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Papal Legislation On Sacred Music - 95 A.D. To 1977 A.D.

Item Number: 30884

Catalog Code: PLOSM

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Papal Legislation On Sacred Music

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This book brings together the writings of the popes on sacred music.  Many of these documents are almost totally unknown, some are found only in Latin, and a great number are inaccessible to the average musician.  They form a vast panorama of legislative thought.  Fragmentary references are found in the writings of such early popes as St. Damascus (375-384), St Celestine (422-432), St. Sixtus (432-440), St. Leo the Great (440-451, and others of this era.  More important steps were taken by Gregory the Great (590-604), Leo IV (847-855), John XXII (1316-1334), Benedict XIV (1740-1758), Pius IX (1846-1878), and Leo XIII (1878-1903).


All of the documents accumulate in power as one great crescendo which reached its fortissimo with St. Pius X's Tra le sollecitudini of November 22, 1903.  This mortu proprio on sacred music was the climax of all previous legislation on Church music, and it still remains the highlight of Church music law.  The documents which follow it are explanations and augmentations of the principles laid down by Pius X.  They add little that is new, but rather set forth in greater detail and for current usage the liturgical and norms which he envisaged.

In approaching this work the first problem was to learn how many papal documents on sacred music exist.  As there was no list, it was necessary to compile such an outline.  Msgr. Florentius Romita's Jus musicae liturgicae contains mant of the better known documents.  From the footnotes therein, it was possible to find mant other additional sources, such as Hanin, Otano, Pons, Altisant, and Duclos.  The White List of the Society of St. Gregory of America, as well as the two books of Richard R. Terry, gave some information as to the decrees of teh Congregation of Sacred Rites.  From these leads it was possible to start.  From research in the Vatican Library, mant additional items were found in the collection of the late Monsignor Casimiri.  With the aid of microfilm and the Vatican sources, it was possible to compile a long list of papal writings on music.  Other documents were located at the Abbey of St. Pierre de Solesmes in France.

The Decreta authentica of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, as found in the Muhlbauer, Gardellini, and the 1898 editions were carefully studied.  They contain many decrees of secondary importance which had never appearded in other books, and which are, for all practical purposes, unknown as documents of sacred music.  From this research resulted a long list of documents, many of which are not to be found in the standard works on Church music legislation.  The list, for the most part, was complete.

The second problem was translation.  About 80 percent of the documents were either in Latin, Italian, Spanish, German, or French.  The greater number were in Latin, as contained in the official books of the Catholic Church.  Many translations were found in loder periodicals on Church music such as Echo, Church Music, Review of Church Music, The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, American Ecclesiastical Review, The Catholic Choirmaster, The Tablet (London), and the Dolphin.

The third problem was to decide whether the presentation should be chronological or topical.  For the most part the presentation is chronological, but certain chapters are topical, such as those on the Medicean, Ratisbon and Vatican editions of chant books.  Within certain topically-organized sections of other chapters-chapter 9 on the "Reforms of Pius X" and chapter 10 on the "Effect of the motu proprio of November 22, 1903"-a chronological presentation follows.

Most of the decrees of the Congregation of Sacred Rites on music have been grouped together in appendix 1.  Where especially applicable, however, decrees of this congregation have been placed in the chapters on the Medicean, Ratisbon, and Vatican editions of chant books.  Moreover, the decrees which bear on the reforms of Pius X have likewise been placed in that particular chapter.  Certain decrees on music by other congregations oare found in appendix 1.

The othr appendices describe the Ceremonial of Bishops, provide the notes to Cardinal Sarto's votum of 1893, explain the classification and binding force of papal documents, give the texts of recent documents on sacred music, offer a chronological list of the documents, a bibliography for this work, and an index of the people, places, and events about which pertinent statement is made in the book.

The purpose of this work was to locate, translate, and place in historical context the documents of papal legislation on Church music.  It is hoped that others will analyze, compare, and synthesize this vast collection of data, undoubtedly shedding still further light on the mind of the Church on sacred music.

October 1, 1978                                                                              R.H.

San Francisco, California










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St. Gregory the Great

St. Gregory the Great Feast Day:
Roman Rite Calendar - 09/03
Tridentine Calendar - 09/03

Patron Of: Choir Members, Educators, Masons, Musicians, School Children, Singers, Students, Teachers

    Son of Gordianus, a Roman regionarius, and Saint Silvia of Rome. Nephew of Saint Emiliana and Saint Tarsilla. Great-grandson of Pope Saint Felix III. Educated by the finest teachers in Rome. Prefect of Rome for a year, then he sold his possessions, turned his home into a Benedictine monastery, and used his money to build six monasteries in Sicily and one in Rome. Benedictine monk. Upon seeing English children being sold in the Roman Forum, he became a missionary to England.

