An acclamation of praise within the eucharistic prayer immediately following the preface, beginning Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy). The first part of the acclamation is an adaptation of Isaiah 6:3 "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts [creatures]! … All the earth is filled with his glory!" To the Sanctus there was added quite early the Benedictus ("Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord …") with which the crowds greeted Christ at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mt 21:9). The ancient Christian liturgy conceived the Sanctus as the song of the people; later it became customary to accompany it with instruments.
Origin and history. Clement of Rome (d. c. 96) remarked that the Christians of his day sang this hymn in common, but he did not indicate whether the hymn was a part of the Mass (Letter to the Corinthians c.34). There is no Sanctus in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Apostolic Tradition, the oldest complete anaphora in existence. The Sanctus is found in the liturgy of the Papyrus Dêr Balyzeh (J. Quasten Monumenta eucharista et liturgica vetustissima 41) of the 3rd century and in the Euchologion of Serapion (ibid. 61) of the 4th. According to the Apostolic Constitutions of the 4th century (8.1227; F. X. Funk, ed. Didascalia et constitutiones apostolorum 1:507), the people sang the Sanctus. In the Roman Rite of the Mass, the Sanctus is to be found already in the Gelasian Sacramentary (Cod. Vat. Reg. lat. 316; ed. Mohlberg, 1243). The Sanctus is an integral part also of the Gallican, Mozarabic, and Milanese rites in the West. Insistence on the people's role can be found as late as Hildebert of Lavardin (d. 1134) and Honorius of Autun (d. c. 1156). The last evidence for the singing of the Sanctus by priest and people is found in the 11th century; at about that time the Sanctus seems to have gradually been taken over by the choir.
Music. The plainchant MS tradition of Sanctus melodies goes back to the 10th century. P. J. Thannabaur has indexed a total of 231 Sanctus melodies from MSS of the 11th to the 16th centuries. Sanctus melody XVIII of the Vatican edition, hitherto regarded as the oldest of all, can be traced only to the 11th century. Thannabaur's belief is that it is a later version of an originally more elaborate melody now lost. The richest period of monophonic Sanctus composition was in the 11th and 12th centuries. Most of the melodies were used in relatively small areas; the only ones to achieve wide currency were II, IV, VIII, XI, XII, XV, XVII, and XVIII of the Vatican edition. The Sanctus melodies have little in common stylistically with the basic repertory of gregorian chant.
Bibliography: j. a. jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite, tr. f. a. brunner, 2 v. (New York 1951–55). m. huglo, "La tradition occidentale des mélodies byzantines du Sanctus," Der kultische Gesang, ed. f. tack (Cologne 1950) 40–46. p. j. thannabaur, Das einstimmige Sanctus der römischen Messe in der handschriftlichen Überlieferung des 11. bis 16. Jahrhunderts (Munich 1962). b. d. spinks, The Sanctus in the Eucharistic Prayer (Cambridge 1991). r. f. taft, "The Interpolation of the Sanctus into the Anaphora: When and Where? A Review of the Dossier," Orientalia Christiana Periodica 57 (1991) 281–308. g. winkler, "Nochmals zu den Anfängen der Epiklese und des Sanctus im Eucharistischen Hochgebet," Theologische Quartalschrift 174, no. 3 (1994) 214–231.
[e. j. gratsch/
Sanc·tus / ˈsang(k)təs/ • n. Christian Church a hymn beginning Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus (Holy, holy, holy) forming a set part of the Mass.