Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

Subscriber: null; date: 24 June 2018

The English Kyrie

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the history of the English Kyrie, an important prayer of Christian liturgy. More specifically, it examines both the suppression of the English Kyries on the Continent and the attempt, particularly in the later fifteenth century, to recover some of these Kyries in a different guise. It first provides an overview of the connection between the Eastern Kyrie litany and the Kyrie of the mass before discussing five “manners” of singing the Kyrie eleison in the early eleventh century. It then explores how the early Kyrie repertory of post-conquest England became almost entirely northern French in character and how a large repertory of English mass music was copied in northern Italy and southern Germany. It also considers the efforts of some scribes to salvage the English Kyries by transforming them into motets. Finally, it analyzes the surviving English fragments of the Kyrie as well as the manner in which English masses were transmitted in continental sources.

Keywords: English Kyrie, prayer, liturgy, litany, mass, Kyrie eleison, repertory, England, mass music, motets

The Kyrie eleison as a choral refrain to a series of petitions (a litany) can be traced to fourth-century Jerusalem, according to the testimony of Egeria, who visited the Holy Land between 381 and 384 (Egeria 1999, 124). The Kyrie had reached Rome in the fifth century, and from the letter Gregory the Great (d. 604) wrote to Bishop John of Syracuse, we can gather that it was still essentially a litany at this time. Gregory took care to deny that he was introducing Greek practices into Rome, and in this connection he mentioned that in Rome, unlike in the East, Kyrie eleison is sung as often as Christe eleison and that on nonfestal days the Greek text was sung without the longer verses that were sung on other occasions (in quotidianis autem missis aliqua quae dici solent tacemus). In Gregory’s time the Kyrie was still sung by the clergy with the congregation responding (a clericis dicitur et a populo respondetur) (Gregory 1862, 956–957). The connection between the Eastern Kyrie litany and the Kyrie of the mass, however, is not straightforward, and it now appears more likely that the Kyrie of the mass was introduced in the West independently of the litanies (De Clerck 1977, 282–295). By the early eighth century, the Kyrie’s position after the introit of the mass was fixed; the Kyrie was no longer sung by the people but by the schola cantorum; and it consisted of any number of repetitions of the invocation “Kyrie eleison,” until the pope signaled a change to “Christe eleison” (Andrieu 1974, 2:84: “schola vero, finita antiphona, inponit Kyrie eleison”). By the late eighth century the Kyrie was restricted to nine invocations—three Kyrie eleison, three Christe eleison, three Kyrie eleison—sung antiphonally between the schola cantorum and the regionarii (subdeacons) (Andrieu 1974, 1:159). There is no reference in either of these ordines to any other text, so it is possible that in the eighth century, as the Kyrie was incorporated into the mass, its text was reduced to the nine short Greek acclamations, each possibly sung twice (once by the schola and once by the regionarii).

Nonetheless, when the Kyrie eleison emerges in the earliest manuscripts with music for the ordinary of the mass in the early tenth century, the manuscripts show a number of versions. Some of the versions look at first sight like the older litany, but these probably derive from developments that took place in the course of the ninth century and had already crystallized not only as different approaches to the performance of the Kyrie (p. 40) eleison but also into what might be called regional variants (Bjork 2003, 4–7). For some of these regions we have sources from the tenth century, while for others (for example, southern Italy) the earliest surviving sources are from the eleventh century. The early sources already show some international as well as regional melodies and approaches. By the early eleventh century, there are, roughly, five “manners” of singing the Kyrie eleison. These are as follows:

  1. 1. Nine Greek invocations, usually sung to a relatively simple melody: aaa, bbb, ccc’ or aaa, bbb, aaa’.

This manner is found throughout Europe beginning in the early tenth century. Some very simple Kyries found in the earliest sources with neumes, which do not survive in transcribable form, follow this pattern and appear to be even less ornamented.1

The English KyrieClick to view larger

Example 2.1 Kyrie XVI of the Vatican editions (Graduale Romanum, Liber Usualis), Melnicki 1954, no. 217. Melnicki reports sources from all over Europe going from the tenth to the eighteenth century, but did not inventory the tenth-century manuscripts with non-diastematic notation. Transcription is from F-Pn lat. MS 887, fol. 59v (Limoges, ca. 1030), one of the earliest transcribable copies of the Kyrie. The different sources transmit a considerable number of small variants (cf. Bjork 2003, 359–362).

  1. 2. The first invocation in Greek, and then each of the following invocations preceded by a Latin text with a melody different from that of the Greek invocation. The Latin texts are what modern scholarship calls Kyrie tropes, but only when their melody is different from that of the Greek invocation (Bjork 1980, 2–3).

This manner is found almost exclusively in East Francia, although some of these Kyries were also sung in Italy, where they arrived most likely with the East Frankish repertory, including the Notkerian proses. The piece in Example 2.2 is the only one of these Kyries that was used west of the Rhine, albeit with a different Kyrie melody (Bjork 2003, 12).

  1. 3. Each Greek invocation is preceded by a Latin verse with the same melody as the Greek invocation. The melodic pattern can be as simple as aaa, bbb, ccc’ or as elaborate as aba, cdc, efe’, with the alternation between Greek and Latin in the last pair being broken up phrase by phrase. Scholars from the late nineteenth century to the third quarter of the twentieth century referred to these Latin verses as tropes, but they are not tropes. Rather, they are Latin invocations set to the Kyrie melody, (p. 41) and many of them were composed simultaneously with the melody. They are best called Latin Kyries (Bjork 2003, 171).

The English KyrieClick to view larger

Example 2.2 This transcription is a reconstruction of the version in CH-SGs 484, 209–211, with the help of F-Pn lat. 1118, fol. 19v for the trope verses and F-Pn nouv. acqu. lat. 1235, fol. 214v, and D-Bs Mus. ms. 40078 (Z. 78), fol. 247r, for the Kyrie. Melnicki 1954, no. 144.

This manner of singing the Kyrie was the most widespread one in the lands west of the Rhine. Some of these Kyrie melodies were known east of the Rhine and were sung occasionally in this manner in the tenth century and with increased frequency after the (p. 42) eleventh, but in some instances they were sung with separate Latin verses in the second manner listed above.2

The English KyrieClick to view larger

Example 2.3 This is Kyrie XIV of the Vatican editions, Melnicki 1954, no. 64; Source, GB-Ob Rawl. Lit. D 3, fol. 49r.

  1. 4. The Greek invocations were sung by themselves, but each set of invocations was introduced by a Latin verse with a separate melody, that is a trope, sometimes with an introductory verse for the entire piece as well.

(p. 43) (p. 44)

The English KyrieClick to view larger

Example 2.4 Kyrie Vatican ad lib. VI, Melnicki 1954, no. 55, from F-Pn lat. 903, fols. 166v-167r, the initial E of many of the Greek invocations is uniquely found in this MS.

This practice is related to that in Example 2.2. It was also connected, in France and parts of Italy, with Kyries sung in the manner of Example 2.3, so that the introductory verses led not just to sets of Greek invocations but rather to Latin-Greek Kyries with each melodic strain of the Kyrie itself sung twice. This is the way in which the Kyrie in Example 2.4 appears in F-Pn lat. 11118, fol. 12r (Bjork 2003, 261–264). The repertory of these introductions is the smallest and most unstable of the medieval Kyrie repertories. Instances vary from a single introduction to two, three, or four, in different (p. 45) combinations and placed at different points in the sequence of the Kyrie invocations. Virtually all instances are unique, so it is hard to determine what a “normal practice” was anywhere. Judging from the very small number of surviving sources, this might have been the predominant manner of ornamenting the Kyrie in pre-conquest England, but it disappears in all post-conquest sources. This might not be just a case of the Norman invaders bringing their own liturgical traditions with them (though they did that), but of the fact that by the early twelfth century this manner of singing the Kyrie was dying all over Europe.

The English KyrieClick to view larger

Example 2.5 Melnicki 1954, no. 52, transcribed from I-Bc 40, fols. 21r-v. See also Boe, 28–39.

(p. 46)

  1. 5. Greek and Latin invocations sung in alternation as in the third manner listed above, but in this case the Latin invocation follows the Greek invocation. Thus, textually this manner of singing the Kyrie resembles that of the second manner listed above. The difference, however, is that all nine Latin invocations are sung to the same melody, without any change, and all Greek invocations are sung either to that same melody or a very close variant of it. The entire Kyrie ends with an “amen” or an “alleluia” set to part of the music for the invocations.

This manner was restricted to Italy, largely south of Rome. The earliest southern examples are from the middle of the eleventh century, but we have no earlier sources from the region. Concordances of a few pieces from northern Italy, however, demonstrate that this repertory went back to the tenth century (this Kyrie appears also in I-Vc CVII [100], fols. 32v-33r, copied ca. 1000). It survived in southern Italy, mixed with Kyries imported from both east and west Francia until the thirteenth century.

