12). The Communion after them is a Hungarian rarity (track 13).
The fourth group of movements draws on late Gregorian chant, using material in Hungarian codexes. First we hear a long antiphon, followed (most unusually) by a verse and a partial reprise (track 15). After the strange, modern melody of the responsory in track 16, a short antiphon cycle relates in concise form the legend of the finding of the cross (track 18).
The texts sung here (together with many other popular movements, such as the hymn Vexilla Regis) have been set polyphonically by a great many composers between the thirteenth and twentieth centuries. On this disc, such polyphonic works are used to separate the various cycles. In the time of Old Latin rites polyphonic chant was of course unknown, but the three-movement cycle is followed here by a polyphonic movement (Dunstable, track 4). Later we hear Renaissance motets, one by Gombert (a pupil of Josquin de Prez, tracks 4 and 7 [7.pl.4]), two movements by Clemens non Papa (the piece is a fine example of the rich, developed polyphony of the mid-sixteenth century, tracks 10 and 14) and finally two brief, classical movements by Palestrina (tracks 17 and 19).
Translated by Richard Robinson
Sources of the monophonic movements:
Paleographie Musicale XIV. Solesmes, 1995, pp. 174–176. (track 1)
Old Roman Antiphonal, 12th century, Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Archivio S. Pietro B 79 (track 2)
Antiphonale Missarum juxta ritum Sanctae Ecclesiae Mediolanensis; Romae, 1935 (track 3)
Apt Troper, see Monumenta Monodica Medii Aevi III (track 5)
St. Yrieix Graduale, 11th century, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Cod. 903. (tracks 5 and 8)
York Gradual, 15th century, Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Lat. Liturgy. b. 5. (tracks 6 and 9)
Ravenna Gradual (Forlimpopoli), 11th–12th centuries Modena, Archivio Capitulare Ms. O.I.7. (track 12)
Pozsony Antiphonal, 15th century, Bratislava/Pozsony, Knauz 2. (track 15)
Gradual of Ferenc Futaki, 15th century, Istanbul, Topkapi Sarai, Deissmann 68. (track 13)
Istanbul Antiphonal, 14th century, Istanbul, Topkapi Sarai Deissmann n. 42 (tracks 16 and 18)
1. Antiphonae ad adorationem Crucis (feria VI in Parasceve), more Beneventano:
Beneventan antiphons for the Exaltation of the Cross, on Good Friday
Proskynumen ton stauron su, ke ton tipon tu stauro su, ke tou staurotentos tin dinamin. – Adoramus crucem tuam, et signum de cruce tua, et qui crucifixus est virtutem. – Ton stauron su proskynumen, Kyrie, ke tin agin su anastasin doxazomen, deute, pantes, proskynumen tin tu Christu anastasin. – Crucem tuam adoramus, Domine, et sanctam resurrectionem tuam glorificamus; venite gentes, adoremus Christi resurrectionem. – Enumen se, Christe, ke ymnologu- men se, oti dia tu stauru exigorasas ton cosmon. Laudamus te, Christe, et hymnum dicimus tibi, quia per crucem redemisti mundum.
We adore your cross, and the sign of your cross, and the one who was crucified: the Power. We adore your cross, O Lord, and glorify your holy resurrection; come, o nations, let us adore the resurrection of Christ. We glorify you, Christ, and sing a hymn to you, for through your cross you have redeemed the world.
2. Responsorium in festo Sanctae Crucis (in melodia „veteri Romana”)
Responsory for the Feast of the Holy Cross (to an Old Roman melody)
Hoc signum crucis erit in caelo, cum Dominus ad iudicandum venerit, nunc manifesta erunt abscondita cordis nostrae, * alleluia. V) Cum sederit Filius hominis in sede meiestatis suae, et ceperit iudicare saeculum per ignem. * Alleluia.
The sign of the cross shall be in the heavens when the Lord comes to judge, now the hidden things of our hearts are laid bare, * alleluia. V) When the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of his majesty, and begins to judge the world by fire. * Alleluia.
