And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

mandag 23. april 2018

A liturgical chant for Saint George



Today is the feast of Saint George, one of the most widely popular among the saints of medieval Christendom. According to his legend, he was martyred in the town of Lydda in Palestine c.303 (a year that is commonly used in the dating of martyrdoms that are more myth than history, as this is the year that marked the beginning of the Diocletianic persecutions). This martyrdom happened after he had liberated the town from a dragon, and saved the king's daughter  who had been chosen by lots to be the dragon's tribute. George did not kill the dragon right away, but overcame it and put it in chains. He then paraded the beast around the city and demanded that the citizens be baptised as Christians, and once they had received the Christian faith he slew the dragon with a sword. In both medieval and modern depictions, this narrative is typically overlooked in favour of the more chivalrous and action filled portrayal of George charging against the dragon on a horse and killing it with his spear. Saint George's martyrdom is narratologically separated from his fight with the dragon, as the capture and torture of George is overseen by the Roman prefect of the area and takes place at some later point.


St George
Limoges - BM - ms. 0002, f.129r, Graduale, Abbey of Notre-Dame, Fontevrault, c.1250-1260
Courtesy of enluminures.culture.fr


Saint George was venerated throughout Christendom, and in this blogpost I wish to focus on one of the chants for the liturgical celebration of his feast. The chant in question is can be seen in the pictures from this thirteenth-century graduale. Since the chant is contained in a graduale, the chant must have belonged to the celebration of the mass. Because the image is a bit small, it is difficult to assess with complete certainty what type of chant that has this beautiful initial. However, based on the incipit and the subsequent chant, I find it fairly safe to say that this is an introit for the mass. The text can be found in the common of one martyr, and the succeeding chant, Exaudi deus, is noted in the CANTUS database as an introit verse for the feast of Saint George.

The text of the introit is as follows (ortography is modernised according with the CANTUS version):


Protexisti me Deus a conventu malignantium alleluia a multitudine operantium iniquitatem alleulia alleluia

You  haveprotected me from the gathering of the wicked, alleluia, from the multitude that works iniquity, alleluia, alleluia


This text is taken from Psalm 63:3 of the Vulgata (my translation).



Chants for the mass of Saint George
Limoges - BM - ms. 0002, f.129r, Graduale, Abbey of Notre-Dame, Fontevrault, c.1250-1260
Courtesy of enluminures.culture.fr










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