Two of these manners of singing the Kyrie—those involving actual tropes (Examples 2.2 and 2.4 above)—fell into disuse in the course of the twelfth century. Kyries such as those in Example 2.5 were used largely in southern Italy, while in the north they were adapted to the Frankish manner presented in Example 2.3—that is, with the Latin text preceding the Greek invocation. Thus, north of the Alps, only the Kyries such as those given in Examples 2.1 and 2.3 continued to be sung into the thirteenth century. The same Kyrie melodies, including a relatively large repertory of new melodies and Latin texts composed in the eleventh century and early twelfth century, continued to be sung, either as Greek invocations or with the Latin texts depending on the solemnity of a given feast and the local traditions. If the surviving chant books are a guide, when the Kyries were sung with the Latin texts in the course of the thirteenth century, they were no longer sung in alternation with the Greek invocations.3

This was essentially the situation that obtained in continental Europe during the thirteenth century. In the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the singing of the Latin verses was gradually abandoned throughout most of the Continent. The abandonment of the Latin verses has never been studied systematically and can only be deduced by comparison of the hundreds of missals and graduals of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries that have survived. This is an immense task that has never been attempted, although a foundation for it exists in the critical notes to the edition of the Latin Kyries in AH 47. A number of Latin Kyries continued to be copied into the fifteenth century, although there is little evidence that they were sung, since their melodies also appeared just as often with just the Greek invocations. Moreover, there are instances of Kyries with newly composed Latin texts in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century missals (in these cases usually without music, so we cannot tell if the Kyrie melody was newly composed or an old melody was provided with a new Latin text) (AH 47, 140–145 and 166–167). A few of the old Latin Kyries (for example, Clemens rector aeterne) continued to be copied and possibly sung with their Latin text, but often what we encounter in many sources are vestigial copies of the Latin verses, where only verses 1, 4, and 7 are entered below the music. When the ordinary of the mass began to be set (p. 47) in polyphony in the fourteenth century, a number of such late Latin Kyrie texts were used in a few of the settings. Of the twenty-two surviving polyphonic Kyries of the fourteenth century (these include those edited in Cattin, Stäblein-Harder, and the Kyrie of Machaut’s La messe de Nostre Dame), eleven have no Latin texts. Of the other eleven, one has a fragment of one of the traditional Latin Kyries, seven other have newly composed metric poems modeled on the conductus and motet poetry of the time, and three have multiple texts in the manner of the contemporary motets. In other words, virtually all the Kyries with Latin texts in this repertory are sui generis works, either strophic conductus settings or motet-like works related not to the traditions of plainsong Latin Kyries but rather to the new polyphonic genres of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

The situation in England, however, was quite different. After what David Hiley calls “the heroic age of Anglo-Saxon monasticism” (Hiley 1993, 581), in the seventh and eighth centuries, the time of the Venerable Bede, Benedict Biscop, Boniface, and Alcuin, the English church was virtually destroyed by the Scandinavian invasions of the ninth century. When England began to recover in the tenth century under King Ælfred and his successors, the religious, liturgical, and musical life of the island drew both inspiration and some of its key personnel from the monastic establishments of northeastern France and the Netherlands; the major English establishments were led by three great bishops, Dunstan, Oswald, and Æthelwold. All three were monks and converted the cathedrals over which they presided—Canterbury (Dunstan), Worcester and York (Oswald), and Winchester (Æthelwold)—into monastic cathedrals. In 972 Æthelwold and King Edgar called up a council to lay down guides for the conduct of the English church, which resulted in the Regularis Concordia (Symons 1953), with a description of many of the liturgical practices then in use. At the council, advice was sought from monks of St. Peters in Ghent and Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire at Fleury. Earlier in the century Æthelwold had brought monks from Corbie to Abingdon to provide instruction in writing and singing. Unfortunately, the written record of the Anglo Saxon liturgy of the tenth century is extremely fragmentary: there are about thirty books or fragments, a third of which come from Winchester (see Rankin 1987). The surviving Kyrie repertory of pre-conquest England consists of seventeen melodies: nine of them are international in the sense that one finds them in sources from all over Europe between the tenth and the thirteenth centuries; four were found elsewhere in north French (including Norman) and Rhenish sources; four survive only in the Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. There were four Kyrie tropes, one with an international concordance, one with a fairly extensive French concordance, and two found only in England. And there was one Latin Kyrie, a late addition to the pre-conquest repertory but one with a wide distribution in France and the Rhineland. This repertory, in comparison to the Kyrie repertory found in sources from France and the Rhineland in the tenth and eleventh centuries, is anomalous. It has Kyrie tropes of the West Frankish variety but no Latin Kyries except for the addition, in the eleventh century, of Cunctipotens genitor deus in one of the surviving manuscripts.

The fall of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom to William the Conqueror in 1066 produced the first large wave of suppression in England itself. One consequence of the conquest is that (p. 48) virtually none of the English repertory of tropes and proses survives in post-conquest sources. (This loss, however, pales in comparison to the cultural genocide perpetrated on the Spanish nation and its liturgical tradition by the treachery and imperial hubris of Pope Gregory VII, one of the most unappealing figures of the medieval papacy, with his insistence that Spain abandon its traditional liturgy and chant entirely, essentially erasing several centuries of the cultural memory of a nation.) William did replace the entire English hierarchy, including archbishops, bishops, and abbots, with Normans (or, in the case of the first two post-conquest Archbishops of Canterbury, with Italian monks who had been important officers of Norman monasteries), and this change brought with it a revision of the order or service itself. The pieces of the mass and office that were established throughout Europe were of course not changed, but the change is quite noticeable (although not entirely clear-cut) where there was the possibility of choice: in the Alleluias of the Sundays after Pentecost, in the responsories for certain offices, and particularly in the Kyries and other pieces of the ordinary of the mass, as well as in the use of tropes and proses. When one compares the pre-conquest chant books with those from after the conquest and those from Normandy itself, it is clear that even though pieces were sung at different feasts, the versions of the Gregorian melodies sung after the conquest remain those that were sung before the conquest, and the variants found in Norman sources were largely not adopted. But the trope repertory, particularly the tropes for the proper of the mass, does not survive in the post-conquest sources. It might be that by this time this was a dying repertory all over Europe, but it is also true that among French sources proper tropes survive into the twelfth century in central and northeastern manuscripts, but disappear rather early among the Norman and northwestern manuscripts, suggesting that there might have been a Norman antagonism to tropes. Unfortunately, no English sources with transcribable notation existed by 1066, so an entire repertory of tropes—not only those for the local English saints but also adaptations of French and Rhenish pieces reworked in the highly ornamental language of the Anglo Latin poets of tenth century Winchester—are now beyond our reach as music. Among the proses for the local saints, those that were set to French or international melodies can be recovered by comparing their neumation with that of Continental versions that can be transcribed, but a number of proses of insular origin remain also irrecoverable as music. In the case of the Kyries, two of the tropes can be recovered by comparison with French and Rhenish sources, two others, however, are irrecoverable, and none survived in post-conquest manuscripts. The same applies to four of the Kyrie melodies, which were clearly insular in origin. The early Kyrie repertory of post-conquest England becomes almost entirely northern French in character, with a large number of the kinds of Latin Kyries that were sung in northern France at the end of the eleventh century. Many of them, of course, were set to the international melodies that had been sung before in England but only with the Greek invocations.

The liturgy of post-conquest England also took a slightly different direction than on the Continent, including Normandy. The great revival of the tenth century had been carried out primarily by monk-bishops who had turned out the clerks in their cathedral and established monks. The primatial see of England, Canterbury, was a monastic (p. 49) institution, as were Winchester and Worcester. Thus, their liturgical use could not well serve as a model for secular cathedrals or parish churches. Salisbury Cathedral, which was founded by St. Osmund in the late eleventh century and grew to prominence under Bishop Richard Poore (who changed the site of the cathedral in 1218), became essentially the model for the secular liturgy of England, particularly since the Chapel Royal appears to have adopted the Salisbury liturgy. From the thirteenth century onward, professional bookshops in Oxford, London, and Cambridge were able to produce numerous books of the Salisbury use on demand, which made it easier for all the churches on the island to use the Salisbury rite, known as the “use of Sarum,” which became largely the English national rite of the later middle ages until the Reformation (Hiley 1993, 584).

Table 2.1 The Latin Kyries of the Sarum Use in Liturgical Order

1. Deus creator omnium

Mel 68 (Vat. XIV)

2. Cunctipotens genitor deus

Mel 18 (Vat. IV)

3. Kyrie omnipotens pater

Mel 67 (Vat. no)

4. Kyrie rex splendens

Mel 24 (Vat. VII)

5. Lux et origo lucis

Mel 39 (Vat. I)

6. Kyrie rex genitor

Mel 47 (Vat. VI)

7. Kyrie fons bonitatis

Mel 48 (Vat. II)

8. Orbis factor rex aeterne

Mel 16 (Vat XI)

9. Conditor Kyrie omnium

Mel 70 (Vat V)

10. Rex virginum amator

Mel 18 (Vat IV)

The manuscripts (and eventually the printed books) of the use of Sarum established what became a relatively consistent series of Kyries for use in the major feasts of the year and usually presented them in an order of descending liturgical solemnity. With some small variations of order here and there in the sources, the order is as follows (Table 2.1).

