Haack [Haacke, Haak, Haake], Friedrich Wilhelm

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II. Monophonic Latin

The Latin hymn is a strophic composition, sung in the Divine Office, with a metrical poetic text and a predominantly syllabic melody. ‘Hymn’ here designates compositions for the Office, as distinguished from other liturgical poetry. In the Middle Ages some hymns were also sung outside the Divine Office, such as Pange lingua for the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, and stichic hymns for processions.

1. History of the repertory.

2. Metre.

3. Melodies.

4. Hymn sources and transmission.

5. Influence.

Hymn, §II: Monophonic Latin

1. History of the repertory.

The strophic hymn emerged in the West in the 4th century. The earliest writer of Latin hymns was Hilary of Poitiers (d c367), whose Liber hymnorum, of which only fragments survive, consisted of long, complex narrative texts that did not remain in liturgical use. St Ambrose’s hymns for the church at Milan were more accessible, consisting of eight iambic strophes of four lines each, usually with eight syllables per line. St Augustine, in the Confessions, recounts that the custom of singing hymns and psalms ‘in the Eastern manner’ began in 386, during the siege of Ambrose’s basilica by the troops of the Arian imperial family. Exactly what Augustine meant is not clear: nothing is known of the hymn melodies at the time of Ambrose. While Ambrose’s hymns are thought to form the basis of the Milanese hymn repertory, only a few texts are attributed to him. In his critical edition (1992) Fontaine proposed that four texts are certainly authentic (Aeterne rerum conditor, Iam surgit hora tertia, Deus creator omnium, Intende qui regis Israel); four are probably authentic (Splendor paterne gloriae, Agnes beatae virginis, Victor, Nabor, Felix pii, Grates tibi, Iesu), three are possibly authentic (Amore Christi nobilis, Apostolorum passio, Aeterna Christi munera) and 3 others are probably inauthentic (Illuminans altissimus, Hic est dies verus Dei, Apostolorum supparem).

Hymns were sung in the cathedral Offices of Gaul and Iberia in late antiquity; the Gallican hymn repertory has been reconstructed by Huglo (see Gallican chant, §11). Apparently for the first time in the Western monastic Office, the 6th-century Rules of Caesarius of Arles and Aurelian of Arles prescribe specific hymns for each canonical hour. In these Rules (which are evidently based on the liturgical practices of the monastery of Lérins) the use of hymns seems to be an innovation, perhaps borrowed from the cathedral Office of southern Gaul. Hymns are also mentioned in the Rule of Isidore of Seville (the earliest description of the Spanish monastic Office), but not in the 6th-century Italian Rule of the Master or in the Rules of Cassian or Augustine. The singing of hymns played an important role in the liturgy of the Celtic church (see Celtic chant, §6).

The influential Rule of Benedict (c530) prescribes hymns at all the Hours, without specifying which texts. Benedict used the term ‘ambrosianum’ only for the three Hours at which authentic Ambrosian hymns were sung: Aeterne rerum conditor at Matins, Splendor paterne gloriae at Lauds, and Deus creator omnium at Vespers (Gneuss, forthcoming). For the other Hours, he used the term ‘hymnus’, contributing to the misattribution of many iambic hymns (called ‘ambrosiani’) to Ambrose in the Middle Ages.

The current historiography of the hymn repertory was established by Gneuss (1968), who named the hymn repertory of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages the ‘Old Hymnal’ (OH); this repertory is reconstructed from early Milanese sources, Bede’s De arte metrica, and the Rules of Caesarius, Aurelian and Benedict, none of which contains more than 16 hymns. A second early collection of between 20 and 26 hymns, which Gneuss (1974) called the ‘Frankish hymnal’ (FH), is preserved in six 8th-century manuscripts from north-west France and south-west Germany.

Beginning in the early 9th century, both the OH and FH were replaced (except at Milan and on the Iberian peninsula) by an expansion of the FH, the ‘New Hymnal’ (NH). The basic repertory of 41 hymns in the NH was expanded in the course of the 9th century by at least 21 texts, resulting in a variety of hymns for Vespers, Lauds and Matins, and for feasts. The core repertory in 10th-century sources numbers about 100 hymns; some 11th-century manuscripts contain between 200 and 300 hymns.