    Elected 64th Pope by unanimous acclamation on 3 September 590, the first monk to be chosen. Sent Saint Augustine of Canterbury and a company of monks to evangelize England, and other missionaries to France, Spain, and Africa. Collected the melodies and plain chant so associated with him that they are now known as Gregorian Chants. One of the four great Doctors of the Latin Church. Wrote seminal works on the Mass and Office.

    c.540 at Rome, Italy

Papal Ascension
    3 September 590

    12 March 604 at Rome, Italy

All information used with permission of the Patron Saint Index.


St. Leo the Great

Feast Day:
Roman Rite Calendar - 11/10
Tridentine Calendar - 04/11

    Italian nobility. Strong student, especially in scripture and theology. Priest. Eloquent writer and homilist.

    Pope from 440 to 461 during the time of the invasion of Attila the Hun. When Attila marched on Rome, Leo went out to meet him and pleaded for leave. As Leo spoke, Attila saw the vision of a man in priestly robes, carrying a bare sword, and threatening to kill the invader if he did not obey Pope Leo. As Leo had a great devotion to Saint Peter, it is generally believed the first pope was the visionary opponent to the Huns. When Genseric invaded Rome, Leo's sanctity and eloquence saved the city again.

    Called the Council of Chalcedon to condemn heresies of the day. Fought Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Manichaeism, and Pelagianism. Built churches. Wrote letters and sermons encouraging and teaching his flock, many of which survive today; it is for these writings that Leo was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1574.

    c.400 at Tuscany, Italy

    11 April 461 at Rome, Italy

Name Meaning
    lion (latin)


All information used with permission of the Patron Saint Index.


St. Pius X

Feast Day:
Roman Rite Calendar - 08/21

Patron Of: Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia, Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, Montana, First Communicants, Pilgrims

Also known as
    Giuseppe Melchior Sarto
    Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto
    Giuseppe Sarto
    Joseph Sarto
    Pope of the Blessed Sacrament

    21 August

    Son of Giambattista Sarto, a village cobbler, and Margherita Sanson. Lived an impoverished childhood as one of eight children. Baptized on 3 June 1835. Confirmed on 1 September 1848. Felt a calling to the priesthood from his youth. Studied at the seminary of Padua, and was known as an exceptional student. Ordained by Blessed Giovanni Antonio Farina on 18 September 1858. Chaplain at Tombolo from 1858 to 1867. Archpriest of Salzano from 1867 to 1875. Canon of the Treviso cathedral chapter in 1875. Rector of the Treviso seminary and its spiritual director for nine years. Primicerius of the cathedral in 1879. Chancellor of the diocese of Treviso. Vicar capitular from December 1879 to June 1880. Bishop of Mantua, Italy on 10 November 1884. Assistant at the Pontifical Throne on 19 June 1891. Created cardinal-priest of Saint Bernardo alle Terme on 12 June 1893. Patriarch of Venice on 15 June 1893. Chosen 257th pope, taking the name Pius X.

    Issued decrees on early (age 7 instead of 12 or 14 as previously) and frequent Communion. Destroyed the last vestiges of Jansenism by advocating frequent and even daily Communion. Reformed the liturgy, promoted clear and simple homilies, and brought Gregorian chant back to services. Revised the Breviary, and teaching of the Catechism. Fought Modernism, which he denounced as "the summation of all heresies". Reorganized the Roman curia, the administrative elements of the Church. Worked against the modern antagonism of the state against the Church. Initiated the codification of canon law. Promoting Bible reading by all the faithful. Supported foreign missions. His will read: "I was born poor; I lived poor; I wish to die poor."

    2 June 1835 at Riese, diocese of Treviso, Venice, Austria (now Italy) as Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto

Papal Ascension
    elected 4 August 1903
    installed 9 August 1903

    20 August 1914 at Vatican City from natural causes aggravated by worries over the beginning of World War I
    buried under the altar of the chapel of the Presentation, Saint Peter's basilica

    3 June 1951

    29 May 1954 by Pope Pius XII

    Atlanta, Georgia, archdiocese of
    Des Moines, Iowa, diocese of
    first communicants
    Great Falls-Billings, Montana, diocese of
    Kottoyam, India, archdiocese of
    Santa Lucija, Malta
    Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, diocese of
    Zamboanga, Philippines, archdiocese of

All information used with permission of the Patron Saint Index.

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