These were followed by between ten and thirty other settings (sometimes of the same melodies as those of the Latin Kyries listed above) for less solemn feasts. The melodies, even without the Latin texts, were used as a form of liturgical reference indicating their appropriateness for a given feast. For example, a melody that in more solemn contexts had always a Marian Latin text, could be used without the Latin text for less solemn Marian feasts such as the octaves. The order of the Latin Kyries at the outset was always considered as a general guide to their solemnity, with those at the beginning of the list serving for the more solemn feasts. The placing of the Kyrie for the masses of the Virgin at the end of the list was a traditional feature of such ordered lists, even though the feasts of the Virgin were often among the most solemn (Wickham Legg 1916, 1–6).

(p. 50) The manner in which the Kyries were copied in England began as an analog of the manner in which they were copied across the Channel. In the twelfth- and early-thirteenth-century manuscripts, the Latin Kyries were copied with the melismatic setting of the Greek invocation following each Latin verse. In manuscripts of the later thirteenth century and the fourteenth century, the Latin Kyries were copied with only the Latin text and without the double versicle structure. Throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, England differed from the Continent by continuing to sing the Latin Kyries as a normal part of the celebration in most feasts above the simplex rank.

The English polyphonic repertory of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was also qualitatively different from the Continental repertory. There was very little secular polyphony in England, and the English motets of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries are almost uniformly in Latin with liturgical and devotional texts. Although the English developed their own notational system, derived largely from the Franconian notation of the thirteenth century (as was the French Ars nova notation), English music shows an awareness of French polyphony and its notation throughout the fourteenth century, but the converse appears not to be the case. Continental music does not seem to have had much contact with English music at that time. Sometime around 1400, English composers came upon a novel manner of organizing the music for the ordinary of the mass. As on the Continent, English mass music consisted largely of isolated movements, Kyries, Glorias, Credos, and so on, written in different styles that ranged from simple simultaneous declamation of the text in the manner of a conductus—but often with the appropriate plainsong in the middle voice of the texture, what modern scholars call “discant style”—to elaborate motet-like compositions based not always on a preexisting cantus firmus but on a voice, the pes, that had a repeating melodic and rhythmic pattern and served as the base and guide for the contrapuntal combinations, and to canonic settings supported by one or more slow moving parts. Toward the end of the fourteenth century, English composers, like some of their Continental counterparts, began pairing movements together, primarily Glorias and Credos, and Sanctus and Agnus, by means of similar clefs, mensurations, order of textures (alternation of duos and trios or alternation of sections in different mensurations) and some motivic work. By around 1400, however, one or more English composers came upon a considerably more radical idea when writing mass movements based on the more elaborate motet technique, and it was to organize all five movements of the ordinary of the mass into a cycle where all the movements were motet-like settings based on the same tenor, almost always a pre-existing chant that was, however, not a mass chant but an antiphon, a responsory, or another kind of chant often chosen, as in the case of motets, for the emblematic and symbolic meaning of the chant itself. This had two immediate consequences: first, it tied the newly composed mass to some liturgical or ceremonial occasion, a coronation, the feasts of the Virgin, the feast of a Saint; second, the repeated use of the same cantus firmus throughout each movement of the mass created a set of contrapuntal constraints and preconditions that in many cases eased (though not necessarily ensured) a musical rather than purely liturgical sense that the five movements belonged together as a work. It might not be a historical coincidence that such a procedure arose in England rather (p. 51) than on the Continent. This was usually accompanied by a similar structuring of the polyphonic texture of all the movements, with changes of mensuration duplicated from one movement to the next, and the distribution of passages in reduced scoring (usually duos) falling at corresponding places in each movement. All of these traits add up to a completely musical solution to something that would have been important primarily to musicians—the musical and formal structure of the cycle. On the Continent, virtually all singers and composers of sacred polyphony were at this time clerics, while in England they were largely choral vicars—that is, musically trained laymen contracted by the clerics of a given church to take their place in the choral services of that church.

This shift in the manner of organizing all five movements of the ordinary of the mass would prove eventually to be immensely influential, but when it was being accomplished in England in 1400–1410, there is little evidence that anyone across the Channel was paying attention. That was to change in a few years. In 1414 King Sigismund pressured Pope John XXIII into calling an ecumenical council to end the Great Schism of the West, which divided Western Christendom into obediences to three rival popes: Gregory XII, Benedict XIII, and John XXIII. The council met in Constance in southern Germany from 1414 to 1418, and was attended by several hundred cardinals, bishops, abbots, as well as representatives of the universities and the secular rulers. Many of the cardinals and bishops came with considerable retinues including their chapels and musicians. All in all, some eighteen thousand clerics descended upon the city, which at the time had about eight thousand inhabitants (Schuler 1966, 150). Among them came the retinues of the bishops of Lichfield and Norwich, who traveled through Germany. On September 8, 1414, they stopped in Cologne and celebrated the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin, and a local chronicler reported not having heard such splendid singing in thirty years (Schuler 1966, 158). Having arrived in Constance on November 16, the English singers and instrumentalists celebrated the feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury on December 29 with singing and instrumental playing that elicited the most extraordinary admiration from the listeners (Schuler 1966, 159). The memory of these performances and of the music itself clearly lingered on the Continent and was surely renewed by the presence of English musicians among the retinues of the English delegation to the Council of Constance in the 1430s as well. In the 1440s Martin le Franc, in a widely cited passage in his poem Les champion des dames, explains part of the new style cultivated by Gilles de Bins, called Binchois, and Guillaume Du Fay by commenting that “they took on the English countenance and followed [John] Dunstaple,” (Le Franc (1999), 4:67–69; cf. Fallows 1987 and Strohm 2001). Iohannes Tinctoris, in the Liber de arte contrapuncti, written in the 1470s, again places the fons et origo of the new style of European music in the 1430s and with the English generation of John Dunstaple (Tinctoris 1975–1978, 2:12). And it is indeed Dunstaple and his slightly older contemporary Leonel Power who provide us with the earliest mass ordinary cycles built on a recurring cantus firmus in the tenor (Curtis and Whatey 1994, and 2. Musica Britannica 8).

Evidence of this interest in English music is also provided by the rather large quantity of English pieces that appear in Continental music manuscripts copied between 1420 and 1460. These include mass ordinary movements, either isolated or grouped into (p. 52) cycles, motets, hymns, and songs. In manuscripts from the early part of this period composer attributions are relatively frequent, but for some reason they drop off dramatically in manuscripts copied after about 1450. Given this circumstance, however, it is remarkable to find a considerable number of pieces in the earlier manuscripts identified not by a composer’s name but by the remarks “Anglicanus, Anglicus, or De Anglia.” This may not mean that the copyist of the manuscript did not know the name of the composer but rather that the nationality of the composer was more important than the name itself—that the work was valued for being English.

Continental copies of English music throughout this period are plagued by small inaccuracies, which Margaret Bent, with her characteristic acuity, has pinned on two factors working independently of each other. First, the exemplars were available to the Continental scribes for only a limited and possibly a short time at any given time (Bent 1979, 1–7.). Second, Continental scribes were at a disadvantage when transcribing some of the more complex English works. English music continued to use full-black notation well into the fifteenth century. This tradition gave the composers four colors to notate the rhythmic subtleties of their music: full black, full red, void black, and void red. Continental notation in the early part of the century, even when using full black notation was restricted to two colors: full black and full red or else full black and void black. After ca. 1430, when void black notation became the norm (with black full as the color notation) the Continental notation remained a two-color notation. Thus Continental scribes had to resort to a different mensuration sign or to a numerical proportion to render some of the rhythmic complications of English music into their notation, a process that they did not always control properly.

Nonetheless, a large repertory of English mass music was copied in northern Italy and southern Germany in these decades, and this is particularly fortunate because the English themselves discarded their own choirbooks with damnable efficiency when their contents became outmoded, no matter how splendidly copied the books had been, and a large number of these books were also destroyed during the upheavals that followed the English Reformation. As a result, the only music for the mass we have from the entire fifteenth century in England is one incomplete choirbook from about 1415–1421 (E-Lbl Add. 57950, Old Hall) and a much smaller, also incomplete choirbook from about 1459–1465 (E-Cmc Pepys 1236). Beyond these, only scattered fragments remain, the most substantial being a collection of twenty-two pages from a choirbook with music for the mass copied around 1490–1515 (E-Ybi Mus 1). The first of these choirbooks was largely devoted to music for the mass, and the movements were copied section by section. It is probably missing one or more gatherings at the beginning, so that it starts partway through one of the Gloria settings and all the Kyries are lost. The second is primarily a collection of motets that includes two Glorias; the only Kyrie in the manuscript is a setting of the litany Kyrie during Holy Week. The extended fragment has fourteen mass movements, among them four Kyries (all with only the Greek text), but only one “cycle” (Gloria, Credo, Sanctus) (Curtis and Whatey 1994). (p. 53)

Table 2.2 English Mass Cycles in Continental Sources (fragmentary movements are denoted by *)





[Ad fugam]


