Caelestis Urbs Jerusalem

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A hymn of nine strophes, originally in trochaic dimeter and modified to iambic dimeter under the 1632 revision of the Roman Breviary. The author is unknown, but MSS of the earlier form, the Urbs beata Jerusalem, suggest that it was composed no later than the eighth century, and perhaps one or two centuries earlier. It was employed in the eighth century in Poitiers (then in eight strophes) as a processional hymn to the baptismal font on Holy Saturday. From the tenth century (with nine to twelve strophes) onwards, it was used as a hymn for the dedication of churches. The hymn considers the church built on earth with her human members as a symbol of heaven. Though somewhat abstract in tone, it weaves in many references from the Old and New Testaments to present the Church as the bride of Christ.

Bibliography: a. mirra, Gl'inni del breviario romano (Naples 1947). j. connelly, ed. and tr., Hymns of the Roman Liturgy (Westminster, Md. 1957).

[j. j. gavigan]