One of the most ancient examples of hymnody in the early Church. Like its biblical counterparts, the Psalms and Canticles, it was not written on rhythmic and metrical principles. It was so highly esteemed in the early Church that it was able to withstand the later reaction against church hymns created " by merely human endeavor" [cf. Fourth Council of Toledo (633), c.13; J. D. Mansi, sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio (Florence-Venice 1757–98) 10.622].
The textual origin can be traced to three principal sources: (1) the Syrian version from the East Syrian (Chaldean) liturgy; ((2) the Greek version from the Apostolic Constitutions 7.47 (c. 380); and (3) the Greek version found in the Codex Alexandrinus (Fifth century) among the Septuagint Odes of Solomon.
The oldest witness for the Latin text, the Antiphonary of Bangor [c. 690; ed. Warren, HGS 4; HBS 10 (London 1892–95)], presents an almost literal translation of the Greek version of the Codex Alexandrinus. The first complete version of the present-day text, however, is found in the ninth-century Psalter of Abbot Wolfcoz of St. Gall (St. Gall MS 20).
The earliest names for the Gloria were numerous and varied. The title "Greater Doxology" (see doxology, liturgical) was used to distinguish it from the Gloria Patri or "lesser doxology." The titles Hymnus angelicus, Laus angelorum, and Laus (or Hymnus ) angeli cum carmine refer to the song of the angels heard by the shepherds at the birth of Christ (Lk 2.13–14), used as the opening phrases of this hymn. The title "morning hymn" was used in the Codex Alexandrinus and by St. Athanasius (controverted) in De virginitate 20 (Patrologia Graeca ed J. P. Migne [Paris 1857–66] 28:276). The Gloria was used also as a festive hymn of thanksgiving (see gregory of tours, De gloria martyrum 1.63; Patrologia Latina ed. J. P. Migne [Paris 1878–90] 71:762) comparable to present-day usage of the Te Deum (ibid. 78:570). The Antiphonary of Bangor lists the Gloria as a hymn for Vespers and Matins.
From its usage in the Office and on festivals, the Gloria passed into the Roman rite Mass. An ancient tradition has it first inserted as the angelic announcement of the birth of Christ into the Christmas Mass at Rome (see Liber pontificalis, ed. L. Duchesne [Paris 1886–92] 1:56–57, 129–130, n.5). The usage itself is highly probable, though its origin with Telesphorus (d. early second century; ibid. 1:56–57) is unlikely. A more trustworthy account of the dispositions concerning the Gloria is the notice in the Liber pontificalis (1:263) about Symmachus I (d. 514). Symmachus is said to have permitted the Gloria to be used (outside of Christmas) on Sundays and martyrs' festivals but only at the bishop's Mass [bishop = shepherd (pastor of the Church) or angel (messenger to the Church)]. The Ordo of St. Amand in the nineth century allowed a priest to intone the Gloria but only at the Mass of the Easter Vigil and on the day of his ordination [ see L. Duchesne, Christian Worship, Its Origin and Evolution, tr. M. L. McClure (5th ed. New York 1903) 471, 477]. When the Gloria was no longer considered proper only to the bishop's role, its insertion into all festive Masses was demanded (see bernold of constance, Micrologus 2; Patrologia Latina 151:976). By the end of the 11th century the present usage was established (Const. Cluniac 1.8; Patrologia Latina 149:653).
During the Middle Ages, many churches in the West were accustomed to sing the Gloria in Greek as well as in Latin. The Anonymous Turonensis [ed. E. Martène, De antiquis ecclesiae ritibus, v. 1 (Rouen 1700) 102] ascribes this practice to the influence of the large number of Greek clerics in Rome during the seventh and eighth centuries. The usage is verified by the existence of some 16 medieval MSS containing both the Greek and Latin texts. Notable instances are two MSS of the Winchester Troper (Corpus Christi College MS 473; Bodley MS 775), and a Troparium, Prosarium, etc., of St. Martial in Limoges (Paris B.N. lat. 1120). Three MSS contain not only the Greek text with a Latin interlinear translation but also the Greek melody that served as the model for Gloria 14 in the Graduale Romanum (Paris B.N. lat. 2291, nineth century; lat. 1118, tenth century, lat. 9436, 11th century).
Out of some 341 medieval MSS, a total of 56 different melodies for the Gloria have been found (cf. Bosse, 73–82). The most ancient known melodies with a reciting tone are the simple and the elaborate settings of the Milanese (Ambrosian) Gloria (Graduale Romanum 89*). The melody listed as Gloria 15 in the Graduale Romanum is an example of psalmodic recitation, parallel to the Mozarabic setting of the Pater Noster. It is generally thought to be the oldest extant Roman Gloria. Nonetheless, the richly ornamented melodies, whether using melodic motifs or completely freely composed, were already very widespread at the time of the earliest melodic notation (11th–12th century; Bosse 45–56). On the other hand, there are simple Gloria melodies extant in later MSS that are strictly syllabic but not psalmodic in form in their treatment of the text (D. Bosse, Untersuchung einstimmiger mittelalterlicher Melodien zum "Gloria in excelsis," melodies 16, 50, and 54 of the 15th century; 35 of the 16th century; 4 and 8 of the 17th century). Simplicity and syllabic melodies, therefore, are not the ultimate criteria of the antiquity of the melodies.
Bibliography: c. blume, "Der Engelhymnus Gloria in excelsis Deo: Sein Ursprung und seine Entwicklung," Stimmen aus Maria-Laach 73 (1907) 43–62. d. bosse, Untersuchung einstimmiger mittelalterlicher Melodien zum "Gloria in excelsis" (Regensburg 1954). j. froger, Les Chants de la Messe aux VIII e–IX esiècles (Tournai 1950). a. gastouÉ, "Le Chant du Gloria in excelsis," La Tribune de St. Gervais 3 (1897) 6–10, 41–44. m. huglo, "La Mélodie grecque du Gloria in excelsis …, " Revue Grégorienne 29 (1950) 30–40. j. a. jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite, tr. f. a. brunner, 2 v. (New York 1951–55). j. boe, "Gloria A and the Roman Easter Vigil," Musica Disciplina 36 (1982) 5–37.
Glo·ri·a / ˈglôrēə/ • n. a Christian liturgical hymn or formula beginning (in the Latin text) with Gloria, in particular: ∎ the hymn beginning Gloria in excelsis Deo (Glory be to God in the highest), forming a set part of the Mass. ∎ a musical setting of this: Vivaldi's Gloria. ∎ the doxology beginning Gloria Patris (Glory be to the Father), used after psalms and in formal prayer (e.g., in the rosary).
Gloria in excelsis the hymn beginning Gloria in excelsis Deo (‘Glory to God in the highest’), forming a set part of the Mass.
Gloria Patri the doxology beginning Gloria Patris (‘Glory be to the Father’), used after psalms and in formal prayer, such as the rosary.