I-TRmp 88 (K, G, C, S, A), 314v-322v


[De Beata Virgine]


CZ-Ps D.G.IV 47 (S), 84v-85r

I-Las 238 (K*, G*, C*, S*, A*), 1v-10v

I-TRmp 89 (K, G, C, S, A), 366v-374r

I-TRmp 90 (S), 348v-349r


[Sancta Maria Virgo]


I-Las 238 (G*, C*, S*), 37.1r-37.6v


Alma redemptoris mater


I-AOs 15 (G, C, S, A), 219v-226r

I-TRmp 87 (G, C, S, A), 3v-8v

I-TRmp 90 (G), 112v-114r

I-TRmd 93 (G), 142v-144r


Alma redemptoris mater 1


I-TRmp 87 (K, G), 146v-149v


Alma redemptoris mater 2


I-Las 238 (C*, S*, A*), 31r-35r



[Du Fay]1

I-Las 238 (K*, G*, A*), 17v-20v

I-TRmp 88 (K, A), 31v-35v

I-TRmp 89 (K, G, C, S, A), 246v-256r

I-Trmp 90 (G, C, S), 96v-98r, 168r-170v, 228v-230r

I-Trmp 92 (G, C, S), 126v-128r, 236v-238r, 297v-299r


Da gaudiorum praemia


D-LEu 1084 (G*), 230r

I-AOs 15 (C, S), 226v-230r

US-CA Houghton, Inc. 8948 (G*), flyleaf


Deuil angoisseux


I-Trmp 88 (G, C, S, A), 17v-21r, 27v-31r, 214r-216r

I-Trmp 90 (G, C), 383v-389r


Flos regalis


I-Br 5557 (G, C, S, A), 30v-38r


Fuit homo missus


I-TRmp 88 (K, A), 35v-38v

I-TRmp 90 (G, C, S), 103v-105r, 175v-177r, 239v-241r

I-TRmd 93 (G, C, S), 133v-135r, 243v-245r, 308v-310r


Hilf und gib Rat


CZ-Ps D.G.IV 47 (G, C, S, A), 105v-112r

CZ-Ps D.G.IV 57 (motet: O gloriosa mater), 112v-114r

I-Trmp 89 (Motet: Salve regina), 354v-356r


Iacet granum


I-AOs 15 (G, S), 82v-84r, 214v-216r

I-TRmp 87 (G, copied twice), 31v-33r, 141v-142v

I-TRmp 90 (G, S), 123v-125r, 271r-272r

I-TRmp 92 (S)18v-19

I-TRmd 93 (G, S twice), 153v-155r, 344r-345r, 359v-361r


Meditatio cordis


CZ-Ps D.G.IV 47 (G, C, S, A), 85v-92r

I-TRmp 88 (motet: Gaude Maria), 284v-286r


Nobilis et pulchra


B-Br 5557 (K, G, C, S, A), 38v-48r


Puisuqe m’amour


I-TRmp 88 (G, C, S), 85v-93r


Quem malignus spiritus


check TR 93

I-Las 238 (G*), 24 bis r-v

I-TRmp 90 (G, C, S, A), 100v-103r, 172v-174r, 234v-239r

I-TRmd 93 (G, C, S, A), 130v-133r, 240v-242r, 303v-308r


Rex dabit mercedem


I-VEbc 755 (G, C, S, A), 54v-63r


Rex saeculorum



D-Mbs Lat.14274 (G), 121v0123r

I-AOs 15 (G, C), 39v-40r, 72v-74r

I-TRmp 90 (G, S), 110v-112r, 274v-275v

I-TRmp 92 (G, C, S, A), 39r-40r, 46v-49r, 94v-95r

I-TRmd 93 (G, S), 140v-142r, 347v-348v,


Salve sancta parens


I-TRmp 90 (G, C, S, A), 98v-100r, 170v-172r, 230v-234r

I-TRmd 93 (G, C, S, A), 128v-130r, 238v-240r, 299v-303r


Sine nomine


B-Br 5557 (K, G, C, S, A), 10v-20r


Sine nomine




F-CA 11 (G), 20v-22r

I-AOs 15 (G, S, A), 194v-195r, 207r-210r

I-Mb AD.XIV.49 (S, A*), 74v-80r

I-TRmp 87 (C, S, A), 37v-39r, 103v-104v, 106v-107r

I-TRmp 90 (G, C, S, A), 118v-120r, 193v-195r, 254v-257r

I-TRmp 92 (S*), 98r

I-TRmd 93 (G, C, S, A), 148v-150r, 263v-265r, 326v-329v


Sine nomine


I-TRmp 88 (K, G, C, S, A), 46v-54r

I-Trmd 93 (G, C, S, A), 30v-36r


Sine nomine


I-Bsp frag. E (K*, G*, C*, S*, A*), 1v-10r


Sine nomine

Dunster (?)

I-TRmp 88 (K), 26v-27r


Sine nomine


I-Br 5557 (K, G, C, S, A), 20v-30r


Sine nomine


I-Br 5557 (K, G, C, S, A), 90v-99r


Sine nomine


CZ-Ps D.G.IV 47 (K, G, C, S, A), 53r-v, 164r-165r, 167v-171r


Sine nomine


I-Bc Q15 (S, A), 24v-26r

I-TRmp 87 (G), 165v-167v


Sine nomine


I-Las 238 (C*, S*), 30 bis r-v

I-Rvat CS 14 (K, G, C, S, A), 65v-75r


Sine nomine


I-Rvat SP B80 (K, G, C, S, A), 61v-70v

I-Trmp 88 (K, G, C, S, A), 253v-260r

I-TRmp 90 (G), 430v-432r

I-VEbc 759 (K, G, C, S, A), 20v-25r


Sine nomine


I-TRmp 88 (A), 21v-22r

I-TRmp 90 (G, C, S), 250v-254r, 318v-324r

I-TRmp 93 (S), 322v-326r


So ys emprentid


I-Las 238 (K*), 21v


Summae trinitati


B-Br 5557 (G, C, S, A), 2v-10r

I-TRmp 88 (motet: Salve virgo), 70v-71r


Te gloriosus


I-Las 238 (K*, G*), 25r-26v


Thomas caesus


I-Rvas SP B 80 (K, G, C, S, A), 166v-181r


Veterem hominem


CS-Ps D.G.IV 47 (G, C, S, A*), 140v-147r

I-TRmp 88 (K, G, C, S, A), 1v-9r, 264v-266r

(1) Attributions in I-TRmp88 and in I-TRmp89, the one in I-TRmp89 erased.

(p. 54) (p. 55) It is possible to postulate three things from the surviving English fragments and the manner English masses are transmitted in continental sources. First, the early English cantus firmus masses were sometimes copied as complete cycles, but most likely the sources from the first half of the fifteenth century were, like the Old Hall manuscript, copied by groups of movements, that is, all the Kyries, then all the Glorias, and so on. Second, English composers, like their Continental counterparts, continued to write isolated mass movements or mass pairs for some time into the fifteenth century and these included isolated Kyrie for nonfestal occasions, which set only the Greek invocations. Third, some shorter mass cycles intended for feasts of lesser rank included Kyries that set only the Greek invocation, but the cycles based on cantus firmi (which were at this time almost uniformly composed either for special occasions or for the feasts of the highest rank) surely set, virtually without exception, the Latin-texted Kyries prescribed by the Sarum use in their fourteenth- and fifteenth-century version—that is, the Latin verses without the Greek invocations (unless the Greek text was part of the Latin verse as is the case in Kyries 3–4 and 6–7 above).

This view, of course, depends on much of what has been found about English masses in the last quarter of the twentieth century. For nearly five hundred years, the view, at (p. 56) least from the standpoint of Continental sources, was quite different. As noted above, English music was eagerly copied and imitated on the Continent between 1420 and 1470. In terms of the mass these copies go from isolated mass movements to complete or near complete masses, and the frequency with which isolated Glorias, Credos, Sanctus, or Agnus Dei that clearly belonged to complete cycles were copied suggests that, in some cases, the exemplars available to Continental scribes were choirbooks organized like Old Hall. But there were surely also what Charles Hamm has called “fascicle manuscripts,” which sometimes transmitted a complete mass cycle rather than a group of Kyries, Glorias, or motets. The transmission of the English cantus firmus masses in Continental manuscripts is detailed in Table 2.2.

This list is a conservative one; it includes, with one exception to be discussed later, only those pieces for which a general scholarly consensus has evolved about their English provenance, either because parts of them survive in English manuscripts (since the English generally did not copy Continental works into their choirbooks) or because they present traits that are stylistic or notational mannerisms of English music in the fifteenth century that were rarely used by Continental composers (Hamm 1960, 211–215; 1968, 57–64). Three more expansive lists have been published by Charles Hamm (1968), Rob Wegman (1989), and Gareth Curtis and Andrew Whatey (1994). The first was drafted at a time when our knowledge of central European music was very limited and scholars were unaware of how enthusiastically German and Austrian composers, nowadays mostly anonymous, adopted certain aspects of the English approach to mass composition. The other two are deliberately over-inclusive, and justifiably so, on account of the purpose of each of these studies, particularly in the case of Curtis and Whatey, where they listed every work that any scholar had suggested could be English.

