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Papal Legislation On Sacred Music
Papal Legislation On Sacred Music

Papal Legislation On Sacred Music

Roman Catholic Books

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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