O Roma Nobilis

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An early medieval poem in three monorhymed stanzas discovered in the early 19th century and declared the official hymn of the holy year of 1950. The first stanza praises Christian Rome, the second invokes the aid of St. peter, and the third, that of St. paul. The text is complete in only one MS (Vat. lat. 3227) from the early 12th century; a second (Monte Cassino 318) from the 11th century carries only the first strophe. The Beneventan script of both MSS suggests an origin in or near the abbey of monte cassino, probably from the late ninth or early tenth century, but traube's ascription to Verona is still prevalent. This nonliturgical poem is most frequently described, but without basis, as a medieval pilgrims' song. Its literary fame rests mainly upon the studies of B. G. Niebuhr (editio princeps, 1829) and L. Traube (1891). As early as 1822 the poem was being sung, in Rome and Berlin, in a choral setting by the papal choirmaster G. baini, who claimed to have drawn his melody from the not readily intelligible neumes of the Vatican MS. In 1909 at Fribourg, P. Wagner published the Vatican melody from the exact notation in solmization letters given in the Monte Cassino MS and demonstrated the complete inauthenticity of Baini's transcription. In both text and melody it is the matter of rhythm that largely occupies scholars today, although they are concerned also with the relation of the authentic melody of this poem to a secular piece, O admirabile Veneris idolum. Original settings of O Roma nobilis were produced by liszt (1879) and L. Perosi (c. 1940). The setting in B. Reiser's Laudes festivae [(2d ed. Vatican City 1940) No. 97:306] is of unrecorded and doubtful origin.

Bibliography: f. j. e. raby, ed., Oxford Book of Medieval Latin Verse (Oxford 1959) No. 101, text. j. szÖvÉrffy, Die Annalen der lateinischen Hymnendichtung (Berlin 196465) 1:383385. Baini's transcription autograph in MS Rome Casanat.3081. l. traube, Abhhandlungen der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Munich 1835) 19.2 (1891) 299309 with facs. of Vat. MS. p. wagner, in Kirchenmusikalisches Jahrbuch 22 (1909) 116. b. m. peebles, American Benedictine Review 1 (1950) 6792, and in Catholic Choirmaster 36 (1950) 102104, 143. i. anglÈs et al., in Roma nobilis, ed. i. cecchetti (Rome 1953) 1:685689, 118386 (Liszt), 118791 (Perosi). a. machabey, Cahiers de civilisation médiévale 2 (1959) 204. L'Anno santo 1950 a cura del Comitato centrale A. S. (Vatican City 1952) 481, 886887.

[b. m. peebles]