3. Ingressa et Transitorium in festo Sanctae Crucis (more Ambrosiano)
Ambrosian Ingressa and Transitorium for the feast of the Holy Cross
a. O Crux illa magna, fallens gaudia tartarorum, et resolvens vinculas peccatorum! Gaudeant omnes gentes, quia Rex noster infernum vicit, hallelujah.
b. Sicut misertus es, Deus, latroni in Cruce, memento mei, Domine, in regno tuo, hallelujah.
a. O magnificent cross, which cheated the pleasures of hell, and released sinners from their fetters! Rejoice all nations, for our King has defeated hell, alleluia.
b. As you did pity, Lord God, the thief hanging on the cross, so remember me Lord, in your kingdom, alleluia.
4. John Dunstable (? – c. 1370) : O crux (3 vocum)
John Dunstable (? – ca. 1370): O crux (for 3 voices)
O crux gloriosa, o crux adoranda, o lignum pretiosum, et admirabile signum, per quod et diabolus est victus, et mundus Christi sanguine redemptus. O crux splendidior cunctis astris, mundo celebris, hominibus multum amabilis, sanctior universis, quae sola fuisti digna portare talentum mundi; dulce lignum, dulces clavos dulcia ferens pondera. Salva praesentem catervam in tuis hodie laudibus congregatam.
O glorious cross, o cross, precious wood and miraculous sign, through which Satan was defeated, and with the blood of Christ the world was redeemed. O cross more brilliant than all stars, honoured by the world, greatly lovable to men, holier than all things, you who alone were worthy to bear the prize of the world: sweet wood, sweet nails, bearing sweet weights. Save the present company, gathered in your praises today.
5. Introitus cum tropis
Introit with tropes
Ecce crucem Domini, nocuae discedite partes: Nos autem gloriari oportet, Crux victrix vincit, crux crimen et omne repellit: in cruce Domini nostri Iesu Christi; credere iam Christum nos convenit in crucifixum: in quo est salus, vita, et resurrectio nostra, est via, dux Christus, et nostra redemptio Christus: per quem salvati et liberati sumus. Psalmus: Deus misereatur nostri et benedi- cat nobis, illuminet vultum suum super nos et misereatur nostri. Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum amen. Nos autem gloriari...
Behold the cross of the Lord, be gone, harmful powers: But we must be proud, the victorious cross has triumphed, and the cross has driven away all sin: of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; it is right that now we believe in Christ crucified on the cross: in whom is our salvation, our life and our resurrection; Christ is our way and our leader, Christ is our redemption, in whom we have been saved and set free. Psalm: May God have mercy upon us, and bless us, let his face shine upon us, and have mercy upon us. Praise to the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen. But we must be proud...
6. Alleluia cum sequentia
Alleluia with sequence
a. Alleluia. Dulce lignum, dulces clavos, dulcia ferens pondera, quae sola fuisti digna sustinere regem caelorum et Dominum.
b. Salve crux sancta, arbor digna, cuius robur pretiosum mundi ferret talentum, ut hostis per lignum victor ligno revinceretur. Quodque exortus mortis primis erat terrigenis paradiso propul- sis; causa etiam vitae foret cunctis Christi morte vere vivificatis. Horrificum tu es semper signum inimicis, crux sancta, saevis, quam mors pavet, infernusque timet, quae Christo suos reconsignat. Cui laus sit in aevum.
a. Alleluia. Sweet wood, sweet nails, bearing sweet weights: you alone were worthy to bear the King of Heaven, the Lord.
b. Hail, Holy Cross, worthy wood, whose strength bore the treasured prize of the world, that the enemy that was victorious through a tree should be defeated again by a tree. That what was the beginning of death, when the first to tread the earth were expelled from Paradise, may it be the author of life for those who through Christ’s death have indeed come to life. Holy Cross, forever appalling sign to the wild enemy; at whose sight death grows pale, hell quakes, but for Christ you mark out his own. Glory to him forever and ever.