A glance at the fourth column of Table 2.2, which deliberately excludes any surviving English copies of these works, will show that Continental copies of these pieces are rarely complete. It is more than likely that, for the early part of the century, the English choirbooks were copied in the manner of the Old Hall Manuscript, that is, with all the Kyries, then all the Glorias, and so on. Still, the movement most frequently missing from Continental copies is the Kyrie. The copies of English masses in Table 2.2 fall into four categories:

  1. 1. Masses copied without the Kyrie: 18 (nos. 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 29, 32, 34)

  2. 1a. Masses from group 1 where a “motet” appears to be a “re-texted” Latin Kyrie: 3 (nos. 12, 14, 34)

  3. 2. Masses with long Kyries where the Kyrie verses were eliminated on the Continent: 4 (nos. 11, 30, 31, 36)

  4. 3. Masses with short Kyries that fitted the Continental practice: 8 (nos. 1, 2, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 33)

  5. 4. Masses with long Latin Kyries that retained them in Continental copies: 7 (nos. 5, 7, 15, 21, 26, 35, 37)

(p. 57) Before we proceed, a word about what I called the exceptional entry in Table 2.2: it is the Missa Hilf und gib rat, preserved in CZ-Ps D.G.IV 47 (G, C, S, A, motet), with the motet preserved in I-TRmp 89. Every movement and the accompanying motet has a typically English bipartite structure with a section in ⚬ and a section in ¢(probably originally c), with long introductory duets. Further, the motet has one text in CZ-Ps D.G.IV 47, O gloriosa mater Christi, and two texts in I-TRmp 89, Salve regina misericordiae in Wiser’s hand, and Gaude rosa speciosa, added in a large and coarse later hand, which suggest that all texts are probably contrafacts. What has given pause to a number of scholars is that the cantus firmus in both copies of the motet (but not in the mass) is identified with a German incipit, “Hilf und gib rat,” presumably a Leise, which would make this piece an improbable combination of an English work and a German cantus firmus, possibly a secular tune, at a time when virtually all English cantus firmus masses used plainsong cantus firmi. The problem is that no source survives for the entire Leise, only a quotation in the tenor voice of a quodlibet on O rosa bella in the Glogauer Liederbuch (PL-Kj Mus ms 40098), no. 117, consisting of four notes: d, d, c, d, set to the four words (Ringman and Väterlein 1936–1981, I, 40–41). As Andrew Kirkman notes, this is an extremely common melodic pattern, and it is just as likely that somewhere in the transmission German scribes might have identified the opening gesture with a Leise they knew (Kirkman 1994, 196). A number of scholars ascribe the mass to one “Philippus” on the basis of a single word under the tenor of the Gloria in CZ-Ps D.G.IV 47, “Philipi,” but this is an extremely unlikely position for an ascription, and Kirkman (1994, 196) reports that Rob Wegman suggested that this might be a residual piece of a cantus firmus motto. No such chant has surfaced, and indeed the Cantus database reports no chant beginning in that manner and only one beginning with “Philippus,” which indicates how rare such an incipit is. Two chants beginning with this word are reported among medieval rhymed offices: Philippi imperatoris ille, the second antiphon in the first nocturn of matins for St. Quirinus (AH 28, no. 56), and Philippi viridarium sanctorum, antiphon for matins of SS Felix and Nabor, by the Milanese Franciscan Origo Scaccabarabozzi (AH 14b, no. 3). But neither chant looks like a promising source for the cantus firmus. Still, the tenor of the mass shows not Hilf und gib Rat but rather Philippi as its incipit. The melodic opening is a commonplace, and the structure of the work is entirely congruent with that of English masses with re-texted Kyries.

There are some aspects in which the raw statistics given above are deceptive. Of the seven pieces in the last category, five are transmitted in two Continental choirbooks that deliberately do not follow Continental practice, the earliest being I-Las 238. This manuscript, as it exists today, is the remnants of a once very luxurious choirbook given to Lucca Cathedral around 1467 by Giovanni Arnolfini, a Lucchese merchant active in Bruges and a cousin of the Giovanni Arnolfini in Van Eyck’s famous painting. The manuscript surely came to Lucca with the English theorist John Hothby, a Carmelite friar who was appointed in 1467 as magiscolus of the cathedral, where he taught until he returned to England in 1486. Sometime after 1600 the choirbook was dismantled and its leaves were used as binding for notarial registers. By 2007 about forty bifolios had been identified and were separated from the registers, restored as much as possible, and (p. 58) brought back together. The choirbook, as Reinhard Strohm has shown, was most likely produced between 1462 and 1464 for the Chapel of St. Thomas Becket in the Carmelite Friary in Bruges, which was the chapel for the wealthiest English group in that city—the Brotherhood of the Merchant Adventurers—meaning that the English liturgy rather than the Continental one was followed there (Strohm 2008, 38–34).

The other manuscript is B-Br 5777, copied for the Burgundian chapel around 1468 in connection with the marriage of Charles the Bold to Margaret of York (Wegman 1989, 5; 1986). It was surely intended to provide a number of masses for a rite that would be familiar to the new English-born duchess. Thus only three masses with Latin Kyries survive in other Continental manuscripts. There is one overlap in these numbers because the Kyrie of the Missa Caput was eventually copied by Hans Wiser in two of his collections, I-TRmp 88 and 89, written ca. 1460 and 1464, respectively. If the leaves with the Kyries of all the masses surviving in I-Las 238 could be recovered, surely nos. 6 and 17 would have to be moved from the first to the fourth category, but this would not change things very much since the nucleus of B-Br 5777 and all of I-Las 238 are, for all intents and purposes, “English manuscripts” copied on the other side of the Channel (though they are in fact, Flemish manuscripts).

The conclusion remains, however, that by and large Continental copyists, who were eager to acquire English works, when faced with the very long and elaborate settings of the English Kyries with Latin verses, mostly left them out. The two manuscripts that are an exception to this policy are both late and either for an English congregation in the case of Lucca 238 or for a chapel that had now an English princess as the wife of the ruler. This leaves only three instances in the entire fifteenth century where we have an English Kyrie with its Latin verses copied in a Continental source: the Kyrie of the Missa Alma redemptoris 2 in Trent 87, the Kyrie of the Missa Caput in Trent 88 and 89, and the Kyrie of the Missa Veterem hominem in Trent 88. The possibility of simply removing the Latin verses was used only very sparingly, since Kyries treated that way remained inordinately long. Interestingly enough only one of the really solemn English Kyries was treated that way: that of the Missa Fuit homo missus, which surely used the verses of Deus creator omnium, since as Margaret Bent notes, the opening of the cantus paraphrases the plainsong of that Kyrie (Bent 1979, 171). The Kyrie of the Missa Sine nomine in I-Rvat CS 14 (Hogg 1988, 53–54) and that of I-Rvat SP B 80 probably used one of the shorter sets of verses, since they are not inordinately long. And in the case of no. 31, the Missa Sine nomine found in Rome, Trent, and Verona Andrew Kirkman has shown that in every place the mass was copied the Kyrie was not only stripped of its Latin verses but drastically recomposed and shortened in a different way in all three centers (Kirkman 1994, 182–183).

One explanation often used for the elimination of the long English Kyries when the masses were copied on the Continent is that, of course, Latin Kyries were no longer used in most liturgies across the Channel, and thus the English Kyries were essentially useless. But this cannot be the entire explanation since the vast majority of the manuscripts listed in Table 2.2 above were not institutional manuscripts—that is, manuscripts intended to serve a church choir or a princely chapel. Most belonged to private (p. 59) collections compiled by individual musicians either for their own use and edification or as material to teach music (not just liturgical music) to their charges. This was the case with Hans Wiser, whose collection of manuscripts—some copied by himself and his students and some acquired during his years as schoolmaster in the cathedral in Trent—form the largest surviving cache of mid-fifteenth-century music that survives from anywhere (Ward 1975; Wright 1986; Leverett 1990; Gerber 2007). Ironically, of the five exceptions to this statement (B-Br 5557, I-AOs-15, I-Las 238, I-Rvat CS 14, and I-Rvat SP B80), two are for institutions where English liturgical traditions were cultivated, and those are our main Continental sources for the English Kyries with Latin verses. One of the personal collections, I-TRmd 93, which was written by Hans Wiser perhaps around 1453 in Munich (Wright 1996, 31–53; 2003, 247–332), is also arranged like an institutional collection: a series of introits, then Kyries, Glorias, proses, Sanctus, Agnus, and an appendix of motets. Each of the sections of Glorias, Credos, and Sanctus begins with a block of four movements from large-scale English cantus firmus masses, but none of their Kyries appear in the Kyrie section, and some of the Agnus were left out as well.