The NH is generally viewed as part of the renewal of liturgy during the reign of Louis the Pious (814–40; although Jullien, 1992, suggested a connection to Alcuin). It may be related to the reforms of Benedict of Aniane (d 821), or may have been compiled by Walahfrid Strabo, whose history of the liturgy (Libellus de exordiis … ecclesiasticis rerum, trans. with commentary by A.L. Harting-Corrêa, Leiden, 1996), written in about 829, shows his deep interest in the hymns (Bullough and Harting-Corrêa).

Many anonymous texts in the NH do not appear in earlier sources, and several were probably written in the Carolingian period. Ut queant laxis and Veni creator spiritus are generally considered to be Carolingian works, although their attributions (to Paul the Deacon and to Hrabanus Maurus, respectively) are uncertain. Other texts in the NH are by well-known authors of late antiquity such as Sedulius (A solis ortus cardine) and Venantius Fortunatus (Pange lingua … proelium, Vexilla regis). Some NH hymns are excerpts from Prudentius’s Liber cathemerinon.

The NH became the standard repertory on the Continent and in England (where it arrived with the Benedictine reform in the 10th century), except at Milan. The Hispanic hymn repertory remained distinct until the liturgical reforms of the late 11th century. The hymns were not common in cathedral liturgies between the Carolingian period and the 12th century, and in the Roman liturgy, hymns are first transmitted in the 12th-century Old Roman antiphoner I-Rvat S Pietro B 79 (Nunc sancte nobis spiritus, Te lucis ante terminum and Veni creator spiritus).

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the new religious orders compiled their own hymn repertories. In an attempt to recover the repertory of ‘ambrosiani’ prescribed by the Rule of St Benedict, the Cistercians adopted a collection of 34 hymns from the use of Milan, which was revised between 1140 and 1147 and supplemented by 18 further hymns. Peter Abelard wrote hymns for the convent of the Paraclete (where Heloise was abbess), 90 of which were used there; only one of his melodies survives.

Hymn, §II: Monophonic Latin

2. Metre.

Some hymns are quantitative, with fixed patterns of long and short syllables whose quantity is determined by the rules of classical Latin versification. Others are accentual, with alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables and a fixed number of syllables in each line. Many accentual texts imitate the accent patterns and syllable groupings of quantitative metres. The three most common metres in medieval hymns are the iambic dimeter, trochaic tetrameter and the Sapphic strophe.

Most hymns are in iambic dimeter, with lines of four iambs:..\Frames/F920592.html

The first and third feet in an iambic hymn could be spondees: ..\Frames/F920593.html

Conflicts of ictus and accent arose when the stressed syllables were short in quantity, or unstressed ones were long, as in the following verses from Aeterne rerum conditor: ..\Frames/F920594.html..\Frames/F920595.htmlAccentual iambic hymns imitate the stress patterns of a quantitative iambic but lack the required sequence of feet: ..\Frames/F920596.html

Trochaic metres were also common, as in Ave maris stella and the following quantitative septenarius (trochaic tetrameter catalectic) of Venantius Fortunatus: ..\Frames/F920597.html

Another frequently employed metre was the Sapphic strophe, consisting of three lesser Sapphic lines and an Adonic: ..\Frames/F920599.html..\Frames/F920600.html..\Frames/F920601.html

In the 16th and 17th centuries the hymns were revised to fit the standards of classical prosody, producing the altered versions of the texts in modern printed liturgical books.

Hymn, §II: Monophonic Latin

3. Melodies.

Hymn melodies typically consist of four lines of equal length, corresponding to the lines of text; the last strophe paraphrases the doxology, followed by ‘Amen’. Within strophes, patterns of melodic organization vary; the most common form is ABCD, and other frequent ones numbered as in MMMA, i, 1956 are ABAB (131, 135), AABA (22), AABB (768), ABCA (71; 126; see ex.1 and AA'BA (2). Most hymn melodies are predominantly syllabic, but many are neumatic and some have long melismas.

While most hymn melodies exhibit conventional modal features, some modally ambiguous hymns lack a clear tonal centre and have a final cadence on an unexpected pitch. Occasionally, a melody with an unusual final, such as a, does not fit any of the modes, as in ex.1.