7. Nicolas Gombert (c. 1495 – 1560): O crux splendidior (6 vocum)
Nicolas Gombert (ca. 1495 – 1560): O crux splendidior (for 6 voices)
O crux plendidior cunctis astris, mundo celebris, hominibus multum amabi- lis, sanctior universis: quae sola digna fuisti portare salutem mundi. O crux gloriosa, o crux adoranda, o lignum pretiosum, et admirabile signum, per quod et diabolus est vinctus et mundus Christi sanguine redemptus.
O cross more brilliant than all stars, honoured by the world, greatly lovable to men, holier than all things, you who alone were worthy to bear the salvation of the world: O glorious cross, o beloved cross, precious wood and miraculous sign, through which Satan was defeated, and with the blood of Christ the world was redeemed.
Protege, Domine, plebem tuam per signum sanctae Crucis ab omnibus insidiis inimicorum omnium, * ut tibi gratam exhibeamus servitutem, et acceptabile tibi fiat sacrificium nostrum, alleluia. V) In conspectu tuo, Domine, sint acceptabile preces nostrae per signum et virtutem sanctae Crucis, per quem salvati ac liberati sumus. * Ut tibi gratam... V) Salvator mundi, salva nos omnes, et cuncta nocentia a nobis procul repelle, atque ad protegendum nos dexteram tuae maiestatis extende. * Ut tibi...
Protect, O Lord, your people with the sign of the cross against every machinations of the enemy, * that they may present to you a worthy service, and may our sacrifice be acceptable in your sight, alleluia. V) May our pleas be accept- able in your sight, O Lord, through the sign and power of the holy cross, through which we are saved and delivered. * That they may... V) Saviour of the world, save us all, and keep all harmful things far from us, and raise your majestic right hand to protect us. * That they may...
Per lignum servi facti sumus, et per sanctam crucem liberati sumus; fructus arboris seduxit nos, filius Dei redemit nos, alleluia.
Through a tree we became servants, and through the holy tree we are delivered; the fruit of the tree seduced us, and the Son of God redeemed us, alleluia.
10. Jacobus Clemens non Papa (c. 1510 – c. 1556): Haec est arbor dignissima
Jacobus Clemens non Papa (ca. 1510 – ca. 1556): Haec est arbor dignissima
Haec est arbor dignissima, in qua salutis auctor propria morte mortem omnium superavit. O crux benedicta, quae sola fuisti digna portare regem caelorum et Dominum.
This is the most worthy tree, in which the author of salvation defeated our death through his own death. O blessed cross, you alone who were worthy to bear the King of Heaven, the Lord.
Dum esset gens congregata super Danubium, ecce vir in nocte splendidus apparuit Constantino regi dicens, alleluia. V) Aspice in Oriente, et vide signum per quod accipies virtutem. Dum esset gens...
When a great crowd gathered by the Danube, behold, a shining man appeared at night to King Constantine, saying alleluia. V) Look to the East, and see the sign, in which you shall gain victory. When a great crowd...
Veniens vir splendidissimus ad Constantinum regem, nocte suscitavit eum dicens: aspice in caelum, et vide signum crucis Domini, per quod accipies virtutem et fortitudinem. * Viso autem signo hoc rex fecit similudinem crucis, quam viderat in caelum, et glorificavit Deum, alleluia. V) Aspectus quidem visio gloriosissimi signi cor regis laetificaverat non modicum, similitudinem namque crucis curavit rex, matri solicitudine magnae ostendere, ut hoc Christi veri Dei curcifixi vexillum a Iudaeis exquaerere quamtotius festinare, quaeque illam inventam mirifice collocavit ex auro argentoque tecam faciens. * Viso autem.
A shining man appeared to King Constantine, and awakened him at night, saying: Look to the heavens and see the sign of the cross of the Lord, through which you acquire victory and power. * And seeing the sign this king made a representa- tion of the cross that he saw in the sky, and he praised God. V) The vision of the glorious sign cheered the king’s heart not a little; and he made a likeness of the cross, then urged by his mother he set out to acquire from the Jews the sign of the true God crucified on the cross; and when he found it, he placed it in a casket of gold and silver. * And seeing...