This suggests that, with the exception of a very small number of collectors, the English Kyries, with their Latin verses, appeared to be too strange a category to warrant copying into their anthologies, even if the music itself was magnificent. One possible explanation for this would be what would have appeared to Continental scribes of the second and third quarters of the fifteenth century to be the irrational nature of the English Kyries in term of their text distribution. A typical Continental Kyrie at the time consisted of three sections of music, with the text “Kyrie eleison,” “Christe eleison,” and “Kyrie eleison” set to each. Internal repetition of the text within each section was left to the discretion of the performers and was not considered a necessity. When each invocation had separate music, which was extremely rare, the Kyrie consisted of nine sections of music, as in Guillaume Du Fay’s Missa Sancti Iacobi (Planchart 1976, 30–31). The English Kyries had to have separate music for all nine invocations, since each had a Latin verse, but their distribution was asymmetrical in a manner that must have struck Continental musicians as irrational. The two most common schemes for English Kyries were as follows:

  1. 1. Two sections of music, one in triple meter (O) and one in duple meter (C), with the invocations distributed as follows: I (O): K1, K2, K3, X4, X5 || II (C): X6, K7, K8, K9 (cf. Missa Caput).

  2. 2. Three sections of music, one in triple meter (O), one in duple meter (C), and one in triple meter. On the surface this would be similar to the structure of Continental Kyries, but in the English Kyries divided in this manner the verses are usually distributed as follows: I (O): K1, K2, K3, X4 X5 || II (C): X6, K7, K8 || III (O): K9 (cf. Missa Fuit homo, Missa Quem malignus), although in some cases the first division takes place between X4 and X5 (cf. Missa Nobilis et pulchra).

Clearly such pieces might have appeared as more than passing strange even to collectors avidly compiling their own anthologies of sacred music for personal reasons. In fact, among Continental manuscripts of the first half of the fifteenth century, the only English (p. 60) Kyrie with Latin verses that we encounter is the setting of Deus creator omnium in the fragmentary Missa Alma redemptoris mater1 in I-TRmp 87. Later in the century three more English Kyries were copied stripped of their verses. The one we can be certain of is that of the Missa Fuit homo missus in I-TRmp 88, not only because of its immense length, but also on account of the extreme asymmetry of the three sections (I in O 68 breves, II in C 88 breves, III in O 24breves) and, as noted above, the fact that the beginning of the cantus paraphrases the plainsong of Deus creator omnium. The Kyrie of the Missa sine nomine in I-Rvat CS 14 divides the Kyrie in two sections: I in O, 73 breves; II in ¢, 114 breves), the Kyrie of the Missa sine nomine in I-Rvat SP B80, TRmp 88, and I-VEbc 759 presents a different situation since the Kyrie was drastically recomposed to produce a shorter movement, which in I-Rvat SP B80 yielded two alternate short Kyries, hence the name Kirkman (1994, 181) has given the piece, “The Two Kyries Mass.”

Later in the century some scribes attempted to salvage the English Kyries by transforming them into motets, that is, by applying to them an extended sacred text not connected with the old Kyrie verses such as antiphon, responsory, or a freely composed devotional text. Three of the pieces in Table 2.2 show this: the anonymous Missa Meditatio cordis survives only in Prague, CZ-Ps D.G.IV. 47, without a Kyrie, but I-TRmp 88, a manuscript that shows a considerable number of concordances with the Strahov manuscript, transmits a motet, Gaude Maria Virgo, with the cantus firmus Meditatio cordis, which shares the structural traits of the surviving movements of the mass and is most likely a contrafact of the original Kyrie of that work. Similarly, Walter Frye’s Missa Summae trinitati, which, exceptionally, is transmitted in I-Br 5557 (one of the few choirbooks that transmits English Kyries with some consistency), without a Kyrie, is clearly related to the motet Salve Virgo with the cantus firmus Summae trinitati, found in I-TRmp 88 (Snow 1969). The third instance, that of the Missa Hilf und gib Rat, has been detailed above.

Indeed, I-Trmp 88, copied by Hans Wiser around 1460 in some ways represents Wiser’s attempt at collecting the missing movements from a number of English masses. It contains the Kyrie and Agnus of the Missa Caput and of the Missa Fuit homo missus, which were missing from his copies in Trent 93 and 90; the Kyrie of the Missa Veterem hominem, separated by several dozen folios from the other movements of the mass, which opens the manuscript (as though he was able to obtain a copy of it only after he copied the last four movements of the mass); and the two contrafact Kyries just mentioned. Apart from the two “Continental-English” choirbooks, I-Br 5557 and I-Las 238, I-TRmp 88 is our only purely Continental copy of most of the long English Kyries that survive.

Simply stripping the English Kyries of their Latin verses and singing only the Greek invocations to the music was apparently not considered a viable solution for the most part. The Kyrie of the Missa Fuit homo missus sounds very eccentric when sung as it is copied in I-TRmp 88, and the text distribution for the Kyrie in the Missa sine nomine in I-Rvat CS 14 also must have struck singers and listeners in the fifteenth century as eccentric. And then there is the matter of the length of the movements. One of the earliest Continental cantus firmus masses is a direct imitation of an English work, Jehan de (p. 61) Ockeghem’s Missa Caput, where, beginning with the Gloria, he takes the double statement of the cantus firmus from the English mass movement by movement and duplicates the structure of the model. He did not do so for the Kyrie, and instead used a single statement of the cantus firmus to construct a Kyrie in the usual Continental manner (Bukofzer 1950, 263–264, 266–268). The dimensions of his Kyrie provide a convenient point of comparison with those of the model: Ockeghem’s Kyrie is 74 breves long (in three sections of 23, 30, and 21 breves), while the Kyrie of the English mass is 255 breves (in two sections of 105 and 150 breves). The latter is almost as long as the Credo of the mass, and this must have struck Continental musicians as absurd. The asymmetric text setting also apparently made little sense to them, and, for example, Hans Wiser, when he copied the Kyrie of the English Missa Caput with text incipits implying the presence of the Latin verses, he redistributed the Kyrie verses (or had an exemplar where they were already so redistributed): verses 1–3 are sung to the first section, verses 4–6 to the second, and the last three verses were left out.

Table 2.3 Continental Mass-Motet Cycles



Sources of the complete work


Ad fugam

Motet: Quae est ista


Anonymous (Standley?)

I-TRmp 88,

I-TRmp 89


Esclave puist il

Motet: Gaude Maria


I-TRmp88, 388v-399r

I-TRmp 88, 399v-401r


O rosa bella I

Motet: O pater aeterne

Anonymous (Joye?)

I-TRmp 88, 363v-372r

CZ-Ps D.G.IV 47, 160v-161r, I-Md 2269, 123v-124r


Sine nomine

Motet: Flos de spina


I-TRmp 87, 167v-174r, I-TRmp 90

I-TRmp 90, 434v-436r.


Soyez apprantiz

Motet: Stella caeli

Le Rouge

I-Rvat SP B80, 71r-80r, I-TRmp 90, 310v-318r

I-TRmp 88, 11v-13r

All of this apparently had a number of consequences. The first is that this might be a factor in the fact that, for all the admiration that English music elicited on the Continent in the first half of the fifteenth century, apparently there are virtually no attempts to emulate the English cantus firmus mass (and it was the cantus firmus masses that, as big festal works had long Latin Kyries) until after the mid-century, at a time when a work like Leonel’s Missa Alma redemptoris mater was nearly fifty years old. The earliest Continental cantus firmus masses we have are Ockeghem’s Missa Caput, a direct imitation of the English mass; Du Fay’s Missa Se la face ay pale, which is in many ways his own reaction to the English Missa Caput; and Joan Ximeno de Cornago’s Missa Ayo visto lo mappamundi, which in terms of its structure is related to works such as the Dunstaple/Leonel Missa Rex saeculorum. Although all three works date from the early 1450s, the (p. 62) earliest copy we have of them is I-TRmp 88, copied in about 1460, which is also the manuscript where Hans Wiser copied the three long English Kyries of the masses Caput, Fuit homo missus, and Veterem hominem.

A second consequence, which has a number of ramifications, was the spread of a misunderstanding among Continental composers and scribes who had only second-hand knowledge of the English repertory, and came to think that English cantus firmus masses were primarily four-movement cycles beginning with the Gloria. This may be the case with a number of anonymous eastern European masses that are also among the earliest imitations of the English-style cantus firmus mass. The Missa Christus surrexit, which Laurence Feininger (1951) once ascribed to Du Fay, survives only in I-TRmp 89, fols. 342v-346v, without a Kyrie or an Agnus, and shows a polyphonic structure resembling the Missa Caput and the extraordinary divisi in the last sonority of each section found in the Missa Fuit homo missus. These divided final notes led Charles Hamm (1968, 72) to consider it an English work. But Reinhard Strohm (1989) has shown that the cantus firmus of the work is actually the German Leise, Christ ist erstanden, which virtually assures that it is the work of a German or Austrian composer eagerly imitating the English style. The lack of the Kyrie here might be an accident of transmission, since the Agnus is also missing.