The highest notes often occur in the third line of the strophe, as in ex.2.

Many hymn melodies have narrow ranges spanning a 5th or less in each line, and a few melodies resemble recitation tones, as in ex.3.

Ex.4 shows a well-known melody whose first line fills the entire octave range of mode 1, while subsequent lines focus on the 5th from ad.

Variation and repetition of short phrases within one line or between different lines of a melody are common. In ex.5, the end of the first line is repeated at the beginning of the third, and the end of the second line is echoed in the third and fourth lines. Inexact resemblances (between the two halves of the fifth line, and between the beginnings of the first and fifth lines) reinforce the structure of the melody.

The relationship between words and music in hymns is flexible; different texts with the same liturgical function or metre may be sung to the same melody. Some manuscripts (such as I-VEcap CIX (102)) assign one melody to all hymns for ferial Matins, another to those for ferial Lauds, and a third to those for ferial Vespers. E-H 1 employs both this grouping by liturgical function and a similar grouping of iambic and Sapphic texts. Repertorial organization like that in I-VEcap CIX (102) and E-H 1 would have made it unnecessary to notate a melody more than once in a manuscript, suggesting that the hymn texts without notation in many early notated sources were sung to melodies that appear with another text in the same manuscript. Conversely, many hymn texts are associated with a variety of different melodies. Texts used on multiple occasions (such as Iam lucis orto sidere for Prime) had melodies for different days of the week or for feasts. Some melodies reflect the metrical construction of the corresponding texts, with melismas on accented syllables and cadences on caesuras.

No reliable criteria have yet been developed for dating hymn melodies, partly because the notated sources are so late in the textual tradition. Melismatic, wide-ranging melodies can be found in early manuscripts, and syllabic, highly repetitive melodies are found in late ones. The rich diversity of the hymn repertory hinders attempts such as Stäblein’s to assign characteristics to the different chronological layers of the Milanese hymn repertory. Stäblein identified simplicity, repetition and narrow modal range as archaic features (in contrast to a focus on the final and recitation tone and the use of the full modal range), but these criteria do not provide an adequate basis for dating melodies to the period before the earliest notated manuscripts (Möller, forthcoming).

The medieval performing practice of hymns is mostly a matter of speculation. Bede (d 735) wrote that hymns were sung by alternating choirs, and monastic customaries of the 10th–12th centuries indicate either solo or choral performance. It is not known how medieval singers rendered the metre of the hymns, but some manuscripts from the later Middle Ages suggest performance in mensural rhythm.

Hymn, §II: Monophonic Latin

4. Hymn sources and transmission.

Office hymns were transmitted in independent hymnaries, in separate sections of Office books (such as psalters), and in breviaries and antiphoners; before the 12th century they are found primarily in monastic sources (Jullien, 1989).

Hymn texts were copied without notation beginning in the 7th century; the earliest surviving notated hymns are in manuscripts from the 10th century (the oldest known example is Pange lingua in CH-SGs 359, c900). The first hymnaries with extensive notation were copied in the 11th century, and among these sources only a few indicate melodies for all the hymns: the most extensive collections are CH-Zz Rh.83 (the earliest, dating from c1000), E-H 1, I-VEcap CIX (102), and Rvat Rossi 205. Many hymn melodies were transmitted internationally, while others were of limited local usage. Wide variation between sources sometimes makes it difficult to identify concordances.

Usually only the first strophe of a hymn is notated. In some exceptional manuscripts, however, notation is supplied for entire hymn texts, as in I-Rvat S Pietro B 79, I-FRa A.209 (Farfa, 11th century) and E-H 1 (southern France, 11th century). In E-H 1, many hymns have different melodies for different strophes; this unusual feature may be a way to indicate multiple melodies without recopying the entire text. Two melodies for different strophes of a hymn also appear in the Moissac hymnary (I-Rvat Rossi 205, f.21r).