O crux, nitide lignum, quia super te pependit redemptor noster, quia salus mundi facta es, alleluia.
O cross, brilliant sign, for on you was hung our Redeemer, who became the salvation of the world, alleluia.
14. Jacobus Clemens non Papa (c. 1510 – c. 1556) : O crux benedicta
Jacobus Clemens non Papa (ca. 1510 – ca. 1556): O crux benedicta
O crux benedicta, quia in te pependit Salvator mundi, et in te triumphavit Rex angelorum, alleluia. Adoramus te Christe, et benedicimus tibi, quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum, alleluia.
O blessed cross, on you hung the Saviour of the world, and on you the King of Angels triumphed. We adore you, Christ, and sing a hymn to thee, for through thy cross thou hast redeemed the world.
O crux gloriosa, o crux adoranda, o lignum pretiosum, et admirabile signum, per quod et diabolus est victus et mundus Christi sanguine redemptus, alleluia. V) Arbor amara nimis de sede pia paradiso illos eduxit, quos vita beata reduxit ad vitae regnum per te, venerabile signum, alleluia...
O glorious cross, o beloved cross, precious wood and miraculous sign, through which Satan was defeated, and with the blood of Christ the world was redeemed, alleluia. V) That tree so bitter led the primal parents out of the paradise of their childhood; yet a happy life led them back to the kingdom of life through you, the worthy sign of the cross, alleluia...
Ex divinare caritatis beneficio in longum et latum crucis fit dimensio, * ut ipsius sublimitas aqtque profundum ad vitam ** circumquaue reintegret mundum. V) Lignum vitae in cruce tua, Domine, manifestum est. .* Ut ipsius... V) Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto. ** Cricumuaque.
Thanks to divine love the cross has extended the length and breadth (of the earth), * in order that its height and depth round about ** should bring the world back to life. V) The tree of life, O Lord, appeared in your cross. * In order that its height... V) Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. ** Should bring the world...
17. Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525 – 1594): Crucem sanctam
Pierluigi da Palestrina (ca. 1525 – 1594): Crucem sanctam
Crucem sanctam Crucem sanctam subiit, qui infernum confregit, accinctus est potentia, surrexit die tertia, alleluia.
He took up the holy cross, and defeated hell, and put on his power, and rose on the third day, alleluia.
18. Series antiphonarum ad festum Sanctae Crucis
Antiphon series for the Feast of the Holy Cross
a. Helena Constantini mater Ierosolimam petiit, alleluia. – b. Tunc praecepit eos omnes igne cremari, at illi timentes tradiderunt Iudam, alleluia. – c. Cumque ascendisset Iudas de lacu, perrexit ad locum ubi iacebat sancta crux, alleluia. – d. Orabat Iudas: Deus, Deus meus, ostende mihi lignum sanctae crucis, alleluia. – e. Cum orasset Iudas com- motus est locus ille, in quo sancta crux iacebat, alleluia. – f. Helena sancta dixit ad Iudam: comple desiderium meum et vive super terram, ut ostendas mihi, quae dicitur Calvariae locus, ubi absconditum est pretiosum lignum dominicum, alleluia.
a. Helena, mother of Constantine travelled to Jerusalem, alleluia. – b. Then she commanded them to burn them with fire, but they feared giving up Judas, alleluia. – c. When Judas rose from the pit, he went to the place where the Holy Cross lay, alleluia. – d. Judas prayed: God, My God, show me the place of the holy cross, alleluia. – e. When Judas prayed, the place where the holy cross lay shook, alleluia. – f. Saint Helena said to Judas: Do as I wish, and live on this earth, show me the place of Calvary, where the Lord’s precious tree is hidden, alleluia.
19. Palestrina: Adoramus te Christe
Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi, quia per sanctam crucem tuam redemisti mundum.
We adore you, Christ, and bless you, for through your cross you have redeemed the world.