This misunderstanding of the nature of English mass cycles by their near contemporaries also took another form. The efforts to rework the Latin Kyries as motets apparently prompted some imitation as well. Robert Snow (1969) has identified six “Mass-motet cycles,” in central European sources. Three of these, listed in Table 2.2, nos. 12, 14, and 34, are surely English masses where the Kyrie was transmitted separately and provided with a contrafact text so it could be used as a motet. But then there are a number of masses that are full five-movement masses with the short Kyries normally used on the Continent but which are clearly related to a motet, and in one instance at least the mass is copied together (Table 2.3) with the related motet following it immediately:

Three of the cases have been generally accepted. The mass by Standley, most likely an English composer, is entirely canonic, and the motet is composed using the same procedures as the mass and is generally considered to be by him. The unusual manner of notating both works clearly ties them together. A more tenuous case is that of Jehan Puyllois, whose Missa sine nomine has been associated to his motet Flos de spina by Reinhard Strohm (1991, 428–429).

In any case, both the suppression of the English Kyries on the Continent and at the attempt, particularly in the later fifteenth century to recover some of these Kyries in a different guise, appear to have sparked a small tradition of producing mass-motet cycles, which in this case includes at least one English composer, Standley, although it is worth noting that his nationality is assumed on account of his name and some of the traits of his music, all of which survives in central European sources (Bent, New Grove online).

The final step in this story, at least in terms of the evolution of the English polyphonic mass in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, is that sometime, either at the end of the fifteenth century or the beginning of the sixteenth, English composers did stop writing polyphonic Kyries for their festal masses. The early stages of this development (p. 63) can be gleaned from what survives of E-Yb Mus 1, where we encounter an apparently Continental choirbook where the large-scale settings of the ordinary have no Kyries and a series of Kyries without the Latin verses is copied separately (Baillie and Obussier 1954, 22–24). In the English choirbooks that do survive from the first quarter of the sixteenth century, GB-Llp 1 and GB-CAgc 667 (Skinner 1997, 245–255; Bowers 2005, 659–664), all the large scale polyphonic festal masses begin with the Gloria, there are only a few isolated settings of the Kyrie without the Latin verses, and only the smaller votive masses for the Virgin include a setting of the Kyrie (for example, the Ludford Lady Masses; cf. Bergsagel, I). The reason for this development apparently has to do with the increased use of polyphony in the liturgy in the later part of the fifteenth century and into the sixteenth. By their nature the Latin Kyries, given the assignations in the Sarum use, inhabited a world halfway between the ordinary and the proper, and their presence in any polyphonic setting had the effect of restricting the number of occasions when such a setting could be sung, and composers and choirmasters, each for their own reasons, would have had an interest in making the immensely elaborate polyphonic settings of the mass that became the norm in Tudor England be available for performance on as many feasts as possible.

Table 2.4 English Sources for English Kyries

Date reported





GB-Cec 300, 1r

Rex saeculorum (K*)



GB-Cec 300, 1v-2r

Sine nomine (K*)



GB-Cec 300, 2v

Da gaudiorum praemia (K*)



GB-Cu li.V.18, 219v-228r

Quem malignus (K, G, C, S*, A*)



GB-Lbl Add 54324, 6r-v

Caput (K*)



GB-Lbl Add 54324, 1r

Alma redemptoris 2 (K*)



GB-Tar DD/L P29/29, 2v

Salve sancta parens (K*)


The almost complete disappearance of English fifteenth-century choirbooks, however, meant that as interest in this repertory arose at the end of the nineteenth century and during the first three quarters of the twentieth, scholars were restricted to the continental copies of nearly all of the English festal masses. An added factor in this was that the large majority of the works that were ascribed to English composers in the sources had no Kyries, or the Kyries survived as what at the time were considered independent motets. Among the few masses that survived with their Latin Kyries on the Continent, most of them, apart from those in B-Br 5557, were anonymous (I-Las 238 was not discovered and reported until 1968) (Strohm 1968), and one of the central works of this repertory, the Missa Caput, was regarded as the work of Guillaume Du Fay on the basis of the spurious ascriptions in I-TRmp 88 and 89. It was not until Charles Hamm’s 1968 study (p. 64) that a systematic attempt was made at detecting English stylistic traits in the vast repertory of anonymous works in fifteenth-century Continental manuscripts, an attempt that required some time to be refined and digested, so to speak. Two other developments took place precisely around that time. The first was removal of the Missa Caput from Du Fay’s canon and its identification as an English work, a process that began with Bukofzer’s (1950) report of the discovery of part of the Agnus Dei in GB-CO A 3. This was followed by Strohm’s (1968) discovery of I-Las 238. Then Ian Bent and Margaret’s (1969) report of another English source with parts of the Kyrie led Thomas Walker (1969) to question Du Fay’s authorship of the last four movements and culminated in the removal of the entire work from Du Fay’s canon (Planchart 1972). The second development was the gradual discovery of fragmentary English sources with the Kyries of a number of the masses that were known from Continental manuscript only as four-movement works (first reported in MB VIII). These are shown in Table 2.4 (including Caput as well).

Although the Kyries in Table 2.4 are not very numerous, they are crucial in that they correspond to virtually every major English mass prior to 1450 that survived in Continental sources, including every mass ascribed to Dunstaple in any source. The only Kyrie still missing is that of Leonel Power’s Missa Alma redemptoris mater. Most of the recovered Kyries are too fragmentary and cannot be entirely reconstructed. Only those of the Missa sine nomine, variously ascribed to Dunstaple, Power, and Benet (and most likely by Benet), and that of the Missa Quem malignus spiritus survive in complete form. The structure of what survives of GB-CAec 300 indicates that early on these masses, cyclic though they were, were still copied as in The Old Hall manuscript, with the movements grouped by genre, a practice that might have continued in England after it was abandoned on the Continent.

More Kyries might eventually turn up, although one despairs of ever finding complete movements, much less complete masses, in the English archives. Seldom has the destruction of an impressive repertory been quite as thorough. The list published by Curtis and Whatey (1994) includes a considerable number of works that never crossed the Channel and survive only as fragments. They cautiously classify some of them as Gloria-Credo pairs, or Sanctus-Agnus pairs, but pieces such as the impressive Gloria and Credo on Tu es Petrus (or perhaps Puer natus) that survive as fragments in the same English source as the Agnus of Caput (GB-CO A3) were almost certainly part of a full-scale cyclic mass.

Today we can catch bare glimpses of an enormous repertory that was immensely influential outside of England in the early fifteenth century, and eventually evolved into the extraordinary works of early Tudor England. The half dozen or so complete examples that survive, particularly the Missa Caput, are among the most impressive fifteenth-century works that have come down to us from anywhere. The attempts to salvage some of these Kyries as motets also produced an interesting if short-lived tradition of mass-motet cycles among Continental composers, both in northern Flanders, which was surely the most frequent point of entry of English music onto the Continent, and for reasons still not entirely clear, in the Germanic areas of central Europe. With the rediscovery of the English Kyries as fragments in insular sources we have recovered not so much a repertory as an understanding of a lost tradition.


Andrieu, Michel. 1961–1974. Les ordines romani du haut moyen âge. 5 vols. Louvain: Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense.Find this resource:

    Arlt, Wulf, and Susan Rankin, eds. 1966. Stiftsbibliothek Sankt Gallen Codices 484 & 381. 3 vols. Winterthur, Switzerland: Amadeus.Find this resource:

      Baillie, Hugh, and Philippe Obussier. 1954. “The York Masses.” Music and Letters 35: 19–30.Find this resource:

        Bent, Ian, and Margaret Bent. 1969. “Dufay, Dunstable, Plummer—A New Source.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 22: 394–429Find this resource:

          Bent, Margaret, ed. 1979. Fifteenth-Century Liturgical Music II: Four Anonymous Masses. Early English Church Music 22. London: Stainer and Bell.Find this resource:

            Bent, Margaret. 2004. “The Musical Stanzas in Martin Le Franc’s Le Champion des Dames.” In Music and Medieval Manuscripts, Paleography and Performance. Essays dedicated to Andrew Hughes, edited by John Haines and Randall Rosenfeld, 91–127. Hants, UK: Ashgate.Find this resource:

              Bjork, David. 1980. “The Kyrie Trope.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 33: 1–41.Find this resource:

                Bjork, David. 2003. The Aquitanian Kyrie Repertory of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries, edited by Richard L. Crocker. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.Find this resource:

                  Blume, Clemens, and Guido Maria Dreves, eds. (1905) 1961. Tropi Graduales. Tropen des Missale im Mittelalter. Analecta Hymnica 47. Leipzig: Riesland. Reprint, New York: Johnson Reprint.Find this resource:

                    Boe, John. 1989. Beneventanum Troporum Corpus II, Ordinary Chants and Tropes for the Mass from Southern Italy, A. D. 1000–1250, Part 1: Kyrie eleison. Recent Researches in the Music of the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance 20–21. Madison, WI: A-R Editions.Find this resource:

                      Bowers, Roger. 2005. “More on the Lambeth Choirbook.” Early Music 33: 659–664.Find this resource:

                        Bukofzer, Manfred. 1950. Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music. New York: W. W. Norton.Find this resource:

                          Cattin, Guilio, et al., eds. 1989. French Sacred Music. Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century XXIIIA. Monaco: Éditions de l’Oissau-Lyre.Find this resource:

                            Curtis, Garteth, and Andrew Whatey. 1994. “Fifteenth-Century English Liturgical Music: A List of the Surviving Repertory.” Research Chronicle of the Royal Musical Association 27: 1–69.Find this resource:

                              De Clerck, Paul. 1977. La prière universelle dans les liturgies latines anciennes, témoinages patristiques et textes liturgiques. Liturgiewissenschaftliche Quellen und Forschungen 62. Münster in Westfalen: Aschendorff.Find this resource:

                                Dunstable, John. 1970. “Complete Works.” In Musica Britannica 8, ed. Manfred Bukofzer, 2nd ed. rev. Margaret Bent and BrianTrowell. London: Stainer and Bell. (p. 66) Find this resource:

                                  Egeria. 1999. Egeria’s Travels. 3rd ed. Edited and translated by John Wilkinson. Warminster, UK: Aris & Phillips.Find this resource:

                                    Fallows, David. 1987. Dufay. Rev. ed. London: Dent.Find this resource:

                                      Feininger, Laurence. 1951. Missa Caput auctore Gulielmo Dufay cum aliis duabus missis anonymis. Veterem hominem et Christus Surrexit eidem auctori adscribendis. Monumenta Polyphoniae Liturgicae Sanctae Ecclesiae Romanae. Ser. 1/2. Rome: Societas Universalis Sanctae Caeciliae.Find this resource:

                                        Gerber, Rebecca L., ed. 2007. Sacred Music from the Cathedral at Trent: Trent, Museo Provinciale D’arte, Codex 1375 (olim 88). Monuments of Renaissance Music 12. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Find this resource:

                                          Graduale Sacrosanctae Romanae Ecclesiae de Tempore et de Sanctis. 1908. Vatican: Vatican Press.Find this resource:

                                            Gregory the Great. 1862. Sancti Gregorii Papae cognomento Magni Opera Omnia. Vol. 3. Patrologia Latina 77, edited by J. P. Migne. Paris: Migne.Find this resource:

                                              Charles, Hamm. 1968. “A Catalogue of Anonymous English Music in Fifteenth-Century Continental Manuscripts.” Musica Disciplina 22: 49–76.Find this resource:

                                                Charles, Hamm. 1960. “A Group of Anonymous English Pieces in Trent 87.” Music and Letters 41: 211–215.Find this resource:

                                                  Hiley, David. 1993. Western Plainchant: A Handbook. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Find this resource:

                                                    Hogg, Katherine. 1988. “The ‘Caput’ School: Anglo-Flemish Style in the mid 15th Century.” Master’s Thesis, University of Manchester.Find this resource:

                                                      Kirkman, Andrew. 1994. “The Transmission of English Mass Cycles in Mid to Late Fifteenth Century: A Case Study in Context.” Music and Letters 75: 180–199.Find this resource:

                                                        Le Franc, Martin. 1999. “Le champion des dame.” In Classiques français du Moyen Age, 4 vols, edited by Robert Deshaux, 127–131. Paris. H. Champion.Find this resource:

                                                          Leverett, Adelyn Peck. 1990 “A Paleographic and Repertorial Study of the Manuscript Trento, Castello de Buon Consiglio, 91 (1478),” 2 vols. Ph.D. diss., Princeton University.Find this resource:

                                                            Liber Usualis Missae et Officii. No. 780. 1954. Tournai, Belgium: Desclée.Find this resource:

                                                              Melnicki, Margareta. 1954. Das einstimmige Kyrie des lateinischen Mittelalters. Forschungbeiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 1. Regensburg: Bosse.Find this resource:

                                                                Planchart, Alejandro Enrique. 1972. “Guillaume Dufay’s Masses: Notes and Revisions.” The Musical Quarterly 58: 1–23.Find this resource:

                                                                  Planchart, Alejandro Enrique. 1976. “Guillaume Dufay’s Masses: A View of the Manuscript Traditions.” In Papers Read at the Dufay Quincentenary Conference, Brooklyn Vollege, December 6-7, 1974, edited by Allan W. Atlas, 26–60. New York: Departmemy of Music Brooklyn College.Find this resource:

                                                                    Rankin, Susan. 1987. “Neumatic Notations in Anglo-Saxon England.” In Musicologie medievale: Notations et Séquences, Table ronde du CNRS à l’IRHT d’Orléans-La Source, 10–12 Septembre 1982, edited by Michel Huglo, 129–144. Paris: Champion.Find this resource:

                                                                      Ringman, Heribert, and Christian Väterlein, eds. 1936–1981. Das Glogauer Liederbuch. 4 vols. Das Erbe deutscher Musik 4, 8, 85–86. Kassel: Bärenreiter.Find this resource:

                                                                        Schuler, Manfred. 1966. “Die Musik in Konstanz während des Konzils 1414–1418.” Acta Musicologica 38: 150–168.Find this resource:

                                                                          Skinner, David. 1997. “Discovering the Provenance and History of the Caius and Lambeth Books.” Early Music 25: 245–266.Find this resource:

                                                                            Snow, Robert J. 1969. “The Mass-Motet Cycle: A Mid-Fifteenth-Century Experiment.” In Essays in Musicology in Honor of Dragan Plamenac on His 70th Birthday, edited by Gustave Reese and Robert J. Snow, 301–320. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. (p. 67) Find this resource:

                                                                              Stäblein-Harder, Hanna. 1962. Fourteenth-Century Mass Music in France. Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae 29. Rome: American Institute of Musicology.Find this resource:

                                                                                Strohm, Reinhard. 2001.“Music, Humanism, and the Idea of a ‘Rebirth of the Arts’.” In Music as Concept and Practice in the Late Middle Ages, edited by Reinhard Strohm and Bonnie J. Blackburn, 346–405. The New Oxford History of Music 3, pt. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                  Strohm, Reinhard. 1968. “Ein unbekannter Chorbuch des 15. Jahrhunderts,” Die Musikforschung 21: 40–42.Find this resource:

                                                                                    Strohm, Reinhard. 1989. “Meßzyklen über deutsche Lieder in Trienter Codices,” Liedstudien. Festschrift für Wolfgang Osthoff zum 60. Geburtstag. Tutzing: Schneider, 77–106.Find this resource:

                                                                                      Strohm, Reinhard. 2008. The Lucca Choirbook: Lucca, Archivio di Stato, MS 238; Lucca, Archivio Arcivescovile, MS 97; Pisa, Archivo Arcivescovile, Biblioteca Maffi, Cartella 11/III. Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Music in Facsimile 2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                        Symons, Thomas. 1953. Regularis Concordia: The Monastic Agreement of Monks and Nuns of the English Nation. London: Thomas Nelson.Find this resource:

                                                                                          Tinctoris, Iohannes. 1975–1978. Opera Theoretica. 2 vols. Edited by Albert Seay. Corpus scriptorum de musica 22. Rome: American Institute of Musicology.Find this resource:

                                                                                            Walker, Thomas. 1969. “A Severed Head: Notes on a Lost English Caput Mass.” In Abstracts of Papers Read at the Thirty-Fifth Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society, Saint Louis, 1969. N. P.: American Musicological Society.Find this resource:

                                                                                              Ward, Tom. 1975. “The Structure of the Manuscript Trent 92-1.” Musica Disciplina 29: 127–147Find this resource:

                                                                                                Wegman, Rob. 1986. “New Data Concerning the Origins and Chronology of Brussels, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 5777.” Tijdschrift van de Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis 36: 5–25.Find this resource:

                                                                                                  Wegman, Rob. 1989. Choirbook of the Burgundian Chapel, Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 5777. Peer: Alamire.Find this resource:

                                                                                                    Wickham Legg, John. 1916. The Sarum Missal Edited from the Early Manuscripts. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Find this resource:

                                                                                                      Wright, Peter. 1986 “On the Origins of Trent 871 and 922.” Early Music History 6: 245–270.Find this resource:

                                                                                                        Wright, Peter. 1996. “Johannes Wiser’s Paper and the Copying of His Manuscripts.” In I codici musicali trentini: Nuove scoperte e nuovi orientamenti della ricerca, edited by Peter Wright and Carlo Andreotti, 31–53. Trento: Servizio Beni Librari e Archivistici.Find this resource:

                                                                                                          Wright, Peter. 2003 “Watermarks and Musicology: The Genesis of Johannes Wiser’s Collection.” Early Music History 22: 217–332. (p. 68) Find this resource:


                                                                                                            (1.) Arlt and Rankin 1996, 3:208, 3:295.

                                                                                                            (2.) For example, Vatican Kyrie ad lib. VI, Melnicki 1954, no. 55, was widely sung in the West with the Latin text Tibi Christe supplices, and in the East with the Latin text O theos Christus.

                                                                                                            (3.) The large majority of Kyrie collections from the late twelfth century on, when they transmit Latin Kyries, transmit only the melodies with the Latin text and not in alternation with the melismatic Greek invocation; and when the melodies are copied with the melismatic Greek invocations, the Latin texts are absent entirely. A number of manuscripts will transmit the same melody with and without the Latin texts, but as separate pieces.