Hymn, §II: Monophonic Latin

5. Influence.

Hymns influenced other genres of liturgical poetry, particularly tropes and sequences. Many introit tropes were written in the form of hymn strophes, and some tropes are derived from specific hymns (Björkvall and Haug, forthcoming). Both the text and melody of some late sequences were modelled on hymns; for instance, O Maria stella maris is based on Ave maris stella. Hymns were important texts in theological tradition and in the teaching of grammar and versification, as shown by Bede’s De arte metrica, Alberic of Monte Cassino’s De rithmis, and in gloss and commentary traditions from the 11th to the 16th centuries (Gneuss, 1968; Milfull, ed., 1996; Boynton, forthcoming).


(1) Texts. Critical editions of hymn texts include those by Walpole (1922), Bulst (1956) and Fontaine (1992); the volumes of Analecta hymnica dedicated to hymns (ii, iv, xi, xiv, xvi, xix, xxii, xxiii, xxvii, xli, xliii, l–lii, 1888–1909) are considered to be less reliable. Stäblein (MMMA, i, 1956), printed 92 previously unpublished texts.

(2) Melodies. Stäblein edited 557 melodies from over 500 manuscripts and printed books from the 10th to the 18th centuries; the edition contains complete transcriptions of many important early sources, including CH-E 366 (see also B. Ebel, Einsiedeln, 1930), CH-Zz Rh.83, F-Pn n.a. lat.1235 (12th century), I-Rvat Rossi 205, VEcap CIX (102) and Rc 1574 (12th century). His edition is complemented by several later publications, including a transcription of E-H 1 (ed. A. Durán, R. Moragas and J. Villareal, 1987) and Waddell’s critical editions of the Cistercian hymnal (1984) and the Paraclete hymn repertory (1987–9). Moberg and Nilsson’s critical edition of 129 melodies from Swedish sources (1991) is the second part of the text edition published by Moberg (1947); almost all the melodies are also found in Stäblein. Lagnier (1991) and Mele (1994) edited local Italian repertories; Gutiérrez (1993) edited hymn melodies using 131 notated manuscripts from Spain (10th–14th centuries). Milfull (1996) gave concordances in Anglo-Saxon sources for melodies in Stäblein’s edition.

G.M. Dreves, C. Blume and H.M. Bannister, eds.: Analecta hymnica medii aevi (Leipzig, 1886–1922/R)

C. Weinmann, ed.: Hymnarium parisiense; das Hymnar des zistercienser Abtei Pairis im Elsass (Regensburg, 1905) [facs.]

A.S. Walpole, ed.: Early Latin Hymns (Cambridge, 1922/R) [text edn]

B. Ebel, ed.: Das älteste alemannische Hymnar mit Noten: Kodex 366 (472) Einsiedeln (XII. Jh.) (Einsiedeln, 1930)

C.-A. Moberg and A.-M. Nilsson, eds.: Die liturgischen Hymnen in Schweden, i (Copenhagen, 1947) [text]; (Uppsala, 1991) [music]

W. Bulst, ed.: Hymni latini antiquissimi lxxv, psalmi iii (Heidelberg, 1956) [text]

B. Stäblein, ed.: Hymnen I, MMMA, i (1956, 2/1995)

C. Waddell, ed.: The Twelfth-Century Cistercian Hymnal (Trappist, KY, 1984)

A. Dúran, R. Moragas and J. Villareal, eds.: Hymnarium oscense (s. XI) (Zaragoza, 1987)

C. Waddell, ed.: Hymn Collections from the Paraclete (Trappist, KY, 1987–9)

R. Amiet: Corpus hymnologicum augustanum (Aosta, 1989)

E. Lagnier, ed.: Corpus musicae hymnorum augustanum (Aosta, 1991)

J. Fontaine and others, eds.: Ambroise de Milan: hymnes (Paris, 1992)

G. Mele, ed.: Psalterium-Hymnarium arborense: il manoscritto P. XIII della cattedrale di Oristano (secolo XIV/XV) (Rome, 1994)

I. Milfull, ed.: The Hymns of the Anglo-Saxon Church: a Study and Edition of the Durham Hymnal (Cambridge, 1996)

C. Gutiérrez, ed.: Hymnen II: Spanien, MMMA, x (forthcoming)

D. Hiley, ed.: Hymnen III: England, MMMA, x (in preparation)


MGG1 (B. Stäblein);

MGG2 (K. Schlager; ‘Liturgische Gesangbücher’, M. Huglo)

J. Mearns: Early Latin Hymnaries (Cambridge, 1913/R)

J. Szövérffy: Die Annalen der lateinischen Hymnendichtung (Berlin, 1964–5)

P. Mittler: Melodieuntersuchung zu den dorischen Hymnen der lateinischen Liturgie im Mittelalter (Siegburg,1965)

E. Werner: Die Hymnen in der Choraltradition des Stiftes St Kunibert zu Köln (Cologne, 1966)

W. Lipphardt: ‘Das Hymnar der Metzer Kathedrale um 1200’, Festschrift Bruno Stäblein, ed. M. Ruhnke (Kassel, 1967), 160–77

H. Gneuss: Hymnar und Hymnen im englischen Mittelalter (Tübingen, 1968)

H. Gneuss: ‘Latin Hymns in Medieval England: Future Research’, Chaucer and Middle England: Studies in Honour of Rossell Hope Robbins, ed. B. Rowland (London,1974), 407–24

J. Perez de Urbel: ‘Los himnos mozárabes’, Liturgia y música mozárabes: Toledo 1975 (Toledo, 1978), 135–62

W. Lipphardt: ‘Mensurale Hymnenaufzeichnungen in einem Hymnar des 15. Jahrhunderts aus St. Peter, Salzburg (Michaelbeuern Ms. Cart. 1)’, Ut mens concordet voci: Festschrift Eugène Cardine, ed. J.B. Göschl (St Ottilien,1980), 458–87

A. Martimort: ‘La place des hymnes à l’office dans les liturgies d’occident’,Studi ambrosiani in onore di Mons. Pietro Borella, ed. C. Alzati and E. Majo (Milan, 1982), 138–53

C. Gutiérrez: ‘El himnario de Huesca: nueva aproximación’, AnM, xliv (1989), 23–60

M. Jullien: ‘Les sources de la tradition ancienne des quatorze Hymnes attribuées à saint Ambroise de Milan’, Revue d’histoire des textes, xix (1989), 57–189

J. Szövérffy: Latin Hymns (Turnhout, 1989)

D. Bullough and A. Harting-Corrêa: ‘Texts, Chant and the Imperial Chapel of Louis the Pious’, Charlemagne’s Heir: New Perspectives on the Reign of Louis the Pious (814–840), ed. P. Godman and R. Collins (Oxford, 1990), 489–508

A. Nilsson: On Liturgical Hymn Melodies in Sweden during the Middle Ages (Göteborg,1991)

M. Jullien: ‘Les hymnes dans le milieu alcuinien’, De Tertullien aux mozarabes: antiquité tardive et christianisme ancien: mélanges offerts à Jacques Fontaine, ed. L. Holtz and J.-C. Fredouille (Paris, 1992), ii, 171–82

S. Boynton: ‘Recent Research on Latin Hymns’, PMM, iii (1994), 103–12

A. Franz: Tageslauf und Heilsgeschichte: Untersuchungen zum literarischen Text und liturgischen Kontext der Tagzeitenhymnen des Ambrosius von Mailand (St Ottilien, 1994)

J. Stevenson: ‘Irish Hymns, Venantius Fortunatus and Poitiers’, Aquitaine and Ireland in the Middle Ages, ed. J.-M. Picard (Dublin, 1995), 81–110

S. Boynton: Glossed Hymns in Eleventh-Century Continental Hymnaries (diss., Brandeis U., 1997)

A. Haug, ed.: Der Lateinische Hymnus im Mittelalter: Überlieferung – Ästhetik – Ausstrahlung (Kassel, forthcoming) [incl. S. Boynton: ‘The Didactic Function and Context of Eleventh-Century Glossed Hymnaries’; G. Björkvall and A. Haug: ‘Verstechnische and versgeschichtliche Voraussetzungen der melodischen Analyse’; H. Gneuss: ‘Zur Geschichte des Hymnars’; A. Haug: ‘Hymnus und Tropus’; D. Hiley: ‘Zur englischen Hymnen-Überlieferung’; I. Milfull: ‘Spuren kontinentaler Einflüsse in spätangelsächsischen Hymnartypen und deren Neumbestand’; H. Möller: ‘Fragen zu Bruno Stäbleins zeitlich-stilistischer Schichtung der Mailänder Hymnen-Melodien’

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